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29 August 2012

Roussillon: Domaine Boucabeille, Corneilla de la Rivière / Força Réal

Jean Boucabeille
Jean Boucabeille
Domaine Boucabeille

Named after affable owner Jean Boucabeille, who I met, interrogated and tasted with at Millésime Bio organic wine show earlier this year in Montpellier. Which means he has taken the organic wine-growing plunge, as is increasingly the fashion (fashion can be a good thing), with 2011 being his first fully 'certified' vintage. Jean's original vineyard plots hang on to eleven distinct staggered terraces facing southeast up on the Força Réal hill overlooking Millas, Corneilla and surrounding villages. These contoured vines were replanted in the 70s at between 200 to 350 metres altitude, following the lie of the land; and the “black mount” itself (see Jean's last red noted below, whose name evokes the locals' nickname for it) peaks at over 500m, or about 1550 feet, impaled by a giant TV mast. And Jean's been hard at it over the course of 2012 planting another six hectares of white and red Grenache, Mourvèdre and Roussanne in backbreaking stony schist soils, bringing the total to 28 (70 acres). They've deliberately kept the surrounding woodland in its 'natural' state with wild scrub and flowers, olive and fruit trees, honey production and even the odd grazing goat and ewe.
Good range overall, especially their Orris white wine and a rather sexy Rivesaltes Hors d'Agethat sees at least five years barrel ageing. More info @ www.boucabeille.com, and you'll find the winery off the D614 road before you reach Corneilla de la Rivière (coming from Estagel or Millas). Phone no. 04 68 34 75 71. Sold in London by Philglas & Swiggot (see £ prices below)and Firth and Co.(N. Yorks); and also in Germany, Denmark, Japan, Belgium, Norway, Luxembourg, Poland and the US (in civilized Virginia at least).

2011 Le Blanc de Régis Boucabeille(50/50 Grenache blanc / Maccabeu, 13% alc.) – quite rich milky and honeyed nose/palate tinged with spicy floral notes, crisp 'mineral' vs weighty mouth-feel, attractive style and good with it.
2011 Le Rosé de Régis Boucabeille (Grenache gris / noir & Syrah, 13.5%) – juicy and quite delicate start with nice bite and texture, finishing with a bit of oomph and fruity roundness too. Serious rosé.
2011 Les Terrasses de Régis Boucabeille red (Grenache, Carignan, Syrah; 14%) – lovely rich spicy warm and dark fruit with peppery liquorice undertones, nice solid fruity style. £12.50
2010 Les Orris white (70 Maccabeu, Grenache blanc; 13%) – honeyed and toasty edged with floral white peach aromas/flavours, crisp vs weighty palate with developing oily tones on the finish. Very good.
2009Les Orris red (75 Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre; 14%) – hints of coconut oak and grain too vs firm and lush mouth-feel, balancing soft dark fruit with dry grip. Good. £24
2009 Monte Nero Côtes du Roussillon Villages (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Carignan; 14%)– more savoury meaty and developed, grainy texture with attractive tannins, quite subtle and accomplished for the dry and hot vintage 2009. £15

Vins Doux Naturels

2007 Rivesaltes ambré (70 Maccabeu, Grenache blanc; residual sugar 98 g/l and 15.5% alc) – nutty Fino vs Madeira type quirky nose, sweet palate with tangy orange peel edges, delicious walnut flavours too and almost a bit of grip of the finish! Very good.
Rivesaltes Hors d'Age (mostly Maccabeu, 15.5% alc, RS 117 g/l) more complex and 'volatile' aromas with rich vs tangy palate and tasty very long finish. Towards excellent, should slowly get even better with bottle age...

23 August 2012

New wine tasting evenings in Belfast and Bangor - updated

In addition to the 5-week courses and Saturday wine workshops already scheduled in the RMJ / Wine Education Service program, I'm planning on running these informal tutored tastings in Belfast city centre over the next few months:
Thursday 11th October "Classic Grape Varieties" - £25
"A mini world tour tasting and talking about popular favourites such as Chardonnay and Merlot, but also looking at wines made from perhaps lesser-known varieties such as Grenache, Viognier or Sangiovese."
Wednesday 14th November "Classic Wines of Southern France" - £30
"An exciting tasting taking in a swathe of 'the Big South', ranging from classics from Bordeaux to more obscure deep southwestern France, down to the Spanish border on the Mediterranean, through the Languedoc and eastwards to Provence..."
Wednesday 5th December "Champagne and Sparkling Wines" - £35
"A fizzy world tour starting in France with Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (a premium example), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere (e.g. Australia, New Zealand) and ending up in England!"
Tastings run from about 7pm to 9pm and eight different wines will usually be sampled and talked about at each event. Full details of all courses and tastings and how to book on this page:
Or send me an email or book with Paypal (see below). Previous info and dates posted on my other blog:
www.winewriting.com/2012/07/wine-education-service-courses-tastings.html

UPDATED 30 AUGUST

I've also penciled in two wine tasting & supper evenings at the Ava in Bangor (Co. Down):
Thursday 25 October 7pm - Mediterranean wine tasting with tapas £30
"We'll taste and talk about six wines from Spain, Italy, southern France and a couple of surprises too, followed by a tasty selection of Mediterranean style tapas accompanied by a glass (or two) picked from the tasting wines."
Thursday 29 November 7pm - Christmas Champagne and sparkling wine tasting & supper £40
"A mini world tour tasting of six fine sparkling wines including classic Champagne and other French sparklers, Spain, Italy, the New World and perhaps an English surprise too! Followed by a supper selection of tasty nibble dishes and a nice glass of fizz from the tasting."
Please email me for more info and booking or click on the Wine Education Service Belfast link as above or book now using PayPal.co.uk! This button takes you to my Paypal secure payment page (click here for more about card payments etc.):

Select tasting:





New wine tasting evenings in Belfast and Bangor - updated

In addition to the 5-week courses and Saturday wine workshops already scheduled in the RMJ / Wine Education Service program, I'm planning on running these informal tutored tastings in Belfast city centre and Bangor over the next few months:
Thursday 11th October "Classic Grape Varieties" - £25
"A mini world tour tasting and talking about popular favourites such as Chardonnay and Merlot, but also looking at wines made from perhaps lesser-known varieties such as Grenache, Viognier or Sangiovese."
Wednesday 14th November "Classic Wines of Southern France" - £30
"An exciting tasting taking in a swathe of 'the Big South', ranging from classics from Bordeaux to more obscure deep southwestern France, down to the Spanish border on the Mediterranean, through the Languedoc and eastwards to Provence..."
Wednesday 5th December "Champagne and Sparkling Wines" - £35
"A fizzy world tour starting in France with Champagne and other fine sparklers, then comparing with the ever popular Cava (a premium example), Italian 'new kid on the block' Prosecco, passing through the southern hemisphere (e.g. Australia, New Zealand) and ending up in England!"
Tastings run from about 7pm to 9pm and eight different wines will usually be sampled and talked about at each event. Full details of all courses and tastings and how to book on this page: www.wine-education-service.co.uk/wine-tasting-belfast.html
Or send me an email or book with Paypal (see below). Previous info and dates posted on this blog: www.winewriting.com/2012/07/wine-education-service-courses-tastings.html

UPDATED 30 AUGUST

I've also penciled in two wine tasting & supper evenings at the Ava in Bangor (Co. Down not Wales):
Thursday 25 October 7pm - Mediterranean wine tasting with tapas £30
"We'll taste and talk about six wines from Spain, Italy, southern France and a couple of surprises too, followed by a tasty selection of Mediterranean style tapas accompanied by a glass (or two) picked from the tasting wines."
Thursday 29 November 7pm - Christmas Champagne and sparkling wine tasting & supper £40
"A mini world tour tasting of six fine sparkling wines including classic Champagne and other French sparklers, Spain, Italy, the New World and perhaps an English surprise too! Followed by a supper selection of tasty nibble dishes and a nice glass of fizz from the tasting."
Please email me for more info and booking or click on the Wine Education Service Belfast link as above or book now using PayPal.co.uk! This button takes you to my Paypal secure payment page (click here for more about card payments etc.):

Select tasting:





21 August 2012

Roussillon: Domaine Jean Louis Tribouley, Latour de France

Jean Louis Tribouley
Jean Louis Tribouley
From Weygandt Wines site
I've bumped into Jean Louis a few times over the years at various tastings and goings-on in the area, but most recently in Montpellier at the 2012 edition of Millésime Bio wine show and the Real Wine Fair in London. These charming encounters reminded me what tireless enthusiasm he has for his wines, what he does to create them and this way of life. Smiley easy-going JL started up his own estate about ten years ago, after a stint working for Gauby as seems to be the fashion as some kind of almost mandatory 'real-wine' apprenticeship for several of the region's best growers, or best-known at least.
Jean Louis decided to farm his vines and grapes organically from the word go – how could you not having spent time with Gérard Gauby, who wouldn't tolerate anything else! - and is also keen on applying biodynamic methods, as well as a 'low-or-no' sulphite rationale. His 14 ha (35 acres) of vineyards are spread out between fairly remote spots in Latour, Maury and Calce. The most recent acquisition was a few mixed plots of elderly Grenache gris and Macabeu used for his white wines; and most of the reds are based on a healthy dollop of sexy old-vine Grenache and/or Carignan. US distributor is Weygandt Wines (Washington DC) or K&D Wines (NYC), and Indigo Wine in London. There's no website/blog, but you could try emailing on jean-louis.tribouley@orange.fr. Or if you want to call in: 9 Place Marcel Vie, 66720 Latour de France; tel. 04 68 29 03 86.


2011 white (Grenache gris, Macabeu; unfinished sample) – a touch of toasted oak underlined by exotic banana and pineapple fruit, yeast lees edges bring out its attractive quite rich vs crisp and tight features. Good stuff.
2010 Marceau white Côtes Catalanes (mostly Macabeu grown on schist soil) – similar profile to above but creamier/buttery and layered with unusual flowery notes, minty even; rich vs crisp palate, very good actually.
2010 Les Copines Côtes du Roussillon (Grenache, Carignan) – intense and 'inky'/rustic nose with rich vs crunchy fruit profile, turning to enticing leather vs liquorice notes, concentrated spicy finish with a touch of dry grip. Good.
2009 L'Alba Côtes du Roussillon (Carignan, Grenache, Syrah) – reduced/awkward nose, moves on to roasted red pepper hints vs very dark fruit and lightly toasty chocolate tones; quite wild and powerful with underlying lush intense finish, again shows a quirky mix of rustic-edged, peppery and charred almost (but it's not the oak)! Exciting though. US $20.
2009 Les 3 Lunes Côtes du Roussillon Villages – a touch 'finer' with the same kind of attractive ripe dark vs spicy and earthy mix, again concentrated and intense on its long finish. Very good+.
2009 Cuvée 1901 – quite rustic, wild and/or 'bretty' but has lovely intense roasted 'garrigue' characters too; not so sure this one's for me but...

Tribouley tasted and talked about previously on this blog:
Roussillon trip 2005 (including his 2003 Alba).
Probably more to follow...

17 August 2012

Languedoc: Corbières - whites and Boutenac reds

I usually enjoy myself talking about one of my favourite and most well-travelled chunks of the Languedoc - that gigantic windswept and ruggedly picturesque corner stretching from the Corbières hills themselves north of the Roussillon up to Narbonne and almost across to the gates of Carcassonne to the west. Nowadays, this region is a good place to look for great-value easy going reds, whites and rosés; as well as some of the Languedoc's best estates and co-op wineries. Mind you, there's still quite a bit of dross lurking around too but much less than in the past I'd say. Red and rosé wines are based largely on Carignan, Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre with some Lladoner pelut (the Roussillon/Catalan variety related or similar to Grenache) and the somewhat rarer Piquepoul noir or Terret noir even.


Corbières
From 20decorbieres.com
I've gone on about Boutenac several times before (see links at the bottom and wineries there listed in the A to Z in the right-hand column), one of the new subzones centered on that eponymous blink-and-miss-it village, which is still finding its feet although already capable of nurturing a good handful of top red wines. At a mammoth tasting in the South a few months ago (the annual "Millésimes en Languedoc" gig), I focused my tasting buds on this area and have also picked a few tantalizing white Corbières wines. However, a number of the 2009 Boutenac reds had rather heavy drying tannins and/or too much oak, which seems to be increasingly obvious with many reds in general from this hot vintage. But the 2010s and 2011s on show appeared to offer greater promise. The whites are created from these varieties: Bourboulenc (confusingly known locally as Malvoisie), Grenache blanc, Maccabeu, Clairette, Muscat, Piquepoul, Terret blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne and Rolle (aka Vermentino). Further generic info @ 20decorbieres.comSo: 1, 2, 3, over to the tasting-note-tastic bit:

Boutenac all reds

2009 vintage

Château Ollieux Romanis Atal Sia - quirky 'cheesy' tones tinged with fragrant ripe blueberry, solid dry palate vs a touch of silkiness too, quite extracted but it works with that elusive aromatic fruit. Good to very good.
Gérard Bertrand La Forge - showing a fair bit of coconut oak still but layered with attractive 'sweet' aromatic fruit, grainy coco texture, tight and quite fine, those tannins do round out in the end. Good to very good.

2010

Château de Caraguilhes Solus (mostly Mourvèdre/Syrah) - rich dark smoky nose, concentrated black cherry / olive, firm but well-textured tannins; bit of chocolate oak underpinned by lush dark fruit, punchy finish vs good substance. Very good towards fab.
Gérard Bertrand Domaine de Villemajou - perfumed floral berry and cherry notes, quite chunky and firm vs 'sweet' berry fruit, again powerful and tight vs nice vibrant fruit. Very good.
Gérard Bertrand Château Aigues Vives - similar but with (more) oak, adding grain and texture, has 'sweet' fruit underneath with tight grippy finish. Good.

2011 (mostly unfinished samples)

Gérard Bertrand Domaine de Villemajou - aromatic and rich, blueberry cassis and black cherry, chunky vs concentrated palate, lovely dark fruit and spice with firm yet rounded finish. Very promising.
Villemajou Grand Vin - touches of coconut oak, grippier yet more intense than above with underlying concentrated dark berry fruit, tight firm and punchy finish. Also promising.
Villemajou La Forge - closed nose, moving on to vibrant black fruity palate, peppery and powerful with solid structure, lush substance with lovely textured tannins, closes up again. Lovely wine, should really blossom.
Gérard Bertrand Château Aigues Vives - nice black cherry/berry fruit, fairly rich vs grippy mouth-feel, again those tannins are already quite rounded, has a touch of freshness about it too. Very good.
Celliers d'Orfée - aromatic floral wild herb and mint nose layered with blueberry and damson fruit, firm vs supple palate, shows nice balance and style. Very good.

White Corbières all 2011

Vignerons de Cascastel - juicy fruit with light oak vs honeyed roundness, nice enough wine.
Bonfils - quite full and honeyed vs crisp and mineral finish. Good.
Meunier Saint-Louis Prestige - attractive lightly honeyed and creamy side vs citrus and pear, juicy lees-y palate vs crisp and dry finish. Good stuff.
Etang tradition - crisp and steely, light yeast-lees tones with dry bite and tight finish. Good.
Prieuré Carminal - rounder and juicier wine, nice floral and honeyed character vs celery mineral bite, quite concentrated and tasty too. Good stuff.
Bastide tradition - enticing honeysuckle and more exotic fruit, oily vs crisp mouth-feel, shows fair depth and weight too with 'chalkier' finish. Very good.
Gérard Bertrand Villemajou - nice mix of creamy lees-y notes vs white peppery vs oily exotic fruit/texture, zingier pear too vs a touch of toasted oak and concentrated finish. Very good.

Some other recent stuff on Corbières:

16 August 2012

Spain: Catalan "wines of the moment"

Specialist Spanish wine importer Oliver Burridge & Co. (based in the UK but they also sell to wine merchants in Ireland; click on that link to go to their site) has just added to their burgeoning selection from Catalan country, including two Cavas, white and rosé, and a few reds and a white from the lesser-known regions of Terra Alta and Montsant. These two wine areas can both be found in Tarragona province (about 100 km/60 miles southwest of Barcelona) on the higher ground (the red 'Cims del Montsant' below means MS Peaks) away from the coast, and I've featured three wines from here. The red and white from the Edetaria winery are particularly sexy, made from black and white Grenache or Garnacha or Garnatxa Negra and Garnatxa Blanca in Catalan. And the two Cavas tasting-noted and reviewed are made by Capesa and are pretty typical good examples of this tasty refreshing sparkling wine.



Cava Olivella Ferrari Brut Rosé Capesa (mostly Trepat, 11.5% alc.) - tasty refreshing style, fruity and elegant with lovely fine frothy mousse; has delicate oat biscuit flavours vs red fruits and rose aromas, drier than some rosé Cavas with crisp lively finish. £11.50 Spirited Wines.
Cava Olivella Ferrari Brut Reserva Capesa (Macabeu, Xarel.lo, Parellada; 11.5% alc.) - subtle delicate style with refreshing fizz and mineral notes vs very light toasted almond and floral fruit, gets even more refreshing and quaffable as you sip it. £10.50 Spirited Wines, Merchant Vintners, Flourish and Prosper.

2010 Cims del Montsant Garnatxa i Carinyena Cellers Baronia del Montsant (13.5%) - better than their 2011 Codols del Montsant Garnacha (a bit over-extracted and lacking roundness), this one is smoother with a layer of vanilla/coconut oak, quite lush dark and spicy fruit with dry vs rounded tannins. £11 Spirited Wines.

2011 Via Terra Garnatxa Negra Edetaria, Terra Alta (14.5%) - rich punchy and peppery, black cherry/berry with fig and liquorice notes and savoury black olive edges; light touch of coconut/vanilla oak but it's well done, lovely dry/firm vs ripe texture, powerful yet balanced. Nice lingering dark fruit vs meaty savoury side. Yum. £11.50
2011 Via Terra Garnatxa Blanca Edetaria, Terra Alta (13.5%) - attractive juicy pear notes vs nutty oily side with mineral bite, a tad honeyed and weighty too vs crisp and juicy, nice subtle length and style with lingering almond and pear flavours. £11 Guildford Wine Company; The Wine Library; Spirited Wine (with own label Vinya d'Irto); Liquid Pleasure.

Lots more Cava and Spanish wine HERE.

06 August 2012

Roussillon: Fenouillèdes "winemaker mugshot" competition

That's my best guess / translation of the Fenouillèdes wine association's second annual "Gueule de vigneron" photo competition. If you already have a nice shot of a northern Roussillon winemaker doing their thing or just chilling out or whatever (within reason obviously...), then you've got until 25 August to send it in by email or post. Alternatively, why not pop over to feral Fenouillèdes wine country with your digi cam and meet the guys and girls on the ground. Photos received by that date will be displayed around a few different Perpignan wine bars and shops during the Visa photo festival; and a jury of pros will pick the winning pics. The prize is... wine, of course, and an evening out tasting wines from the area with a few nibbles thrown in.
The Fenouillèdes is roughly those lovely wine-lands stretching from around St-Paul and Caudiès along the Agly Valley, and a bit either side (especially south), taking in Maury, Tautavel, Latour, Estagel etc. Look for those village names in my Roussillon A to Z (right) to view lots of winemaker profiles and wine recommendations. More info and entries: contact@vins-fenouilledes.com, or check out their site vins-fenouilledes.com (only in French though by the looks).

03 August 2012

Portugal: the Algarve & Tavira

It's easy enough to find a reasonably priced flight into Faro airport on Portugal's bright and breezy southern coast from just about anywhere nowadays. But, instead of flocking west with the mad(ding) crowds to those built-up disco bar towns, jump on the train and head east towards the Spanish border (you wouldn't really want to stay in Faro anyway, it's a bit of a dump). The pretty old town of Tavira and places nearby offer plenty of options to keep you going for a few days of tasteful and tasty sightseeing, eating, wine sampling and Atlantic side swimming too if you must (I did indulge).
Tavira
Tavira
Wine-wise, the Algarve has definitely moved on in recent years especially thanks to some well-heeled investors developing new estates or replanting virtually abandoned vineyards. My Portugal archive page features a review of Quinta dos Vales and some of their wines, a winery and leisure resort found in a wee place called Estombar between Portimão and Lagoa (which isn't actually in the Tavira area but to the west of Albufeira...) And Cliff Richard's fairly high-profile wine estate Quinta do Moinho (goes to website) - or Adega do Cantor ("the singer's cellar"), Quinta do Miradouro or simply Vida Nova ("New Life") as the wines are better known - is also in the Albufeira area up in the hills. Vines were planted here in the late 90s, and resident Portuguese Australian David Baverstock oversees the winemaking. I bought a bottle of their 2008 Tinto in the airport for €7.50 (it's cheaper in supermarkets, but I only had hand-luggage and you know the fascist security drill...), which is made from Syrah and Aragonez (called Tinta Roriz elsewhere in Portugal, it's the same as or a close clone of Spain's Tempranillo) in an attractive fruity chunky style.
Back to Tavira (well, physically at least as this wine is also from the Albufeira hills), we ordered a cracking bottle of full-on dry rosé, Barranco 2011 from Quinta do Barranco Longo (quintadobarrancolongo.com currently "under construction") for €12, in a nice little restaurant called Brisa do Rio (brisadorio.web.pt: "ditto"). Deep-coloured, very fruity, crisp and lively, it was a great match for tasty well-cooked sword fish and tuna steaks. The wine, bottled water, those two fish mains and two lovely puds came to €42, by the way (including a fairly common €1 per person cover charge, although you get breads, dips and olives for this here). For a simpler place serving huge portions of very reasonably priced steaks or pork dishes, look no further than Cais da Ponte (it does look across to the elevated new road bridge straddling both sides of Tavira). A local restaurant for local people - not much English spoken but who cares - with limited yet inexpensive wine selection.
Outside of Algarve wines, the neighbouring Alentejo region (to the north) features prominently on all wine lists I came across (mostly reds such as Esporão's well-known Monte Velho brand), usually closely followed by some good Vinho Verde dry whites. You wouldn't have thought it very likely to enjoy a few top notch Argentinean reds around these parts, but you can at wine and tapas bar Malbec y Vos (the owner's from down under, so to speak: facebook.com/Malbecyvos). I didn't - we did sensible lunch with water on this occasion - but chose four tapas "clasicas" (€1.50 each) and four tapas "especiales" (€2.50 each) including a mix of tortilla and another spud dish ("grandma style" I think it said on the menu?), imaginatively cooked vegetables, and nibbles of fishy and meaty things. Some of them were very nice, some were fine although a bit slight. Two serious espressos to finish with weighed in at a bargain €1.20 (for both I mean). Coffee is cheap in Portugal - you'd be lucky to get one for that price in France; we paid just €1 for a large cup in a breakfast and snack café called Pastelaria Ramos (opposite a miniature park by the river on the old old town side), which does e.g. good egg dishes and delicious homemade pastries.
In terms of wine touring in the Tavira area, there's only one winery I could find (you do see scattered patches of vines either side of the town from the train, which could be for personal production I guess) a couple of kilometres down the coast near Luz de Tavira: Quinta dos Correias (yet another "not ready yet" site!) run by Ricardo Silva e Sousa. You'll have to take a rain check on this one though, as I didn't make it there this time but did try one of their reds in a restaurant or somewhere (fairly sure but didn't make a note...). As for hotels, there's the simple clean Viva Rio (€40 per double room in early Maylocated close to the centre alongside the river below Santa Maria do Castelo's church and the Palacio da Galeria. A touch sparse perhaps but you do get a large patio out back: don't bother with the "river view" rooms at the front, as you don't get this or a balcony and the road outside is busy. For more all mod cons and a swimming pool, and not much more money (€52.50, the price goes up quite a lot in high season though), try Hotel Porta Nova over the river and up the hill. Breakfast seems dear at €8.50 per person, but there's a massive self-service spread with just about anything you'd want for brekkie, so you can fill yourself up and skip lunch.
Tavira has numerous picturesque old churches and chapels, bridges and city walls to help you stretch your legs. It's slightly complicated if you want to swim in the sea here, as the town is set on one of the salt-flat lagoons that characterize this part of the Algarve coastline; you have to walk a fair way or get a bus to where a ferry takes you across to the seaside, if you see what I mean. Just as easy to get on the train to, say, Montegordo, which is less attractive and more built up but does have a vast swathe of sandy beach. Not too far from here is the spectacular ancient fort of Castelo de Castro Marim perched up on a hill overlooking Spain on the other side of the river. Again, you can walk there from the rail station, although it's a good trek along a pavement-free main road; or hire a bike.
More Algarve and Portugal posts and features HERE.

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