segunda-feira, 29 de novembro de 2010

Michelle Letowska and Vivien Opiolka

For a few years now my mother has started pointing out how much labour goes into making food and drink. Anything we put on our table, be that a plate of vegetables, a piece of meat, or a bottle of wine. I’m too lazy even to cook, which is actually small effort compared to the work that goes into getting food and drink to the point of being ready to be sold, or cooked, or opened. I don’t know whether my mother knew this all along, or whether she realised this when she started working on the land she had inherited with the view to planting a vineyard with the idea of making wine, or whether she stopped taking this fact for granted.

It seems fitting, with Thanksgiving just passed and with Christmas at the gates, for me to be thankful, truly, for whatever blessings I have been graced with, which are always many, I think.

I am writing here about Vivien and Michelle because they have both been to Fundo de Vila and have contributed a little to the farm and to the making of Terrus. I co-organised the ZAAT Mostra de Artes Visuais e Sonoras 010, which is currently taking place in Lisbon, and I invited Michelle and Vivien, both artists, to exhibit some of their works. Their exhibition “Intimacy & Solitude” is at the architects’ office 71Arquitectos, and below are some photographs.

Drawings by Michelle Letowska. Photographs by Vivien Opiolka.

domingo, 9 de maio de 2010

Maio é o mês das flores

If April can be the cruelest month May can turn into the kindest. Eva joined me at Fundo de Vila for the weekend, at times sunny, at times stormy. The light of this evening is mixed and the greens of the new leaves are fresh and soft. All the usual signs of Spring, birds chirping, plants flowering, snakes coming out of holes in the walls and the vines developing at an accelerated rate and throwing tendrils to the wire and each other.

We have been doing some Spring cleaning in Casa da Eva, getting it ready for the Summer. Chris started it last weekend and was disappointed to have to leave the job unfinished. And through all of last week Zé do Convento and Marco were working solid on turning a centenary "lagar" into a refreshing pool for the very hot days of Summer.

The main event of the month is still to happen: the bottling of Terrus 2008! That is planned for tomorrow and will be a full day. I should also mention that the night of my arrival this time, Luna, our Rhodesian Ridgeback bitch, produced a delightful litter of 9 puppies, 7 of which survived and are thriving. Any good homes?

Our to do list is quite long. To keep calm Eva is knitting and I am smoking. And the airports are closed again. So I may have to stay on or may decide to drive to France and take the train from there. Whatever will be, will be, che sera sera!!!

sábado, 10 de abril de 2010

Let the sun shine

citrus from Fundo de Vila + photo by Karim Boye + print by Pamela Clarkson + cold & cough remedy (all in my kitchen in Lisbon)

new look

We hope you like our new look. We think the colours are more appropriate to red wine, vines, land, etc. The great thing about blogs is how malleable they are, but we’re trying out this aesthetic for now, so let us know what you think. Keep an eye out also for new features. We’re working on them, but we do things leisurely (read lazily) here.

April (cont'd)

terça-feira, 6 de abril de 2010


April is indeed the cruellest month. I wonder what T.S. Eliot would have thought of the first lines of his most famous poem being presented as a Facebook status. That is where I last read the poet’s opening lines, and was hence reminded of The Wasteland, a book I read once through a few years ago, and didn’t really understand. Probably time I return to it with more care and attention. I think poetry is the art I find most difficult, even music, in spite of my ignorance on the subject, I seem to find easier to ‘get’.

Portugal is a land of poets, and this April the Douro valley seems fit to act as muse to one writing about the sad things in life. The chill, the drizzle that can’t quite make up its mind to turn into rain and so makes the use of an umbrella seem silly, the deep greens, the low-lying clouds (or is it high-lying mist?) following the curves of the river. Not being a poet I can’t turn the uncomfortable physical facts into lyrical metaphysicality. The cold, numb tips of my fingers remain just that, and only make it harder to type. The house has no heating, and the boiler isn’t working, but I am grateful for warm clothes, mugs of freshly brewed tea, and log fires – luxuries whatever the circumstances.

This visit to the north frames my first month living in Portugal. You hardly need to be a meteorologist to know that down south it’s warmer, but even a month ago when I was here it didn’t feel this cold, or perhaps it was the bursts of soft yellow from the mimosa trees warming things up. I arrived Thursday night, on the coach from Lisbon, and travelled with many others and their dispersive plans for the Easter weekend. The main reason for my trip was to see my dentist uncle who looks after my braces (it felt ridiculous to have braces at 30, but so many adults have them in Portugal, it must be the fashion). That duty done, I went to see my grandmother, who said I looked so-so, and then entertained me and herself with stories about family members represented in old photographs - a recent discovery of hers – which she keeps displayed around her room and stored in boxes and albums.

My pretensions to a certain degree of luxury insisted that I spend the night at Casa da Eva rather than at my grandmother’s, and in spite of my house’s shortcomings, it still feels more comfortable, although it might just be the comfort of solitude. One of my cousins and her friend gave me a lift here, while I bored them with my tales of woe about how hard it has been to find employment in Lisbon. Their response was surprisingly stiff-upper-lip, which was probably the metaphorical cold shower I needed to shut up and get on with it.

In the winery I found my cousin Francisco (Terrus enologist) and his brother To Zé sorting out their own wine Aneto. Decanting Aneto 2008 from wood barrels to metal ones to be bottled soon, washing the wood barrels out and filling them with Aneto 2009, the water and the wet enhancing the miserable weather outside.

[N.B. I am having some trouble with my images, but I shall upload some as soon as I solve the problem.]

terça-feira, 23 de março de 2010

On your marks, get set, sell!

As winter turns into spring in Lisbon, the marketing of Terrus gets into full swing.

After having spent several years in the UK, I am now based in Lisbon and spend part of my time marketing and therefore trying to sell my mother’s wine (for a salary, I would like to add). My new role started in practice last Friday. Not quite knowing where to begin, I consulted the 2010 edition of João Paulo Martins’ Vinhos de Portugal (the Portuguese wine bible). Other than having a pretty good rating of Terrus, it also has a list of wine shops, in Portugal and abroad. I started off with the former, narrowing it down to Lisbon and surroundings, and started calling places, asking them whether I could go by and introduce the wine to them. And so that is what I have done these past two days. Targets have ranged from new, snazzy gourmet food & wine shops, to traditional Portuguese garrafeiras.

I take a bottle and information about the wine, give a little introduction and answer any questions my interlocutor might have. I thought some people would want to try the wine there and then, but that has not been the case. I have walked up and down Lisbon’s hilly streets, and have gotten to know the city better. The few longer conversations I have had with merchants have also been very interesting and instructive.

We shall see what fruits my labour bears.

Next I’ll most likely be getting in touch with restaurants and wine bars.

quarta-feira, 17 de março de 2010

Well, the photo is here and it was sent from the mobile phone! Miracle!

So I will try again. This one is of my good dear friend Leslie (I hope she does not mind), taken in London, on a cold wet dark evening, when we were having a glass of wine in a bar in Hampsthead and talking wine and families, mainly.

Ah! This time it did not work.

Yesterday I went to see the film The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Some wine drinking there but not a lot. I had read the book and knew what to expect and the violence was not overdone, not compared with the original, which the film follows closely. It was good, very good. In Swedish with subtitles, very civilized.

This sounds more like a diary than a blog. But what is a blog supposed to be? Having been to the conference in Lisbon last year I should know. Catavino will scold me and send me back to school!

Now let us try another photo, one intended for the site, of me and TERRUS.
Ah. did not work again. Time for lunch, and then for siesta.

2010 catching up with me

Procrastination! Procrastination! One of my favorite words...
Now I can hardly remember what went by in the meantime. Several trips to the Douro, attendance at Wine Pleasures Barcelona to meet with possible buyers, the same to Algarvini, both useful for contacts and to breath the specific thick air of wine events. And this permanent nagging feeling that this is a language that I did not learn, not at home in my mother's lap, not in the village school I attended with a really blackboard, not through all my education. And yet I try.
Whom am I writing to? To myself of course, at this stage. To the screen. To Eva, who will check and most likely criticize! And to Catia, who noticed the void.