October 11, 2009

Eight Portuguese Wines – A Snapshot of Portugal

By Andrew Barrow In Tasting Reports, Wine Notes

wine glasses at the Hotel du Vin Portuguese Wine Tasting

The end of the month sees the wine-blogospheres attention focusing on the Lisbon Wine Bloggers Conference; it’s one of those countries I’ve long hankered to visit. For years the wines have intrigued and delighted. I recall the arrival of a handful of new listings to the shelves of the wine merchants I use to run way, way back, the exploration of those oddly named grapes (the intense, firm Baga, the aromatic, herby, full-bodied Tourgia Nacional, the peachy Bical, the rich, honeyed Fonte Cal et al) and the subsequent enjoyment of those distinctive flavours and food-friendly styles.

If there is one thing that hasn’t changed at all over the intervening years it is the dreadful packaging on many of the wines. What sells in suburban Lisbon really doesn’t cut it on the shelves of Waitrose, Threshers or the independent. This may go some way in explaining why, despite the critics raving over the wines, Portugal remains on the lower rung of players in the UK wine scene.

A few days ago I plonked my arse down at a ‘refresher’ tasting hosted by Sarah Ahmed, Portuguese Wine Writer of the year 2009. Really aimed at restaurateurs and merchants the background given on the wines was a little perfunctory but with limited time I guess it was about all that could be imparted without the session becoming a fact-laden, eye-lid dropping, school lesson.

It was an opportunity to sample some great wines, some new, some previously enjoyed and offering an overarching snapshot of the styles available.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta das Arcas Arca Nova, 2008 Vinho Verde, Portugal.

Stockist: Waitrose
Price: £6.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Pitched as an alternative to Muscadet and Sauvignon – certainly not lacking in the crispness department, ctric, lifted with a floral character,someone mentioned a cucumber character to the nose. A little bit of skin contact adds a little oomph. Alcohol 11%.
Scribblings Rating – 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Falcoaria Branco, 2007, Ribatejo, Portugal.

Stockist: Waitrose Price: £9.64 Peter Osborne Wine [More: Adegga / Snooth]
100% Fernao Pires from old vines. Crisp acidity, fresh, some finesse, white pepper. A single vineyard wine with a 50-50 blend of oak/unoaked with battonage adding layering to the flavour.
Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta de Chocapalha Red, 2006, Estremadura/Lisboa, Portugal./span>

Price: £9.49 Corney and Barrow [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Superb. Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Tinta Roiz playing a food-friendly palate-tantalsing game. Lots of tannin and marked acidity, thus needs food. Tobacco, licorice characters, dark chocolate and wounderful dark fruits. Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta da Bacalhôa Branco, 2007,Terras do Sado, Portugal.
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
A mix of Semillon (50%) with Albarino and Sauvignon (25% each). Lovely weight and delicious flavours combining orange peel, apricot, plump mid-palate. A touch of oak.
Scribblings Rating – 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Zéfyro Tinto, 2007, Alentejo, Portugal.
Price: £9.49 Waitrose Online Only [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Juicy, inky, long fruity length and great balance. A sweetness to the fruit. A superb little (actually quite big) wine. A mix of varieties – Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Alfrocheiro Preto, Aragonês and Alicante. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating – 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta da Pellada, 2006, Dão, Portugal.
Price: £32.95 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Expensive, still too young, but incredibly classy. Big and dense, firm structure with a dusting of cedar adding to the huge complex fruit flavours. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Symington Chryseia, 2006, Douro, Portugal.
Price: £44.50 Fine & Rare Wines [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Another huge wine but wonderful all the same. Lots of tannin, plums, and a wildness to the flavours. Warm, long finish. If you can afford it – buy to keep.
Scribblings Rating – 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Also tasted was the Quinta de Covela Covela Escolha 2007, Minho (which makes the eighth wine of the tasting session) which was as delicious as when tasted back in September 2008.

A selection of superb reds, even those blessed with premium prices, each certainly worth hunting down but it was the whites that garnered most conversational interest post-tasting. The combination of freshness, pure drinkability and alluring flavours from those all those captivating grape varieties were a delightful surprise – who thought Portugal was merely red wine country? This imminent trip of mine is going to be exceptional.

After the tasting a meal where the Smoked Salmon starter was lovely with a glass of citric-fresh, lightly honeyed, Esporão Reserva Branco, 2008, Alentejo. The Roasted Belly Pork, Flageolet Bean Casserole for mains came with the robust Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2005, Beiras, delicious in its plummy depths. Finally the dessert, an Apricot and Fig Frangipane Tart with clotted cream, was a marvel with Blandy’s Late Harvest Malmesy Madeira, 2001.


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1 Comment
  1. Dylan October 12, 2009

    And sure enough, the more fact-laden, the heavier the eye lids become. I don’t think it’s necessarily a human aversion to facts as much as it is a necessity for improved presentation of said facts. As a great teacher once said to me, “first figure out what you’re saying, then figure out how you’re going to say it.” ‘How’ can be the most exciting and varied part of it all.


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