Wine Tasting and Lunch at Quinta do Gradil
A mere hour away from Lisbon, in the hills of the Serra de Montejunto, lies since the 15th century the Quinta do Gradil. Wine has been made here since at least the 18th century and the quinta´s connections to Portuguese noblemen can be felt and observed at every step. A magical retreat for those in search of exquisite food and impeccable wine, the Quinta is a wonderful place to observe autumn embracing this area of Portugal where the humid Atlantic winds meet the Western ones. We visited it last weekend for what turned out to be an excellent lunch prepared by Chef Daniel Sequeira along with a beautifully narrated wine tasting during the meal, a tour of the vineyard and a trunk full of wine bottles and salt we took back home.
First: the food. Chef Daniel Sequeira is a master of combining just the right flavours in the right amount in a most unexpected and spectacular way. We did not eat food. What we enjoyed was art. From the couvert where we could try four different types of bread, a saffron and curry butter, a goat butter, fresh olives and olive oil with a touch of Port wine, to the final vanilla and lemon macarons. The starter was perhaps the best started we had had in the last year: chevre cheese in a bed of tomato jam with almonds and a 10 year Porto ice cream on top. As much as I love cooking, I would have never in a million years thought of how delicious this combo would taste! The main dish was codfish au naturale with potato purée, tomato mayo and truffles and the dessert was a chocolate mousse with chili flakes and sea salt and oh boy, did I want to have seconds.
Then the wine: all dishes were paired with exquisite wines, the most outstanding one being a 2016 tannat. The Quinta do Gradil is the only vineyard in Portugal that started producing 100% pure tannat recently. A type of wine quite common in South America (particularly Uruguay) and its native region in France, it´s quite uncommon to find around here and was a delight to taste. We of course also took one bottle home with us. Depending on your preferences, they can adjust their wine servings (since I prefer white wine we were given to try three whites and one red). Another very particular wine I had never tried before and which was offered with dessert, was their late harvest white wine, an ultra sweet wine resembling the Porto wine!
After lunch we had to rest our bellies for some 10 minutes before embarking on a tour of the facilities with our guide, João. We first visited the castle with its chapel, learning about the history of the place. Next we moved into the halls where the wine is made and learned about the (nowadays highly industrialised) process of it. A big surprise was seeing how innovation driven their processes were. João pointed out a concrete barrel where they were giving a new oxidation process a try. Or that´s what I understood, I was four wine glasses in at this stage. :) While I still romanticise the wine making process, imagining people jollily squishing the grapes in barrels, it was super interesting to see how a rather large production of wine happens!
Next, we took it to ourselves to roam around a bit and discover their aromatic garden that provides them with fresh herbs for their lunches and their miradouro overlooking the autumn coloured hills. We took few pictures since it was raining a bit and the sky was pretty dark, but the walk helped get us to our senses a bit.
We couldn´t leave without buying some wines to take home and next to the dark red tannat we got another five bottles: green, white and red - all promising to be fantastic entertainers for the nights we cook at home for ourselves and our friends. The gift shop also sells some chocolate and salts so we got ourselves two jars of red wine salt and one jar of salt to season meat. All in all: six bottles of wine and three jars of salt for the price of 56€. I think the most expensive wine bottle we bought must have been 13€ while the cheapest must have been around 4€. After figuring out what to pair each wine with - Chef Daniel would come in hand here - I´ll add the best ones to an article I am now writing on my favourite Portuguese wines.
Until then, go do something else this weekend and enjoy Quinta do Gradil, tell them we sent you and don´t leave without a bottle of wine and some salt! Also: isn´t this the perfect Christmas present for your parents? I think it is!
We booked our lunch and wine tasting through Wine Tourism Portugal, a marketplace for various wine experiences. The price per person was 40€ and it was totally worth it! A simple wine tasting is 9€ and if those are not the best 9€ you´ve ever invested in yourself, I don´t know what is!