Wine glass with Simplesmente Vinho written on it

Simplesmente Vinho, Porto’s alternative wine festival, recently concluded its eighth outing. The festival at Cais Novo, on the banks of the Douro River, featured more than 100 winemakers from Portugal, Spain, France, and even one from the USA. Local chefs served up petiscos, bands played in the evenings, and festival goers quaffed in an atmospheric setting decorated with artwork from the Ele Vai Nua gallery. When Tom and I were there, afternoon light sloped in under the building’s arched brick ceilings as winemakers showed off their latest projects on upturned wine barrels. As in previous years, Simplesmente 2020 teased and delighted in equal measure. Most of the wines we tasted were the result of personal projects or produced in small quantities.

The variety of wines on show at Cais Novo—from traditional assemblages, to mono-varietals featuring indigenous Portuguese and Spanish grapes, to natural wines, amphora wines, and wines musky with fluor—was impressive. Here are just three that caught our fancy at Simplesmente’s 2020 edition.

Bubbles from Spain

Loxarel Vitivinicultors, a biodynamic producer from Spain’s Penedès region, makes sparkling wines with personality and character. A standout here was an impressive 2009 Penedès MM, Brut Nature Reserva. Crafted from grapes that included 70-year-old Xarel-lo vines, the sparkling wine was clean and citrusy, subtly saline, and with a long dry finish. The vineyards of Can Mayol, producing under the trade name Locarel, are planted at high altitudes and in chalky soil, and this wine was a beautiful reflection of its terroir.

Wine as art

Quinta do Perdigão is an award-winning winery in Portugal’s Dão region, a few kilometers from Viseu. Winemaker José Perdigão is the architect behind the Dão Wine Manor in Viseu and his wife Vanessa, an artist whose work adorns every bottle the family winery produces.  The Perdigão eight-hectare vineyard has organic certification and produces a range of wines in small quantities, each bottle numbered, and wax sealed by hand. Our hands-down favorite was the elegant Alfrocheiro 2013, a complex wine, with balanced acidity and concentrated flavor.

Winemaking according to the biodynamic calendar

With winemaker José Perdigão at Simplesmente Vinho

A collaborative venture

Joana Santiago of Quinta de Santiago in Portugal’s Vinho Verde region always has something interesting to share at events such as Simplesmente: she presents recent experiments in a brown-paper-wrapped bottle labeled “draft” and this year, offered us a taste of her wine co-produced with Herdade de Rocim in Alentejo. The joint production entailed aging half of the wine in amphora and half in stainless-steel vats, then switching the wines out at six months. The splendid result carries a hefty-for-my-budget price tag but is worth every euro cent.

“wisdom, tradition, stories and symbolism” in each bottle

Joana Santiago presents her wines at both Simplesmente Vinho and Essencia do Vinho

Simplesmente all year long

“Simplesmente is for catching up with friends,” Ryan Opaz, proprietor of Catavino Tours, told us, “and for discovery!” We agree. The festival has a vibe akin to a robust family party. The intimate setting in a former wine warehouse is completely different from that of Essencia do Vinho, Portugal’s largest wine fair (Essencia takes place over four days just a hop and a skip up the road at the elegant Palacio da Bolsa). Read about our time at an earlier edition of both fairs.

Simplesmente lasts just two days, but wine lovers wanting to sample the wines featured at the festival can do so, with a bit of effort. Specialty shops, such as theLAB, with its stock of organic and biodynamic wines, offers guided tastings of many of the wines presented here. Wine bars serving Portuguese wines—Prova and Wine Quay Bar, to name just two—may be able to offer these wines as well.

Have you been to one of Porto’s wonderful wine fairs?


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