The Components …
We rarely see straight varietal wines from Portugal, like many old world countries they prefer to blend grapes to make the best wines possible, so to try these grapes/wines individually was quite a treat … these were not finished wines and in some cases were tank or barrel samples.
The Whites …
Alvarinho – one of Portugals main white varietals, mainly in the North near the Spanish border. Tropical, citrus, good acidity.
Loureiro – native grape planted mainly in the Vinho Verde region, it is gaining in popularity. Apple, pear and tangerine notes.
Arino – from north of Lisbon. Quite Riesling-like with good acidity.
Fernao Peres – this grape resembles Muscat. Fresh apple aromas with Mac apple flavours and a long finish.
The Reds …
Trincadeiro – not available for tasting, didn’t make it through customs in time.
Aragonez – a.k.a. Tempranillo or Tinta Roriz … everytime I hear this grape’s name I think of Sergio Aragonez from Mad magazine. Tips for growing good Aragonez based wines: one needs low yields and older vines, according to one of our hosts.
Touriga Nacional – a grape found all over Portugal but has different expressions depending where it’s grown: Douro (fruity), Setubal (earthy), Dao (licorice and herbal).
Touriga Franca – a cross between Nacional and Tinta Barrica or Roriz; this is a grape that produces wine no bigger than 13% alcohol and very little is planted throughout Portugal; adds rich dark fruit notes and requires time to develop once bottled (2-3 years before it begins to express itself).
Debunking the Myth of Thousands …
It was revealed that there are approximately 246 grape varieties in Portugal (that is much lower than the thousands they originally thought) that’s because recent DNA testing proved that many of the same varietals had different names regionally.
The Wines (of note) …
Quinta de Aveleda 2008 Vinho Verde ($9.95) – melon and tropical notes on the nose which follow on the palate; fresh and fruity with a long finish and light spritz. (****)
Alianca 2006 Particular ($13.95) – due to a rainy harvest all top end Touriga Nacional went into this wine making it an exceptionally good wine and excellent value. Aged 12 months in French and American oak with 5% done in Russian oak. It’s a blend of Nacional and Tinta Roriz (in previous years a third grape has been added to the blend). Sweet black fruit with licorice, ripe cherry and plum on the nose. Tastes of sweet ripe red fruit, black licorice, vanilla oak and a dry dusty finish – nice short-term ageability here (2-5 years) for under 14 dollars. (****½)
Alianca 2007 Vista TN ($10.95) – black fruit and spicy oak with a smooth finish and good length. (****)
Tinta da Anfora 2006 ($12.95) – a blend of indigenous and international grape varieties aged 12 months in French and U.S. oak. Nice red fruit with a minerally note, some earthy character, cherry, subtle spice and a black olive finish. (****)
Messias 2004 Late Bottled Vintage Port ($16.95) – this LBV proved to be better with time in the glass. A nose of cherry marmalade and tastes of sweet black cherry, chocolate and spices leading off the first few sips – more tawny-like than LBV-ish … with some time the complexity emerged: raisiny, dried cherry and spiced marmalade … the start was smooth with a rough tannin bite on the finish, which surprisingly turned almost creamy at some points – this Port has real character. (****)
The Lunch … (catered by Sotto Sotto)
Special wines from all 5 producers were served with lunch – wines that are not available locally, so they were a real treat. Such as Hexagon 2005 made from Tannat, Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Tricadeira, Touriga Franca and Tinto Cao; Follies Alvarinho, a delicate wine that paired well with the seafood mosaic; Dados Douro 2007 Reserve, a big fruited blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional; and the incredibly rare sweet dessert wine, Bacalhoa 1999 Moscatel Roxo, a fortified sweety aged 8 years in barrel from the Moscatel Roxo grape, of which only 18 hectars are planted in Portugal (and potentially world wide). If ever one had the chance to call a wine sexy, this was it. Too good to fully describe. Suffice it to say it danced in the mouth with fruity, nutty and spicy sensations along with wonderful palate cleansing acidity that required a re-taste after each swallow, just to make sure it actually tasted that good. What a stunner.
The Menu – wines from Portugal meet food from Italy …