For Ljubomir Stanisic, wines are like family. Present in good and bad times, in good and bad meals, and always, always present in his life, in every dish he creates, in any of his restaurants.
The relationship between the chef and the wines began in 2000, three years after arriving in Portugal, coming from a country that had no relevant wine tradition. “My relationship with wine has worked well since the first time we’ve met. First I drank them, then I learned to taste them, to smell them, to know them intimately,” he recalls.
In 2004, when he opened his first restaurant, 100 Maneiras in Cascais, he also opened himself to a new challenge, uncommon at that time: to think about food starting with the wines – not the other way around. More than a decade later, this remains one of his favorite challenges. His dinners, created around Douro Boys wines and Barbeito wines, from Madeira, are almost historical.
Ljubo started to play around the barrels in 2008 and, since every play is better when shared, he decided to invite one of his best friends to play along.
Nuno Faria, one of his associates at 100 Maneiras, wine specialist and responsible for the restaurants’ beverage area, became an inseparable companion in the tests, blends and discussions. Because two noses can smell better than one.
Alentejo was the starting point of this “trip” around wine and a challenge shared with the winemaker Susana Estebán, at Solar dos Lobos, Serra D’Ossa. They wanted to make a wine. They made five: Solar dos Lobos edition 100 Maneiras, white and red Lhubav and white and red Lobo Mau – “Big Bad Wolf” – (which, for bureaucratic reasons, ended up being named Solar dos Lobos by Ljubomir).
Ljubav means love, in Serbian. Lhubav, with “Lh”, is how one reads the name of this first wine created by the most Portuguese Yugoslav chef ever. In his veins runs a mixture of Portuguese wine and blood. So he created this “Love” for Portugal and placed it in two bottles. In one of them, “a soul made in Alentejo with a Northern accent”, white, fruity, delicate. As delicate as true love. In the other, a red wine, honest, for all occasions and accompaniments.
“My wines are my reflection: they have structure, they will never be indifferent to anyone. Either you like it or you don’t. They are wines to eat, to accompany with food and they work perfectly with the kind of cuisine that I practice,” explains the cook born in Sarajevo.
In the white and red Lobo Mau (the Solar dos Lobos by Ljubomir), Ljubo put his voracious appetite. It is a lamb in wolfskin: full bodied without being aggressive, complex being simple. Composed only of three grapes and with a stage of one year in French oak barrels, it is a Reserve that accompanies the gastronomic creations of the chef. It has body, structure and its own personality – like the cuisine practiced in the 100 Maneiras restaurants.
António Maçanita was the friend (and winemaker) that followed. With him, in the Fita Preta cellar, next to Arraiolos, Ljubomir created the Lhubinho (white) and the Lhubão (red).
Flowers, lichens, pears and ripe citrus make up the notes of Lhubinho, a rich and greedy white. In the mouth, the toasted almonds, the clove and the crystallized orange stand out. And even though tastes are not discussed, there were those who claimed this to be the best wine of that year and many who went to the 100 Maneiras restaurants to buy boxes of it.
Lhubão, on the other hand, was made to be big, fat, full-bodied, burly. Pure and hard, like the chef. Ljubo (for the friends) has become a Lhubão for all. A great wolf, a great Ljubo, a great wine.
One day, the Yugoslav went up to the Douro region. And he never went down again. He began by composing a white and red Maldito and a white and red Éclaire with Dirk Nierpoort. These were wines made of challenge. In Dirk, considered to be one of the best wine producers in Europe and a world reference, Ljubo found “another madman”. They became friends more than business partners.
Maldito, already in his second edition, intends to be a wine for the table, for the day-to-day, versatile and gastronomic. Depth, minerality and complexity are the nouns that characterize it, typical of the wines of this region. However, the freshness and purity of the fruit prevail. On the other hand, white Maldito is fresh, light, aromatic and with a strong minerality. The grapes come from vineyards located at about 600 meters above the sea level, in shaley soils, where wines with better acidity and freshness are found.
Bottle labels by Mário Belém
The red Éclaire is produced in the “Cima Corgo” subregion, with vines at an altitude of 450 meters, exposed to the north, facilitating a slow and balanced maturation. It is the result of a mixture of grape varieties, including Tinta Amarela, Rufete and Touriga Franca. The white Éclaire comes from vineyards that are over 60 years old, located on the right bank of the Douro river, 600 meters above sea level. With exposure to the north, they produce grapes with a unique balance and freshness. The fermentation in barrel, without battonage, but with malolactic, originates a complex white, serious and deep.
From the sparks between the Dutch descendant and the Yugoslav dissident was born another wine, a special wine, kept in barrels for more than three years, always “almost” ready – but never ready – to bottle. This not at all rushed red is called Mó (“millstone”), but little water is expected to flow under this mill.
Bottle labels by Mário Belém
The 100 Maneiras wines are a reflection of the history of Ljubomir, of his cravings and desires, they are the result of dreams and wishes, of goals achieved and goals to achieve.
In 2011, Ljubo joined Rui Reguinga and they went nuts to create Nu – a white with “no shit”. “We wanted it to be called 100 Merdas (which, in Portuguese, sounds like “no shit”) but they wouldn’t allow us …” says the cook-alchemist. It is a wine without makeup, without leaven, totally natural, made in the old vineyards of the enologist in Serra de S. Mamede, near Portalegre. A huge white, produced in a limited edition of only 400 bottles.
In 2014, Quinta do Monte d’Oiro joined this group of friends and launched KO? and Quem Syrah ?.
Quem Syrah? it’s a statement of chef Ljubomir Stanisic of the 100 Maneiras restaurants. The man who is half Yugoslavian half Portuguese, half cook half alchemist, half crazy – well, maybe more than a half. The author of this red wine, produced at Quinta do Monte d’Oiro exclusively with the Syrah grape variety, has been in Portugal for almost 20 years but remains an enigma. A Gemini, with double personality, eternally divided between gastronomy and wines.
Bottle labels by Vasco Branco
“KO?” is the other face of “Quem Syrah?”. The white face, clearer, visible, but also marked by life. Knock Out? No, never! “KO?” because in Serbian it means “Who?”. And who is Ljubomir Stanisic after all? A man fled from war, a refugee in peace, with many stories told and so many others still to tell. In this blend, 70% Marsanne and 30% Viognier, the stories are for those who can read with the palate. A wine with X-ray vision.
In all the liquid creations (and some solid ones as well, like the different salt varieties created in partnership with A Loja do Sal from Rio Maior), a constant: the creativity carried from the inside out, the friends that put it inside and dress it on the outside. For all the references with 100 Maneiras signature, the friends (and artists) Mário Belém and Vasco Branco are called to illustrate them and the journalist Mónica Franco is summoned to (try) to name and explain them. Creations drawn from the outside, to mirror what goes inside.
The 100 Maneiras wines are a reflection of the history of Ljubomir, of his cravings and desires, of the experiences accumulated by Ljubo and Nuno, of their friendship and all the talks and arguments around many bottles, thousands of liters of wines drunk together and separated. They are the result of dreams and wishes, of goals achieved and goals to achieve. And there are more of these wines coming. Some that are neither white nor red. Yes, we have those too. And they’re coming soon, very soon.