The IV Beira Interior Wines Competition
At Jardim do Paço
Story & Photos by Richard Frisbie
Ballroom seen from the formal gardens of Jardim
ntering the glass-roofed ballroom where the dinner was held, I was amazed
by the sight of the 30 tables, laden with fine china, crystal and candelabras,
all twinkling like stars in the reflection on the glass ceiling. I found
my way through this elegant setting to Chef Rui Cerveras table.
View of the formal gardens from the ballroom
Chef Rui was an excellent dinner companion, flowing
effortlessly from Portuguese into English to include me in the conversation.
This was a dinner about wine, for wine lovers, honoring the best wines
of the Beira region of Portugal. But he was a chef. We could talk about
food together, too. He graciously explained the different foods served
as we discussed why they were paired with the wines offered.
Award Dinner in the glass-roofed ballroom of Jardim
About the food he explained: You never know what
influences youll taste from Portugals vast colonial history;
Africa, Asia, South America it all finds a way to the table as
regional dishes. Goat, pork, maranhão, bacalao,
chicken and mint rice could all be on the menu as local.
They were, including a charcuterie of Casa da Prisca cured
meats that contained one I hadnt tasted before: farinheira. Its
a mushy but deliciously spicy (and slightly sour) variety that complimented
the selection of chorizo, morcella and blood sausage I was familiar
A charcuterie of Casa da Prisca cured meats on a
Our table setting included 4 bottles of wine, both red
& white, with new ones, even a rose, brought with each course.
It was an informal wine tasting, truly the best kind, that left a lot
of room for experimenting with taste combinations. About the wine, Chef
Rui said that Beiras wines are coming into their own. There
are five really good whites, and the reds are exceptional, really something
to take note of. When I pressed him for particulars, he was too
much of a gentleman to name his favorites, but he did speak very well
of the Quinta dos Termos wines.
Quinta dos Termos winery
That was a serendipitous connection. Id toured
the Quinta dos Termos winery that morning, enjoying a tasting
of many regional wines. The Terran de Belmonte, Monte Serrano, Quinta
da Caldeirinha, Quinta dos Currais, Quinta do Cardo and several
of the Quinta dos Termos stood out as particularly good wines.
After the wine tasting, at the Herade do Regato (an ancient olive
oil processing facility converted into a restaurant specializing in
regional foods,) I sat next to João Carvalho, the owner of Quinta
dos Termos vineyard.
Luncheon table set at Herade do Regato
João Carvalho is an award-winning businessman,
a leader in the textile field, and the largest textile manufacturer
in Portugal. When I asked about his awards, he explained that his latest
was for innovation in marketing. My company developed a fabric
that is half wool and half biodegradable polyester. It is 30% warmer
than wool in the winter and 30% cooler in the summer.
How that connects with wine is, I use the success
of my textile business to finance the development of my new wine making
facility. Everything I do: wine, textiles, everything, is to preserve
the environment for future generations, for my grandchildren.
He explained that his facility is state-of-the-art, with innovations
such as exterior stainless steel wine fermenting vats that use specially
designed instruments to allow fermentation at the natural ground water
The exterior stainless steel fermenting tanks at
Quinta dos Termos
João Carvalho consulted with Portugals
foremost winemaker and yeast specialist, Prof. Virgílio Loureiro,
in the process of creating his Quinta dos Termos wines. The yeast
he uses is naturally occurring on his property, with no foreign yeast
added. In addition, no herbicides or pesticides are used.
While all his red wines spend some time in French oak
barrels, some of the stainless steel tanks have oak linings to introduce
the taste before being barreled. He supports research into the cultivation
and cloning of fonte cal, the native grape of Beira, with an
experimental planting of vines in a section of his over 50 hectares
under cultivation. He is also very active in the local wine growers
organization, actually allowing his neighbors and competitors to exhibit
their wines for tasting at his winery that morning.
On top of all that, while talking about the wines of
his native Beira, he tasted each of the wines at the table, (again there
was at least one bottle per person) rather than just drink his own,
which were amply represented. What a gentleman! I found him to be worthy
of the accolades to come.
That brings us back to the award dinner. Chef Rui told
me that his restaurant was very near Quinta dos Termos. João
Carvalho is a good neighbor and a great wine maker. Im glad to
see his wines winning so many awards. In category after category,
from honorable mention to gold, Quinta dos Termos wines received
more awards than any other winery, including best of the best.
João Carvalho receiving his top honors
Accepting the many awards, João Carvalhos
gracious humility had his competitors cheering for him, even as they
lost. Quinta dos Termos wines are reliable and sometimes exceptional,
and João Carvalho is deserving of the honors they bring him.
With the final award given, there was nothing left to
do but eat the desserts. A local pie, my favorite, is Tigelaga de Beira.
It is basically a flan cooked in a single pie crust and served in wedges
rather than individual dishes. Even the top is toasted to a dark caramelized
sugar crispness. I could have eaten seconds, but then the waiters brought
out sardines to finish the meal!
Sardinhas Doces de Trancoso
Sardinhas Doces de Trancoso, little sardine-shaped pastries,
are a local specialty also made by the meat folks at Casa da Prisca.
They take a custard similar to the flan but with almond flavoring, and
wrap it in pastry that is decorated to resemble sardines. Then they
are baked, dipped in a chocolate wash and sprinkled with coarse sugar.
It was the perfect finger food to finish off a delightful evening of
wine, food and new friendships.
The Beira Interior has great food, great wines and great
people. In those few short days I was lucky enough to experience all
this little-known region of Portugal has to offer.
Casa da Prisca
João Carvalhos Quinta dos Termos Selecção,
2007, was named one of Tom Cannavans 50 Great Portuguese Wines.
His Quinta dos Termos Lda, 2008, won Silver & Gold medals, Honorary
Mention, and was declared the best overall wine in the IV Beira Interior
Wines Competition - email@example.com