Monday, October 27, 2008

Portuguese Wine Grand Tasting

One room with over 150 Portuguese wines of all types: reds, whites, sparkling, and Ports. Wines made from indigenous grapes such as Touriga Nacional and Baga, as well as more international grapes like Syrah and Merlot. So much diversity and a wonderful opportunity to taste some excellent wines and learn about the wines of Portugal.

This was what could be found at a grand Portuguese Wine Tasting at the Harvard Club in Boston which 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). They held a similar tasting last year, which I attended, and you can read about my prior experience.

How did this year stack up against last year? Last year I made six general observations about Portuguese wine and the tasting. Largely, I would repeat all six observations this year too, with only slight variations.

First, there were many Portuguese value wines. Many of the wines cost $20 or less and there were some under $10. I think the prices this year were generally a little bit higher this year, but that is too be expected. Yet many of their wines are still good values. Second, many of their wines were still intriguingly aromatic. Third, I still generally preferred the wines that were made solely or predominantly with indigenous Portuguese varietals. Fourth, the alcohol levels of these wines generally ranged from 12-14%, probably a lower average than many U.S. wines. Fifth, many of these wines have a US distributor though there were a couple still seeking representation. Finally, and most importantly to me, I found nearly all of the wine representatives I spoke with to have a deep passion about Portugal and their wines.

Though the Portuguese wines I tasted recently at L'Espalier had not wowed me, I found wines here that did. Maybe part of it was due to the nature of the venue, with simpler snacks to nibble on, as well as getting to speak with the passionate wine representatives.

If they hold this tasting again next year, I highly recommend that you attend it.

Now, let me give some wine reviews though note that I was unable to try all of the myriad wines available at this event. I am going to detail some of my favorites as well as other wines that stood out for various reasons.

Barros Porto: Established in 1913, this winery produces a variety of Ports, especially vintage Tawniex, Colheita Ports, which are matured in cask for at least seven years.

Porto Barros 20 Year Old Tawny: An absolutely delicious Port, very smooth and mellow with intriguing caramel and nutty notes. A long finish and plenty of complexity.

Porto Barros Colheita 1983: Another excellent Port, lighter in color than the Tawny but even smoother and mellower. Much more nutty flavors, especially hazelnut. A lingering finish that very much satisfies. A Port to ponder over, savoring its complex melange of flavors.

Porto Barros Colheita 1957: A special treat, this was an amazing Port. Liquid bliss with many subtle and harmonious flavors that seem to linger in your mouth for a very long time. Vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, hazelnut, and much more. Highly recommended though this is an expensive wine. It is well worth the price if you enjoy Port.

Cortes De Cima: This is a family owned and operated vineyard and winery located in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Their viticulturist is Dr. Richard Smart, a renowned Australian, which may explain partially why they grow a fair share of Syrah.

2007 Chamine: A red blend of Aragonez 54%, Syrah 36%, Touriga Nacional 6%, Trincadeira 3 %, and Cabernet Sauvignon 1%. This wine had a deep purple color with a very aromatic and enticing nose. An easy drinking and delicious wine that I very much enjoyed. Lots of lush dark red fruits and nice spice notes. Moderate tannins and a decent finish. A very good value wine.

2005 Incognito: This wine is 100% Syrah. Though I usually have not liked many Portuguese wines that use more international grapes, this was an exception. Ripe, dark berries and plum in an elegant wine with only hints of spice. Very smooth, with restrained tannins and a long finish. This is a more lush and sensual wine, a perfect wine for a romantic date.

2004 Cortes de Cima Reserva: A red blend of 52% Aragonez, 24% Touriga Nacional, 14% Syrah, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. I found this wine to have nearly a closed nose, just could not smell too much. But it had plenty of taste, including some more exotic flavors that I could not quite identify. Besides fruit flavors of ripe plum and black cherry, there were some exotic spice notes. Moderate tannins and a long finish.

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

2004 Esporao Private Selection: A wow wine that is aromatic and full of delicious fruit and spice notes. Complex, mild tannins, and a very long finish. Highly recommended.

2007 Monte Velho Tinto: This is the new vintage of a wine I loved last year and it still is as good. An exceptional value.

Herdade Rocim: This winery is located in the Lower Alentejo region and was established in 2000. It currently does not have local distribution and is seeking such. Based on what I tasted, I do think they would be worthy of local distribution.

2007 Olho de Mocho Reserva White: This is made from the indigenous Antão Vaz grape. This is an intriguing white wine with plenty of minerality and acidity. There are some underlying citrus flavors, especially on the finish. A great food wine and just different enough to make it very interesting.

2007 Olho de Mocho Reserva Rose: A blend of Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Aragonez. A deep pink color with a nose of strawberry. It is a dry and crisp Rose, with nice red fruits, especially strawberry. More of an Old World style and very delicious.

2006 Olho de Mocho Reserva Red: A blend of Syrah and Touriga Nacional. A dark red color with a nose of subtle spices, with maybe a touch of cinammon. A delicious taste of ripe dark berries and subtle spice notes. A moderate finish with mild tannins.

Casa Santos Lima: This winery is located in Alenquer, north of Lisbon, in a very traditional wine region. They produce many different brands, especially value wines. Just check out my last year's notes as I have many of the same wines, though maybe different vintages, though their quality remained the same.

J. Portugal Ramos Vinhos: In 1990, João Portugal Ramos began planting a vineyard in Estremoz. The first harvest was in 1992 and construction of the winery began in 1997.

Marques de Borba wines: Check out my last year's notes as I had the same wines, though maybe different vintages, and their quality remained the same.

2007 Conde de Vimioso Rose: A dry Rose, very Old World style, with nice berry flavors.

2007 Conde de Vimioso Red: Aromatic red blend with intriguing exotic flavors and a spicy finish. Very delicious and would make an excellent food wine.

Overall, this was once again an excellent event with many interesting wines. I know that I missed some good ones because I just did not have enough time to hit all the tables. Portuguese wines are becoming more popular and you really should check them out.


Cortes de Cima said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
José said...

Hi Richard, thank you very much for your review on our wines. I'm really glad that you found a "wow" wine, although is not one of ours but it comes from Alentejo so that's good enough for me. I see that you also mentioned our neighbors from Rocim, good for them.

Cheers from sunshine but cold Portugal,

José Eduardo

Cortes de Cima said...

Richard, on behalf of my fellow Portuguese winemakers, ViniPortugal, and IVDP I would like to thank you for the great job you have done here in reporting on the event, a great help to us Portuguese winemakers trying to get the word out about our wines!
cheers, Carrie

deBlancoaTinto said...

Hello Richard (and everybody else...)
Thank you for this article about portuguese wines.
Although i am spanish, i know quite well portugues wines, and i really think they have fantastcic wines, although i have to say i prefer spanish ones, maybe because i know them more...
Anyway, as i said thanks for talking about "iberian wines".
I run my own business if you want to have a look.

Genevieve said...

Hi Richard, Great reporting as always, and it sounds like an amazing tasting!- Genevieve