Portugal Annual Tasting: exciting new finds

At yesterday’s Annual Portugal Tasting I kicked off in style with Anselmo Mendes’ Vinho Verdes.  The 2011 wines look great – good fruit but really fresh acidity too – plenty of concentration and drive.  I’m visiting Mendes in a fortnight so will write up the wines later since he has promised a vertical or two!  Plus, in this report, I want to focus on some new finds.

Sticking with Vinho Verde, I next ventured into new territory – not just producer, but grape too.  How very Portugal!  So onto my first taste of Tinta Nacional in the very attractive form of Antonio Ribeiro Pereira’s organic duo, Tinto Bom 2010 and Duas Vinhas 2010 (pictured).  Though deeply coloured and bright fruited like red Vinho Verde made from the Vinhão grape, this pair were a touch darker with (attractive) coal dust tannins, the Duas Vinhas spicier, the Tinta Bom with a bit of spritz for lift.  Very good.

From the same importer (Portuguese Story), Fernando Paiva is a (Demeter) certified biodynamic Vinho Verde producer based in the relatively warm inland Amarante sub-region.  I’d thought Afros were the one and only, so news to me.  Amarante is well suited to a relatively rich style of Vinhão.  Still only 10.5% abv but there’s a sense of fresh picked ripe ‘n sticky scented plums to red Vinho Verde Quinta da Palmirinha Vinhão 2010 as well as bright bilberry and bluebery fruit.  A savoury, smoky hint of reduction too.   Good, as is Quinta da Palmirinha Loureiro 2010 which, though creamy and nutty, has a lively streak of lime for line.

Down to the Bairrada coast, arch innovator Luis Pato had a couple of new tricks up his sleeve, the cheekiest named after his grandson, Fernão, who was born last year.  As the label says, Luis Pato Fernão 2011 is a red from white grape.  To be precise, Fernão Pires (better known as Maria Gomes in Bairrada), which Pato co-ferments with 6% Baga skins, hence the colour.  The white lends it a subtle creaminess, while the Baga lightly infuses it with red cherry and damson notes.  Curious, but very drinkable – quite Valpollicella-like.

Also new from Luis Pato Duet Baga & Bical, a zero dosage tight, persistent and dry sparkling rose with great line and oyster shell minerality, while from 2011, Quinta do Ribeirinho Pé Franco from sandy soils now has a true foil in Pé Franco from chalky soilsVery youthful but promising, a bottle sample suggested it will be more linear/elegant than the Ribeirinho Pé Franco but only time will tell and I look forward to tasting the final wine alongside the same vintage of Ribeirinho Pé Franco.
In 2011, Niepoort have introduced an entry-level Drink Me white.  Niepoort Drink Me White 2011 is perfumed, talcy, quite round and easy going with juicy, succulent fruit.  I’d have liked to see a little more vim and vigour, but there and again I’m told I’m a bit of an acid freak!

The Portalegre (Alentejo) collaboration between wine writer Richard Mayson and winemaker Rui Reguinga has produced a new top wine, Sonha Lusitano Pedra e Alma 2009, a richly textured, dark and savoury blend of Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Aragonez from 30 year old vines.  Very good.

I’d not come across Quinta da Nespereira in the Dão before.  The estate is located high in the Serra da Estrela at 900m.  Quinta da Nespereira Vineaticu White 2009 has that delicious toasty, flinty, struck match reduction to its ripe lemony fruit, with an attractive saline edge.  Very well done.  Quinta da Nespereira Vineaticu Red 2009 (Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Aragonez) shows bright well defined currant and berry fruit with a lick of coal dust.  Very good.  Quinta da Nespereira  Sarmentu 2009 (Alfrocheiro, Aragonze and Jaen) is spicier and rounder, juicy too.  Well done.

Also from the Dão, Quinta do Ribeiro Santo belongs to ex-Dão Sul man, Carlos Lucas who, together with former winemaking colleagues is now making wines in the Dão, also Alentejo and the Douro.  Unsurprisingly, the Dão wines were my pick of the bunch.  Lucas has lived there for 20 years.   Quinta do Ribeiro Santo White 2010 is very bright, fresh, citrussy and modern, with a deft touch of French oak for poise and structure.  Quinta do Ribeiro Santo Red 2009 has good depth of black curranty fruit, bright with a deft dusting of coal.  Quinta do Ribeiro Santo Reserva is good if a little oaky right now.  Quinta do Ribeiro Santo Grande Escolha 2008 has a dash of Tinta Cão which lends an attractively rustic note to the top wine.  Again, good depth of flavour – plenty of layer too – with dark fruits, woodsmoke and earthy lentil notes to its fruits of the forest vinous palate.  Very good.

Finally, Quinta de Chocapalha CH 2008 is a very refined 100% Touriga Nacional.  Sandra Tavares says given Alenquer’s cold mornings and evenings, the model is close to the Dão which I think tends to produce the most elegant Tourigas.   Sure enough, I like this wine’s freshness and flow over muscularity.  Good depth of flavour too, with youthful but well defined, sleek red and black berry fruit.



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