Candes Saint-Martin, my favourite spot in La Touraine.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Wine, wine and more wine

Did you know that Belgium is the world's biggest importer of claret wines from the Bordeaux region in France? Amazing, isn’t it? Médoc, Pomérol, Fronsac … are prominently present on the shelves in supermarkets and on the wine lists of restaurants all over the country. People who regard themselves as real connoisseurs will only drink Bordeaux wines and nothing else.

Personally, I’ve never liked claret, as I find the tannin content is too high, giving the wine a tangy taste which gives me goose pimples. However, taste and colour appreciation are very personal things …

Before discovering the Loire Valley wines ten years ago, I quite liked the Burgundy wines – hence our visit to Burgundy in 1998 – and some popular Italian wines such as Chianti and Bardolino. When Chinese food came into fashion in the eighties, with Chinese restaurants opening in the big cities, I took a liking to Mateus, a naturally slightly sparkling rosé wine from Portugal. It was very popular with Chinese food and pretty soon it appeared on the shelves in the better supermarkets. It also made a pleasant, refreshing drink on a hot summer day.

In 1988, when visiting the North of Portugal during a business trip, I got acquainted with the Vihno Verde, a dry yet very nice white regional wine. And only recently my friend and I discovered another Portuguese wine to which we have taken a liking.

Terra d'Alter from Central Portugal - red and white.

Last April, whilst staying at our regular hotel in Habay-la-Neuve in the Belgian Gaume region, we assisted a ‘Soirée Vigneronne’. This recurrent yearly event is organized by the hotel manager and his former wine waiter. For six consecutive weeks, the restaurant proposes a special five course gourmet menu at a democratic price. Every week a new menu is developed around a different wine region. Very often the winegrower himself is there to animate the ‘soirée’.

During dinner he walks from table to table and explains the characteristics of the wine that is served with each and every dish. This way you get to taste four or five different wines from the same winery. Last spring a winegrower from Central Portugal had been selected to present his produce. The man spoke excellent French and was very keen on telling the patrons all about his winery and wines.

This is how we came to taste five Terra d’Alter wines, two whites and three reds. They were so good, that we decided to buy several bottles from the hotel’s former wine waiter. He was elected Belgium’s Best Wine Waiter in 1997 and now owns his own wine shop. Besides running it, he travels all over the world to find the best wines to import and sell to his many customers. In collaboration with his former employer he organizes these ‘Soirées’ which have become very popular in the region as they combine good food with excellent wines.

I just had a look at the hotel-restaurant’s website and the 2010 agenda is already online. The first Soirée starts on February 24th, with a special menu dedicated to the Domaine Palacio de Bornos, Rueda Valladolid in Spain. Maybe we’ll be in for another pleasant surprise!



Nadege said...

I have never been to Portugal but went to the Azores (Acores). What beautiful islands and the people from Portugal that lived in France were the nicest, always pleasant, gracious and smiling...

chm said...

After reading your post I was so drunk I could barely stand up and I couldn't walk straight so I had to sit back at the computer and snooze... LOL

ladybird said...

Nadege; I've only been to Portugal that one time on a business trip, so I didn't get to meet many people. But the owner of the Terra d'Alter vineyard was a very gracious man indeed.

Chm, Time to get up now! I hope you don't have a hangover! :)).