Thursday, May 21, 2009

Premium Port Wines: UNLVino

One of the last tables I visited at the UNLVino grand tasting belonged to Premium Port Wines, Inc., the North American importer for the Symington Family Estates of Portugal. They import Port, Madeira, and Douro DOC still wines including brands such as W. & J. Graham's, Smith Woodhouse and Blandy's. I tried three of their offerings, and all of them I very much enjoyed. They made for an excellent ending to the wine tasting.

Smith Woodhouse, which was founded in 1784, was acquired by the Symington family in 1970. Its 25 acre vineyard, called Madelena, is located in the Rio Torto Valley in the Douro. It is a small producer, making less than 5000 cases each year.

I tasted their 1995 Late Bottled Vintage Port (about $30) which was bottled unfiltered after four years and then aged in the bottle for another 5 years before being released. As it is unfiltered, you should probably decant this Port. This wine had a deep, red color, almost purple. It fills our mouth with ripe dark berries, touches of spice and almost a bit of chocolate. It is a very smooth, easy-drinking wine with a very lengthy and satisfying finish. Complex, balanced and well structured. Overall it was an excellent wine, especially for the price. You could spend much more for a Vintage Port but this wine is very satisfying for much less.
Quinta do Vesuvio, which can trace its history back to the 16th century, was acquired by the Symingtons in 1989. Its 1000 acre estate is located in the upper Douro. They only produce a small quantity of Single Quinta Vintage Port. I tasted their 2001 Quinta do Vesuvio Vintage Port ($75) and it was exceptional. It is very dark, nearly purple in color. It was silky smooth, with lush plum, blueberry and blackberry flavors. It has some minerality, mild tannins, and a long, long finish. Maybe more elegant and complex than the Smith Woodhouse LBV. This wine should probably last for quite a long time, and should get even better over time. Yes, it is pricey but if you are a Port lover, then this will excite you.
The Blandy family winery was founded in 1811 and they are only remaining original owners remaining in the Madeira trade. In 1989, they entered into a partnership with Symington. I got to try their unique Blandy's Alvada 5-Year Madeira (about $20). This wine was intended to be an entry wine for those new to Madeira, as well as catering to contemporary tastes. Most Madeira is made from a single grape but the Alvada is a blend of 50% Malmsey and 50% Bual and it was aged for 5 years in American oak casks in the traditional 'Canteiro' system. This wine was smooth and rich, with flavors of nuts, orange, spice, and honey. The finish was long and delicious. An interesting dessert wine and well worth checking out.

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