Posts

DSC05670

Welcome New Year!

One we hope is full of cheer

And of far travels for you

And great experiences too!

Dream that two thousand 18

Brings you sights you’ve not seen?

And tastes of local food,

Or dining a la Michelin mood?

Dream of Portugal, Spain,

Stroll a French country lane?

Take a walk through the vines

And sip fine top class wines?

Well, there’s no need to dream,

Contact your Gourmand Breaks team

As we’ve got lots to share

To take your dream there.

Nerua Interior

IMG_7227

 

At Gourmand Breaks we are specialist Food, Wine and Cultural Private Tour creators, custom designing exclusive trip itineraries just for you!

On our website you will find many great sample Food, Wine and Cultural Private Tours in Spain, Portugal and SW France, to give you ideas. But, remember, while these samples are all “ready to wear” we can modify any to suit your preferences or build your personal ideal Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tour Itinerary from scratch!

Don’t delay, contact us today :-)

Douro Valley, Portugal

  • The Douro Valley is Port Wine Country
  • The region is located in the North of Portugal
  • The Douro “vinhateiro” winegrowing area of the Douro Valley is a designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Port and DOC Douro wines are made only with native grape varieties.
  • Authentic port is made at ‘quintas’ (estates) along a narrow river gorge that winds 100 miles through the mountain ranges
  • There are over 200 Quintas in the Douro Valley
  • Port Wine produced in the Douro Valley was once shipped downriver to the city of Porto in sailboats called ‘barcos rabelos’
  • The terraces of vines in the Douro Valley were introduced by the Romans in the third century A.D
  • Spring and fall are mild, with daytime temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees
  • The grape harvest season starts in September
  • The valley was the first demarcated wine-producing region in the world established in 1756
  • The River Douro rises in Spain and flows across Northern Portugal reaching the sea at Oporto

 

More about Portugal:

Some fascinating facts about Portugal

Fascinating Facts about Lisbon

Fascinating Facts about Porto

port_16x9

 

Visit the beautiful Douro Valley and more in Portugal on one of our private Portuguese Culture, Food and Wine Tours to see the wonderful vineyards and fascinating culture of this country, taste port wine, local foods and much, much more!

World Heritage Sites are places of importance to cultural or natural heritage as described in The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, World Heritage Convention, established in 1972. The aim – to protect and preserve National Heritage.  Portugal adopted the convention on September 30, 1980 – before its neighbor, Spain, who  accepted the convention on May 4, 1982.

There are currently 15 World Heritage Sites in Portugal listed by the World Heritage Committee on the UNESCO World Heritage List.  Spain, with 44 World Heritage Sites, is the 3rd country with the most World Heritage Sites behind Italy with 49 and China with 45.

Sintra 

World Heritage Sites in Portugal LIST, with their first year of inclusion:

 14 Cultural World Heritage Sites in Portugal:

  • Alto Douro Wine Region (2001)
  • Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores (1983)
  • Convent of Christ in Tomar (1983)
  • Cultural Landscape of Sintra (1995)
  • Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (2012)
  • Historic Centre of Évora (1986)
  • Historic Centre of Guimarães (2001)
  • Historic Centre of Oporto (1996)
  • Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture (2004)
  • Monastery of Alcobaça (1989)
  • Monastery of Batalha (1983)
  • Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém in Lisbon (1983)
  • Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde (1998)
  • University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (2013)

 

1 Natural World Heritage Site in Portugal:

  •  Laurisilva of Madeira (1999)

 

Evora

 

Visit Portugal’s World Heritage gems on one of our Private Culture, Food and Wine Tours to see the wonderful historic treasures and fascinating culture of this country and taste fine wine, local foods and much, much more! Portugal is easily combined with Spain so why not enjoy the best of both worlds and customize your private tour to combine both Spain and Portugal!

Marg and Phil Roeterdink joined us from Perth, Australia, back in May/June 2015, for their Private Gourmand Breaks Food, Wine and Cultural Tour covering Spain and Portugal.  In a Customized 17 day itinerary Marg and Phil were able to experience the sights and delights of Barcelona, Granada, Seville, Cordoba, Ronda, Salamanca and Madrid in Spain as well as Lisbon and the Douro Valley in Portugal. Marg has since shared  her impressions with us through paintings that she entered into her Personal Journal along the way.

Here are some of the beautiful paintings that Marg has very kindly allowed us to share with you:

Marg Barcelona

Marg Cordoba

Marg Farmhouse

Marg Granada

Marg Lisbon

 

Many thanks againto Marg for sharing these beautiful impressions of the Spanish and Portuguese experiences she shared with her husband Phil.

We’d love to help you make your own special memories  too in Spain and Portugal and look forward to welcoming you on a Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tour with Gourmand Breaks.

Our Pre-Michelin Guide Spain and Portugal 2016 SuperChef Series by Gourmand Breaks – An insight into the world of some of the current Michelin star chefs in Spain and Portugal – is well underway. We previously showcased the current Michelin 2 star restaurants in Portugal (there are only 3): Belcanto, Ocean and Vila Joya.

There are currently no Michelin 3 star restaurants in Portugal but there are 11 Michelin One Star restaurants in Portugal (at the moment). We started our Michelin One Star Restaurants in Portugal with Yeatman and Ricardo Costa  and Casa da Calçada and Vítor Matos. Now we’re heading to the coast and a French chef who for 10 years headed a Fortress kitchen:

Vincent Farges

Vincent Farges –  worked Worldwide until finally settling in Cascais in 2005 at the Fortaleza do Guincho. Until June 2015, so for the Michelin guide for 2015, he was executive chef at the Fortaleza do Guincho, conducting Antoine Westermann’s French cuisine (Westermann being gastronomic consultant here since 1998).

Fortaleza do Guincho (Cascais) – Was built as a fortress in the 17th century and has been exquisitly renovated as a luxury 5 star hotel with a Michelin Starred restaurant. The Michelin star was awarded in 2001 and until June 2015, the kitchen was run by Vincent Farges. This position is now held by Miguel Vieira, the first Portuguese chef to take on the management of this restaurant. Can Miguel hold on to the Michelin star? All will be revealed on November 25th 2015. The dramatic setting of the Fortaleza do Guincho restaurant offers a magnificent view over the Atlantic Ocean adding a special ingredient to it’s incomparable dishes. To be enjoyed on one of our Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tours :-)

Fortaleza do Guincho dish

Experience Portugal’s growing gastronomy and fantastic wine regions on a Gourmand Breaks Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tour to include Portugal.  An ever-increasing destination choice with our guests Portugal can easily be combined with Spain  for a two-center vacation giving you the chance to indulge in the Best Michelin Starred Restaurants in Spain and Portugal.

Our Pre-Michelin Guide Spain and Portugal 2016 SuperChef Series by Gourmand Breaks – An insight into the world of some of the current Michelin star chefs in Spain and Portugal – is well underway. We previously showcased the current Michelin 2 star restaurants in Portugal (there are only 3): Belcanto, Ocean and Vila Joya.

There are currently no Michelin 3 star restaurants in Portugal so on now to the Michelin 1 star restaurants in Portugal.  There are just 11 Michelin 1 Star restaurants in Portugal (at the moment) and we started our Michelin One Star Restaurants in Portugal with Yeatman and Ricardo Costa . Now we’re heading to Amarante and another chef heading a Hotel Restaurant:

vitor matos

Vítor Matos – trained in Switzerland and, after working in various hotel restaurants, finally joined the Casa da Calçada team in 2010 to head the Largo do Paço restaurant.

Largo de Paço (Amarante) is the Michelin 1 star restaurant of the 5* Casa da Calçada Hotel. Regional and Mediterranean cuisine combine to meet the gastronomic quality and originality required by the Relais & Châteaux chain. The Largo do Paço restaurant gained it’s Michelin star in 2004 and Vítor has kept hold it. The elegant atmosphere, original ideas and impressive  presentation make this restaurant a must visit place that will certainly surprise you. To be enjoyed on one of our Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tours :-)

 

Casa da Calçada Michelin 1 star dish

Experience Portugal’s growing gastronomy and fantastic wine regions on a Gourmand Breaks Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tour to include Portugal.  An ever-increasing destination choice with our guests Portugal can easily be combined with Spain  for a two-center vacation giving you the chance to indulge in the Best Michelin Starred Restaurants in Spain and Portugal.

Cheers to Missouri Wines for this great explanation for Understanding and Identifying Wine Aromas:

Put your new found wine knowledge to the test on one of our Private Food, Wine and Cultural Tours in Spain and/or Portugal. Visit top class wineries in great Spanish and Portuguese Wine Regions such as La Rioja, Priorat, Penedes or Emporda in Spain and Douro Valley or Alentejo in Portugal.

Nouvelle Cuisine, when mentioned, brings thoughts of small plates of food that many feel will see you leaving a restaurant with a lot less money and a lot more hunger than when you went in!!!  But, is this true?  What is sure, is that this French revolution has spread all over the World but, is Nouvelle Cuisine for everyone ? for the Gourmands? or just for the Gourmets? or is it a chance for a personal culinary experience that will excite the tastebuds and leave memories for a lifetime?

Nouvelle cuisine 

The term “nouvelle cuisine” has been used several times in the history of French cuisine, to mark a  break with the past, with tradition.  In the 1700’s several French writers emphasized this break with tradition, calling the new cooking style  “modern” or “new”.  In the 1880s and 1890s, the cooking of Georges Auguste Escoffier was sometimes described with the term.

Today, the French term “Nouvelle Cuisine” is  attributed to authors Henri Gault, Christian Millau, and André Gayot,who used nouvelle cuisine to describe the cooking of Paul Bocuse, Alain Chapel, Jean and Pierre Troisgros, Michel Guérard, Roger Vergé, and Raymond Oliver, many of whom were once students of Fernand Point. Paul Bocuse claimed that Gault first used the term to describe the food that he prepared, along with other top chefs, for the maiden flight of  Concorde in 1969.

The style that Gault and Millau wrote about was a reaction to the French cuisine classique placed into “orthodoxy” by Escoffier.  Calling for greater simplicity and elegance in creating dishes, nouvelle cuisine is not cuisine minceur (“thin cooking”), which was created by Michel Guérard as spa food.  It is thought that World War II was a significant contributor in the creation of the phenonenom of nouvelle cuisine, as  there was a short supply of animal protein during the German occupation hence the need to experiment.

Gault and Millau “discovered the formula” contained in ten characteristics of this new style of cooking. The ten characteristics of “Nouvelle Cuisine” were identified as:

  • A rejection of excessive complication in cooking.
  • Cooking times for most fish, seafood, game birds, veal, green vegetables and pâtés were greatly reduced in an attempt to preserve the natural flavors. Steaming was an important trend from this characteristic.
  • The cuisine was made with the freshest possible ingredients.
  • Large menus were abandoned in favor of shorter menus.
  • Strong marinades for meat and game ceased to be used.
  • They stopped using heavy sauces such as espagnole and béchamel in favor of seasoning their dishes with fresh herbs, high quality butter, lemon juice, and vinegar.
  • They used regional dishes for inspiration instead of cuisine classique dishes.
  • New techniques were embraced and modern equipment was often used; Bocuse even used microwave ovens.
  • The chefs paid close attention to the dietary needs of their guests through their dishes.
  • The chefs were extremely inventive and created new combinations and pairings

Nouelle cuisine dessert

Today Nouvelle Cuisine is Worldwide and plays a part in many kitchens. It is an art, a science, an explosion of sensation and a treat for the tastebuds that has foodies and the general public alike craving the escapism that it provides from everyday life. 

Join us on a Gourmet Private tour of Spain and/or Portugal  to escape into a Gourmet World of sublime enjoyment.

Evora is a small city surrounded by 14th century walls in the Portuguese wine region of Alentejo which is a vast, sun-drenched area covering around a third of Portugal. Only five per cent of the land is planted with vines though and between towns in Alentejo you can drive for miles passing cork and olive groves, vines, crops and grazing livestock.

 Evora, Portugal

Évora is a walled city with a proud, rich and imposing past. The Romans were here, leaving their 1st century Temple behind, but so were the Moors who occupied the narrow streets with quaint small white washed houses.  Traces of different eras and civilisations have been left virtually untouched in a city where people still walk small cobbled, medieval streets. Large archways give way to picturesque squares where local artisan shops are found next to the modern high-street names and terraced cafés invite you to relax and watch the world go by. The large amount of rich monuments found in this city has led to its UNESCO classification as the ‘the finest example of a city of the golden age of Portugal after the destruction of Lisbon by the earthquake of 1755’.

 Evora streets

There are many great Alentejo wineries that you can visit in the surrounding  countryside so Evora makes a wonderful base for discovering the wine region although in Evora itself don’t miss:

Catedral da Sé – Built in 1186 in Romanesque style and later restored in the Gothic this is the greatest medieval cathedral in the country.  The facade is dominated by two asymmetrical towers flanking a massive doorway, which includes twelve figures of the apostles that are masterpieces of Portuguese Gothic sculpture. Don’t miss the shrine studded with 1,426 precious stones—and a piece of wood thought to be from the True Cross.

Templo Romano de Évora ou Templo de Diana (Roman Temple of Évora or Temple of Diana) –  This is one of the city’s most famous monuments and one of the main symbols of the Roman occupation of Portugal. There are 14 columns left of this temple which was originally built in the 1st Century A.D. as a place of worship to emperor Augustus. Legend has it that it was erected in honour of the Roman goddess of the hunt, Diana, and is more commonly referred to today as the Temple of Diana.

Aqueduto Água de Prata (Silver Water Aqueduct) – This is a masterpiece of engineering workdating back to the 16th century and one of Evora’s iconic monuments. Follow the aqueduct inside the walls of Évora and see how homes have been built inside the arches.  It is one of the largest aqueducts in Portugal and  used to bring water from the springs of Graça do Divor, 11 miles (18 kilometres) away, to the center of the town.

Capela dos Ossos (The Chapel of Bones) – Built in the 16th century by Franciscan monks to invite contemplation on the transitory nature of life, to transmit the message that life was just a passage before reaching heaven or hell. Approximately 5,000 skeletons, from 42 local cemeteries, are exposed on its walls and ceilings —ironically, all but the bones of the monks who created the chapel. This intriguing chapel belongs to the Igreja Real de São Francisco (San Francisco Royal Church) and if you are a little sensitive you may have to think twice before you enter the archway that states “We bones lying here await yours”. 

University of Évora – This 16th century university is the second oldest in Portugal and the azulejos that decorate the classroom entrances represent each of the subjects taught.  Opened in 1559 and run by the Jesuits before they were evicted by the Marquês de Pombal in 1759, its elaborate classrooms look onto a serene courtyard with a central fountain. Feel free to walk through its marble cloisters, look in on classrooms with teaching pulpits and 18th-century blue-and-white azulejos (tiles, painted here to reflect the academic subjects) and don’t miss the chapel’s tapestry and the stunning painted ceiling of the library. The students are unfazed by visitors.

Praça do Giraldo –  The center piece of the main square of Evora is a marble fountain,  the fonte Henriquina, that dates from the 1570’s.  This water fountain  marked the original source of the aqueduct of silver water and has eight streams, each representing the eight streets which lead from the Praca do Giraldo.  The square today is a calm and pleasant setting to spend an hour or so doing some people watching but was once the scene for some of the region’s most violent historical events such as the murderous 16th century Spanish Inquisitions for which it was the focal point.

 Evora aqueduct

Discover some of our customized food and wine tours to the most beautiful regions of Spain, Portugal and S.W France Food, Wine & Cultural Tours of Spain, Portugal & S.W France

Our travel agency creates private and high-end wine, culinary and cultural tours in Europe. We understand that everyone’s idea of the ´perfect´ package is unique which is why we work with you to customize your unforgettable experience – with an emphasis on the personal touch. Contact us to receive a quote for your private customized food and wine tour

The  Portuguese wine region of Alentejo is a vast, sun-drenched area in the south, covering around a third of Portugal. Actually, only five per cent of the land is planted with vines and between towns, you can drive for miles passing cork and olive groves, vines, crops and grazing livestock.

Portugal is divided into 14 Regional Wine areas : Vinho Verde, Trás-os-Montes, Porto and Douro, Távora-Varosa, Bairrada, Dão, Beira Interior, Lisboa, Tejo, Península de Setúbal, Alentejo, Algarve, Açores and Madeira.

Portuguese wine is then categorized using the ‘DOC’ (Denominação de Origem Controlada) system meaning Controlled Denomination of Origin. Portugal has 31 DOCs/DOPs. At the moment, both the traditional DOC and the new pan-European DOP are used. ‘DOP’ (Denominação de Origem Protegida) means Protected Denomination of Origin. The “DOC/DOP” system is similar to the Denominación de Origen “DO” system of Spain, the Appellation d’origine contrôlée “AOC” system of France and the Denominazione di origine controllata “DOC” of Italy.

Alentejo

DOC Alentejo wines can be made only in certain small enclaves within the greater Vinho Regional Alentejo region. For the purpose of regulating grape-growing and wine-making in the varying microclimates and terrains, DOC Alentejo is divided into eight different sub-regions: Portalegre, Borba, Redondo, Vidigueira, Reguengos, Moura, Évora and Granja/Amareleja. All DOC wines are labelled DOC Alentejo, and sometimes qualified by the name of the sub-region as well.

One of the most exciting areas is right up in the north-east corner, around the city of Portalegre and over towards the Spanish border. This high mountain country has a much cooler climate than the rest of the Alentejo, and the potential to make more elegant wines.

The central Alentejo, wide, rolling country around the towns of Évora, Borba, Reguengos and Estremoz, is hotter, and makes wines with a good balance of acidity. Even further south, in the bakingly-hot country around Beja, winemakers are producing some excellent wines. Soils vary hugely, from granite and schist to chalk.

A long list of grapes is permitted for Vinho Regional Alentejo, including many foreign varieties, such as Syrah, which is seriously gaining in importance.

Main red grapes (variable according to sub-region):

  • Aragonez, Trincadeira, Castelão, Alfrocheiro and Alicante Bouschet

Main white grapes (variable according to sub-region):

  • Arinto, Antão Vaz, Roupeiro, Fernão Pires, Perrum

 

 

Just some of the World class Portuguese wineries  that you could be visiting in the Alentejo Wine Region of Portugal:

Herdade dos Coelheiros,  Igrejinha – a wine estate  run by the effervescent Teresa Leal. This estate not only produces wines, but also walnuts and cork trees.   The area is known for the world renowned typical Portuguese craft – the most beautiful carpets of Arraiolos, nearby, that throughout the years won a status of national symbol, and now they bring their image, tradition and identity to the labels of this fine winery.

Herdade dos Coelheiros estate in Alentejo is a family business founded in 1981, which over the years has won recognition for producing wines of unquestionable quality, both nationally and internationally. It launched its first wine, labelled Tapada dos Coelheiros in 1991.  Since then, their portfolio of wines and other products has gradually grown.   A visit to this fascinating Portuguese wine estate will surely end with a tasting of their best wines including their superb barrel fermented white and the powerful Tapada de Coelheiros Tinto.

 

Herdade do Esporão,  Reguengos de Monsaraz – a very progressive family business which won the hotly contested “Sustainability of the Year” Award in the Drinks Business Green Awards 2013.  The Drinks Business, British magazine and one of the publications most read in Europe, praised Esporão for its holistic approach in adopting a wide range of innovative sustainable practices.

Since it was founded in 1267, the boundaries of Herdade do Esporão have remained virtually unchanged, despite being the stage of bloody battles and heroic deeds over almost nine centuries.

A visit to this impressive Alentejo winery not only includes a tour of the vineyards, wineries and wine cellars, there is also a great opportunity to visit and get to know the historical and cultural heritage of Herdade do Esporão, which dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries.

In the historic and monumental centre of Herdade do Esporão you can visit the Esporão Tower, the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Chapel (both of which have been classified as Public Interest Properties), and the Esporão Arch.  The chapel, an example of religious medieval architecture, was recently restored, thus making it possible for visitors to see the magnificent frescoes in its chancel.  There is also a Museum in the Esporão Tower where you can admire artefacts from the excavations at the Perdigões Archaeological Complex.

 

Adega da Cartuxa, Evora – This winery belongs to a foundation and wines are no longer produced here, but the place is referent for the area and definitely worth a pop in. The guided visits are not very good though, mainly 2 videos, but worth going to the shop and to taste/buy their range of wines, from modest to the region’s most expensive wine, the legendary Pêra-Manca, of which you are allowed to buy only one bottle.

 

Join us on a Private Tour of Portugal (or a combined tour with Spain) like our  Luxury Tour of Portugal – Wine and Culture  to experience the beautiful Wine Regions of Portugal in Alentejo and the Douro Valley, among others, to enjoy winery visits and tastings as well as a relaxing picnic in a vineyard and a cruise along the Douro River.