Who said drinking one’s calories is bad? Not me, especially as an almost-certified Lisboeta. Lockdown life may have us all taking a few extra nips from the bottle these days. No bother! You are in Lisboa, baby, home of the free-to-indulge.
Speaking of, I once bought a bottle of Torre de Esporão back in New York City for over $30. It simply seemed cost-efficient at the time, and I was rushing, (because that’s what we do in Manhattan… rush) and the price was my barometer for vino or vinho (in Portuguese). Oh silly, Americana I was indeed. What I did not know then was, indeed, this is a special wine. It hails from Portugal’s largest wine region the Alentejo, and is crafted by the illustrious winemakers at Herdade do Esporão winery – a magical terrain where acres of land are tended to following a strictly organic code of ethics, a place where the sole focus of being is to produce the highest quality wine and olive oil.
I now buy the same stuff in at my local Lisbon supermarket Pingo Doce for €4,99.
Being locked down in a country, that for years, has flown under the radar for its vast and extensive wine culture, now infamously draws tourists from everywhere thirsty for wine tours, sampling the finest Port to Madeira wine to Moscatel, and the list goes on. So, expats, don’t let lockdown get you down when we got all the best exports right here. This is the time to celebrate life in Lisbon with a clink of the glass and hearty “Saúde!” (Cheers!). Do it now before the tourists come flooding back.
Here’s a little wine insight that might give you something to think about, or at least drink about.
Don’t skip supermarkets, there’s loads to sip
As mentioned above, I love browsing the bottles at my trusted Pingo, but if you head to the wine section of any supermarket in Lisbon (such as Continente, Mercadona, Meu Super, and Minipreço), you will find good wine at all price points. Lisbon corner stores, or bodegas, also have decently stocked wine if you’re feeling super lazy, only these guys jack up the prices, you’ve been warned. When wine shopping at a supermarket, try to stick with bottled (sometimes two bottles can come in a box, so make sure to check because these are the slam dunk of deals) and with a real cork (not a plastic one). Avoid the seemingly too-cheap-to-be true bag-in-box wines, unless you’re making a pitcher of sangria for dinner or need cheap wine for cooking. Most chain supermarkets are constantly running promotions so go straight for those and see what’s on tap, because unlike the produce, when these wines are on sale it is not because they are about to expire. Don’t question it, just buy and try and buy and try!
Garrafeira Estado d’Alma
Some call it a tourist-trap, I call it the motherland. With a motto boasting Goethe’s quote “life is too short to drink bad wine” the central Lisbon shop will never disappoint, nor will the eager-to-help, super friendly staff. Established as a low-cost wine store, they aim to provide tremendous wine at prices that won’t leave your wallet feeling light. However, it must be said it is easy to splurge so if you choose to do so, that one is on you. Selling wine from Portugal and other countries in the world (I tend to steer clear of wines from anywhere but Portugal these days), and sometimes you will also find off-the-market rare vintages.
By the Wine
You’d be hard-pressed to not find this wineshop/restaurant/wine bar combo on the tip of any Lisbon wine-lovers’ lips. Famed for selling exclusively wines produced by José Maria da Fonseca, Portugal’s oldest producer of table wine. Each dish at the restaurant is paired with a recommended wine available at the store. While, Periquita is their most famous and oldest brand, available in red or white, make sure not to miss something to sip with (or for) dessert, such as Setúbal’s famed Moscatel fortified wine. The staff also works in reverse and will pair your food according to the wine you’re drinking. Not eating? Tell your server what you are thinking about, starting with red or white, then perhaps something sweet or dry and eventually these wino wizards will conjure you up the perfect cup.
O Bar da Odete
The name of the game at O Bar da Odete, diversity of Portuguese wines: there are glasses ranging from €3 to €38 and reds to whites, sparkling to fortified, passing through sangrias. Sadly, you’ll have to wait to get into this bistro-style gem until lockdown restrictions are lifted, they also serves charcuterie and tasty sandwiches, but I would be remiss to leave it off this Lisbon list. Another fun attribute of this haunt is the monthly rotating “weird wine” on the list that focuses on a particular characteristic, such as a rare grape variety or a limited vintage. Don’t miss the small offshoot at the Time Our Market in Cais do Sodré if you just want a quick taste before committing to the flagship experience.
Mercearia dos Açores
Okay, no more mentioning of places that are closed during lockdown, I hereby pledge, starting here. You can order all the wine (and food and crafts and more), from Mercearia dos Açores right now. This unique Lisbon shop is the purveyor of all things Azores, which consists of nine islands in the Atlantic, most of which are characterised by dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, green pastures and hedgerows of blue hydrangeas. It can be a wee limiting but also adventurous, and exactly the point. Pico leads for wine infamy here due to the uniqueness of Pico vine culture, which is now internationally recognised, with the classification of the Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture as World Heritage Site, by UNESCO. Terceira and Graciosa are the two other islands of Azores that are certified as wine regions. If you want to try wine from grapes grown in volcanic soil (and who wouldn’t?!), head on over to Mercearia dos Açores. What’s mine is Azores!
This one is for the Lisboner in lockdown who wants to taste wine and more in one spot all neatly together in a nice, locally-sourced package, available for pick-up and delivery. Comida Independente has shifted their hours and menus accordingly to fit the state of emergency’s rules while thinking up new ways to cater to your own individual tastes, plus a few news tastes you never knew you had. The wine shop and bar on Rua Cais do Tojo sells great products from small producers. With over 700 items from 150 local producers, get amazing homegrown Portuguese cheese, charcuterie, breads, meats and more. As the adage goes, sometimes we all want some cheese with that wine.