Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Boston Wine Expo: From Portuguese Pleasures to Jerky

A couple hundred wineries, from over 15 different countries, presenting over 1000 wines. Yes, the Boston Wine Expo was recently in town, a huge event allowing consumers and the trade to experience both wines on the market and wines which hope to be distributed within Massachusetts. I attended once again, primarily during the trade hours, when it is a bit quieter and I can better taste a variety of wines and speak with the winemakers, distributors and other representatives.

It seemed to me that there were less wines at the Expo this year, or at least it seemed that way as there was more open space. There was certainly a large selection of wines, more than anyone can taste in a single weekend, but the aisles did not seem as crowded, which was a good thing. As usual, there was a good selection of non-wine vendors, with plenty of free food samples, which helped cleanse the palate between tastings.

Though the Expo program guide contains a map of the exhibit hall, so you can better locate the wines you seek, it would have been beneficial if that map was available prior to the Expo. With such a map, attendees could better pre-plan their exploration of the Expo. In addition, I would have liked a bit more diversity in the wine selections, to see more countries represented, or more lesser known regions from countries that did attend. For example, let us see more Sake and Sherry, more Israeli and Lebanese wines. Local wines also seemed underrepresented this year, though they had made a good presence at last year's Expo.

Much of my tasting this year concentrated on Portugal and Italy, with a number of stops at a selected few other areas. Overall, the wines that I tasted were good and some were even excellent. My tastings also provided me more evidence of the great value that is found in Portuguese wines, as well as that Italy has plenty of compelling wines. I spent some of my time tasting with Jason of Ancient Fire Beverage, and we agreed on a number of the wines we tasted. I also recommended some of the wines to others attending the Expo and there was much consensus from them as well.

Let me start by sharing some of my Portuguese finds.

I'll start with one of my top finds of the Expo, an incredible value wine that exemplifies what I love about Portuguese wine. The 2009 Quinta do Penedo Dao Red (about $12-$15) is a blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro, and sees some aging in used French and American oak. From an alluring aroma to a complex and compelling taste, this wine drinks like something at twice the price or more. Delicious black fruit flavors, plenty of spice and a nice exotic taste. A well balanced wine, with good acidity and a lengthy finish will satisfy to the last drop. This wine receives my highest recommendation, especially at this price.

The 2011 DFJ Alvarinho Chardonnay is an interesting and tasty blend of Alvarinho and Chardonnary. It is crisp and clean, with nice flavors of citrus and green apple with mineral notes. The 2010 Casa das Gaeiras Blanco, a blend of Arinto, Chardonnay and Fernão Pires, is very aromatic and has a crisp taste with delicious flavors of citrus and pineapple with floral accents. An excellent summer wine, or an accompaniment to seafood. The 2011 Casa das Gaeiras, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Syrah, is a big wine, with bold spices and blackfruit. However, it is balanced with well integrated tannins and a lengthy, satisfying finish. This wine beckons for beef, or a hearty ragu.

The 2011 Beato Nuno, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Castelão, is a lighter, simpler wine but with an appealing nose and a soft, fruity taste. A nice pizza or burger wine. The 2010 Quinta do Cachao, made from 100% Touriga Nacional, is also a light and pleasant red wine. An easy drinking wine for a casual meal, or to drink on its own.

All of the following wines are from the Adega de Borba winery, a cooperative of 300 wine growers, which is also one of the ten largest wine producers in Portugal.

The 2011 Montes Claros Colheita White, a blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro and Alvarinho, is a tasty and aromatic white, with excellent acidity and citrus, apple, and tropical fruit flavors with a mineral backbone. Good whether alone or paired with food. The 2010 Montes Claros Reserva, a blend of  Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, is bold, with prominent tannins but deep flavors of dark fruits and spices, as well as hints of chocolate and herbs. Nice complexity and a pleasing finish. The 2007 Montes Claros Garrafeira, a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez and Tinta Caiada, had a fascinating aroma, a melange of intriguing spices and fruit, and the taste fulfilled the promise of the nose. An elegant wine, with complex flavors, restrained tannins and a lengthy finish. An impressive wine that is well worth seeking out.

The basic 2011 Adega de Borba Tinto, a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet, was an easy drinking red with a spicy, exotic taste and a light fruitiness. Pizza, burgers, meatloaf or on its own. The 2008 Adega de Borba Reserva is more complex and deep, as well as more tannic. It would be better with food than on its own. The 2002 Adega Borba Garrafeira, a blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, reminded me of the previous Garrafeira. From a compelling nose to an intriguing and complex taste, this is another winner of a wine. Well balanced, delicious and eminently satisfying. This wine might be a bit more aromatic than the other Garrafeira. It too is impressive and deserves to be sought out.

I have previously raved about the wines of Esporão and I stopped by their table to taste through some of the newest vintages. The 2011 Monte Velho White, a blend of Antão Vaz, Roupeiro and Perrum, is a crisp and tasty white with delicious citrus flavors and a fresh feel. The 2011 Esporão Verdelho is another delicious white, with nice acidity, good fruit flavors and a clean taste. The 2011 Esporão Reserva White, a blend of Roupeiro, Arinto and Antao Vaz, sees a little oak but it is still fresh and approachable, a more full bodied wine that is an excellent food wine. The 2011 Esporão Defesa Rosé, a blend of Syrah and Aragones, is fresh and bright, with delicious red fruit flavors.

The 2011 Monte Velho Red, a blend of Aragonês, Trincadeira, and Castelão, is full bodied, bold and spicy with nice black fruit flavors. A simple red yet still compelling with its slightly exotic taste. The 2010 Assobio, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Franca, is a bit smoother and lighter, and not as bold. But its taste is compelling with a pleasant blend of dark fruits and spice. The 2009 Esporão Reserva Red, a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonês, Cabernet Sauvvignon, and Alicante Bouschet, is also full bodied, and more complex, with a well balanced blend of flavors and a lengthy, satisfying finish. Over all, the wines of Esporão are very worthy of your attention.

La Face Cachée de la Pomme, based in Quebec, produces Neige Apple Ice Wine, an ice cider, and I have been a fan for over six years. It is sweet but balanced with a good acidity, and has a rich, apple flavor that makes an excellent dessert wine. I find it especially good paired with an apple or fruit dessert, such as an apple pie or fruit tart.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that they have a new product, Neige Bubble, a sparkling apple wine that sells for around $15.99 for a 750ml bottle. It is produced in the traditional method, from McIntosh apples, and 10% of Neige Apple Ice Wine is added to the bottle. It also has a low alcohol content of 7.5%. The Neige Bubble has a prominent and pleasing apple flavor and it is only lightly sweet. The bubbles make it refreshing and I believe that many people are going to enjoy this wine. I was impressed and will be sure to have a bottle or two at my next holiday party.

I have tasted and enjoyed a couple previous wines from Mallorca but was intrigued to check out another Mallorca producer at the Expo, Son Prim Petit Celler. Their winery was built on 2003 and they produce about 90,000 bottles annually, choosing to create wines in a more modern style. The 2010 Son Prim Cup is a blend of Mantonegro, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I think the addition of the Mantonegro elevated this  wine, giving it a bit of a more unique taste. The wine was complex, with a nice blend of plum, black cherry, blackberry and spice notes. The tannins were moderate and it was a bold wine that wasn't overpowering.

I really need to drink more Franciacorta. It is a sparkling Italian wine made in Lombardy, often an inexpensive alternative to Champagne, and the handful of Franciacorta I have tasted have all been delicious. At the Expo, I experienced the wines of Guido Berlucchi, who was the first to produce this sparkling wine in 1961. I began my tasting with the Berlucchi  Metodo Classico Rose Cuvee '61, a blend of 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay. A simple, easy drinking and dry wine with bright red fruit flavors. Refreshing and pleasant.  It was tasty but it was the Franciacorta that thoroughly impressed me.

The Berlucchi Franciacorta '61 Brut is a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, sits for about 24 months on the lees and sees no malolactic fermentation. This is such an elegant wine, smooth, complex and alluring. Delicious and clean flavors of green apple, melon and citrus with a rich mouthfeel. This was a "wow" wine and I wished at the moment that I could sit and drink the entire bottle. The Berlucchi Franciacorta '61 Rose, a blend of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay was equally as impressive, another elegant and complex sparkling wine but this time with delicious red fruit flavors. I would be hard pressed to say which of these two wines I liked better. These wines seem to cost around $30-$35 and I think that makes them both excellent values. Both are highly recommended, and are going to motivate me to seek our more Franciacorta.

A couple more Italian wine highlights include the following:

2011 Curtes Pecorino Falerio: Made of 100% Pecorino, this was an interesting white wine with pleasant citrus flavors and some nutty notes. Crisp, clean and tasty, I could easily enjoy this on its own or with food.

2009 San Joseph Rosso Piceno Superiore: A blend of 50% Montepulciano and 50% Sangiovese, this has a powerful earthy aroma, which might be offputting to some. I liked its rustic nature, with its cherry and plum flavors, vanilla and herbal notes.

I have to give some love to one of the food exhibitors too, Slant Shack Jerky. They use only grass fed beef, from farmers in Vermont and New York, and it comes in a variety of flavors. You can even custom order your own flavors, choosing a marinade, rub and/or glaze. They had four flavors available to taste at the Expo, including: Dried & True, Jerk McGurk's Wild Rubdown, and two Hot & Smoky flavors. I was impressed with the flavors of the jerky, as well as its texture which wasn't too tough or chewy. The Wild Rubdown, which has ginger, garlic, brown sugar, cayenne and paprika was my favorite of the four. It is available online or at Whole Foods and some other specialty shops.

What were some of your favorites from the Boston Wine Expo?

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