This past weekend journalists and wine lovers from around the world joined the enthusiastic locals at two great wine shows in Porto. The main event was the Essência do Vinho Porto wine show at the Palácio da Bolsa. This show runs for 4 days, from Thursday through Sunday, and includes 350 wine producers from Portugal and abroad, showing 3,000 wines.
In addition to the open tasting on two levels there is an incredible schedule of special events, including tutored tastings by top winemakers, sommeliers or critics, discussions (and tastings!) of food and wine pairing with top chefs, a tasting of wines and waters to show the remarkable properties of Riedel glasses, and more. Being Portugal and a World Cup Football year, there was even a tasting headlined as Brazil, Home of the World Cup – featuring Brazilian food and wine writers together with a chef to pair food and wines – presumably suitable for serving during the games?
Every year all of us complain about the crowding, but I notice we all return and roll our eyes once more as we squeeze past one another in the crowd. It is always a pleasure when the mob parts for a moment and we catch a glimpse of an old friend – in this case, Gonçalo Devesas of C. DaSilva.
If you are thinking about a mid-winter break in Porto, it would be worth planning around the dates to take this in – it is a fantastic opportunity to taste an incredible range of wines from the top makers from all over the country, and winemakers and vineyard owners are on hand to answer your questions and guide your tasting.
Essência do Vinho also organise a full range of wine and food events all year long around Portugal including regional wine shows, the Peixe em Lisboa festival (April), and a variety of SuperGastronómicos Festivais – including a Francesinha festival here in Porto from the 2nd to the 12th of October. If you are coming along on Roy’s Port Harvest Tour, you may want to extend your stay in Porto afterwards! If you are game to test your Portuguese, they also offer cooking courses, wine tasting courses and more. Consult the Essência do Vinho site - and don't worry, the sub-sites about specific events are available in English.
As wine shows like Essência do Vinho become bigger and more popular and crowded, breakaway groups of small producers are setting up their own parallel events. 2014 was the second Simplesmente Vinho which is held in a cellar down on the riverfront in Porto, a five minute walk from the Palácio da Bolsa. The small program I was handed describes the idea behind the event, saying the winemakers have come together “to share, independently of the size or notoriety of each, a taste for wines which are different, with a healthy dose of madness and poetry.”
For the price of one good glass of wine – €4,00 – you can meet and taste the wines from 22 of the finest niche winemakers in Portugal – Vasco Croft of Aphros Wines and Tony Smith’s Quinta de Covela both from the Minho (though Vitor Mendes was showing the Covela wines when I stopped by), João Tavares de Pina from Terras de Tavares (Dão), Dirk Niepoort shows his Douro wines and Ports up at Essência, but at Simplesmente Vinho you can taste the wines from his Bairrada project Quinta de Baixo, and both Filipa Pato and Luís Pato were there as well from Bairrada. From the Douro, Mateus Nicolau de Almeida was showing his Muxagat wines, and Douro producers Quinta do Infantado, Quinta Vale de Pios, Quinta do Sagrado, Conceito and Olho no Pé were all there, and more.
I am reliably informed the afterparty for Simplesmente Vinho is the best, alas I was unable to attend this year, but next year will certainly plan on it.