quest may 2014 casa da insua

On the up: Portuguese wine, the sommeliers’ flexible friend

quest may 2014 casa da insua

On the road in Dão with Wines of Portugal’s Wine Quest 2014’s sommeliers

Sparkling chandelier, sparkling success.  It’s heartening to see two extremely positive news reports about Portuguese wine sales this week.  Harpers Wine & Spirit reports that UK sales are up 10.1% in volume and 17% in value for the first six months of this year, while Vinho Verde’s export success is such that the President of the Vinho Verde Wine Commission has called for producers to plant more vines.  

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The Good Wine Shop – Portugal on promotion

The mood was certainly buoyant among staff and customers at The Good Wine Shop in Chiswick where I presented a Portuguese tasting last night.  It was part of the store’s Portugal Month which celebrates their bigger than ever Portuguese range and features tastings plus a very tasty 25% off any 6 Portuguese wines (and Ports & Madeira up to £50) purchased this month.  Owner Mark Wrigglesworth tells me the promotion has been a huge success.

As for the restaurant scene, Vinho Verde certainly seems to be a terrific door opener for Portugal judging from my interviews for Imbibe magazine with some of the sommeliers and restaurateurs who are helping to fuel its success.  In this article published previously by Blend, All About Wine, I explore Portugal’s potential to expand on this success.  And how, with some particularly inspirational food and wine pairings from top notch UK-based sommeliers.

I’ve always been struck by the parallels between Portuguese and Italian wines. They share a food-friendly edge of tannin and acidity, especially those wines from the north of these long skinny countries.

Even more striking is their embarrassment of varietal riches. Portugal has over 250 native grapes while, according to Ian D’Agata (Native Wine Grapes of Italy), Italy has double that number!

Combine this great diversity of grape varieties with each countries’ equally diverse terrain (think mountains, coastlines, rolling hills, plains and islands) and you have a great recipe for food and wine matching success – a wine style for just about any dish you care to mention.

However Italy and Portugal part company when it comes to the international reputation and profile of their cuisine. Who doesn’t know “The 3 P’s” – pizza, pasta and parmesan – in whose wake gazillions of litres of Italian wine have achieved distribution in restaurants, delicatessens and supermarkets worldwide?

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On the other hand, beyond its former colonies, Portugal’s classic dishes are conspicuous by their absence. The UK-based sommeliers who visited Portugal with me this spring on Wines of Portugal’s Wine Quest were bowled over by hitherto undiscovered regional specialties such as leitão, cabrito assado and queijo Serra da Estrela matched with local wines.

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So it was interesting to see how they then responded to Wines of Portugal’s challenge to find mouth-watering food matches for their favourite wines once home. Listed are a selection of sumptuous suggestions which emerged from this very clever initiative to engage with leading young sommeliers in the UK.

But first, here are five reasons why Wine Quest’s champion sommelier (Dorian Guillon of the three Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester) believes Portuguese wines “definitely” have the potential to increase their market in the UK:

  1. diversity of indigenous grapes for the most adventurous amateur
  2. wines with a sense of place, expression and character
  3. food-friendly wines with different styles to play at the table
  4. diverse styles from entry level delicious fruity white wines to the most refined reds (e.g. Baga with bottle age in Bairrada
  5. discovery for the guests on tasting menu”

So I say: “Coragem Portugal, mantenham a fé!”

Anselmo Mendes Alvarinho Contacto 2013 (Vinho Verde)
with slow-cooked langoustines with ginger and caviar (Adam Pawlowski, Heathcotes)

Vadio Branco 2013 (Bairrada)
with dim sum platter of scallop shumai, har gau, prawn Chinese chive dumpling and shimeji dumpling (Gabor Foth, Hakkasan).

Terrenus White 2012 (Portalegre, Alentejo)
with Cornish turbot with green olives, chopped oysters and veloute of sake (Anja Breit, The Ledbury)

Quinta do Ameal 2004 (Vinho Verde)
with monkfish medallions en papillotte with baby carrots, cumin, coriander, dried fruits and nuts and an orange sabayon with chorizo, served with saffron rice (Antonin Dubuis of The Savoy Grill).

Caves São João Porta dos Cavaleiros White 1985 (Dão)
with smoked lobster simply dressed with olive oil, salt & pepper (Dorian Guillon, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester).

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Terrenus Tinto 2009 (Alentejo)
with venison, smoked mash potatoes and wild mushrooms (William Wilson, The Chesterfield Mayfair).

Vadio Grande Vadio 2011 (Bairrada)
with mature hard cheeses – Cheddar, Parmesan (Piotr Pietras, Maze by Gordon Ramsay).

Quinta da Vacarica 2008 (Bairrada)
with chargrilled Côte de Boeuf with a foie gras or truffle jus. (Dorian Guillon, Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester).

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Quinta Vale Dona Maria 2011 (Douro)
with venison, celeriac mash and damson jus (Adam Pawlowski, Heathcotes).

Quinta Vale Dona Maria 2011 (Douro)
with crispy pork belly, savoy cabbage, razor clams, jalapeno dressing and roast apples. (Antonin Dubuis of The Savoy Grill).



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