As I write this, I am a little bleary-eyed … not from too much wine but from lack of sleep, after nights dining at the Vila Joya International Gourmet Festival which finishes on Sunday.
I covered almost every night of the event and have done since the first festival held in 2007, as the Algarve Resident’s sister publication, Essential Algarve, is media partner of the event. It’s a tough job but, as they say, someone’s gotta do it!
Apart from the chance to meet and experience the cooking of some of the world’s top chefs, one of the best things about attending the festival is the chance to try so many different wines.
More often than not, each of the seven to 10, or sometimes more courses, will be accompanied by a different wine and, over 11 days, that’s a lot of wines!
One of the main sponsors of the event this year is Dom Perignon Champagne and the 2004 vintage has been served most nights, but what I am on the lookout for is wines that I have never tried before, and this year has thrown up some great surprises.
Amongst them on the opening night was a wine by Dirk Niepoort of Douro fame but, in this case, made across the border in Spain, in the Sherry region, from the Palomino grape (usually used to make Sherry) but fermented like a normal white wine. It was a superb match for the sashimi and sea urchin dish prepared by Brazil’s most famous Japanese chef Muramaki.
But Monday night, when six of Holland’s two and three-star Michelin chefs got together to cook the “Royal Dutch” menu, I sampled this excellent Alvarinho from the extreme east of the Minho region.
The vineyards are on the banks of the Tâmega river and this small producer makes this Alvarinho varietal mostly for export markets, although it can be found in some restaurants here in the Algarve and at a few retail outlets, amongst them Baptista Supermarket in Praia da Luz. In the shops the price should be priced around €8 or €9 and according to the local distributor (Sovipral) in restaurants it ranges from €15 to €25.
This wine reminded me of Anselmo Mendes’ Alvarinho Contacto – an Alvarinho with good body from fermenting on the lees, but with greater freshness on the nose.
There is solid acidity making for a wine that will improve in the bottle after a few years, a great example of the modern style of high quality Alvarinhos being produced.
It was a perfect match for the wonderful cold dish from the Dutch chefs of spicy potato purée with cucumber, cherry tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella. But this is a very versatile wine, also well suited to fish dishes.
By Patrick Stuart [email protected]