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Festive Travel to Porto-ho-ho
The festive travel season started earlier than normal this winter as I found myself arranging to visit vineyards as well as restaurants and loved ones in this year’s run up to Christmas.
Autumn and winter a funny times to visit vineyards as there’s not much to see on the outside, but as always during this festive time of year its what’s inside that counts, and boy is there much heart and much love in Porto.
My latest trip for Ohsomm saw me visiting vineyards and friends in the gloriously picturesque city of Porto in northern Portugal; Ohsomm’s spiritual home, and now mine it seems too. If you haven’t seen it or considered going then I heartily recommend checking it out. Porto has a warmth and a character that’s both welcoming and homely… and being there is like putting on a warm snuggly old jumper.
The food and wine culture of Porto is amazing; with local delicacies such as barnacles, squid and sea urchins (really… its a lot nicer than it sounds), and the traditional national dish of salt cod ‘Bacalhau’… all washed down with lashings of lovely local wine.
Equally sublime are the local Portuguese egg custard tarts (or ‘Pastel de Nata’). They’re a must try for any foreign traveller to the region, bettered only by an accompanying glass of chilled Ohsomm Tawny Port. Yes, that’s right, ‘chilled’!!! Portuguese style is to chill port wines so as to lower the alcohol influence in the mouth and bring forward the more sweeter fruits to the palate. Honestly, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven!
But more than that, the welcome and the hospitality bestowed upon us while we were there was amazing. We’ve made so many new friends in Porto and our producers in the Douro are doing an amazing job in creating some fantastic red wines and Port wines for the Ohsomm selection. New and old friendships were celebrated over a glass of Tawny, toasting our new Somms too, the incredibly charming ladies of Tart London.
In meeting with our outstanding wine partners in Portugal, it gave me a renewed love for Portuguese wines but also a genuine respect for the difficulties and struggles of producing quality wines in such difficult circumstances.
Despite an unusually hot and dry season, winemakers in the Douro have managed to produce wines of such amazing clarity and freshness… served with a smile and an enthusiasm for the English consumer, that we can’t wait at Ohsomm to share with you.
Even winemakers in the Dao are upbeat despite having 40% of their vines decimated by awful wild fires earlier this year
There’s a lot of love in Porto… even the taxi drivers were super nice!!
So now that we’ve finished visiting vineyards I can revert back to life in the UK and get around to visiting all of our family and friends before the end of December. But in beginning these visits and revisits… it reminded me that I’m continually revisiting old favourites when it comes to wine, as at this time of year, we’re often splashing out and visiting new landmarks in our tasting journey.
The gift of wine
Friendships and love are remembered most at this time of year as we give the gifts to those special people we visit. For me, wine planning is possibly the most important part of Christmas, and giving the gift of wine is being made so much easier with Ohsomm. Giving wine as a present is something fairly standard for someone in the wine industry… yet giving something much more personal and bespoke is a really nice touch.
Equally, I’ve pretty much planned out our festive wine schedule, taking in selections of perfectly matched Ohsomm wines to pair with our magical moments. So depending on what fish ‘the Red Head’ wants on Christmas Eve depends on what orders I’ll be placing with Ohsomm, but regardless I’ll be making sure there’s enough ‘oh no, not you again’ Sauvignon Blanc for those unexpected guests, and plenty of easily reachable ‘only to be opened with special people’ LBV Port.
Christmas Day duck will be brought to you by the aptly named ‘do not open ’till Christmas Day’ Douro, and Boxing Day beef will be indulged with the completely delicious ‘in case of emergency, open bottle’ Cabernet Sauvignon. And the ubiquitous Christmas cake and cheddar pairing will be matched with a super amazing glass of ‘stay chilled’ tawny port
There we go! That’s my festive period sorted then!!!
So for me, my top three seasonal wine tips are:
Take a return visit to a glass of Port as hopefully you’ll fall in love with its silky deliciousness all over again. And remember, Port’s not just for Christmas… with any luck there’ll be some left over for new year!