Tapas Bar 52, Lisbon, Portugal

If you’re in need of a late-night bite to stand you well for the fun ahead, this is your jam.  They call it tapas, but they mostly mean delicious Portuguese small plates, with a few Spanish standbys blended in.  We ordered everything.  As in, everything, to the point that the hilarious waiter was afraid to actually order it from the kitchen for fear that we were joking.  No single dish or beverage blew our minds here, but all were well-executed and on-point.  You won’t have a mind-altering culinary experience here, but you will get good food at a reasonable price in a nice atmosphere.

Tapas Bar 52, Rua Dom Pedro V 52, 1250-083 Lisboa, Portugal

Pub Lisboeta, Lisbon, Portugal

We would never have found this place, if not for being summoned here by some locals.  This one-room spot in Principe Real has just the perfect balance of hip ambiance and the truly local flare that you were looking for.  A great jumping off point for a foray into the Bairro Alto.  You will see debauchery near, but can enjoy cocktails or wine with adults in this little oasis.  We were only here for a couple of drinks, but gained a great appreciation for its chill atmosphere shortly – after getting a taste of the just-a-little-much behavior in the nearby street parties.  And they won’t force you into the street.  Not really.  Sit outside by the door, greet your friends en route to the parties, and chill.  Small bites and great cocktails.  But if you leave, you best be strapped in for the wild and wooly student-fueled party atmosphere surrounding it.

Pub Lisboeta, Rua Dom Pedro V 63, 1250-096 Lisboa, Portugal

La Suerte de Arrayan 2011 – Méntrida, Spain

Fresher than expected on the nose:  notes of grass, strawberries, and wood.  Front palate of red fruit, blueberries, and faint vanilla notes.  Chewy and rich with tobacco, cocoa, and more vanilla rounding into a wall of warm tannins red fruit.  A soft, berry-laden finish that melts away quickly.  Lovely.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: La Suerte de Arrayan 2011
  • Winery: La Verdosa, S.L.
  • Region: Méntrida
  • Country: Spain
  • Varietals: Garnacha
  • Price: 25
  • Where to Buy: S&R Liquors

Champs Pentus – Faugères, France

This one starts with a ripe, bright explosion of cherries and blackberries on the nose, rounding out with some grassy notes.  The fruit fades into tree bark, woody/mossy scents and flavors, with just the right amount of tannin to back it up.  This is how I imagine the wet woods tasting when you wake early from your tent on a camping trip.  The finish is short, but clean, with a faint saltiness and a whisper of the original cherry bomb.  Stylistically, the bright and medium-to-light body isn’t really my favorite, but if it were I would consider this more than worth the price-tag.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Champs Pentus 2013
  • Winery: Frédérico Brouca
  • Region: Faugères
  • Country: France
  • Varietals: 40% Syrah, 30% Grenache, 30% Carignan
  • Price: $23
  • Where to Buy: S&R Liquors