Pleasures of Portugal
Portugal is great. I have spent many a happy week on the Algarve eating marvellous seafood, chilling on the sandy beaches, and enjoying the odd round of golf. In fact, I love the Algarve so much I got married there 107 years ago… Sorry Fish, I mean 7 years ago! It was a great party but I don’t remember the wine (although we were drinking 2 litre pitchers of Cintra at La Boneca, which might explain it!).
Don’t get me wrong, I have very much enjoyed the wine when I’ve been there, always drink local (by local I mean Portuguese, not Algarve), and look forward to nothing more than that first lunch at Lanterna Velha in Carvoeiro; a dish of pork and clams, washed down with a delicious chilled bottle of Planalto. I have also developed a liking for the fragrant yet rustic reds of Alentejo… without really knowing much about the country’s viticulture.
Thanks to Roberson I now know a little more. They recently organised a fantastic tasting of Portuguese wines, hosted by the marvellous Charles Metcalf, who’s book ‘The Wine & Food Lover’s Guide to Portugal’, won the Louis Roederer International Wine Writer’s Book Award in 2008. No one has more passion for Portuguese wine than Charles and I doubt there is anyone in the English-speaking world with as much knowledge on the subject; he was the perfect commentator on two very interesting and incredibly good value flights of wines.
A few of the wines on show were the second or third wines from these producers, hence the great value, but the quality was consistent across the board. However, I look forward to exploring some of the premier cuvees over the coming months.
The first flight consisted of 4 whites (Roberson are running a 20% off all Spanish and Portugal wines until 29th October; the prices below include the discount):
Adega de Moncao 2012, Vinho Verde (£7.16)
Blend of Alvarinho (known as Albarino in Spain) and Trajadura, which is indigenous to Portugal. I really enjoy the wines of Vinho Verde, the northwest region of Portugal, and this example has very pure expression of apples and citrus. Fresh and bright, juicy and jolly, with a clean mineral backnote. A tad bitter at the end perhaps but really is a summer afternoon in a glass. 87 points
JP Azeitao Branco Balcalhoa 2012, Setubal (£8.95)
A blend of Muscat and Fernão Pires, another indigenous variety. One of the southernmost wine producing regions, and you can taste the sun in the concentrated, slightly baked aromas of apples and pears; there’s also a hint of white flowers and baked nuts. On the palate the fruit comes through with even a hint of orange but not quite enough acidity to pull it all together. There are plenty of floral nuts but the lack of acidity has it verging on flabby. 85 points
Douorum Vihnhos, Tons de Duorom White 2012, Douro (£8.95)
Blend of two indigenous varieties: Viosinho and Rabigato. The Douro is best known for the production of Port wines but is becoming well regarded for the production of both unfortified red and whites. Great complexity for the price with baked apple and pear and just a hint of grapefruit, with notes of white flowers, blossom and a touch of nuts and yeast. There’s a delightful surge of acidity up-front and a long and steely lingering finish. Very, very good and amazing value. 90 points
Quinta dos Roques Encruzado 2011, Dao (£15.96)
Encruzado is considered one of Portugal’s top white grape varieties and the majority is grown in the central Dao region. Toasty, creamy and lees-y on the nose, with notes of peach, apricot and almond. The first palate sensation is fresh citrus, followed by awkward but charming apricot. There’s some texture to the wine, almost a hint of grip but best of all is the very generous and fresh finish. 90 points
It was then onto a flight of five reds…
Alianca Vinhos de Portugal Bairrada Reserva 2011, Bairrada (£6.95)
Blend of Baga, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Merlot. Highly concentrated dark, even jammy red fruit and a touch of violet. Bright red fruit on the palate with rustic tannins. Simple, rustic and very drinkable. 86 points
Joao Portugal Ramos Marques de Borba 2011, Alentejo (£6.95)
Blend of Aragonez (yet another name for Tempranillo!), Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve enjoyed many a bottle of Marques de Borba on holiday in Portugal and now I know that Borba is a town in the Alentejo region! This wine has dark red fruit, verging on black but it is highly perfumed, with a touch of garrigue and spice. Fabulous acid on the attack with raspberry and red currant freshness. Slightly grainy tannins but highly gluggable. 87 points
E-Falorca, Quinta de Folarca 2007, Dao (£11.16)
75% Touriga Nacional, 25% Roriz. Elegant aromas of sweet cherry and orange peel. On the palate the wine is bright and breezy with plenty of red fruit and beautifully integrated, smooth tannins. Short but clean finish – I’d really like to try one of the more prestige cuvees. 89 points
Casal Figuero Tinto Reserva 2006, Lisboa (£14.36)
100% Touriga Nacional. Dark and slightly dried fruity notes and just a hint of farmyard and leather development. Charles didn’t like this at all and thought there were high levels of Brettanomyces, but I thought there was some very nice complexity developing! Good fruit and decent acid on the attack with good, if slightly tough tannins. 88 points
Quinta do Noval, Cedro do Noval 2009, Douro (£14.95)
Blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Syrah. Earthy and ripe red fruit with a lovely smoky back note (from the Syrah maybe?). Smooth, velvety tannins and ripe red fruit with a good hit of smoke and long, fresh finish. 91 points
And finally, a glass of port to round things off…
Quinta do Crastro LBV 2008, Porto (£14.95)
100% Touriga Nacional. Sweet dried fruit, dried cranberry and a touch of fig – it smells so fresh. Sweet fruit and oh so smooth, with a slightly menthol finish. 92 points