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20 great Portuguese wines from The Wine Society

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On Monday my post looked at a new online retailer focused on Portuguese Wines.  The Wine Society has been around for rather longer – 140 years to be precise, moreover owes its origins to Portuguese wines.  So perhaps not so surprising that it has bagged a slew of awards for its Portuguese wines and deservedly so.  Not only is its range (complete with useful Portuguese wine buying guide) very extensive, especially when taken together with their regular offers, it’s adventurous too in marked contrast with most national retailers’ Portuguese listings.  I popped up last month to take a look at a selection of wines from The Wine Society’s current Portuguese range and upcoming offer of Luis Pato wines.  You’ll find my highlights below together with three other stars from the range which were recently presented to me by leading sommeliers.  

Click here for my notes on 20 great Australian wines tasted the same day.


Luis Pato Metodo Antigo Maria Gomes 2012 (Bairrada)

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Unlike Traditional Method sparkling wines like Champagne the Metodo Antigo involves only one fermentation, so there is no dosage. Initially, the must is fermented in stainless steel vats which is completed in bottle in order to create gas with a pressure equivalent to that of the Traditional Method.   It has attractive autolytic, slightly yeasty nose with a spicy grapefruity, textural palate.  A splash of Sercialinho keeps this tight and focused.  Nice characterful fizz with enough texture and structure to hang food off. 12.5% £14.50

Casa Santos Lima Quinta da Espiga 2013 (Lisboa)

This is a light, refreshing, floral, dry white which is reassuringly bottled under screwcap.  The Fernão Pires, Arinto, Moscatel and Sauvignon Blanc play together very nicely.  Raring to go.  A nice buy. £6.50 12.5%

Adega de Pegões Colheita Seleccionada 2013 (Peninsula de Setúbal)

Richer and riper than the Espiga but it’s a balanced blend of Arinto, Verdelho, Chardonnay and Antão Vaz with sweet creamy pear and vanillin.  It will appeal to those who like Chardonnay with a good lick of oak.  13% £6.75

Quinta das Maias 2013 (Dão)

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I’m a fan of this subtle, textural, limpid wine with a salty edge to its gently balanced stone and orchard fruits.  Very unpushed and, in this, very different from its primped predecessor. 12.5% £8.50

Quinta dos Roques Encruzado 2013 (Dão)

This wine rocked (no pun intended!) the sommeliers I took out to Portugal in May.  It’s a very accomplished, beautifully textured pure and poised expression of Encruzado.  Very well done in a modern style with a gently resinous note and warm cedary spiciness, to it core of perfumed pear fruit.13.5% price tbc.

Anselmo Mendes Parcela Única 2011 (Vinho Verde)

ansemo mendes parcela unica

I first tasted this top barrel-fermented and aged Alvarinho in 2012 when it was a baby, a cask sample.  It, together with the 2009 vintage, provided a suitably wonderful finale to an extensive, exceptional vertical tasting of Anselmo Mendes’ Vinho Verdes.  So I wasn’t surprised to learn that it had similarly piqued (peaked even) the palate of  Igor Sotric, Head Sommelier at China Tang at The Dorchester.  Sotric presented it as one of his picks of his Wine Quest visit to Portugal’s north and, it has to be said, Alvarinho is a great match for shellfish dim sum.  I’d pair this powerful wine with lobster.  Mineral and tight on the nose it revealed a superbly tangy yet poised melange of sweet tangerine and honeysuckle with steelier, spicier grapefruit/grapefruit pith on the palate, the whole brilliantly teased out by very persistent mineral acidity.  From a single elevated parcel at 205m which produces Mendes’ best Alvarinho grapes, it was fermented and aged in 400l French oak barrels on full lees for nine months with battonage.  £29 – expensive for Vinho Vinho but forget the label and just compare this beauty with other top white wines from around the world.

Anselmo Mendes Contacto Alvarinho 2013 (Vinho Verde)

If Parcela Unica is too rich for your blood no fear.  Contacto is a complex, vibrant Alvarinho which also got the sommelier vote on Wine Quest.  This time from Adam Pawlowski of Northcote – both sommelier and restaurant are long-term fans of Portuguese wines which are well represented on the wine list.  Unoaked, Contacto’s food-friendly complexity and structure is derived from 12 hours’ skin contact which lends an attractively tart edge to its concentrated stone fruits.  Terrific freshness and, as if it wasn’t mouthwatering enough,  Pawlowski’s food match recommendations do the job – sardines, shrimps, scallops simply grilled, sushi, sashimi or perhaps langoustines with caviar.  £12.95

Terra d’Alter Rosado 2013 (Alentejano)

A creamy yet delicate blend of Touriga Nacional and Aragonês with raspberry and red cherry flavours.  Dry and well balanced. Well done.  13% £6.75

Anselmo Mendes Pardusco 2012 (Vinho Verde)

the wine soc june 2014 tasting 138A fresh sappy, dry, persistent red with floral lift to the finish.  Quite rounded in tannin, acid and fruit for a red Vinho Verde.  It’s a naturally fermented unoaked blend of 40% Alvarelhão, 30% Borraçal, 25% Pedral and just 5% Vinhão.  After de-stemming and crushing, it was cold fermented for 12 hours and pressed after just 12 hours fermentation on skins.  A great summer red which beat off its Spanish competition at my latest Spain -v- Portugal head-to-head at Trangallan.  12.5% Sharply priced at £8.50 (arriving imminently)

Joao Portugal Ramos Loios 2012 (Alentejano)

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Joao Portugal Ramos is brilliant at making uber-drinkable unoaked reds with a sense of place at a price point. Loios is earthy with dried fig and chocolate but also has fresh, perky damson fruit, blueberry lift and chocolate.   Great on its own or with gutsy food.  14%  £6.95

Van Zeller Rufo do Vale D Maria 2011 (Douro)

As readers will know from my extensive report of 2011 Douro red wines and my review of 2011 Vintage Ports it was a terrific year for wine and Port both, so no surprises to learn that the society’s first Exhibition Douro red is from 2011.  Made by F Olzabal & Filhos of Quinta do Vale Meão it’s not yet ready for release but a sneak preview suggests members have a treat in store.  Meantime Rufo, made by another Douro Boy (Cristiano van Zeller) is a classy entry level Douro red.  It has chocolate-edged juicy red and black berries, schistous minerality and perky acidity.  Well done.  14% £8.95.

Quinta do Portal Colheita 2011 (Douro)

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Richer, rounder and plummier than Rufo with expressive violet lift as well as savoury  beetroot notes.  Good generosity (with balanced acidity) for the money. 13.5% £8.99

Alianca Quinta da Rigodeira Reserva 2005 (Bairrada)

With its iodine/oyster shell notes and underlying fresh acidity this single estate Baga offers an insight into how the region’s premier traditional red grape matures.  It lacks a bit of concentration, clarity and finesse but, at this price, it’s an interesting ready–to-go rustic Baga .  If you want to see a really great, highly polished expression of this excellent vintage you’ll have to pay a bit more than double (and then double it again because Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas is only available in magnum).  If you can afford it it’s worth it – anyway, I’m buying some!  Quinta da Rigodeira is 13% and priced at £8.95.

Filipa Pato Nossa Red 2011 (Bairrada)

Luis Pato’s daughter has inherited the Baga-loving gene and has a delicate touch with the variety; 2011 was an excellent vintage. This suave-tannined, sweet-fruit-scented Baga has a great charge of very pure, very vibrant red and black berry currant and cherry fruit and ample, mineral-sluiced acidity which carries a long, uber-persistent, very fine finish.  Wonderful freshness  and definition with the (fruit not oak-derived) sucrosity of a great year.  Broachable now but will deliver lots more pleasure through the medium and long term.  Made from vines averaging 80 years old on chalky clay soil, Nossa was part fermented in open oak casks and partly in wooden lagars (Roman style) with 20% stems.  It was aged in 500l French oak barrels (30% new) which it wears very lightly.  13% abv.  Sharply priced at £25 and selected by Gus Gluck of Portugal friendly Vinoteca as one of two wines of his visit to central Portuguese regions.  The Baga fan’s other pick was Luis Pato’s Quinta do Moinho 2001.  Oh yes, Baga ages so well.

Luis Pato Vinha Barrosa Vinha Velha 2011 (Beiras)

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It wasn’t just the Douro that had a good year in 2011.  The vintage produced some fantastic, brilliantly structured but ripe Bagas.  This single vineyard wine from Pato’s oldest vines (+80 years old) together with Vinha Pan (another single vineyard Baga) will form part of an email offer later this year.  I’ll give you the heads up when the offer runs because for fellow lovers of Baga or classically-styled, well structured wines they are most definitely worth a look.  Vinha Barrosa (a personal favourite) is tight-knit, with fine but firm tannins and mineral-sluiced acidity to its perfumed, dark, crunchy black currant and cherry fruits.  Fabulous animation and, with a rub of eucalypt and pine needle to its long resonating finish, great perfumed persistence.  I’d buy this over the 2009 which, relatively speaking, lacked purity and line given that there is only two years’ difference in age. Shame that the 2005 in magnum (priced at £69.00) was corked.  £tbc

Luis Pato Vinha Pan 2011 (Beiras)

From younger vines the oak is more noticeable – Pan has a kid glove (oak) quality that I associate with Rioja.  It is fleshier and more sucrous and yielding than Barrosa (and more surprisingly the 2009 vintage which was positively sulky) with plum and pureed red berry, currant and framboise fruit.  The finish has the smoky minerality which is a signature note of Baga on chalky clay soils. £tbc

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto Magnum 2009 (Beiras)

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Wow, this has terrific gout de terroir with its lifted pine needles, forest floor, iodine and salted-edged juniper, crunchy red fruited palate.  Great line and length thanks to its very persistent, cool vein of acidity.  13% £45

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto Magnum 2005 (Beiras)

A gamey nose to the 2005 vintage suggests it will be more developed.  However, though fleshed out by cinnamon-edged fleshy, jammy plum on the attack and middle palate, its firm iron filings backbone of tannins and mineral/iodine acidity makes for a tapering, ultimately austere finish.  Needs time; lots more to give.  13% £42

Luis Pato Vinha Pan 2005 (Beiras)

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A very characterful Pan.  Very salty, iodiney and smoky with rosemary and pine needles to its well-defined core of crunchy juniper fruit.  Plenty of angle and lift!  A tightly focused, mineral sluiced finish suggests that this will benefit from more time in bottle.  A lot of wine for £29.  13%

Adega de Pegões Moscatel de Setúbal NV

I’m a huge fan of ultra-moreish Moscatel de Setúbal fortifieds.  This isn’t the most sophisticated example (the best have beautiful florality and freshness) but what it lacks in lift, structure and concentration it makes up for in its deliciously mellow nutty round, mint-toffo’ed palate and musky Turkish delight overtones.  Once you’ve popped this stoppered wine, you’re unlikely to stop.  17.5%  It’s about to hit the list at a very reasonable opening price of £8.50.

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