The Sommelier invites…
Wine is the perfect excuse to get people together. It should not be complicated and can break barriers between people from different areas, cultures or working backgrounds; keeping this in mind, I wanted to create a gastronomic moment, a challenge, where I invite a Chef and someone totally out of the gastronomic mainstream.
The challenge is for the invited person to choose the products they like, take them to the Chef so he can create an excellent sophisticated dish, and me? My part in this is to find a wine to pair with the food.
Lagos, one of the prettiest locations in Algarve, history is in every corner of this old town, the town walls, the fortress, the slave market, a place full of charm with an authentic Portuguese feeling. This is still a town where you can go to a local fish market, get your vegetables in street markets, or even an original farm. Fishermen are still mainly working class. Lagos has a privileged location by the coast and is stacked in between the Ria de Alvor and the incredible Natural Reserve of Vicentina Coast; from the fantastic oysters of Alvor to the world class blue lobster in Sagres, the options are in abundance.
Using this scenery as background, I wanted to take the meaning of “terroir” to a different level. For this reason, I invited a Michelin Star Chef, Louis Anjos. He is Head Chef at the Palmares Golf Resort. A luxurious and modern designed architectural building, set in a breath-taking location overlooking Lagos Bay. The architectural award-winning Club House where the Al Sud restaurant is set, recently recognized with a Michelin Star, Chef Louis Anjos creates fine cuisine in a very creative way with local ingredients to be the right man for the job.
The challenger, Cecilia Harris, a fitness specialist and influencer with many followers worldwide, recently moved to Lagos and is the perfect example of someone who takes her physical condition seriously, which presented a serious challenge for both the Chef and myself.
Taking advantage of the fantastic local products, Cecilia went to the fish market in Lagos, where she chose an excellent Sea Bass from the coast. You often hear Cecilia remark that “healthy food is not necessarily boring or without protein!” there is a balance in everything; the combination of all is the secret. Later, Cecilia visited a biological farm just a couple of kilometres away from the restaurant; she picked up the vegetables and made a selection to deliver herself to the restaurant Al Sud, where the Chef was waiting.
A farm that combines the production of bio vegetables with agricultural tourism, sustainability is the primary concern in this place; at Vale da Lama Eco Resort, you connect with the best that nature offers. On a sunny early morning, Cecilia went to the farm and had the chance to choose all the organic products that she likes to be combined with the selected fish.
The Chef was already waiting for us; we went straight to the kitchen to deliver the products and gave him time to do his magic.
From my side, well, the wine had to follow this “terroir” concept; it had to be produced within close proximity to the restaurant. So I wanted to find something special; it’s incredible when you can get all you need to make a high-level gastronomic moment “right next to your door”, and after doing some research, I found this fantastic spot within the town limits of Lagos. Imagine a small vineyard, hidden from everybody, just two hectares of land on a sloop facing south on the edge of a cliff, the Atlantic Ocean right in front of you; sounds too good to be true, but this exists!
Being close to the ocean, all this early morning freshness is transformed to fog. It gets inside of this place, bringing all the humidity you need into the grapes to create the perfect conditions for white wines or reds open in colour and lasting acidity. I have chosen the white wine to match the Sea-bass. It’s a blend of two grapes, the French Sauvignon Blanc and the beautiful Arinto from Portugal. They both have in common the citrus and acidic finish on the palate; you find a discreet saltiness on the mouth due to the Atlantic influence that the wine has. The wine was aged for a short period in French oak casks to make it more complex and gastronomic. Balanced, fresh and a lasting complexity; imagine a nice Sancerre; this is the profile of this beautiful wine, it’s called Falésia Reserva, and it’s a 2020 vintage. This wine was awarded with a Silver medal in the Algarve wines contest. A great example of the potential this region has for wine production.
Back to the restaurant, Chef was finishing his creation, a superb Seabass with crunchy skin, set on a beautiful bouquet of spring vegetables, earthiness, intense taste of the different types of flavours, fine herbs, citrus and a smoky aroma given by the “fumée” sauce. The wine perfectly combined, as it had a medium body for the intense flavours but was delicate simultaneously; it was amazing how the saltiness from the wine combined with the beautiful crunchy skin, cooked to perfection by the Chef.
Sitting at a table, the three of us at lunchtime, overlooking that fantastic view with this incredible food and wine, the only question was if Cecilia was happy with the result. She said yes, and trust me, that smile she had convinced me. From the Chefs perspective and mine, the conclusion is that simple things are the best, using creativity for cooking products that don’t need to be spoiled; I know that the skill of a top Chef makes the difference, the timings, the technique, its just incredible! And as for the wine, it matches very well, so the challenge made us again understand how lucky we are to live in this part of the world.
These days it’s crucial to have a sustainable production mentality, biological vegetables, small intervention from the Chef and organic wine to match. We are not fundamentalists in these concepts, and the truth is that even Cecilia is a believer that healthy food does not have to be boring or lacking in proteins. You can be healthy and still use creative dishes and not necessarily wines that must be organic or vegan, not at all!
If you think about it, these days, all the wine producers in Portugal or the world want to be as organic or with sustainable agricultural practices as possible. New generations of winemakers are doing this even if, besides the chemicals that some still use, all the intervention they make is mainly for the wines to the last longer and have good sanitary conditions.
I am very excited about the next challenge, new location, and new people; follow us for more.