Thursday, November 22, 2007

Portuguese Wine Tasting: An Excellent Event!

How much do you know about Portuguese wines? Have you tasted many of them? If you know little about such wines and have tasted few of them, then you should have been at this grand Portuguese Wine Tasting with me.

What an amazing wine tasting!

My prior experience with Portuguese wines has been limited, though I have enjoyed those wines that I have had. So it was a distinct pleasure to have the opportunity to taste dozens of different Portuguese wines.

On November 20, I attended the grand Portuguese Wine Tasting at the Harvard Club in Boston. The event was hosted by The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA)-Angell in partnership with ViniPortugal and the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IVDP). There were approximately 150 Portuguese table wines and ports available for tasting.

Three similar events were held in other parts of the U.S., including Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles. Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20 attended the Los Angeles event and you can read her review. I very much agree with her comments on the event.

While I was at the Boston event, I also had the pleasure to meet another wine writer/blogger, Ken Hoggins of the excellent Ken's Wine Guide and the Boston Wine Buzz. Ken will also be writing about his experiences at this event so be sure to watch for his upcoming post.

And for more general information on Portuguese wines, including wine reviews, you should check our Catavino, Ryan and Gabriella's Iberian wine blog.

The event was held in a large rectangular room, with the wine tables abutting the four walls. There was a large table of cheeses, fruits, sausage, crackers and bread in the middle of the room. There were also numerous tables and chairs in the room where you could relax during the tasting. It was a nice venue and they made it very comfortable.

Attendees received two booklets when they entered the event. The larger booklet contained a list of all the wines at the event, as well as a list of all the US agents for the wines. That would be helpful for trying to locate these wines locally. The booklet also had two pages of general info on Portuguese table wines and Ports. The second booklet was a brief educational introduction to Ports.

Before I get into reviews of the specific wines I tasted at the event, I want to make some general observations about the Portuguese wines I tasted.

First, there were many Portuguese value wines. Most of the wines cost $20 or less and there were a good share of wines under $10. These were good wines with character and not just some one-dimensional plonk. If these wines cost twice as much as they did, they would still be worth it. So don't be put off by their inexpensive prices. These are quality wines.

Second, many of their wines were intriguingly aromatic. I just loved the diverse smells of these wines. Citrus fruit, berries, cherry, herbs, spices, flowers and other exotic aromas that I could not identify but which were pleasing. The smells were prominent, vibrant and alluring.

Third, I much preferred the wines that were made solely or predominantly with indigenous Portuguese varietals. I did have a few wines that were predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and they just did not impress me as much as the indigenous grapes. The indigenous grapes possessed some intriguing smells and tastes that seemed new to me, and they were quite a delight.

Fourth, the alcohol levels of these wines generally ranged from 12-14%, probably a lower average than many U.S. wines. None of the wines I tasted had an excess of alcohol.

Fifth, most of these wines have a US distributor though there were a couple still seeking representation. So these wines could be available in local wine stores yet it can be difficult to find Portuguese wines. So they definitely need a stronger presence in local wine stores. Are the local distributors pushing Portuguese wines enough? I am sure that if people tried these wines, they would enjoy them. Maybe people should ask for Portuguese wines at their local wine stores.

Finally, and most importantly, many of the wine representatives I spoke with definitely had passion about Portugal and their wines. You could readily feel this passion as they spoke of the wines, talking about the varietals, the wine making and more. This passion certainly is enticing, making you more amenable to tasting their wines. It is events like this, with such passionate advocates of their wines, that will help sell Portuguese wines. It certainly made me more of an advocate of their wines.

Now, onto the individuals reviews. I should note that I was unable to try all of the wines at this event. There were just too many wines available. I wish there had been more time so I could have tasted more of the wines. I limited myself as well to the table wines and did not taste any of the Ports. But, I still tried a good number of wines and I am going to detail some of my favorites. There were other wines I enjoyed but I just want to highlight some of the better ones.

Herdade do Meio winery
This winery was seeking local distribution for their wines and they definitely have some wines worth buying. These are my two favorites of their portfolio.

2006 Egoista Red: This is from the Alentejo region. It is a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Syrah and Alicante Bouschet. It has an alcohol content of 13.5% and spent six months in American and French oak. An easy drinking wine with nice cherry flavors and a bit of a spicy finish.

2003 Herdade do Meia Garrafeira: This is from the Alentejo region. It is a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet and Castelao. It has an alcohol content of 14% and spent twelve months in French (90%) and American (10%) oak. This is a more full bodied wine with more dark berry flavors and spice on the long finish. It is a complex and well balanced wine. A wine of substance and definitely a good food wine.

Aveleda winery
Quinta da Aveleda is a family winery that dates back to 1947, though the family has been involved in wine making for over 300 years. The winery is located in the heart of the Vinho Verde region though they have some vineyards in other regions too.

2005 Charamba Douro Tinto: This is from the Douro region and "Charamba" is the name of a traditional Portuguese dance from the 19th century. It is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca. It has an alcohol content of 12% and spent six to nine months in Portuguse oak. This is a fruity, easy drinking red wine with some character to it. There are brief rustic notes and spices on the finish. It only costs $6-7 and is a great value at this price.

2005 Aveleda Follies Touriga Nacional: This is from the Barraida region and is 100% Touriga Nacional from up to 25 year old vines. This is a dark wine with a spicy nose. It is very much an Old World wine, more subtle but with strong dark berry flavors and a moderate finish with nice spicy notes. It has complexity, good structure and would be an excellent food wine. This wine is only about $15 and is another great value.

Quinta de Mosteiro
This winery is in the Douro region and was bought in 1983 by its present owner, Jose Arnaldo Coutinho. He replanted much of the vineyards and redid the wine cellar with modern machinery. His first wines were released in 1996.

2000 Reserva Red Wine: This is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga France, Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca. It has an alcohol content of 13.5% and spent four months in oak. This is one of their entry wines and only costs about $8. It is a very good wine, with a nice blend of fruit and spice flavors. It has plenty of character and is an excellent value wine for the price.

2001 Tinta Barroca: This is 100% Tinta Barroca and has an alcohol content of 12.7%. It aged for four months in oak. This is another excellent value wine that only costs $10. It has excellent fruit, nice berry flavors. It is a smooth, easy drinking wine. Would be a great wine with many casual foods or you could just drink it on its own.

2001 Touriga Franca: This is 100% Touriga Franca and has an alcohol content of 13.8%. It aged for four months in oak. This wine really impressed me. Lots of lush dark berry and plum flavors. Silky smooth with muted tannins. A lingering finish with a touch of sweet spice.

Casa Santos Lima winery
This winery is located in Alenquer, north of Lisbon, in a very traditional wine region. It has been family owned for several generations. They produce many different brands, especially value wines. I would very much agree as I enjoyed most of the wines I tasted in their portfolio.

2006 CSL Fernao Pires: This is from the Estremadura region. It is 100% Fernao Pires and has an alcohol content of 13%. It spent no time in oak. It is a light, crisp white wine with good citrus flavors and a bit of tartness. Would be great with seafood.

2005 Palha-Canas: This is from the Estremadura region. It is a blend of Fernão Pires, Arinto, Vital and a little bit of Chardonnay. It has an alcohol content of 13% and has spent no time in oak. This is a very crisp and fruity white wine. Excellent food wine.

2006 Portuga Rose: This is from the Estremadura region. It is a blend of Castelão and Camarate. It has an alcohol content of 13% and has spent no time in oak. This is an Old World rose, with subtle flavors of strawberry and raspberry. It is crisp and refreshing. Reminded me of a fine French Rose.

2006 Eximus: This is from the Estremadura region. It is a blend of Castelão (Periquita), Tinta Miúda, Camarate and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has an alcohol content of 12% and has spent three to four months in oak. This is one of their entry level reds. It is an intriguing wine with vibrant red fruits and dark spices. A very good value wine.

2005 CSL Touriga Franca: This is from the Estremadura region. This is 100% Touriga Franca. It has an alcohol content of 13% and has spent four to six months in oak. Another delicious wine with subtle dark fruits and lots of intriguing spices, including some cinnamon. Well balanced and complex wine.

Dao Sul winery
Dão Sul began in 1989 as a partnership between four men. They began solely producing Dão wines but eventually expanded operations into several other wine regions. They are a large wine company and many of their various wines were represented at the tasting. They were also represented by different distributors who may represent their various estates.

---Aidil Wines & Liquors
2003 Vinho Tinto Palestra: This wine comes from the Douro region. This was an excellent wine. Great red fruit flavors, lots of character, very smooth and just juicy. And at $8, this is a great value. This was one of my top favorites of the tasting, especially at the price.

2004 Vinho Tinto Cabriz Reserva: This wine comes from the Dao region. It is a blend of Alfrocheiro Preto, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional. It has an alcohol content of 13.5%. It spends nine months in French oak. This is more an Old World wine with subtle dark fruits. It has some intriguing flavors and a decent finish, especially for a $15 wine. Another very good value.

2004 Vinho Tinto "Quinta das Tecedeiras" Reserva: This is another Douro wine. It is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Amarela. It has an alcohol content of 14% and it spent about ten months in French oak. It uses the same grapes as that to make Port. This is one of their higher end wines, though it still is only $30. This is an intriguing wine with lots of complexity and a great melange of dark berries and spices. It has a lingering and satisfying finish. Even at its price, it still is a good value wine.

---Grape Moments
2006 Vinho Branco "Grilos": This wine is from the Dao region and "Grilos" means "cricket." It is a blend of 75% Touriga Nacional and 25% Alfrocheiro. It has an alcohol content of 14% and it spent about six months in French oak. This is an aromatic wine with a light red color. It is a silky smooth wine, reminiscent of the feel of a Pinot Noir. It has its own taste though, with vibrant fruit and a spicy finish. This was another one of my favorite wines and it is only $13, making it another exceptional value wine.

---Signature Imports (The sales rep at the tasting was Jay Essegian who is also a co-founder of Boston Uncorked, a prominent organization that hosts many different wine events.)
2004 Casa de Santar Red Reserva: This wine is from the Dao region and is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz. It has an alcohol content of 14% and spends 10-12 months in French Oak. An aromatic wine with vibrant dark fruits on the palate. A complex wine with a long finish and mild tannins.

2001 Touriga Nacional: This wine is from the Dao region and is 100% Touriga Nacional. This is an excellent wine that is very smooth and with delicious fruit. There is much complexity in this wine, an intriguing melange of different flavors. There is a satisfying, long finish. This wine sells for around $27 but would sell for twice that price if it were from a different country. If this shows the potential of this varietal, then it truly can be an exceptional grape.

2004 Outono de Santar Late Harvest: This wine is also from the Dao region and it was the only dessert wine I had at this event. Beside the Ports, this was the only dessert wine I saw. It is made from the Encruzado varietal. It has an alcohol content of 13%. It sells for about $25 for a half bottle. This was a very good dessert wine, crisp and sweet though not cloyingly so. Very nice fruit flavors, more tropical. Would go very well with fruit desserts.

Herdade do Esporao winery
This winery is located in the Alentejo region. Though the estate was purchased in 1973, the winery was not built until 1987.

2005 Esporao Reserva Branco: This wine is from the Alentejo region. It uses all indigenous varietals and sees a little time in oak. This red wine had good fruit flavors, cherry and raspberry, and a long finish. At $15, this is a good value wine.

2006 Monte Velho Tinto: This wine is also from the Alentejo region. The nose on this wine was so very enticing, with lush berries. Its taste lived up to its smell, lush berries and dark cherry. There were a few dark spice notes. A great wine just to sit around drinking, or paired with a casual meal. At only $8, this is an exceptional value.

J. Portugal Ramos Vinhos
In 1990, João Portugal Ramos began planting a vineyard in Estremoz and the first harvest was in 1992. The construction of the winery in Estremoz began in 1997. He makes both Old World and New World style wines.

2006 Marques de Borba: This wine is from the Alentejo region. It is a blend of Aragones, Trincadeira and a few others. It has an alcohol content of 14% and sees some time in small oak barrels. This is their flagship wine. It is a fruity, easy drinking wine and only costs about $13.

2006 Vila Santa Trincadeira: This wine is from the Alentejo region. It is 100% Trincadeira and has an alcohol content of 14.5%. It spends six months in new French oak. This wine has dakr fruits and some unusual spice elements which intrigued me. It is a smooth wine and at about $16 is a good buy.

2003 Marques de Borba Reserva: This wine is from the Alentejo region. It is a blend of Trincadeira, Aragones, Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon. It has an alcohol content of 14% and sees a year in small French oak barrels. This is an Old World style wine. It is a powerful, muscular wine with lots of concentration. Strong, dark berries and plums with bits of cocoa and black pepper. Firm tannins and a very long finish. This is a complex and well balanced wine. An exceptional wine. At about $45, this was the most expensive Portuguese wine I tasted and it was well worth its price.

Overall, this was an excellent event with so many interesting wines. I very much enjoyed meeting and talking with the winery reps about their wines. And I was glad to see so much passion. Give some Portuguese wines a chance and I bet you will be very surprised by their quality and taste. And as so many of these wines are inexpensive, you could take a chance on their wines very cheaply. If you find some Portuguese wines you enjoy, come back and tell me!

3 comments:

K said...

Hi. I was very happy to see you talking about Portuguese Wine. If you don't mind I would like to place a link for a site that catters to those wanting to do a wine tasting in Portugal:

Wine Tours Portugal

Hope you like the site and can talk more about Portuguese wines, that are excellent.

Thank You.

Nuno.

Crystal said...

Great informative post about Portuguese wines!! I have been meaning to try some varietals from Herdade do Mejo. I am new food and wine blogger and enjoy reading your fully detailed and to the point posts.

- Crystal

Richard A. said...

Hi Crystal and welcome to my blog. Thanks for your kind words and I wish you much luck with your new blog!