Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘Wine’

Compendium // Porto > Port tasting in the Vila Nova de Gaia

It is a truth universally acknowledged that you cannot go to Porto without tasting the port. It would be like going to York without a trip to Betty’s, or indeed to Champagne without a glass of the bubbly stuff. So having crossed the Duoro river over the mighty Dom Luís Bridge, you will find yourself ideally located to wet your taste buds with the sweet and delectable nectar which has maybe made Porto the favourite haunt of the Olympian gods. For in the Vila Nova de Gaia, the quaint riverside zone bang opposite Porto’s Ribeira, you will find the air filled with the subtle perfume of oak barrels soaked with wine, as you wander past the headquarters of practically every of the most important Port manufacturers in the world.


Walking away from the bustling quayside, where boats carrying barrels of port from the vineyards up the Duoro valley can still be seen (probably more for show, but still…), you will find yourself in narrow little streets filled with port showrooms and cellars. Look up, and the large illuminated lettering of each port house exhibits the most famous names in port: Graham’s, Ramos Pinto, Fonseca, Porto Cruz… they’re all there for the tasting. But being mildly patriotic, we decided to head to one of the most famous British-founded brands, and one which today still wears the seal of approval of the British royals: Taylor’s.


Walking into Taylor’s was bit like visiting a colonial embassy. It felt very British, very sophisticated, but with all the hallmarks of a much hotter climate: plush gardens, a vine dappled courtyard with a tricking fountain, all traversed by peacocks walking haughtily around their dominion. Inside we were given a very handy self-toured audio guide which led us through a vast vault filled on all sides with barrel upon barrel of the famous fortified wine, and the heady scent of fermenting grapes. Past the barrels, a state of the art exhibition taught us more about port than we can ever have wished to know: I can now tell you the difference between a tawny and a late bottled vintage; why tawny’s are honey coloured and standard port red, and the traditions which accompany the human-trod grape harvesting process.


All more interesting than it sounds, although the real treat came at the tasting, enjoyed in the heavenly surroundings of a perfectly tamed box-hedged garden alive with the scent of roses and accompanied by the solemn call of those same majestic peacocks. Served with chocolate truffles picked to perfectly balance the rich syrupy nectar served to use by a manicured waiter, we could quite easily have closed our eyes and followed those gods back to Olympus. Naturally we could not leave without buying a bottle of our favourite: the 20 year old tawny. And whenever it is opened the heady scent will remind me of that moment in Porto’s winey paradise – a treat not to be missed. 

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Red Wines, Autumn Vines; The José L Ferrer Bodega

If Mallorca had been lacking the rich tones of autumn when I shared the last glimpses of green a few weeks ago, those colours were in no way lacking on my recent visit to the José L Ferrer vineyard and wine cellars. There, vine leaves had turned blood-red burgundy and an earthy shade of umber while among them voluptuous ripe grapes hung in thirsty wait for their conversion into wine. Meanwhile, the ground glowed an equally striking shade of russet red, while above and around, amongst the stunning surroundings of the Tramuntana mountains, thin horizontal strata of clouds seemed to echo the mountain range, extending the rocky folds into the sky.

DSC01858 DSC01823 DSC01884 DSC01852 DSC01890 DSC01869 DSC01784 DSC01833 DSC01873

Founded in 1931, the José L. Ferrer vineyards and bodega were founded by its namesake, and the bodega’s distinctive orange-labelled red vintage has become an icon of Mallorcan wines. But beyond the standard red, the 98 hectares of red Manto Negro, Callet and white Moll vines produce an impressive array of different wines which exhibit all of the earthy character of the mountainous landscape and the exquisite aroma of the Mediterranean.

DSC01862 DSC01844 DSC01836 DSC01830 DSC01824 DSC01789 DSC01821 DSC01779 DSC01875 DSC01886

And of course I speak from experience, as beyond exploring the beautiful landscape full of ripe and recently-harvested vines, the highlight of the day had to be wine tasting itself… I mean you know you’re onto a good thing when a row of 5 gleaming wines are laid out before you, along with a large platter of local cheese and a creamy intense olive oil produced from the same land. Amongst those we tried, my favourite had to be the Veritas Roig, a fresh and perfectly balanced pale rosé loaded with the aromas of rose petals, white fruits and citrus. A veritable burst of summer in a season now fully metamorphosing into autumn.

DSC01763 DSC01762 DSC01759 DSC01757 DSC01752

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Daily Norm Photo of the Week: Table reflection

There’s nothing quite so nice as a glass of wine – the richly perfumed smells of an oak-barrelled bodega, the scent of flowers and vanilla, the luxurious taste as the liquid rolls over the tongue, and the slightly woozy sensation as the first sip shoots straight to the head. But for me, wine is even more enjoyable at lunchtime, when it still feels ever so naughty, even at the weekend.

As this week’s Daily Norm Photo of the Week suggests, this was a photo taken when we had been indulging in just that – day time wine, although to be precise, it was my partner who had polished off both of these glasses, since I was driving, and therefore miserably confined to sparkling water. But let us put that melancholy moment asides. For in this photo, all the joys of daytime drinking are expressed in a reflective impression of bright light, blue sky and those two elegant wine glasses. I particularly enjoy the fact that the focus of this photo is on the reflection rather than the wine glasses in reality, and that the glasses, normally characterised by their crisp transparency, now appear all the more opaque and nebulous.

A bit like one’s head afterwards…

Photo of week

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2015 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Tuscany Part II: Cooling pines, perfect vines and fine Tuscan wines

While the sea may refresh and the sand bounce sunlight upon pleasure seekers and sun worshipers, the real attraction of Tuscany for me is its stunning countryside. Rolling green hills interspersed with meandering roads and picture-perfect villas, extensive vineyards painstakingly laid out across slopes and valleys with mathematical precision, and pine trees and cypresses majestically crowning the landscapes, proudly lining driveways and cross-country roads, and providing visitors and residents alike with a naturally regal sunshade unsurpassed by the multi-coloured parasols along the coast. This greenery is emblematic of lush, bucolic Tuscany, playing host to the hundreds of cicadas whose relentless chirp readily informs that you are enjoying the hotter climes of continental Europe and presenting, at each turn of its snake-like roads, a vast array of sensational vistas and uplifting, awe-inspiring views.

The cypress trees of Bolgheri

A typical Tuscan landscape

Such is my obsession with the countryside spectacles all around the Tuscan region, that my partner’s family became all too accustomed to my relentless requests to stop the car so that I could take countless photos, both for their own sake and as pictorial research for the Tuscan paintings already building in my head. Having been fully satisfied of my desire to mingle amongst sunflowers, my next wish was to fully immerse myself in the vineyards for which the region is so famous. Often closed off behind large elegant wrought-iron gates, and cordoned off from the public, more to prevent the feasting ravage of the local wild-boars than the trespass of passers-by (I’d get in if I could!), I have gazed in wonder at so many perfectly-planted vineyards, but never been able to walk amongst them. This year however, I realised my wishes and more.

On our first vineyard outing, to a vinery close to the tiny castle-topped town of Bolgheri, I was treated to sensational views of the rolling vineyards below, from a platform build under the shade of a magnificent old oak-tree which, in Harry Potter style, bore the scar of an attack of lightening some years before.

On our second vineyard outing however, we were treated to the ultimate in winery indulgence – a personal tour around the vineyard, the vast cellar where they make the wine, and an exclusive tasting of some of the vineyard’s most celebrated wines. The vineyard which played host to this unique insight into the manufacture of Tuscan wine was the Tenuta Argentiera estate, situated above the Alta Maremma coast just along from Donoratico and owned by brothers Corrado and Marcello Fratini. As wine manufacturers go, the Tenuta Argentiera estate is fairly new. As recently as fifteen years ago, the estate was all but barren. However, only a few years after acquiring the land, some 60 hectares was cultivated with row upon row of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah, grape varieties which are said to achieve outstanding quality in the Bolgheri area. But that quality is assured not just by local conditions. The estate now boasts a fit-for-purpose stunning fortress-like cellar, with huge thick walls guaranteeing the natural thermoregulation of the cellars. Inside, huge stainless steel tanks ferment and macerate the freshly-picked grapes which reach these sifi-resembling machines within 20 minutes of picking. Thereafter the wine is stored in French oak Barriques, where the vinification process is completed, bottled and sent out across the world.

Vineyards with a stunning sea view

The intricacies of this process, and the care taken in the manufacture, is obvious from the sublime flavour of the wine. Our tasting enabled us to indulge in three truly thrilling wines, from the highly drinkable entry wine Poggio ai Ginepri, to the smooth, fresh Villa Donoratico and the deep and complex Argentiera Bolgheri Superiore as well as a sample of an exquisite extra vrgin olive oil, also manufactured from produce grown on the estate.

The wine making process revealed

Those immaculate barrels

We left Tenuta Agrentiera with bags several bottles heavier and our heads certainly, indulgently, lighter, to face another afternoon in the intense but all-embracing Tuscan sunshine. La Dolce Vita? Indisputably so.

All photos are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2012 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved.