Lisbon's Love of Natural Wines


It's no secret I adore Portugal, and I'd love for everyone to experience it soon! With about 60% of the country having received their booster dose, it's just one more way the country signals to the world the special nature of the Portuguese people. When you're in Portugal, you'll be awestruck by the quality of its wines. So much wine produced here is from smaller vineyards that don't export, and you'll constantly discover new wines throughout your visit. The newest trend is natural wines, and you can read more about them below, or better yet - head to Lisbon to taste them yourself!

Below excerpt of 12/2/2021 Virtuoso article by Chadner Navarro can be found HERE.

Portugal is home to roughly 250 native grape varieties; wine is harvested, produced, and tossed back in nearly every corner of the country. In its capital, that passion has manifested in a host of new bars focused on natural – also known as “naked” or “raw” – wines. Lisbon’s dining landscape is abuzz with bars championing natural wine and the lifestyle that often aligns with it – sustainability, eating local.

“Wine-drinking is an intrinsic part of the culture here,” says Lara Espirito Santo, who recently opened SEM, a restaurant/wine bar in the historic Alfama district. “But I think these bars are a reflection of my generation becoming more interested in who is cooking our food, who is making our wine. You can’t feel that connection if the person on the other side is a conglomerate.” Here are six of Lisbon’s top spots focused on natural wines. Come thirsty.

One-Stop Shop: Comida Independente

Rita Santos’ beloved deli and bar in Lisbon’s historic center champions local artisans, from the tilework that decorates its interior to the farm-fresh cuisine from fine-dining vet Marcella Ghirelli and around 250 natural wines (two-thirds of them Portuguese). Among her favorites: Vitor Claro’s Dominó vintages from slightly higher-altitude old vines in the Alentejo. “Vitor’s lighter wines have lots of flavor and elegant fruit, avoiding the excessive alcohol and deep extraction typical of the region,” Santos says.

Second Act: Senhor Manuel

Building on the success of their first bar, Senhor Uva, Québec natives Stéphanie Audet and Marc Davidson’s new venture is designed as the neighborhood joint locals stop by for a glass of wine and a snack on their way to or from nearby Estrela Park. Snag one of its 14 seats for veggie-forward small plates, such as fresh figs with Banyuls vinaigrette, Gorgonzola, and toasted pumpkin seeds, which pairs nicely with a minerally Branco Especial white blend from the Vale da Capucha just outside Lisbon.

French Import: Les Bons Vivants

Owners Léonie Benoist and Ulysse Jasinsky modeled this shabby-chic boîte in up-and-coming Intendente on the easygoing French bistros they frequented while growing up in Poitiers. Redbrick walls, warm wood furniture, and neon signs set the scene for a night of French cheese and wine. The team imports les vins themselves, including only-here exclusives such as the Les Bons Vivants Cuvée, a fresh, fruity blend of muscadelle and sauvignon blanc, made in partnership with biodynamic winemaker Philippe Maffre in southern France. Benoist appreciates how low-intervention wines allow her to better connect with guests. “These are the types of wine that you need time to discuss with people,” she says. “They offer a surprise each time.”

The Side Hustle: SEM

In June, George McLeod and Lara Espirito Santo opened their upscale restaurant and adjacent wine bar with sustainability in mind: The casual star of the two venues sticks to seasonal harvests for small plates and is decked out with upcycled plastic furniture. “We think about wines the same way we think about food,” Espirito Santo says. “We ask, Who’s behind it, and are they working alongside nature, rather than trying to make nature work for them?” She recommends pairing the Corvina rice with furikake with one of her favorite sips: Menina d’Uva’s 2020 Líquen from Trás-os-Montes. “It has an earthy sweetness – as if it arrived to dot an i or cross a t with our food.”

Market Find: Prado Mercearia

Timeworn, geometric-patterned tiled floors; mason jars filled with colorful ingredients; and antique reproductions that mimic old-world, buy-everything-here grocery stores make this gourmet deli-cum-wine bar one of Lisbon’s most photogenic spaces. Lining the shelves are Portuguese foodstuffs and wines, which visitors can purchase to go or enjoy at one of the smattering of tables. The all-natural, all-Portuguese wine list is ever-growing and ever-changing. “We’re seeing new producers emerge from different parts of the country all the time,” says grocer Carlos Duarte. “People are thirsty for them.” Duarte is a fan of the 2020 Loureiro from Aphros, a biodynamic farm in the northern region of Minho. Its aromatic sweetness is balanced by bracing acidity – just the pour to put a smile on a sunny Lisbon afternoon.

From Venice with Love: Vino Vero

Giulia Capaccioli and Massimo Bartoli opened a satellite of their family’s Venetian natural wine bar on the hills of Graça, serving around 600 different boutique wines ranging from European to New Zealander. The two-year-old bar has proved a hit: VV, as locals call it, feels like the neighborhood’s casual social hub, where raucous groups chatter over burrata loaded with tomatoes and the Vinho Verde flows freely.

Where To Rest Up After a Wine-Fueled Evening

Valverde Hotel

A recent expansion doubled the room count (now 48) and added a new pool to the Valverde Hotel, a city-center property on Avenida da Liberdade. Its restaurant, Sítio, has live music numerous nights and draws a crowd for dishes such as octopus with black garlic and marinated guinea fowl with beets and black truffle. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and private round-trip airport transfers.

Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon

Adjacent to Parque Eduardo VII, the historic 282-room Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon just completed extensive renovations that introduced Cura, a new restaurant from buzzy chef Pedro Pena Bastos. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Bairro Alto Hotel

When the 87-room Bairro Alto Hotel reemerged from a nearly two-year renovation of its eighteenth-century buildings in 2019, it brought in chef Nuno Mendes, whose work in London garnered Michelin stars, to oversee its culinary program and fifth-floor restaurant and terrace. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Pousada de Lisboa

There might not be a better people-watching perch than the outdoor, Praça do Comércio-facing restaurant at the 90-room Pousada de Lisboa. The spa’s pool and sauna make it a relaxing post-sightseeing retreat too. Doubles from $280, including breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.

Olissippo Lapa Palace

Just west of downtown in Lapa, the diplomatic quarter, the hilltop, 109-room Olissippo Lapa Palace has some of the city’s best views and a quiet pool with loungers tucked among its gardens and fountains. Virtuoso travelers receive a half bottle of Porto on arrival, breakfast daily, and a $100 dining credit.

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