I’ve always loved films about cities. However, ‘Lisbon Story’, one of the greatest movies of Wim Wenders, has always been special for me. The film starts with the road trip of Philip Winter, a sound engineer, going from Berlin to Lisbon. Friedrich Monroe who is a film director and a friend of Winter, sends him a postcard to ask for help to finish his black and white movie about Lisbon. However, when Winter arrives, he cannot find Monroe, who is suffering from writer’s block. Winter decides to stay in Lisbon at Monroe’s apartment and starts recording thesounds of the film. He discovers the small streets of Portugal, the imperfect oldbuildings with colorful doors. He meets this beautiful Portuguese singer Teresa who impresses him with her beauty and voice. (with the great sountrack of Madredeus) He walks all around the city, collecting sounds and reads the poems of Pessoa in the evenings. The vintage yellow tram, the kids playing on the streets and the laundry hanging out between the apartments all represent the Mediterranean culture. Nothing is perfect, but all is very natural. This film reminds me of my first experience with wine, how I was enthralled when I discovered that this beautiful drink is mainly affected by its cultural surroundings. And yet yesterday, when I entered Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten for the Grand Portuguese Tasting organized by Vinum, I was thinking about the scenes of Lisbon Story. Because I knew, I was going to taste wines made by lovely people from different villages of a warm Mediterranean culture.
The majority of the wines represented at the tasting were still wines though the country is known for it’s Porto’s as still wines are getting more and more popular in the world. These delicious wines were made by indigenous grape varieties of the region; (reds) Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Alicante Bouschet, and (whites) Viosinho, Verdehlo, Malvasia, Alvarinho… Although there were several examples of Bordeaux style or Syrah blends, I tried to stick to the local varieties. I started with the wines of Adega Mãe, based near Lisbon. Viosinho was one of the interesting local varieties grown on calcareous soil. The refreshing acidity, the citrus- lime aroma structure and the minerality of the wine reflect the cooling effect of Atlantic Ocean. For me, the wine was a great example of this grape variety, it would also be lovely to consume on warm days or to match it with a plate of sushi.
I’ve asked Adega Mãe and some other producers about their main export markets in order to understand the interest in Portuguese wines. The majority told me that Brazil and Angola still came first; they were followed by an increasing interest in USA. Interestingly, the Nordic Countries such as Sweden and Finland also consumed Portuguese wines. As you may know, these countries select their wines via tenders by government control. The main goal of these tenders is to import the best wines for the best price. The success of Portuguese Wines therefore shows that they produce high quality wine compared to their prices. They added that Portuguese wines have not been able to be a part of UK trade except for their low-end wines.
After meeting with the producers from Portugal, I stopped by the table of Smith & Smith Wine Company – a young wine importer company based in Zurich. – I discovered this great red wine ‘Meruge DOC 2012’ made by Lavradores de Feitoria. The wine was made of Tinta Roriz (i.e. Tempranillo) and Vinhas Velhas, grown on 45 years old vines in Douro and aged in oak barrals for 12 months. The nose revealed the complexity of the wine, full with red berry and pepper aromas. The tannins were high but very well integrated and well balanced with the intensity of this chewy wine. There were several impressive wines represented by Kastas GmbH import and one of them was Encostas de Estremoz Reserve 2011. The wine was produced a bit further south, in Alentejo and made of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Alicante Bouschet. One could notice the notes of coffee, chocolate and sweet spices combined with red berry aromas. It had a great complexity to enjoy now with a potential to age further.
Some of the wines I’ve tasted felt like a smooth journey under the sun. Just like Winter’s adventure in Lisbon. In case you are wondering, Winter finally found his friend Monroe after three weeks in the city. Monroe was not having his best times. He lost his belief in his movie. He brought Winter to his cinematheque and told him;
“Images are no longer what they used to be. They can’t be trusted anymore. We all know that. You know that. When we grew up, images were telling stories and showing things. Now they are all into selling; stories and things. They don’t even know how to show anything anymore. They have plain forgotten. Images are selling out the world Winter, and that ain’t big discount! When I came to Lisbon to make this little movie, I thought I could beat the drift…"
Friedrich had a point. Most items around us have been commercialized in today’s world. And indeed, wine too. However, there are still many regions in the world that are producing wine to share their passion and to reflect their terroir. I always had a feeling that Portuguese wines are less focused on becoming commercialized.Yesterday, I asked the team of Adega Mãe about the biggest challenge of Portuguese wines, their answer was ‘We have everything to make good wine. The sun, the ocean, the food, the history… We only need to be out there so people can discover our wines.’ I found their answer very modest and very natural. Just like the beautiful culture of the region.
For those who are curious about the film… Well, Winter convinced Friedrich to complete his movie with the belief that there is still a place for images, sounds and items… They at least tried to enjoy the world of cinema with less commercial concern.