Decanter World Wine Awards 2020 – a bling, bling Platinum & Gold year for Portugal
Judging at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA) may have been postponed, taking place in April, not August, but it produced an exceptional late harvest. The substantial crop of Gold medals far surpassed the tally in previous years. A gratifying number of Gold medals selected by me and my socially distanced team (two pictured) were subsequently promoted, attaining Platinum and Best of Show awards, following the annual ‘Gold-off’ – also a blind tasting – conducted by select Regional Chairs and Co-Chairs.
As always, the Douro (with 10 Gold/Platinum/Best of Show awards) and Alentejo (with 8 Gold/Platinum/Best of Show awards) dominated both entries and results, with strong showings across the price spectrum. You will find great buys and distinguished premium wines. It was good to see bottle aged entries in addition to latest vintages, which reveal more of the wine’s complexity and layer.
But it was not all about the usual suspects. Perhaps a handful of sparkling (espumante) wines have been awarded Silver medals in the past but, in 2020, my panel selected its first Gold medal winner, which went on to win a Platinum award. It has been a blingy year for Celso Pereira, with a Platinum for Caves Transmontanas Vértice Millésime Bruto 2012 (Douro DOC) and Gold for Quanta Terra Terra a Terra Reserva Branco 2018 – two of my picks of our top awards. Earlier in the year, Quanta Terra – Perreira’s joint venture with Jorges Alves – produced the first rosé to make the cut for Revista de Vinhos’ “TOP 10 Portuguese Wines” – Quanta Terra Phenomena Pinot Noir 2018 (VR Duriense).
In the past, Vinho Verde has bagged Gold medals for Alvarinhos from Monção e Melgaço. Competition is, however, hotting up amongst Vinho Verde’s single varietal sub-regional producers. This year, an Avesso from the Amarante sub-region (which is inland, like neighbouring Baião, which is best known for the variety) bagged a Gold medal.
It bagged a silver medal in the end, but Casal Sta. Maria Mar de Rosas Rosé 2018 – a sophisticated, dry, textural blend of Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Pinot Noir from Lisboa (Sintra) – scaled fresh heights for this category.
You can review the full set of Decanter World Wine Awards results online here.
Best in Show
Secret Spot Tinto 2016 (Douro DOC) – true to the name, the source details are kept secret, but I can tell you that this super-premium field blend was from a single parcel and aged in French oak for 19 months and was made by talented winemaker, Rui Cunha (also of Covela) – 97 points
Carmim Monsaraz Reserva 2017 (Alentejo DOC) – from the co-operative of the Reguengos de Monsaraz sub-region, this Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional blend was aged in French and American oak barrels for 9 months – 97 points, Value Best in Show (for wines priced below £15) – £7.01 Portugal Vineyards
Caves Transmontanas Vértice Millésime Bruto 2012 (Douro DOC); photo credit Caves Transmontanas
Palato do Coã Grande Reserva 2014 (Douro DOC) – a single parcel super-premium field red blend from schist and (unusually) limestone soils at this Douro Superior estate; aged 18 months in French oak – 97 points
Caves Transmontanas Vértice Millésime Bruto 2012 (Douro DOC) – with California’s Schramsberg the inspiration, Celso Pereira has a Midas touch with fizz. DWWA’s first Portuguese sparkling gold (let alone Platinum winner) is a blend of Gouveio, Malvasia Fina, Viosinho, Rabigato & Touriga Franca planted on granite soils at 550m; aged five years on lees – 97 points
Quinta da Pedra Escrita Red 2017 – Rui Roboredo Madeira has bagged Gold medals and a Regional Trophy before. From a Douro Superior vineyard, elevation (575m), very sandy granite soils and the blend components conspire to produce a wine with plenty of backbone – give it time! – 97 points
Comenda Grande Reserva 2014 (Alentejano VR) – As always, Alicante Bouschet featured strongly in Alentejo’s top medal winners, including rich, brooding super-premium blend of Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira from Arraiolos – 97 points
Quinta da Pedra Alta Pedra a Pedra Tinto 2017 (Douro DOC) – This approachable but characterful blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Barroca from Soutelinho, in the Cima Corgo, has an unlikely splash of Fernão Pires (1%). It’s not the only interloper, with Matt Gant of Barossa’s First Drop making the wine with resident winemaker, João Pires. 97 points, Value Platinum £15 at Wine Buyers
Herdade dos Lagos HDL Tinto 2018 (Alentejano VR) From a new-to-me, German-owned estate in Beja in the south of Alentejo, this organic blend of Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Syrah sees only 10% of (French) oak. 97 points, Value Platinum
Herdade do Peso Trinca Bolotas 2018 (Alentejo DOC) An entry-level blend of Alicante Bouschet,Touriga Nacional and Aragonez from Sogrape’s Vidigueira estate. Mostly (70%) aged in stainless-steel tanks, with the remainder aged in used French oak barrels, for six months. 97 points, Value Platinum £11.45 at Vinum
Casa Ermelinda Freitas Superior Moscatel de Setùbal 2009 (Setúbal DOC) – this super-Premium fortified Moscatel is lush, rich but persistent; from sandy soils, after fortification, the wine underwent extended maceration, until March 2010, then matured for 9 years in half barrels of French oak. – 96 points
Asda Extra Special Douro Red 2017 (Douro DOC) – a smooth but fresh blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional & Tinta Roriz; well done. 96 points, £6.50 at Asda
Quinta De Curvos Prova Cega Reserva 2017 (Douro DOC) – you might know Quinta de Curvos for its Vinho Verdes. Clearly, the Douro wines should not be under-estimated. This Reserva is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca & Tinta Roriz – 96 points £16.44 at Portugal Vineyards
Quanta Terra Terra a Terra Reserva Branco 2018 (Douro DOC) – as I said, it was a good year for Celso Perreira, here in collaboration with Jorge Alves. This white hails from transitional granite soils in Alijó. It is a blend including Gouveio, Rabigato and Côdega de Larinho – sophisticated, with flinty notes and judicious complementary oak to its lemony fruit – 96 points
Quinta de Valbom Reserva 2015 (Douro DOC) – the sister estate of Alentejo’s Herdade dos Grous, is located in the Baixo Corgo. This is a characterful super-premium field blend, which reflects its Baixo Corgo roots (it has the most Atlantic influence, being westernmost). Delicious tertiary notes with bottle age – more on the red fruits, with mushroom, earth and mineral layers – 96 points
Quinta Vale D. Maria Vinha da Francisca 2017 (Douro DOC) – inky, dense and hedonistic, single parcel wine, from the Torto Valley label founded by Cristiano van Zeller at his wife’s estate and acquired, in this vintage, by the Guedes family of Aveleda – 96 Points
Casa Ermelinda Freitas Superior Moscatel Roxo 2010 (Setúbal DOC) – a rare Roxo (pink blush) Moscatel from sandy soils. After fortification, the wine underwent extended maceration, until March 2011, then aged for 6 years in half barrels of French oak; a touch less concentrated than the producer’s 96 pointer 2009 Moscatel, reflecting the vintage and a shorter period of time in oak – 95 points
Casa de Vilacetinho Reserva Avesso 2018 (Vinho Verde DOC) – aged for one year in French oak, this ambitious, well-structured, complex Avesso garnered 95 points
Bojador Aragonez-Touriga Nacional-Trincadeira 2018 (Alentejano VR) – Pedro Ribeiro’s own label (he and his wife also make wine at Rocim), fermented in concrete tanks and matured for 6 months in French oak barrels, it has an elegant touch. 95 points £12.50 at Davys (2019 vintage)
Esporão Reserva Branco 2018 (Alentejo DOC) – tremendously consistent and consistently sunny, enjoyable blend of Arinto, Antao Vaz & Roupeiro, with intense but perisistent, ripe tropical citrus – 95 points. £12.24 at The Drinks Shop