The wine park

Portugal – Extempore!

May 28, 2013 11:04:54 AM

In today’s era of lonely planets, Google maps, trip advisors, internet chat rooms and endless number of travel books and magazines, it is more often that you already know a lot about your travel destination, even before putting your foot on the ground. All of the above are fantastic tools and make your trip very convenient, but does it really add to the charm, excitement and adventure to a trip that could have been if you were without these tools? Think again!

In our latest holiday to Portugal, we decide to do just that – no lonely planet, no internet research, no restaurant reviews. With just 2 hotel nights booked in advance on the day before we left, a car (with GPS) booking for a week and a tentative itinerary, we decided to play it completely by the ear – extempore!

I must say that it was a bit gutsy considering we were traveling with 2 kids and at times a bit taxing as we did not have a hotel to stay or a definitive plan on what we are doing the next day. But if I look back today it was great – living, traveling and experiencing each day with no set rules or plans – going where your mood takes you. Our main guides were primarily the hotel staff and for restaurants, since we are not fussy eaters we basically sat down wherever the wine list was interesting, a decent menu where we all could order from and a cool vibe to the place. Although we did not dine in Michelin star rated restaurants, I can say – from the road side cafés in Lisbon to the breathing taking restaurants view in Vilamoura, Abuferia and Lagos, to the wine and beer drinking stand up bars in Sevilla – all restaurants were extraordinary with good local food and great service. Our extempore itinerary took us from Lisbon to Sevilla (Spain) to Jerez (the sherry country of the world) to Vilamoura and Porto do Lagos (Algarve in Portugal) with stunning beaches.

Portugal is known to make good wines, but I never had the opportunity to try them in depth and region wise till this trip. I made full use of my 8 days to try as many as possible and was struck by the quality and variety of the wines from different regions of Portugal.

If you get a chance to explore Portugal wines then I recommend trying reds from Douro, Dao and Alentejo. Duoro in particular is the most popular wine region in Portugal known to make beautifully balanced age worthy wines. Quinta do Castro and Quinta do Vallado were 2 beauties that I tried. Portugal, unlike other European countries, focuses more on indigenous grape varietals rather than the international ones such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, etc. The key red grape varietal to try is Touriga National. In whites, I recommend trying Alvarihno grape grown in the northern region of Portugal and similar to Albarinos from Spain made just across the border. Other white wine, which I saw almost in all restaurants, was Planato, which I found to be a delicious summer wine. A trip to Portugal is incomplete without trying their famous port wines….a must.

So if you feel like being a bit adventurous, extempore may just be the dose you need to get away from the wired side of this lonely planet!