Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

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!



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


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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Farmers Jane Field Blend WhiteIn celebration of Independence Day weekend, we’re featuring one delicious American wine. The Farmers Jane project is run by friends and wine lovers Angela and Faith in southern California. This tasty white is made from grapes purchased from a Santa Ynez valley vineyard belonging to the Native American Chamush tribe. In this vineyard Grenache Blanc, Marsanne and Roussane grow together, and the grapes are harvested, pressed and fermented all together at the same time, old-school style. (more…)

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Reuilly Rosé perfect for summer sipping!Reuilly is a wine growing appellation in the eastern Loire Valley, not far from Sancerre. The three main grapes grown there are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, and a tiny amount of Pinot Gris (also known as Pinot Grigio). Pinot Gris is a sub-clone of Pinot Noir that has a very pale, blueish-grey skin. Much of the soil in Reuilly consists of Kimmeridgian marl, a type of limestone perfect for the production of aromatic, delicate wines.

Domaine de Reuilly is a 17 hectare organic estate in the heart of this commune. Denis Jamain’s grandfather first planted vines here in 1935, when he also purchased a small parcel in the local forest. Denis has been managing the estate since 1990 and has the luck of being able to select oak trees from his grandfather’s forest to be made into barrels for aging his own wines! (more…)

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Schloss Gobelsburger Rose with ChevreFor the past few years, Gobelsburger Cistercian Rosé has been one of our bestselling, most loved rosés, and a consistent favorite at staff tastings. This past weekend, my neighbors and I shared our first bottle of the new 2013 vintage at the end of a long, humid day. The cramped apartment was hot and the kids were sticky and grumpy, but as soon as we tasted that cool, crisp wine we all sighed and relaxed into our seats. It didn’t hurt that on the first pour there was a bright little bit of effervescence to perk up tired taste buds! (more…)

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Domaine de la Pépière Château-Thébaud Clos des Morines 2009 Muscadet Sur Lie with Valençay Affiné

It’s springtime, and you can just begin to smell it in the air as the damp ground warms up and the bulbs start pushing through. In the cheese world, there is similar rejoicing, because kidding season (when goats have their babies!) has just passed and the best of springtime chèvres are appearing in the cheese case. Paired with a mineral-driven white, these little goat cheeses make a perfect afternoon snack or appetizer to welcome in spring! (more…)

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Ekiola Sheep in the Pyrenees Mountains

Ekiola Sheep in the Pyrénées Mountains

A trip through the French Basque country is one of distinct sights, scents, and flavors. Rolling hills of green pastures are punctuated by craggy mountain peaks and deep valleys, and sheep are everywhere! When Ihsan, Valerie and I traveled through the area in the fall, we tasted a huge array of sheep milk cheeses and an assortment of intense but beautiful wines. Here, we’re featuring a few of our favorite tastes: Ardi Gasnas from Fromagerie Pardou and Ekiola, and a killer red wine from Domaine Ilarria of Irouléguy. Ardi Gasna (or gazna) is Basque for “sheep cheese,” and these smooth, rich sheep cheeses are a specialty in the Pyrénées mountains.


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Clos Centeilles Côtes du Brian Blanc

Patricia Domergue is the leading lady behind the delightful wines of Clos Centeilles, a 14 hectare estate located in the La Livinière cru of Minervois. Minervois is an appellation in the westernmost part of the Languedoc in southern France. Before purchasing this property in 1990, Patricia studied oenology and worked in the Bordeaux region, but she was ultimately drawn to the Languedoc for its rich viticultural history and unique terroir.


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Gilles Berlioz's "La Piquette" with Pantaleo and kumquats

Each winter, I chuckle when I hear myself describing 30 degree weather as “balmy,” while simultaneously shaking my head at the arctic outcrops of snow outside. With all the white snow setting everything in frigid, monochromatic contrast, I find myself craving shades of yellow and orange, and the warm spectrum of flavors that go along with them. A delicate, understated Savoie white from Gilles Berlioz, made of 100% Jacquère, is the perfect complement to one of my favorite aged Sardinian goat milk cheeses, Pantaleo. Coupled with some thin slices of exuberantly tart kumquats, I get all of the sunshine and fresh aromas I need to make it through the deep-freeze of winter. (more…)

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Laherte Fréres, Chartogne-Taillet and Jean Vesselle Half Bottle Champagne

A half-bottle of Champagne is the perfect size for starting off an evening of romantic dining for two. The bubbles refresh and perk up your palate, but you still have room to share a full bottle of wine with dinner. Likewise, a half bottle of bubbly can give you just the right amount of buzzy cheer if you’re serving it with a bit of cheese in lieu of a large meal. Here are three of our favorite Champagne halves paired with three Valentine’s Day moods. (more…)

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