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Portugal v Spain: a year of living deliciously

trangallan menu

I have really enjoyed co-hosting Iberian Nights at Trangallan.  And not just because Portugal won four of our five Spain -v- Portugal head-to-heads, including our fortified finale (the narrowest of victories, I might add).  

In fact the fortified finale summed up what’s been great about it.  I loved finding out more about Sherry from my co-host Xabi and it’s been stimulating to look at Spanish wines alongside Portuguese wines and tease out some differences.

For last Tuesday’s tasting, the obvious contrast was sweetness.  All the sherries were bone dry which meant we showed all the Sherries first then moved over the border(s), next tasting the Madeiras, then the Ports.  And boy, with its 55g/l of residual sugar, Madeira’s famously dry Sercial almost looked generous!  One certainly felt the palate weight though, of course, high acidity (double that of the Sherries) made for the grape’s exhilaratingly fresh finish.

And sticking with the topic of sugar, the relative versatility of the Sherries – from aperitif, right through dinner to cheese, is certainly a bonus where Portuguese fortifieds very often end up in the after dinner slot.  Not so very fashionable these days….

As Xabi put it, the process of making Sherry liberates so many flavour and aroma compounds that Sherry easily finds synergies with food.  I urge you to head over to Trangallan and put his theory to the test (and because the food is fantastic – another highlight of the tastings).  The Palo Cortado  worked brilliantly with scallop tartare and pickled chilli gazpacho (delicious) – it was the pickled chilli what did it!

Just a thought.  Niepoort make an unfortified Fino-alike with Sherry producer Equipo Navazos.  Why not make a truly bone dry White Port which offered this versatility?  I shall put it to Dirk!

Looking back over the series, here are my favourite wines:

The Sunny South

Terrenus: old vines in Portalegre

I have to admit that, though Portugal won this round, Spain’s more varied southern terrain and old vines won me over.

El Carro-Bernabe Navarro 2010 (Denominación de Origen Alicante) – an intense dry, salty Moscatel from ungrafted bush vines grown on dune sands right by the ocean £17 at

Herdade Do Mouchâo Dom Rafael Tinto 2010 (Denominação de Origem Controlada Alentejo) – plenty of complexity and character to this Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet – £11.95 (2009 vintage) at

Rui Reguinga Terrenus Tinto 2007 (Vinho Regional Alentejano) – Portalegre old vine field blend magic gives this stand out structure and freshness for the Alentejo.  2009 vintage at The Wine Society for £11.95.

El Sueno de Bruno 2011 (Denominación de Origen Utiel Requena) – sommelier Bruno Murciano has elevated the humble Bobal grapes to new heights – from the heights – great complexity from 80-100 year old vines at 800m. £17.99 at de Vinos.

Jimenez-Landi Bajondillo 2012 (Denominación de Origen Méntrida) – this foot-stomped Garnacha (Grenache)/Syrah blend from elevated vineyards (550-800m) ran counter to all expectations showing not a jot of the confection or high alcohol – tight and fresh, almost to the point of austerity! £11.00 at Highbury Vintners

The Douro -v- Ribera del Duero


Schist, old vines – at Quinta do Vallado

Conversely, though Spain won this round, the Douro remained my firm favourite

Bodegas Ordóñez Nisia 2012 (Denominación de Origen Rueda) – a lip-smacking, super-dry mineral Verdejo

Lavradores de Feitoria Meruge Branco 2011 (Denominação de Origem Controlada Douro) – complex vegetal layers, salty green olive tang and mineral acidity

Muxagat Tinta Barroca 2012 (Denominação de Origem Controlada Douro) – an unsual super-smooth yet fresh Tinta Barroca with salt lick minerality– £13.90 at

Quinta do Vallado Vallado Tinto 2011 (Denominação de Origem Controlada Douro) – always a great entry-level Douro red.  Floral lift, bright, persistent fruit and that schistous, salt lick minerality.

Alonso del Yerro 2010 (Denominación de Origen Ribera del Duero) – my pick of the region’s reds with lovely purity of blackberry fruit and an attractive minerality lurking beneath its creamy, chocolatey oak.

Niepoort Redoma Tinto 2007 (Denominação de Origem Controlada Douro) – a perennial favourite (though none made in 2012!) Brilliantly combines Douro wildness with elegant fluidity.

You say tomato I say tomato part 2: Minho or Miño

Soils rock!

More compelling reds won me over to Spain in this head-to-head which Portugal won by a whisker.

Vinibio Mica Vinho Verde 2012 (Denominação de Origem Controlada Vinho Verde) – a fine mineral, very fresh blend of Loureiro, Arinto, Azal – £12 at

Sucesores de Benito Santos 2013 (Denominación de Origen Rías Baixas) – a very firm, fresh Albariño £13.65 at

Anselmo Mendes Muros de Melgaco Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2011 (Denominação de Origem Controlada Vinho Verde) – an even firmer Alvarinho, very complex with herbal riffs and a mineral undertow.

Quinta de Soalheiro Alvarinho Primeiras Vinhas 2008 (Denominação de Origem Controlada Vinho Verde) – and just to show that Vinho Verde can age – a favourite wine from a favourite vintage. 

Galician cunca taza

Coto de Gomariz The Flower And The Bee 2012 (Denominación de Origen Ribeiro) – though Anselmo Mendes’ smoother Pardusco won this round I have to admit this bright, sparky Sousón got my vote.

Dominio do Bibei Lalama 2010 (Denominación de Origen Ribeira Sacra) – I’m a big fan of Mencia, aka Portugal’s Jaen – wish it could reach the ethereal heights of Spanish wines like this blend of 90% Mencía, 10% Brancellao, Mouratón, Souson and Garnacha.



As I subsequently dubbed this tasting – a head-to-head of Spain’s Tempranillo/Tinta Pais with Portgal’s Tinta Roriz and Aragones.  Why?  Click here for the low down on what makes this grape tricksy.  Blends definitely fared best.

Valle Pradinhos Porta Velha 2011 (DO Trás-os-Montes) – fresh, fruity but focused and mineral, this Tinta Roriz with a dash of Touriga Nacional got a rave reception  £7.95 at The Wine Society 

Carmelo Rodero Cza 2010 (DO Ribera del Duero) – a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon played a winning role for me in this blend – polish, line and length.  A long and involving wine with lovely savoury acidity. £17.99 at de Vinos

Lavradores de Feitoria Meruge 2011 (DO Douro) – this 80% Tinta Roriz, 20% field blend is particularly elegant and precise in this top vintage – delicious lively red fruits. – £25 (2008 vintage) at Fareham Wine Cellar

Urbina Gran Reserva 1994 (DO Rioja) – a classic Rioja blend of 90% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo and, with 20 years under its belt very pale and interesting with delicate and ethereal dried spice, oyster shell/iodine.

A wood-aged fortified finale


Lustau Amontillado de Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Almacenista Manuel Cuevas Jurado (Jerez) – Sanlúcar salty finesee to this bone dry Palomino Fino – 17% abv, 7g/l RS, 5.43g/l TA – £28 at Trangallan

Valdespino Palo Cortado Viejo Single Vineyard Calle Ponce NV (Jerez) – bottled electricity – great drive and woody resonance – absolutely loved the nose.  20%, 5g/l RS, 5.3g/l TA – £43.10 at Trangallan

fortified wines

Henriques & Henriques Single Harvest Sercial 2001 Madeira – this super dry, super kelpy Sercial was one of my picks of the Annual Madeira Tasting in London this year and last.  Still takes my breath away.

Barros 1974 Colheita Port – a silkily smooth 40 year old single vintage Tawny Port which produced many a sigh of satisfaction.  Beautifully balanced with seamless yet complex layers and a long lingering finish.  Puts the double l into mellifluous!  £125 at


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