If you’ve ever been to Lisbon—Portugal’s hilly, historic coastal capital—you’ve probably enjoyed the usual local delicacies. Juicy grilled chicken at Bonjardim, a sweet shot of ginja (the local cherry liqueur) on Praça de São Domingos, tremoços–lupini beans–and a cold sagres around Principe Real…oh, and a creamy pastéis de nata in Belém.
But wine? Let alone natural? Probably not. Most visitors stick to cheep, chilled beers like Sagres and Super Bock, or spend their money at touristy port wine bars. Lisbon is not quite known for having a vibrant wine scene, even among enlightened travelers.
Things have changed, and now, chances are, if you go to Lisbon now—say, tomorrow, or as soon as the next flight will arrive—you will find a city that’s lively and exciting, young and energetic, and home to a booming wine scene. One after the other, bars, restaurants, and shops have been popping up throughout town. From Alfama to the Bairro Alto, colorful wine labels are replacing street graffiti and those oh-so-cliché yellow trams on Instagram feeds.
Off on a quest for good vibes and tasty wines, and eager to make the most of my stay, one thing struck me as I was asking friends and locals around for tips. Or three things, to be precise. No matter who I was asking, three big names—the exact same three names—kept coming up time after time. Needless to say, I had my shortlist sorted. Now to cut that unbearable suspense off, here is all you too should know about those three, as well as a few other gems in Lisbon’s burgeoning natural wine scene.
Shamelessly nestled right between the very touristy Praça do Comércio and Castelo de S. Jorge, Prado is hidden among the traps an educated visitor like yourself should walk away from. A former factory turned modern eatery, the place has kept its industrial look, with a rough grey floor, large windows, and a high ceiling. Yet the atmosphere is smartly balanced by a whole jungle of plants hanging above your head, and the extensive use of light, natural wood gives it the extra kick of cosiness. Walk in and you’ll fall in love with the place at first sight.
Antonio Galapito, after working with Nuno Mendes at the famed Taberna do Mercado in London, came back to his native Portugal and has made magic at Prado since its opening in December of 2017. As much as you could gorge yourself on Gleba’s fresh-out-of-the-oven bread served with whipped butter, that would mean you’d miss Galapitos’s mindblowing cuisine. Juicy pork loin? Beef tartare served in crispy kale leaves? Or that utterly delicious mushroom ice cream? Shame not to try them all, right?
Now worry not, their game is as strong on the wine side of things. Camille Pichery, trained in Paris, left the 20th arrondissement to head to Lisbon and hunt the hidden local gems. Her mission? Highlighting Portuguese producers while introducing the locals to natural wines, strongly willing to play a role in this booming movement. Let Pichery guide you through Robinot’s unique Chenins or Riffault’s one-of-a-kind Sauvignons. If you’re in for a local treat she might pour you some Drink Me, a crisp and crunchy Bairrada–one of many local varieties. Made by Nat Cool, a collective of various producers, Drink Me will enchant you as much as that bread and whipped butter combo.
So you’ve had lunch at Prado. Now you want more? Or worse even, it’s Monday and the restaurant is closed while you’re in town!? It’s OK, calm down and keep walking around the block into Prado Mercearia, the one corner shop you wish you had near your apartment back home.
Same cosy vibe, same local energy, with that little something more… maybe it’s the colorful tiles? Maybe the sausages that have replaced the plants, hanging from the ceiling? Or maybe it’s that massive Berkel clearly waiting for its daily ham-slicing business.
In Lisbon, as you’ll notice soon enough, people don’t hang around drinking in bars that much. Instead, they grab a cold bottle of Vinho Verde from their fridge, an oily can of tinned fish, some hard cheese and a few beers, and go sit in the crowded parks, or at the busy various viewpoints all around town. That’s where you’ll find them chilling, while admiring the Tagus river, a glass in one hand, their phone in the other—it’s all about capturing that view. My friendly tip is you should do just that! Until you’ve got yourself a home with a loaded fridge, Prado Mercearia will turn out pretty handy to get yourself ready for some proper drinking and munching in the wild.
Walking into Comida, as the locals call it, is like walking into Cheers, “where everybody knows your name.” Just don’t look for Sam Malone; Rita Santos is the one running the show here. Opened in 2018, Comida is a deli with all things organic from Portugal and beyond, hand-picked, and so very nicely orchestrated. Once Santos has greeted you with the warmest smile, she’ll take you around the rich selection of cheeses, preserves, fresh seasonal vegetables, the unmissable tinned fish, and of course, wines.
As you’ll be looking at the bright aluminum shelves packed with colorful labels, you’ll probably think, “I’ve never seen those before!” and that’s right down to Santos and her partners’ mentality. Not going after the trendy ones but rather looking for independent growers and smaller producers, ones they deeply believe in. Wonder where all these treasures come from? Turn your eyes to a map of Portugal bedecked with vintage-looking Polaroids of smiling faces and glasses of wine, handily pinned right where they belong.
For natural wine drinkers seeking that “you can only find it here” experience, Comida Independente is ground zero in Lisbon.
If you feel like chatting with Santos and hearing more of her take on local gastronomy, sit down for a drink, all bottles are at shelf price +4€—the best deal in town!—or get a serving of the daily-changed wine by the glass. Oh, and make sure to pair that with a board of local cheeses and some chouriço sausage. As you’re enjoying yourself, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the events calendar; they might just be hosting one of their famous tastings while you’re in town, with one of the aforementioned smiling faces and a few glasses of wine.
As the latest addition to the Lisbon wine scene, Senhor Uva deserves your attention. Stéphanie Audet and Marc Davidson met while working in Montréal, Canada. She’s a renowned chef and cookbook author back home in Québec, and he knocked about for the last 16 years, waiting, consulting, and creating wine programs. They got hooked on the local climate here in Lisbon, and after living in Canada for most of their lives, relocating so close to all the wine producers they love surely was a good enough reason to move and settle. Now that the duo have decided to team up and open their very own place, they hold all the cards.
Located in the Estrela district, minutes away from the beautiful Jardim da Estrela, you’ll conveniently walk by after an afternoon spent napping in the park. With its large glass wall that lets one peek at the rich selection of bottles lined up on the wall, Senhor Uva is an invitation to walk in. With a large communal table, marble counter by the window, and the bar by the open kitchen, you’ll surely find the right spot to hunker down for drinks and snacks.
In the glass, let Davidson serve you some of his favorite Portuguese wines, like Filipa Pato’s Post Quercus, a “fantastic” red that Marc’s been pouring since his days in Montréal. Still thirsty? Try more local gems like Tiago Teles’ or Aphros’, venture abroad with some delicious wines from Rabasco in Italy or Koppitsch from Austria. By the glass, by the bottle, or why not a magnum? There’s some for everyone.
On the plate, Audet offers a range of vegan and vegetarian small plates, with the offer changing daily. She only works with local, seasonal products and wishes to promote the benefiting effects of plants and flowers, showing you how tasty they can be. Think blistered Padrón pepper, crunchy kohlrabi, and finger-licking white bean hummus. Be sure not to miss the homemade pickles. You first came for the wine, you’ll come back for these (and for Davidson and Audet’s heartwarming welcome, of course).
One bottle to drink – Filipa Pato, Post Quercus, comes in a 1L bottle, because 0.75 wouldn’t be enough, really…
Bonus: A Pop-Up Paradise
At first sight, with only three primary places making it on this list, you might think Lisbon doesn’t have that much to offer when it comes to natural wines, especially when compared to other European cities like Paris—duh—or Amsterdam. But, hey, it’s still a young market, when it comes to the lively juice and locals and visitors alike are slowly, but firmly, upping their game. One thing worth checking out in Lisbon are all the pop-ups, literally, well, popping up throughout town. Here are a few movers and shakers you might wanna have on your radar.
Last year, Alejandro Chávarro was still living in Paris, pouring wines at the famed, Michelin 3-star restaurant L’Astrance. Earlier this year, he followed his heart and moved to Lisbon with a suitcase full of wines from the friends he’d made along his way in France. Vinhos Livres was born. Since early October, he’s organized Master Classes every Monday night, with a focus on natural wines, from local gems to Champagne up-and-coming producers. Don’t miss out this opportunity to learn from one of the most talented, yet fun and friendly, sommeliers around.
With his neat, large mustache and his friendly, even larger smile, it’s impossible not to like Evaristo. When he isn’t shining bright behind the counter at Comida Independente, the Portuguese-born chef comes up with the greatest pop-up concepts. From “Bubbles Against Trouble” to “The Worst of the Pig,” he’s covering it all, and if those names got you thirsty for more, check his upcoming events out.
Short on natural wines to quench her thirst as she was settling down in her new home, Jenifer Duke launched her very own import company, Rebel Rebel, earlier this year. It didn’t take long for that strong-willed former Berliner to start organizing themed dinners together with the like-minded brain behind Pour Decisions, fly sommeliers from London to show Lisbon what’s up, or partner with local chefs to promote the “natty juices” that are so dear to her heart. Check out her Instagram to not miss her latest gigs while you’re around.
Valsa, “associação cultural com eventos” literally, is a cultural association with events. Unwind to a quiet indie rock soundtrack playing quietly enough that you can enjoy the surrounding chatter, grab some paddles and defy your friends on the electric blue ping-pong table, or just sip on a fresh local beer or a glass of raw wine at the bar. Open Wednesday through Sunday for the regular fun, but keep an eye out for their special events.
A Tribute to Café Tati
Café Tati was once the undisputed hub for all things natural wine in Lisbon, where you could drink everything from De Moor’s razor-sharp Chablis to Jason Ligas’ stunning macerated Greek varieties. Founder Ramón Ibañes animated the Lisbon wine upon opening in 2006, starting out first with the intention to create a place that felt like home. As Ibañes fell down the natural wine rabbit hole, the selection grew, allowing the locals to discover this whole new world and tourists and expats to get their much needed natty fix in the city of cheap beers. But as it often happens in such booming, developing markets, gentrification eventually came knocking on Café Tati’s door. The building changed hands, the new owners had big renovations plans, and just like that, on a sunny late December 2018 day, Café Tati had to go. The last beat of jazz was heard, the last drop of sharp Alvarinho was sipped, the last Padrón pepper was devoured. While drying its tears, the city of Lisbon remains thankful to Ramón and his partner Romina, for all the love they shared and the beautiful natural wine culture they helped establish in this city.