Even before Botella was born, Diogo Magalhães Ferreira spent his life among them — the bottles, of course. Trained in oenological production and tired of the usual rush between vineyards from north to south of the country, he decided to extend the route and launch himself on a tour of wine regions around the world.
He said goodbye, grabbed his bags and left. The adventure ran into a pandemic that left him stranded in Napa Valley, California, which is hardly a bad place to let the global panic caused by Covid-19 subside. There he stayed for eight months before returning.
“I wanted to do something, I wasn’t sure what. So on my way back I decided to set up a business, a wine distributor for small producers, who suffered so much during the pandemic”, tells NiT the 36-year-old from Porto and one of the owners of the new wine bar in the city.
One thing led to another and, in conversation with his friend João Monteiro, the challenge arose: to grab a vacant space in Foz do Douro, two steps from the sea, and transform it into a space for wines and snacks. “We wanted to do something that was not yet available in Foz”, notes João, 31, economist and training manager.
Diogo is the wine man. John controls the details of the letter. And Margarida, Diogo’s sister, is the day-to-day manager of Botella, a wine bar that opened in May and is based on two very simple rules: good, different wines from small producers; and small dishes made with quality products.
In a city where wine bars are clustered within a small radius of the historic and tourist centre, Diogo and João wanted to draw a line. “I think there are a lot of wine bars but they are made for tourists. Botella is made for the locals. We welcome tourists with all the pleasure — and they come and like it — but our target audience is the locals”, he notes.
This is precisely the scenario of the small corner store, split between Rua do Padrão and Avenida do Brasil. The wide window opens and creates a kind of open balcony. Inside, you can breathe the sea air; outside, at the small improvised counter, anyone who passes by is invited to stop and have a drink. And the maxim is fulfilled: Botella is full of locals, residents.
“It was curious, because we opened for a test on April 29, without saying anything to anyone, and when we noticed, we were completely full”, says Margarida.
Inside, they found a sober, modern space, with a wine cellar that exchanges wood for metal, where the bottles sway, literally hanging. The dynamics are, above all, practical. Small wooden benches come out of the benches along the wall and the seats seem to multiply, to the point that, despite being small, it can hold close to 30 people. On the walls, notes of color in the form of sculptures, a nose, a mouth, the senses that you want to be sharpened to taste the 75 wines on the menu.
“We focus a lot on small, more genuine producers, we want more natural things — and we always prefer to leave out the wines from the big shelves”, says Diogo. “Sometimes they sell out, it’s normal, because there are wines from which only 500 bottles were made. Today we have it, tomorrow we don’t know.”
They prefer to bet on “more difficult wines to sell”, with a different, more distinct profile. “People know they come here and have a differentiated product. You can taste it and then take it home to give to friends and make a sparkle.” To national and Spanish wines, they soon want to add Italian and French references.
Another important detail: each of the 75 references, regardless of the price, are available by the glass, at prices ranging from €2.5 to €13.8. Then there is a whole menu of snacks designed to accompany the stars of Botella.
The sourdough bread with a trio of butter, olive oil and pesto (€5) and the salmon used in tartar (€9) come from the business of chef Vasco Coelho Santos, respectively from Ogi and Peixaria. The Iberian ham (€15) has the signature of Castro y González.
“As with wines, we are essentially looking for quality and differentiation. Even because we also want people to look for us for the quality of the food”, explains João, while pointing to the small but varied menu.
There is octopus carpaccio (€15) and beef (€9.5), steak tartare (€9.5), Mexican tacos with pork loin, guacamole, beans and pico de gallo (€8.5) or kebabs. teriyaki chicken (6.5€). There is also no shortage of sweets, a crème brûlée (€4.5), a raspberry meringue (€4.5) or the Best Chocolate Cake in the World (€5) accompanied by citrus ice cream.
With the letter designed for the summer weeks that follow, the cast is also being prepared for the colder months. The idea is that customers can come and taste different things, as well as serve as a pretext for more diversified wine tastings.
Soups, salads and sandwiches are also coming soon, to serve as a pretext for a light lunch — and a great excuse to accompany it with a glass of wine. All dishes can also be sold out, at lower prices, ready to eat or ready to be prepared at home.
Wines also have two prices: when drunk on the spot or at the price of the cellar, just for pick up. “We are a kind of convenience store (laughs)”, jokes João.
Truly convenient are the Wine Sessions that they organize every two weeks, always on Wednesdays, when part of the space is occupied by one of the producers who supply Botella. From 6 pm to 8 pm, there is always space for an open tasting, where you can discover new wines and chat with the producers.
For the rest, it’s just going and letting yourself be in the hands and wise advice of Diogo Ferreira, who gladly accepts the challenge of convincing even those who say they don’t like wine. And even before the first visit, he already leaves three wines to taste.
The first is Silice, a Galician rosé, from Ribeira Sacra, made with the Mencía variety. “It’s a fresher, natural wine, without chemicals. It is different, more acidic and with wood that makes it more glu glu, that is, you come to drink one and end up drinking two or three glasses”, he notes. It is sold by the glass (€10.25) and by the bottle (€41 at the restaurant, €22 at the wine cellar).
In the field of red wines, he recommends a trip to the microclimate of the Sintra mountains, where Infinitude bets on the Merlot variety. “It is a more spicy wine, with little extraction, with more acidity and less alcohol”, he notes. “In the mouth it meets the requirements of a red wine, it has structure, a long finish, but it is distinguished by the finest tannins.” The glass costs €11.40 and the bottle costs €51 in the space and €28 in the wine cellar.
Finally, another trip to Spain, to taste the Aguja del Fraile. “A wine from Madrid, made at a high altitude, has a lot of acidity, little extraction. It has more claw in its mouth than the previous one,” he explains. The reference made with the Garnacha variety can be tasted by the glass (€10.34) or in the bottle (€46/€25).
the original wine cellar