Wine in Azores 2017 Gastronomy Festival Review and Recommendation for Azores Visitors in October
This post is one of my favourites on the blog. According to my first university degree I am a Food Safety Quality Engineer, which means I am very curious and interested about everything concerning food quality. I also used to work as a quality engineer in this field, with the main areas of focus being fruits and vegetables. However, I don’t have that much experience concerning wine quality, so please bear with me if my wine-related vocabulary is not impeccable.
At the end of October as a part of a smaller Hungarian group I had the chance to visit the WINE IN AZORES 2017 Portuguese wine & food tasting event on Sao Miguel. Those 3 evenings we spent at the event inspired this post. All in all it has been a great event where we tasted exceptionally good wines. You can find out about my experiences at this event in an upcoming series of posts – with this post being the first one. I sincerely hope that visiting WINE IN AZORES will be a must see on the agenda of every traveler visiting the Azores in the month of October.
In order to be able to provide Azores travellers with up-to-date event information and recommendations, I need to regularly check, search and read several websites and newspapers, most of them written in Portuguese. In October 2017 I have spotted the advertisement of this „wine festival” in a daily Azorean newspaper. Based on the fact that the event website www.wineinazores.com is only available in Portuguese I figured this event might be only targeted at the local Portuguese people. However, when a few days later I saw the same advertisement on the www.visitazores.com in English, I have changed my mind and decided to check out this event. According to the ad for the three-day event – between the 20th and the 22nd of October, 2017 – tickets can be purchased in advance (until the 20th) for 8 EUR. The Mazda car dealership which has been selling these advance tickets was somewhat hard to find, but maybe that was due to my command of the Portuguese language. So a friend and I proceeded to purchase the wristband tickets for all three days of the event. (Advance tickets are available in a limited quantity only, and I think it is excellent value for money.) To my amazement (because unfortunately in Hungary similar events are priced very differently), apart from the entrance tickets we only needed to purchase a wineglass for 4 EUR and we were good to go tasting wine from 3pm to 9pm for three days in a row. Almost incredible!
General information about the event
From the articles and other info materials I found out that this is the 9th time WINE IN AZORES was hosted in Parque de Exposições da Associação Agrícola de São Miguel (exhibition center) in Ribeira Grande (a 25 minute drive from Ponta Delgada). This year 68 wineries and 17 other exhibitors took part of the event. Apart from wine, there have been delicious food tastings, as well. One day it was Portuguese food blogger Chez Sonia who cooked for the visitors, the other day an Australian chef and owner of the restaurant Down Under in Lisbon, Justin Jennings prepared a dish from kangaroo meat using Australian ingredients. I am pretty familiar with the Australian cuisine, and eating these dishes made me think of my happy memories from Australia. There was a „Design Award” for the best wine bottle label. You can find more information about the event on the Wine in Azores Facebook page. Previously, the event was hosted in Ponta Delgada, but probably the exhibition outgrew the venue, and had to move to the current location in Riberia Grande. The exhibition center is easy to find but can only be accessed by car or cab.
The wines were fantastic, and the atmosphere excellent. We have tasted speciality wine that grows on volcanic soil. Most of the Azorean winemaking happens on the island Pico.
Edenazores wine contest
On the second day of the event I decided to make a little contest within the small group of Hungarian friends. Everyone in the group had to choose his or her favourite wine and favourite wine label. The contestants made their choices based solely on their own tastes & preferences. Once the list of „winners” was complete, I contacted these favourite wineries and asked them to send me a short introduction about their wineries and wines. My goal is to help my readers and fellow travellers with a list of wines and wineries worth trying and visiting when in Portugal or in the Azores. Of course there have been much more excellent wines in the offering, but everyone was allowed to nominate only one. I am looking forward to this little contest next year, hopefully with even more participants.
Since there was no way of ranking personal favourites, without further ado, behold the selection of our preferred wines and wine labels.
Favourite wines selected by the hungarian „judges”
- BRACARA WINE – SOCALCOS DO BOURO
- QUINTA DO GRADIL- RESERVA WHITE AND SAUVIGNON BLANC & ARINTO
- AZORES WINE COMPANY – ARINTO DOS ACORES
- ROSA SANTOS FAMILIA VINHOS – EXPLICIT PASSITO
- RUI ROBOREDO MADEIRA – VINHOS DO VALE DOURO – BEYRA ALTITUDE RIESLING
Favourite wine labels selected by the hungarian „judges”
Best story from our trip
A few days after the event was Szabolcs’ birthday (he was one of the Hungarian „judges”). I thought it would be nice to surprise him with a bottle of wine from his preferred Bracara winery. Unfortunately, by this time Szabolcs’ preferred wine was sold out at the event, but when I contacted the winery they were kind enough to offer to find me a bottle somewhere and send it to an agreed location as a birthday gift. I have to admit it was quite a feat to organize all this and get that bottle to the restaurant two days after the event, but it was absolutely worth it: it all went well at the end and was a wonderful surprise. Hereby I would like to express my gratitude to Manuel Pedrosa Da Silva for his help and generosity. In my opinion love is very important when it comes to making food (I have mentioned this in several previous posts), and with Bracara winery I could feel that they love what they do, and they love making people happy.
I really, thoroughly enjoyed WINE IN AZORES 2017 – it is by no means a coincidence that we were there 3 days in a row. We have found something new every day. The wines were exceptionally good – in my opinion the white and green wines especially. We have also found a Pastel de Nata flavoured liquor which really did taste like this wonderful Portuguese pastry. There was a huge liquor bar, where we could taste Azorean liquors and Goshawk Azores Gin for a very reasonable price. I was very impressed that all wine sales representatives spoke English, so we could easily communicate and find answers to all our wine-related questions. We have tried speciality wines from Pico produced in mineral-rich volcanic soil which reminded us from the wine from the Somlo region in Hungary. We have tasted a few wines made from Arinto grapes. Some of these wines you can find on our list of favourites. There was a pavilion at the venue selling some of (but unfortunately not all) the wines featured in the event.
What we liked the most
The venue is excellent, and the event had a nice ambiente. The variety of available wine and fresh food for tasting was sensational. The winery representatives were very knowledgeable and kind, and almost everyone spoke English. The tickets – especially those bought in advance – were great value for money. Since the tasting started in the afternoon I found it wonderful that the event offered a supervised play area for kids. I found it great that some of the wine was available for sale at the venue. The marketing brochures of the wineries were also of the highest quality.
Room for improvement
Both the website and the Facebook page of the event were only available in Portuguese. There was no shuttle service available from the city center to the venue and back – or maybe there was, but we did not see any information about it. There was no attention paid to people with food allergies in the food offering.
The organizers are already preparing for the 2018 edition of Wine in Azores. I heartfully recommend visiting this event to anyone traveling to Sao Miguel in october next year. In regards to the event i have lots of ideas and recommendations, how it could be made even more exciting for both exhibitors and visitors. I would gladly offer my help to the organizers if they are open to new ideas and concepts.
Photo credits: Eden Azores, and Facebook photos of the favourite wineries
A huge thank you to Szabolcs for the photos and the inspiration.