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Archive for the ‘Travelogues’ Category

The Sintra Coastline

The Sintra coastline

Like everything born of Sintra, the Arenae Colares Malvasia is of and from the sea.

I had the good fortune to spend several weeks last summer exploring Lisbon and its surrounding environs, including an unforgettable day in Sintra, guided by two friends of mine who grew up there.

Sintra, the westernmost point in Europe, is a community of fairytale castles and tiny villages perched on mountains cascading into the ocean. These mountains are loosely connected by lengths of sand stolen from the sea – beaches with signs urging swimmers and surfers to be wary, lest she unexpectedly comes to take her sands back from under their feet. Most of these beaches – or at least the best of them – are “praias escondidas,” “hidden beaches,” with entrances by way of mountain passages known only to locals. Speaking over waves breaking with the voices of sirens, my friends explained that the cautionary signs remind those who have lived here in mutual respect with the ocean for generations to still take care, for she can be a fairweather and fickle friend.

Colares is the smallest D.O.C. (Denominação de Origem Controlada) in Portugal, just footsteps from the Atlantic, with vineyards protected from the harsh ocean winds by sandy dunes. Most famously, its sandy soils proved inhospitable to the phylloxera louse, meaning that some of the oldest vine stock in Europe still calls Colares home. The characteristics of the soil that held off the phylloxera, however, are not much more welcoming to the vines themselves. From what I could learn through a bit of research, farmers have for centuries tapped into a nutrient-rich layer of clay soil, well below the initial layers of sand. There they plant the vines, coaxing them to grow and thrive, propping them up enough to keep the grapes from burning on the hot ground, but still low enough to protect them from the wind. Nestled behind stone walls and fences, they allow the sand to fill back in over years, once the roots have taken hold.

Colares Vineyard

A coastal vineyard in Colares
(© Andrew Bishop, owner of Oz Wine Co)

You can immediately taste the sun drenched, weather beaten, hard-won fruits of these labors in the depth and dry complexity of Arenae’s Malvasia. It opens with sherry and salinity on the nose. At first touch on the tongue, it carries the salt of the breeze off the ocean along with a warm, rounded tartness – like biting into an apple on the beach so that its juices mix with the flavors of sand and seaweed in the air. A slight oxidation seems to draw out olive oil green and bitter orange notes and pulls all of the flavors together. At first the finish is reminiscent of a fino sherry, then it gently fades into the taste of ocean sprays in the cooling air at sunset with sand between your toes.

The red wines of the Colares region have been compared to French Bordeaux wines; this Malvasia rivals the intricacy of a high-end Jura Chardonnay – without much “funkiness” (though perhaps with a little bacalhau somewhere on the finish). While Arenae’s Malvasia could easily be drunk on its own, Portuguese wines are created to be enjoyed with simple, fresh, and subtly spiced food. This wine would pair beautifully with fresh-caught seafood, steamed green vegetables drizzled with a little olive oil, salads made with ripe tomatoes, and summer fruits.

After hundreds of years of snatching life from the sand and the sea in order to produce limited quantities of this and other stunning Colares wines, the hectares of vineyards have begun to shrink annually. Today traditional farming families are succumbing to the pressures of developers and the expansion of resorts into this beautiful region. Knowing this, and knowing the small quantity of this already rare wine that has ever made it out of Portugal at all, I find myself becoming a little covetous… We currently have, between our South End and Cambridge shops, 8 bottles of the 2008 Arenae’s Colares Malvasia. Give us a call or send an email to julie@formaggiosouthend.com if you’d like us to set one aside for you!

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Sources:

David Lincoln Ross’ “The World’s Most Endangered Wine Region: Portugal’s Colares Appellation

Arnold Waldstein’s “Arenae Colares Malvasia…As rare, as interesting, as satisfying as wine can be

Feet Buried in the Sand” from Keith Levenberg’s Cellar-Book

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Marianne Staniunas is a cheesemonger at Formaggio Kitchen South End, Boston.

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Mottura Vineyard

Porcupine’s eye view of the Mottura Vineyard

This past April the Formaggio Wine Team took a pleasant trip to visit Sergio Mottura’s estate on our way to VinItaly 2014. We flew into Rome’s Fiumicino airport early in the morning and drove north-east towards Umbria. We eventually split off from the crazy A1 autostrada onto small, one-lane roads. Just along the northern border of Lazio we reached the medieval hamlet of Civitella d’Agliano, and the home, hotel and cantina of the Mottura family.

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Consider Bardwell Farm

Consider Bardwell Farm

Four years ago, when I first moved from New York to the Boston-area, I can only describe it as a collision of worlds. Although the change of pace is less noticeable for some, it took me extra time to adjust to the relatively gentle mobility of Beantown as compared to that of the Big Apple.

After finding work at Formaggio Kitchen, and as I established a comfort zone with my newly adopted environment, I was given the opportunity through the shop to visit a series of farms in western Vermont. I had never traveled that far north in the United States before, so I jumped at the opportunity.

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Gruyère Alpage

Gruyère Alpage

We knew it would be a fast trip, and the time spent waiting for our flight in the Newark airport did not make it any easier. Switzerland was calling and we could not have been any more prepared (and less ready) for what we were going to experience.

We landed in Geneva and made haste to the Jura region of France for a brief stop at Marcel Petite’s famed aging rooms at Fort Sant Antoine. As always, visiting Claude and the crew to taste and pick our wheels of Comté was a resounding success. The Comté offered to us was as spectacular as ever and we were introduced to new fruitières* with all new flavor profiles. This means in a few months, our customers will also be introduced to these new flavors. Exciting, but I digress…

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Last fall, I had the opportunity to travel to the Jura with Ihsan and Valerie, owners of the Formaggio Kitchen shops, and visit Fromageries Marcel Petite, affineur (or ager) of Comté cheese.

All cheesemongers on our counters hear a tremendous amount about Fort Saint Antoine where Marcel Petite ages their finest wheels – it is a storied and highly respected place for us – where Philippe Goux, General Manager, and Claude Querry, Chef de Cave, bring wheels of this extraordinary mountain cheese to its full potential. Here are a few photos from my first visit – a very special experience for me as a cheesemonger and cheese lover. (please click on one of the photos to open the slideshow)

Meredith Rottersmann is the General Manager and Classroom Coordinator at Formaggio Kitchen Cambridge.

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Inside One of the Jasper Hill Vaults

Inside a Jasper Hill Vault

Last month, I had the great opportunity to join two co-workers in a pilgrimage to the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont. In previous posts, my colleagues have described the merits of Jasper Hill as the home of award-winning cheeses like Winnimere, as well as an innovative model for sustainable small-scale cheese production. Rather than repeat this much-deserved praise, I hope to share a reflection on my brief time at Jasper Hill as a whirlwind of sights, smells, and of course tastes. The tag line of Jasper Hill is, “A Taste of Place” and thus I will try my best to give you a little taste of my experience in this very unique place. (more…)

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Flying into Paris

Flying into Paris

One of the great perks of working at Formaggio Kitchen is the opportunity to travel around the world in search of delicious foods. Ihsan and Valerie Gurdal, owners of the Formaggio Kitchen family of shops, feel strongly that being on the ground to meet with farmers, affineurs and food producers is the best way to find the most delicious goodies to stock our shelves and fill our cheese cases. That philosophy has yielded and continues to yield marvelously tasty results! (more…)

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