Thursday, December 3, 2009

Douro & Port Tasting

Excellent and delicious value wines are coming out of Portugal, and I am a big fan, especially of their wines made from indigenous grapes. I also enjoy Ports, but usually only the older Ports, generally only those aged for ten years or more. There are some exceptions, but I do find some of the younger Ports to be too bitter and harsh for my tastes.

At the end of September, I attended a major Portuguese wine tasting hosted by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP) and Boston University 's Elizabeth Bishop Wine Resource Center. The tasting included still wines from the Douro region as well as numerous Ports. I found plenty of very good wines and will highlight some of them.

But what I most want to promote is that you should be trying Portuguese wines. Though they are becoming more popular, it seems a slow movement and they still have a ways to go. Wines from Portugal can offer some great bargains as well as some exciting and intriguing flavors. Give their wines a chance and I am sure you will find some new favorites.

Ramos Pinto:

2007 Duas Quinta (about $15): A blend of 40% Tinta Roriz, 40% Touriga Franca, and 20%Touriga Nacional. A compelling aroma and a delicious, complex taste of plum, black cherry, and spice notes. Strong tannins and a lengthy finish. Good value wine though probably best with food.

2006 Duas Quinta Reserve: A blend of 80% Touriga Nacional, 15% Touriga Franca, and 5%Tinta Barroca (5%). Similar to the above wine except that the flavors were more intense and the finish was lengthier.

Quinta Do Bom Retiro 20-Year Old Tawny & 30-Year Old Tawny: Both superb Ports, incredibly smooth with a complex melange of flavors including caramel, nuts, butterscotch, and honey notes. Both are to be slowly savored, each sip bringing exquisite pleasure.

Casa Agrícola Roboredo Madeira (CARM):

2008 Carm Rose: A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. Light pink color, this dry Rose is very Old World in style with bright flavors of strawberry and watermelon. A pleasant wine, perfect for a summer day or with light foods.

2008 Carm White: A blend of indigenous Portuguese white grapes which sees no oak. A crisp and zesty white wine with flavors of citrus, spice and herbal notes. A very good food wine, though it can be enjoyed on its own too.

Quinta De Ventozelo:

20-Year-Old Tawny Port: An excellent Port, with smooth flavors of dried berries, figs, caramel, and almonds. Lengthy and satisfying finish. My preferred style of Port.

Real Companhia Velha:

2008 Evel White: A blend of Malvazia Fina, Donzelinho, Gouveio and Moscatel. An alluring aroma of green apple and pears, those fruits also shining brightly in the taste. A crisp, vibrant wine that excited my senses. A touch of exoticness to its flavor elevates this above ordinary white wines. At under $15, this wine is also a very good value.

C.N. Kopke & Ca. Lda.:

2006 Kopke Reserva Tinto: A blend of Touriga Nacional and Tinto Roriz. It possesses that intriguing aroma of many other Portuguese wines made from indigenous grapes. On the palate, there are lush dark berry flavors, restrained spice notes, mild tannins, and a lengthy finish. A wine I would enjoy with or without food.

Established in 1913, this winery produces a variety of Ports, especially vintage Tawnies & Colheita Ports, which are matured in cask for at least seven years. Their Colheitas are some of my favorite Ports and you can check out my prior review of a few of them. I retasted them this time and my thoughts were the same. They were just as appealing now as they were before. If you want to get started in Ports, I strongly recommend you begin with the Barros portfolio.

Fonseca Porto:

Fonseca Porto Terra Bella (around $23): This is the first, and maybe only, organic Port. It is an organic reserve porto, what once was known as a ruby port. Fonseca first produced this organic port in 2006, and it has been certified by USDA National Organic Program and the European Ecocert.

They have an organic vineyard at Quinta do Panascal. What you might not think about though is that an organic port also requires an organic fortifying spirit, brandy. Until 1991, these spirits had to come from Portugal but the rules were relaxed so that producers could source the spirits from other countries too. This enabled Fonseca to locate an organic brandy producer in Spain.

It had a rich, dark red color and an aroma of cherry, raspberry and some herbal notes. On the palate, the lush fruit stood out, more plum and black cherry with a touch of floral and even chocolate. There was also an underlying earthiness which accentuated the port. It was not bitter at all, a very smooth and compelling port. It is full-bodied with a moderately-long and satisfying finish. An excellent choice which I highly recommend.

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