Wine Travel

Pack your curiosity – we’re off to Lisbon!

23 Nov, 2023

Pack your curiosity – we’re off to Lisbon!

Picture this: cobblestone streets bustling with life in the labyrinth alleys of Lisbon, where the sweet scent of pastéis de nata linger in the air, and the echo of Fado music in the distance. This was not only the backdrop to an unforgettable escape to Lisbon in the first week of November but the picturesque painting cradling the Porta 6 wines.

There’s a magic that lingers in the Lisbon air – maybe it’s the roasted chestnuts for Saint Martins day or the wafts of pastéis de nata layered with the smoke from old tuktuks plodding along. The city wears its past proudly—vibrant graffiti murals juxtaposed against ancient facades, creating a delicate balance between traditions. The city is a living, breathing organism; a hum of life in every corner, whether it’s the sound of a Fado singer’s haunting melody echoing through narrow lanes or the aromas of fresh seafood from unassuming taverns.

The evening started off as most great adventures do; with a bottle of wine. Yet ended as most great adventures do not; with Madonna blocking access to your hotel.

Much like Lisbon herself, is the wine of Porta 6, a wine that mirrors the city’s vibrancy,  history and yet captures the warmth of her soul. A little shy at first, both Porta 6 and Lisbon are a multicultural blend of indigenous varieties transplanted from cultures years before – 50% Aragonês, 40% Castelão and 10% Touriga Nacional.

Dining at Solar dos Presuntos, amongst the many, many photographs of diners with a certain degree of celebratory status was an event in and of itself. I quickly learned that a Portuguese feast is not one without a strong appreciation for flavour, one that Porta 6 greets easily as a regional neighbour.

Great food, great wine and great company – a lot of greats often underappreciated in making the perfect recipe for an even greater evening. The evening unfolds and the ambiance lingers—a blend of laughter, clinking glasses, and the contented sighs of full and satisfied diners. A journey amongst the underground cellar of Solar dos Presuntos is the cherry on top for this wine crew exploring Lisbon – all of us happy that this was the way the night would end; ogling over hot pink waxed bottles and vibrant café scenes printed on labels all sending us off for a sweet slumber…

Little did we know that Madonna had other plans for us.

Performing in Lisbon right next to our hotel meant significant delays and detours for this wine crew heading home – with an elegant drop off at the nearest gas station, us dressed to the nines walking off into the night as if we were preparing for our own private concert with Madonna. Alas, with great wine in tow.

The morning sun found us at the Atlantico winery, amongst giant stainless steel protectors of the Porta 6 wines. Mauro Azoia, the custodian and producer of the wines guides the wine crew through the process. Emphasising a mission to support local winegrowers from the region and introducing the wine crew to their innovative tricks – a process I like to call the  ‘smash and smell’ step. Harvesting small amounts of grapes from the vineyards, smashing the grapes to begin the fermentation process, identifying the key aromas of that small production and deciding whether to use this formula for the rest of their Porta 6 production. The smash and smell everyone. An innovative practice to extract natural indigenous yeasts from your own vineyards and ensure their success in generating flavour profiles so that other wine crews may swirl this is in their glass.

In Lisbon, time seems to dawdle, urging you to embrace the unhurried pace of life. Just as the time slowly passes so do the seasons – the first droplets appearing just as quickly as the bubbles of Porta 6 sparkling and lasting just as long.  The notes of the Fado singer, breaking through the traditional instruments remain intertwined with the rhythmic pitter-patter of raindrops on roof. As the rain continued its relentless harmony with the Fado singer, I found myself in the company of strangers turned companions through wine. This wine crew was an obvious result of what happens when you pop the cork of a fun and easy drinking wine – something unserious, at times ridiculous but completely enjoyable.

Isn’t that what wine is supposed to be sometimes?

We exchanged smiles and nods (with some occasional singing), sharing an unspoken camaraderie for the fact that wine has the potential to bring together strangers.

Returning to the city, Lisbon’s nocturnal charm and dazzling lights flew past the windows flecked with waterdrops. Lisbon afterall, is a city that doesn’t just bask in the sun but dances in the rain. Speaking with Luis, managing director at Porta 6, after sharing recipes for Bacalhau and plans for the Christmas season – he explains to me whilst tapping at the left side of his chest that Lisbon is like a family, whose doors remain open at any time of the day, no matter what you feel or what you’re going through – Lisbon will be there to console or uplift you.

The approach of Porta 6 wines is to be there like both friends and family, showing up for life’s highs and lows. Think about it: the cork that you pull when things go your way, like achieving that promotion, having friends over for the new recipe you learnt

But they’re not just for the milestones; imagine glugging it into whatever’s handy to celebrate moving into your new place —maybe a mug or a mismatched glass—and toasting to the start of a new chapter. This is the same bottle you reach for when you’re exploring a new city. You’re excited, a bit nervous, and there’s that tingle of adventure in the air. Porta 6 fits right in, making it easy to clink glasses, celebrating the mix of anticipation and a dash of uncertainty that comes with new beginnings.

Porta 6 isn’t about making a big fuss; it’s about the carefree, effortless enjoyment—unfussy, light-hearted, and ready to be part of life’s everyday stories. That’s Porta 6 for you—a wine that’s as down-to-earth as your day-to-day adventures, always ready to be part of the stories that make life rich and genuine.

The final day of my escape to Lisbon had me recreating my primary school dreams as an adult. I was to be a painter. Instead this time, with wine – both in my glass and on my painting.

But first – an energetic, bouncing ride through the city of Lisbon on a Tuk Tuk tour revealing the roots of the iconic Porta 6 label. The bright yellow tram climbing the hills that I was thankful not to. Porta 6 has the same ease and charming simplicity, with which it is neither pretentious nor complicated, but effortlessly consuming.

Just as Lisbon offers an array of tastes and scents blowing past you as you bounce along the cobblestone streets (with Madonna finally giving us her private concert through the TukTuk radio) the red wine of Porta 6 unfolds its own blend of flavours. It’s the ripe red fruits from the markets bounty, the subtle earthiness found in aged alleyways, and a hint of spice that hangs over the lively atmosphere of the city.

Walking into Chez Chouette, a completely unassuming restaurant with little signage but plenty of charm where wine bottles replace the need for decoration as they line floor to ceiling and conversations with the chefs are expected.

With wine waiting in our glasses and on our painting palette – ready to attempt the recreation of the label of Porta 6. I cannot put enough emphasis on the word attempt, feeling lucky to have the wine in my glass on which to blame my lack of artistry skills.
So we start with the deep reds, the robust ones that pack a punch—they’re your bold strokes, adding intensity and depth to your creation (but definitely not mine). Experimenting with the various concentrations becomes an art in itself. A splash of full-bodied red here, a dab of a lighter watered down red there. And as you paint, the room fills with the earthy aroma of the wines, adding another sensory layer to the experience. There’s a certain rawness to it, a connection to the essence of the grapes that transcends the conventional paint palette.

Sure, it might sound unconventional, but that’s the beauty of it—painting with wine isn’t just about the end result (at least that’s what I tell myself) it’s about embracing the process, the imperfections, and the sheer joy of creating something with a medium that’s can be as vibrant and diverse as life itself. It leaves you with a story painted from wine.

As you plan your voyage to Lisbon with your wine crew, know that it’s not just a destination but an opportunity to immerse yourself in genuine experiences, and connect with a city that feels like an old friend with Porta 6 swirling in your glasses. And hey, if you’re not taking an adventure to Portugal anytime soon – pour a glass of Porta 6, close your eyes, and let the wine transport you to the bustling streets, the panoramic vistas and charming spirit (without needing to climb those uphills!)

So pack your curiosity, sip on those wines and leave space for serendipity.
Trust me, the most remarkable experiences in this city are the ones that unfold when you simply let yourself be immersed in its authenticity

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