The wisdom of chairman Vasco


Vasco d’Avillez is chairman of the Lisbon wine region. I had the great good fortune to have him as a guide through the appellation for the last two days. He is a great raconteur and some of his wine related anecdotes are priceless.

IMG 3081 615x819 The wisdom of chairman Vasco

Like how Leonardo da Vinci invented serviettes after watching his employers, the Sforza’s, clean their hands on live rabbits tied to their chairs. Above Vasco tries out a new-fangled serviette at Quinta de Sant’Ana.

Or how the French king would drink wine carefully filtered through bits of burnt bread, the activated charcoal removing bad smells and tastes. Observed by British spies, it gave a name to the practice of raising a wine glass in a toast.

Or how Henry the Navigator asked the cod fishermen of Newfoundland to make a map of the area. Exasperated, they made a cross at their town of St. John and wrote in Portuguese “here, nothing” or Ca Nada.

Or how the Japanese, faced with a reputation for shoddy goods in the 1960s invented a mythical town called “usa” and started labelling their goods “made in USA.”

Vasco will soon be leading his appellation south, just like his namesake Vasco da Gama did five centuries ago. I’m sure a whole bunch of new anecdotes will emerge from his fertile mind before then. Not that he invents these gems as all of them, he insists with a twinkle in his blue eyes, must be true as he read them in a book.