Portugal Annual tasting 2010 – close encounters of a new kind

This year, I was presenting tastings on the hour every hour – a great opportunity to showcase some key trends and, of course, benchmark wines!  I’ve listed the themes together with my supporting cast of wines below.  First, here are the highlights from my “in and amongst sorties” between presentations to check out wines/producers I’d not previously encountered, plus samples I’ve recently tasted, like Luis Pato’s innovative Abafado “cyroextraction” sweeties pictured left – very Dr Who!

Vinho Verde

Quinta do Feital: the wines are made by Marcial Dorado, a young Galician winemaker from across the border in Galicia, Spain.  They exemplified why my first presentation of the day was themed “Why Vinho Verde is Portugal’s sexiest white wine region.”  And one aspect of what’s exciting to me about DOC Vinho Verde (and wines from the region labelled Vinho Regional Minho) is the diversity of styles on offer, even from Alvarinho to Alvarinho.  Take the textured and layered style of Feital Dorado Alvarinho.  Very slowly and naturally fermented, it undergoes partial malolactic and batonnage before being late bottled, during which time Dorado says it “self-filters.”   It’s quite different from the fruit forward, linear style of Reguengo de Melgaço 2009 (shown on my Vinho Verde presentation), which is made more protectively with inoculated yeasts.

Quinta do Feital Auratus 2008, Vinho Regional Minho – a blend of Alvarinho and Trajadura from an amphitheatre-like vineyard at Seixas near the mouth of the river Minho.  Golden yellow with a rich but fresh nose and palate with good mineral and citric acid drive underlying its core of sour pineapple and lemon zest flavours.  Funky rather than fruity, fruity – very good. Contact Indigo Wine for details.

Quinta do Feital Dorado Alvarinho Superior 2007, Vinho Verde 
– from a vineyard near Alvarinho hotspot Melgaco, this hails from shy-bearing 70-year-old vines, many ungrafted. This is a big, powerful wine, rich, round and a little leesy with ripe apricot fruit and subtly balancing bite of greengage.  As with the Auratus, it’s on the funky rather than fruity fruity side – excellent.  A great food wine for weightier fish or chicken dishes.  Contact Indigo Wine for details.

Quinta de Gomariz Colheita Seleccionada Alvarinho 2009, DOC Vinho Verde – quite different from the Feital, in a more protective, aromatic upfront style it shows good freshness, with a floral/fennel edge and underlying minerality to its citrus fruit.  Nice persistence.

The Douro

PV Egle Douro Branco 2009, DOC Douro – this unoaked white from vineyards at 700m has very good intensity and length, with persistent tangy citrus and lemon zest fruit.  Very good, especially at around a tenner.

Quinta do Judeu Vinho Branco 2008 
– very classic nose with green olive, floral notes, salt and minerals.  The palate is clean, tight and citric, very lemony and mineral with talc/floral top notes.  Steely, saline finish.  Good.

Quinta do Popa Touriga Nacional 2009, Douro DOC (sample) – Luis Pato is the consultant here and, last year when I tasted the rich, heady Quinta do Popa VV Popa 2007, Bairrada’s Baga-master was clearly rejoicing in the Douro’s ripe sweet fruit.  Pato has reigned back a little and this Touriga Nacional in particular showed off the variety’s sumptuousness while maintaining freshness and structure.  Promising.

Quinta do Tourais: winemaker Fernando Coelho has been making wine at Quinta do Tourais since 1999.  His elegant, fresh style is informed by the vineyard’s elevation (up to 600m) and location near Regua in the cooler, more westerly Baixo Corgo/Lower Corgo.

Quinta do Tourais Miura Tinto 2007 – though only around 30 years old, the vineyard is mixed and this wine is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão and Sousão aged in second year oak barrels.  Very linear in the mouth, it shows small, crushed berry fruit, mostly black, some red with floral top notes and dried sage on the back palate; fine powdery tannins.  Very good, lovely brightness/freshness.  Contact Indigo Wine for details.

Quinta do Tourais Tourinio Tinto 2008 – another blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão and Sousão but this wine from a younger 10 year old vineyard.  It’s simpler in flavour dimension but has a good concentration of dark chocolate-edged berry fruit.  Good freshness and fruit purity reflects the fact that only 30% sees oak  – I’m all in favour of this approach for young vine fruit.  It keeps prices sensible and lets the fruit and terroir fly, as with Conceito Contraste (see below, shown on my last Douro presentation).  Good. Contact Indigo Wine for details.

Quinta do Tourais Darani 2007
 – 60 year old vines get the 100% new French oak treatment.  This is very dark, inky and, though powerful and quite dense in the mouth, its coal-edged fruit is well defined with good freshness.  Promising – needs time to unfurl. Contact Indigo Wine for details.

Quinta de Mosteiro Grande Escolha Tinto 2001
 – another Regua producer and this blend majors on Bastardo and Sousao – varieties which bring freshness and lift rather than body and bulk to a wine. It’s quite different in frame and flavour dimension from most Douro reds – spicy, intense, persistent and fresh with some lovely succulent black cherry and berry fruit.

Bairrada

Luis Pato Abafado Molecular Branco, Rosé and Tinto 2009 – Luis Pato can be relied upon to come up with something new every year and this year it’s this range of delicate sweet wines sold in 50cl bottles (pictured above).  Concentrated by cryoextraction (chilling), they have that clear as bell icewine type purity though they’re not as sweet. I have to admit that I like the complexity and texture that comes with botrytis or raisining techniques and, for this reason, Abafado Tinto had the greatest appeal.  Made from the Baga grape, naturally tannins came into the equation (!) lending subtle texture  – a bit of spine – to this wine’s bright but delicate raspberry and cranberry fruit.

Lisboa

Quinta do Pinto: this Alenquer-based estate works with some less obvious varieties.  The Quinta do Pinto 2003 made from Tinta Miuda didn’t work for me – a bit flat (much better in the Grous blend – see below), but their white blends featuring Rhone varieties impressed:

Quinta do Pinto Lasso Branco 2008 – a blend of Fernão Pires, Arinto, Marsanne, Rousanne & Viognier showed good fruit weight – classic Rhone stone fruits  – with Atlantic-influenced balanced freshness.  Good and makes an interesting change from more run-of-the-mill entry-level wines.

Quinta do Pinto Viognier-Chardonnay 2007 – barrel fermented and aged for 1 year in oak, the Chardonnay adds fleshy, elegant fruit that neatly counter-balances the Viognier.  The oak is present but well integrated.  Good.

DFJ Vinhos Quinta do Rocio 2007 – Last year, Revista de Vinhos magazine in Portugal crowned this Best wine of the Lisboa wine region.  I think this is the first time I’ve tasted Grenache from Portugal – it’s a blend of 25% of each of Shiraz, Merlot, Touriga Nacional and Grenache from quite young (8 year old) vines.  It combines the region’s Atlantic freshness with Grenache’s trademark sweet red berry and cherry fruit.  It spends 9 months in French oak and is just a touch woody on the finish for me, but interesting nonetheless.

DFJ Vinhos Pink Elephant Rose 2009 – much to the exhibitor’s surprise, I’d not tasted this before though Pink Elephant was launched 3 years ago to great commercial and critical acclaim (a Jancis Wine of the Week no less).  And this elephant, no longer white as far as I’m concerned, is a very well made wine, with floral lift and good fruit intensity for a quaffer; even better, its subtle sweetness is well balanced by freshness.

Quinta Lagoalva Arinto & Chardonnay 2008 – this rich, but balanced wine with an autolytic note and limey Arinto acidity is very much informed by the use of lees ageing and batonnage.  I’ve not heard of this before, but the lees in question are Chardonnay lees but from a previous vintage which have been frozen…Good.

Alentejo


Perescuma No 1 2008, VR Alentejano (barrel sample) 
– while the 2007 vintage of this Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah blend had attractive fresh berry fruit and fine tannins the 2008 is a step up in terms of concentration and persistence – long and promising.

Herdade dos Grous Red Reserve 2008, VR Alentejano – a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Miuda and Touriga National – shows mint and dried sage on the nose, which follows through on the palate.  Good grip, with tight small berry and currant red and black fruits.  Well done, as yet youthful but lots of promise.

The Algarve


Adega do Cantor Vida Nova Branco 2009 (Verdelho with a dash of Arinto), VR Algarve
 – when I visited in 2009, I felt that the white wines showed lots of promise and this delivers good varietal typicity, with clean and vibrant Verdelho tropical fruit.  The Arinto gives lift to the tail.  Well made; good.

Adega do Cantor Bruto – only bottled a week ago but this sparkling Syrah rose is no brute!  With strawberry shortbread, this is dry but with a nice sweetness to the fruit – a moreish quaffer I reckon.  Great debut for perhaps the Algarve’s first sparkling wine?

Themed presentations at the Annual Portugal Trade Tasting

NB I’ve only given brief tasting notes because I was focused on presenting not taking notes, but take it from me, all the wines I selected are benchmark examples of their kind and my theme.

“Why Vinho Verde is Portugal’s sexiest white wine region”

Niepoort, Girosol, 2009, DOC Vinho Verde – yes that would be Dirk Niepoort of Port/Douro fame.  Readers may remember that last year I tasted the first wine he ever made, a 1987 Loureiro (see here) and since 2006, he has been making Girasol, a Vinho Verde made from 100% Loureiro sourced from its traditional heartland, the Lima subregion.  Vinho Verde has had a great run of vintages since 2007.  In 2009, the mild summer was perfectly suited to this aromatic, delicately floral variety – Girasol shows lovely lift and freshness on the palate, with an underlying subtle minerality.  It wears its 7g/l of residual sugar well and weighs in at a suitably gossamer 10.5%.  Very good.

Reguengo de Melgaço Alvarinho 2009, DOC Vinho Verde 
– a wonderful concentration of tropical fruit salad on nose and palate, delivered with great linearity thanks to good acid drive.  Long, mineral finish.  Very good.

The Dão’s fabulously food-friendly wines.

Quinta da Pellada Primus, 2009, DOC Dão 
– made by Alvaro Castro, this blend of Encruzado contains a modicum of old vine Cercial (a.k.a. Arinto) and Terrantez, which extend Encruzado’s wieghtier fruit on a long, fresh finish.  Delightfully dry, pure and intense, this is a great wine for simply grilled fish.

Quinta Da Falorca Garrafeira Old Vines Red, 2004 
– even though it hails from the ripe 2004 vintage, this has the structure and balance  – that edge of tannin and acidity – to work with and not against food, especially lamb or game dishes.

Bairrada, to B or not to B?  Baga & other stories…

Campolargo, Contra a Corrente, 2008, DOC Bairrada 
– since 2003 Bairrada’s tannic Baga grape variety has ceased to dominate the region’s DOC wines in a bid to broaden Bairrada’s appeal.  Campolargo are pioneers of French varieties especially and I like what they do with Bordeaux varieties.  This Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated blend is no exception and maintains the region’s cool Atlantic-influenced freshness and definition.

Aliança, Quinta da Dôna, 2004, DOC Bairrada
 – one of my 50 Great Portugese Wines (see here) and a great example of modern Baga which undergoes a significant period of cold maceration under dry ice so as to minimise tannin extraction.

Beira Interior, under the radar but up and coming

Companhia Das Quintas, Quinta do Cardo Síria, 2008, DOC Beira Interior
 – this received lots of favourable comment at the London 50 Great tasting for its accessible honey and mineral-edged citrus style – Siria is variety of which I’m sure we’ll be seeing more.

Quinta dos Currais, Sociedade Agrícola Lda, Quinta dos Currais Reserva, 2003, DOC Beira Interior
 – another 50 Great wine, this from the other (southerly) end of Beiras and it shows with its gutsy fruit and depth of flavour.

Alentejo – sub-regional diversity

Sonho Lusitano Vinhos Pedra Basta, 2007, DOC Alentejo – because Alentejo is the same size as Belgium and is likened to Australia on account of its sunny, dry climate among other things, as with Australia, there’s a tendency to make gross generalisations about its wines.  I wanted to show that they’re not all soft and jammy.  This wine from Portalegre, Alentejo’s northernmost, highest and, it follows, coolest outpost shows wonderful freshness, elegance and definition.   The 2008 barrel sample I tasted is similarly hewn.  You can find out more about it from notes of my visit last year here.

J Portugal Ramos Vinhos Marquês de Borba Reserva, 2007, DOC Alentejo – Estremoz may not be as elevated as Portalegre but it’s also a more northerly subregion of Alentejo with some elevation (350m) and, key to well-balanced and mineral styles from much further south even, schist soils.  This powerfully structured, youthful wines illustrates that Alentejo is not just about fruit-forward, “prêt-à-boire” wines.

The Douro – charting new waters

Wine & Soul, Guru White, 2008, DOC Douro
 – you could be forgiven for thinking that the home of Port might not be the best place to make structured, mineral white wines but you’d be wrong.  Styles range from Rhone-like (like this stone-fruited example), to Burgundian (think Niepoort Redoma) to Bordeaux-like (think Van Zeller Branco).

Conceito Contraste red, 2007, DOC Douro – the red wines that have forged the Douro’s reputation from Barca Velha through to Quinta do Crasto Vinha de Ponte are limited edition, super-premium wines beyond the pocket of most.  I’m excited by an emerging raft of less pricey Douro reds like this, often made from young vine fruit, only part of which sees oak, which show lovely freshness and fruit buffered by the Douro’s signature sinewy structure and minerality.