Highlights: Wines of Portugal Annual Tasting
It’s been a Portugal-focused week. The first half in London, with the Annual Portugal Tasting and, most handily, importers’ Raymond Reynolds’ and Clark Foyster tastings either side of the big day. And now I’m in Portugal, with a five day focus on Bairrada, whose white wines as much as its famous Baga reds have really excited me of late. More on Bairrada to follow but, for now, here are my notes on a selection of wines from the London tastings which showcase Portugal’s dynamic, interesting wine scene.
Casal Figueira Antonio Lisboa 2011
Though selected by Julia Harding MW for her 50 Great Portuguese wines, due to a bottling error, the wine didn’t make it to Harding’s London tastings. I was glad to catch up with it because I thought the 2011 was a step up on the 2009 which first introduced me to this producer (and the Vital grape) in 2010. While the oak is present, lending a sweet, spicy vanilla veneer to this wine it nonetheless makes it own shape – textural, round but so fresh, with subtle vegetal, citrus and mineral notes to its stony, long, rolling palate. Very good. Lovely persistence.
Mica is a new find, Alr is a recent one and, as far as I’m concerned, it’s mandatory to taste Soalheiro, Ameal and Anselmo Mendes who represent among the region’s best players.
Vinibio Mica 2012
This certified organic naturally fermented blend of Azal, Arinto & Loureiro is a collaboration between a group of organic and biodynamic grape growers with, for Vinho Verde, quite high vineyards averaging 300m in the Sousa and Tamega valleys. It has a very pretty, floral nose with bright citrus fruit and a lovely mineral saturated shimmering finish. Very good indeed.
Alr Loureiro 2011
The name of this organic wine was inspired not only by its maker – Antonio Lopes Ribeiro (of Casa de Mouraz), but also listening to Air’s ambient music and yep, this is a chill out, ambient kind of wine. Though concentrated, with its soft, gentle profile (all ripe juicy citrus and tangerine), there’s nothing forced about it. Lime peel and mineral notes lend some edge and focus to the finish. Lovely.
Quinta do Ameal Loureiro 2011
A crisp, limey, lively, mineral perfumed and persistent Loureiro. Lovely now but check out my note below on the 2003 (that hot vintage) for an indication of its ageing potential.
Quinta do Ameal Loureiro 2003
Though rounder, more textural and spicy as you’d expect at 10 years old, its spicy orange peel and pith notes are animated by a wash of ripe, well integrated acidity. Impressive and, for the vintage and its age, still pure in expression.
Quinta do Ameal Loureiro Escolha 2011
Aged for 6 months in aged barriques, this is firm, focused Loureiro with lime peel and steely fresh grapefruit. Zestily youthful. Very good.
Soalheiro Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2012
A cool, late vintage (picked late September) and it shows in the aromatic/flavour intensity and balance of this bright as a button Alvarinho. The aromas really leap out of the glass – fresh pineapple, green apricot and an attractive hint of green tomato, all of which follow through on a well-defined, juicy, fresh palate. An emphatic finish shows vivid citrus strands and pina colada tropicality. Exuberant and exhilaratingly fresh. 12.5%
Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas Vinho Verde 2012 (sample)
Though a little turbid (it’s still on the lies and will be bottled April/May), the vintage shines through on a perfumed, floral nose with well-defined ripe citrus and pineapple fruit. Stone fruits chime in on the concentrated, beautifully poised palate. Great palate presence and definition to this; liked the hint of star anise on the finish too. (The lusher 2011 was in great form too, but I must say like the cool poise of the 2012). Excellent.
Soalheiro Rosé Bruto
This idiosyncratic maiden release is made from Alvarinhão (a red, big berried grape), Touriga Nacional and Vinhão. It’s fresh but, in other respects, like no sparkler I’ve tasted before. It certainly engages with its perfumed nose and palate of hops, orange peel, bergamot and white pepper. A fun by the glass adventure.
Anselmo Mendes Muros Antigos Loureiro 2012
A perfumed floral nose and palate underscored by zippy lemony acidity which pushes out a long, persistent, focused finish.
Anselmo Mendes Contacto Alvarinho 2012
Real texture, layer and tang to this silkily stone-fruited balanced wine. Lovely depth of apricot fruit. Delicious.
Anselmo Mendes Curtimenta Alvarinho 2011
This powerful wine sees a day’s skin contact. Youthful though it is, it’s a beautifully balanced, poised Alvarinho – stony, rolling, long and mineral, with ripe and edgier green apricot fruit; the oak is very well integrated. Terrific.
Anselmo Mendes Parcela Unica Alvarinho 2011
This youthful single vineyard wine is relatively tightly wound with heaps of mineral nervosity and vanilla oak; needs time to find its feet and unfurl a tad. Lots of potential.
Conceito Bastardo Duriense 2010
This unusually pale ringer for Pinot Noir is in fine fettle in this vintage, with crunchy but ripe red cherry, dried cherry too – textural and fresh with an attractive long undertow of mineral acidity.
Alr Douro Bela-luz 2010
Lots of like about this bright supple Douro red with its cinnamon-edged juicy sour cherry and fruits of forest. Nice minerality too. 14%
Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto Beiras 2010
Playing to comparisons of Baga with Pinot Noir, Vinhas Velhas now comes in burgundy shaped bottles. The nose is very Pinot – with perfumed summery fruits, especially red cherry; hints of chocolate too, all of which follow through on a delightfully fresh, animated palate with crunchy, well defined fruit and a fine but firm spine of tannins (in this deviating off the Pinot path). Long with lovely balance; very good. 13%
Luis Pato Baga Natural 2010
Pato is never one to miss an opportunity to experiment or flirt with the zeitgeist – in this case, the natural wine movement. This 3000 bottle experiment is sealed under screwcap for good measure though Pato says he’ll trial 300 bottles with cork next year. Though quite deep in colour, it’s lighter than the Vinhas Velhas – Pato tells me it was fermented in rotary fermenters on 1% white grape skins to help fix the colour, before undergoing a (natural) malo in used casks until it was bottled in January. It’s gently floral with hints of pine needles and nutty brown pips (a character I often pick up on natural wines). On Monday its red fruit was less vibrant than on Tuesday. On both days, I found the tannins rounder – softer and chunkier than I’d normally expect from Pato’s Baga – a textural gain for a wine to be consumed relatively early (it has zero free sulphur). Good, though I prefer the more vibrant, better defined structural styles which really smack of Atlantic freshness.
Filipa Pato FP Branco 2012
This 50:50 blend of Bical and Maria Gomes is silkily textured with hints of honey, lemon and powder puff. Lovely balance, weight and texture with levity.
Filipa Pato Nossa Branco 2011
Pato reckons this is the best she has made; it’s smoky and flinty on nose and palate with peach/peach skin and a very lively streak of zesty, limey acidity. Great structure, focus and depth, with great persistence of flavour.
Filipa Pato Nossa Calcario 2010
Pato makes an ultra-fine, elegant style of Baga. This shows delicate sweet red cherry with kirsch hints. Firm but powdery tannins and mineral acidity point to a long future for this seemingly approachable Baga. Love the precision. Very good indeed.
Beyra Branco 2012
I was glad that winemaker Rui Madeira was on hand to talk me through why this vintage really hits the nail on the head while the maiden release sampled late last year seemed dull, despite its lively mineral acidity. The answer? Last year was the first vintage – unusually hot – and the picking was a little too late. This year Madeira was much happier with his grapes (Siria and Fonte Cal), which were picked two weeks earlier. It’s a little Alvarinho-esque in its green tomato/tomato plant nose and lively palate. Citrusy and very mineral, it’s a dry, well focused and interesting entry point wine. Good to see another good producer exploit the potential of this elevated under the radar region (my other hot tips being Quinta do Cardo and Quinta dos Currais). This particularly high vineyard is several hundred metres above sea level.
Quinta das Maias Maias Branco Dao 2012 (Sample)
Maias, the sister vineyard of Quinta dos Roques, is now certified organic, hence the new label (pictured). Luis Lourenco tells me that, while Roques is farmed sustainably, because the vineyard comprises several small plots surrounded by ‘conventionally’ (with chemicals) cultivated vineyards, the buffer zone required to secure organic certification leaves so few vines it’s hardly worth certifying! Maias also has the advantage of drier soils. While Malvasia Fina, the lead partner of this blend, brings soft, textural vegetal notes, the Verdelho and Cerceal up the fruit and freshness quota of this lively, complex but approachable white wine. It sports ripe juicy fruit – pineapple at the riper end of the spectrum, cooler stone fruits and vibrant lemony acidity too, which makes for a long, tangy finish with hints of fresh ginger. Very good.
Quinta dos Roques Tinto Dao 2010
This Touriga Nacional led blend is deeply coloured, with enticing floral lift to nose and palate; sweet cinnamon spice too. Very juicy and lively in the mouth it’s a fine textured wine with ripe briary fruit, ripe tannins and a salty mineral note which I associate more with the Douro. Very good. 13.5%
Casa da Passarella Villa Oliveira Encruzado 2011
This producer was one of my finds from Lisboa’s Encontro fair in November. It was good to re-taste the wines and reinforce that first strong impression. Just 2000 bottles of this wine are made. The Encruzado is sourced from a 40 year old plus vineyard. Its youthful, fine veneer of oak doesn’t detract from this wines powerful stony, minerality; long, rolling and fresh. Needs time but well worth keeping.
Casa da Passarella Colheita 2009
This blend of Alfrocheiro, Touriga Nacional and Aragonez has lovely fruit purity, with stony and succulent red and black cherry fruit. Ripe but really well-defined.
Quinta do Mondego Munda White 2010
I’d previously tasted this estate’s red wines. This Encruzado white from a 50+ year old vineyard impressed. Fermented and aged in 500l barrels for 9 months, it’s intense, concentrated and layered with flinty struck match notes. Long; very good. 13%
Quinta do Mondego Rosados 2009
And I discovered they make a very good rose too – a blend of Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Baga. Leesy, textural, floral and quite long with red and baked red cherry fruit. Very well done if the “up to £6.99” price is right!
Julia Kemper Touriga Nacional 2010
This is more elegant than the first (09) with clove licked bright plum and cherry fruits and a touch of coal dust. Fresh acidity makes for a persistent, clean finish – nice lift.
Julia Kemper White 2011
Consistent in its struck match notes wed to ripe (orange peel even) and slightly green/tart fruit, which makes for a tangy, persistent and characterful wine with a salty mineral finish.
Julia Kemper White Reserve 2011
Kemper has recently launched two higher tier wines. I found the red (Curiosity 2010 quite sulky and hard to read; one to review), but the white was another story. Very expressive and with its tight grain vanilla bean oak, tastes reassuringly expensive – very groomed. But there’s much else besides the vanilla – green tomato, citrus, resin, creamy verging on oily brazil nut notes, the whole animated by a lively thread of acidity. Very good; will benefit from a year or so in bottle for the oak to integrate. 13.5%
Casa de Mouraz 30 Catas 2010
The name is a reference to the fact that this unoaked wine is made from 30 varieties, which were co-fermented. It’s an aromatic, spicy wine, with a hint of hedgerow to its bilberry fruit; dark chocolate too. Textural tannins firmly anchor the flavours. Characterful.
Alexandre Relvas Ciconia White 2012
This the entry level white is bright, textured and persistent. Good value for money.
Alexandre Relvas Ciconia Aragones 2011
A smart, fleshy Aragones a.k.a. Tempranillo – fleshy, round, with smooth tannins and ripe berry fruit. Again, on the money.
Alexandre Relvas Sao Miguel Touriga Nacional 2011
Great varietal typicity to this perfumed Touriga – lifted floral notes on nose and palate, ample but fleshy black fruits and fine tannins. Ticks all the Touriga boxes. Smart wine.
Vinha do Mouro White 2012
This new release from the makers of Quinta do Mouro impresses with its balance, intensity of flavour, texture, roundness and length.
Adega do Monte Branco de Estremoz Alento Reserve Red 2010
Made by Luis Louro whom I first met at his father’s estate, Quinta do Mouro, I liked the restraint to this black-fruited blend of Aragones, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional with a dash of Syrah. Fresh but integrated acidity and fine tannins tease out a long, fluid finish with an attractive seam of minerality. Very good. The cheaper reds are well done too.
Alr Sobreiro 2010
From the team at Casa de Mouraz this mid-plus weight red is a really supple, juicy take on Alentejo, with succulent black fruits and a hint of black olive – generosity with balance. I’d never have guessed it was 15.5%!
This tank sample is soft, juicy and elegant with a lovely bright, perfumed nose. Vibrantly fruity; quite joyous.
Herdade da Malahadinha Nova Malhadina 2010
Denser than the other Alentejo wines this highly polished blend of Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Miuda and Touriga Nacional is nonetheless sleek of tannin and fruit. Fleshy with fine tannins, it has no shortage of length. Very good.