Archives for category: Portugal

On Monday 5th June the WING met for a Tutored Tasting of wines from Dão, led by Ralph.

Dão is quite a small wine area situated pretty well bang in the centre of the Northern half of Portugal – between Douro and Bairrada. It produces 4% or 5% of all Portuguese wine. It is encircled by mountains giving it a sheltered temperate climate, where grapes are mainly grown on sandy soil covering a granite base. Most famously it is known for red wines (80% of the production is red) from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, and Alfrocheiro grapes, and whites from Encruzado. Mainly seen in the UK as cheap, supermarket, generic blends (Dão DOC blends have to have at least 20% Touriga Nacional) the area is capable of very good wine if you can track it down…

For this tasting Ralph chose a highly regarded, modern producer called Quinta de Lemos. This winery is located in the Silgueiros sub-region (1 of 7 in Dão), and is reputed to have a “French feel”….

If you want maps and graphs, and thoughts, about Portuguese wine in general, please refer to the February 15th 2017 post below>>>

All the wines at this tasting were from Quinta de Lemos, and sourced from drinkportuguesewine.co.uk, where they retail around £25 (the Roriz is £50!). At the moment they are all on sale at around £16 ( and the Roriz for £35!), with mixed cases available….

I myself was in France – actually driving to the Loire Valley – on the day of the tasting, so all the information and notes below are courtesy of Ralph and Kim,  thanks to them:


DONA PAULETTE   ENCRUZADO 2012    (13%)  -countries top white grape.
This grape, the country’s top white, has high reputation as ‘burgundy beater’ similarities to chardonnay as shows off wine-making technique. We were looking for complexity and minerality; well integrated acidity; good structure and medium body; and aromas and flavours of resinous plants, eucalyptus and mint with notes of hazelnut and tamarillo. Kim felt his example was pale golden with citrus notes on nose. Limes and minerality + resinous notes seeming more like a Semillon to me (Kim), a bit wet wool. Good length and complexity.  High acid – good food wine. Kim’s favourite on the night.

ALFROCHEIRO 2009   (14.5%)
[This wine achieved 89 Parker (P) points and  92 @ Wine Enthusiast (WE)]. Looking for aromas and flavours of blackcurrant and concentrated black fruits. The ripe and integrated tannins without being green or aggressive. Kim found a brown brick rim., looking older than other reds. Ripe fruit flavours cherries plums and tinned toms (Kim). Sweet fruit and nice acidity. Spicy and warming – high alcohol.  Some dark chocolate.  Good but not elegant or complex.

JAEN 2009   (14.5%)
[89 P, 93 WE] Jaen is the same grape as Mencia so we were thinking of structure with red fruits, vegetal and resinous notes. Fresh medium body. Young with long, lingering finale. Kim got a wine that was dense dark red. Very concentrated. Fusty, musty nose (not a fault).  Black berries and dried leaf on nose with some tobacco? Dried fruit and raisin.  Big and soft and not enough grip for my liking. Seems simpler later.

TINTA RORIZ 2009   (14.5%)
[90 P, 93 WE] Tinta Roriz is the Northern Portuguese name for Tempranillo – so expecting a concentrated color with ripe fruit and spices present in the aroma. Complex and spicy body with a good structure and great longevity. In vino veritas: A deep purple hue (not “Smoke on the Water”!)  Bit herby on the nose then smokey bacon. Softer plummy palate. Very smooth modern style. Lower in acid than the previous 2 reds.  I found it bit blousy but quite a few liked it best so far.

TOURIGA NACIONAL 2009   (14.5%)
[92 P, 90 WE] Originally from Dão, this grape is long associated with Duoro for vintage port and latterly big table wines. This is a multiple medal-winning wine, and prefigures a deep ruby colour. Aromas and flavours of ripe blackcurrant and fresh crushed wild berries with notes of Bergamot and Pine. Kim found very inky red. Pungent but less fruit driven. Big and concentrated Savoury and spicey, dates and chocolate later.  High tannins very powerful wine.  The “Bordeaux grape” of Portugal. Favourite red of the night for most.

DONA SANTANA 2009   (14.5%)
This is an indigenous Dão blend of 60% Tourga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, 10% Jaen, 10% Alfrocheiro. [90 P, 91 WE]. Another wine with many medals, we were looking for lots of fruit (strawberry, cherry, blackcurrant, rhubarb are mentioned in citations) floral notes, full body and tannins
Kim found a purple/ black hue. The blend disguises the individual grape characteristics: slightly stalky nose; big black fruit. Very rich, dry at end of palate. Thought bit bland by comparison with others….

So, a very enjoyable evening according to several of my informants. Thanks so much Ralph for conducting it and the info above – and to Kim, and other contributors, for compiling the notes.

A theme piece on Collioure in about 4 days… until then….

On Thursday February 20th the ICC Wine Group met to  look at Portuguese wines.

Here are my Notes:

HENRIQUES AND HENRIQUES 10 YEAR OLD SERCIAL, Madeira DOC – 20 % – Wine Society – £20 (½l)
Just Lovely! Notes of citrus, flowers, blossom, over-ripe peach… Palate has a smoky Madeira base, but dried fruit sweet hints undercut and lengthened by a dashing supple acidity that goes on and on, a wonderful aperitif as it gets the juices flowing: evocative, dashing, sensual and sensational! I think this is my preferred version of Madeira as it’s so versatile and unusual…
Ratings:        Quality:  18/20   Value:  15/20

SOALHEIRO ALVARINHO VINHO VERDE DOC 2015 – 12.5 % – Wine Society – £15
Floral notes at first, citrus and then a deeper oily note. The palate is fresh with light acidity but opens into something with under-stated depth, showing nutty and oily character. The acidity lifts the finish to produce a wine that will cope with a variety of starter dishes. This is the second time I’ve found Portuguese Alvarinho outstripping expectations formed by their Galician sister-wines!
Ratings:        Quality:  15/20   Value:  15/20
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LAGAR DE BAIXO BAIRRADA DOC 2012 (Niepoort) – 12.5 % – Bottle Apostle – £22
Nose slow to open but showing fruit: cherry, red berries and prune – and quite an Italian balance. The palate has a slightly earthy introduction, a light tannin backbone and a long – very long – line of acidity taking the wine into mounting fruit-acid – red plums? cherry?. This fruity finish follows a spicy middle palate, which is the other way round to usual and rather satisfying. Very good!
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15/20

DOURO RESERVA DOC (QUINTA DE LA ROSA) 2013 – 14 % – Waitrose – £12
Mainly Touriga Nacional, this wine has a heavy nose with a dusty, herby impression. The palate is very dark: prunes, plum skins, currants… with a sweet element just glimpsed behind a dense, earthy, brooding, slightly porty, dark wine, later is becomes slightly softer and grainier. Probably needs 3 or 4 years to calm down its fierceness.
Ratings:        Quality:  14/20   Value:  15/20

TERRA D’ALTER ALFROCHEIRO 2014, Alentejo IGP – 14 % – Weavers – £12
This has a soft nose, with oak showing among bright bramble fruit, some leafy pungency fading slowly. The palate has slightly soft, “pastille” fruit – bramble and cherry, but rather simple and (dare I say it) a bit “New World”.
Ratings:        Quality:  13.5/20   Value:  14.5/20

MOUCHÃO 2010 Alentejo DOC – 14 % – Wine Society – £25
This is 70%+ Alicante Bouschet, a red fleshed grape, and the nose starts with pungent spice (fenugreek?) black berry fruits, and a hint of herbs. The palate has supple savoury tannins and controlled power, expressed in length as much as depth of flavour, opening to show a dark fruit and acid line that develops for ages. The power/savoury/dark fruit/length balance reminds me a little of good Pauillac – although with distinctive Portuguese flavours; and I think it’d improve for 2 or 3 years and stay at peak another 3. Very good!
Ratings:        Quality:  17/20   Value:  15/20

I found this a better-than-expected tasting. All wines showed their type well, and their scores pretty well reflected their cost – hence the value numbers are nearly all the same. The Alentejo wines, in particular, showed the contrast in the region so well: an international style from an indigenous grape (the Alfrocheiro is made by a flying winemaker, Peter Bright!) against a traditional style made with modern attention to detail. The latter knocked the spots off the former in my view and is well worth double the money!

Until soon!

When I looked through my archives I was surprised to find that the WING group had not had a dedicated tasting on the precise subject of Portuguese Wines for over 8 years! Of course, Portuguese wines have featured every now and then and we have focused on Port specifically (most recently in April 2015 – see posts of 2nd and 5th April 2015, below:). However it’s quite a while without a general look at the 10th= biggest wine producing country…

Portugal is a bit of an enigma, which isn’t surprising as most of the country was more-or-less feudal under the Salazar dictatorship that was only overthrown in 1974! Many very old indigenous styles and grapes persist – for good or ill – but the sudden growth, “European-isation”, and influx of investment has opened Portugal to development similar to that in a new world country. So it is with wine: Port is complemented by famous and sometimes great wines from Douro, Bairrada, Dao, Setebul…  and they are being supplemented by new world wine-making in Lisboa, Ribatejo and Alentejo. Sometimes this is sensitive development of indigenous grapes, sometimes a new world formula and sometimes a bit of both.

In addition Portugal seems to suffer more severely from a trend that to some extent besets all wine imported in the UK – we tend to get the cheap rubbish and the very top wines, but most of the interesting, good value, upper-middle-budget stuff… they keep at home… wise people. I have tried to use the upcoming Portugal tasting, in part, to look at this price/quality level.

Portugal nearly doubled production towards the end of the last century, overtaking  Greece, Hungary and Romania. It produces about 2½% – 3% of the world’s wine, vying with Germany and Russia for 10th, 11th and 12th  places in the wine-production league [different years see these countries in different orders, but they are all a way behind Chile in 9th and all produce double the output of Romania in 13th]. Port accounts for about 15% of the vines, and table wine is about 70% red.

Although the real jewel in Portugal’s crown is Port,  given that we have tasted these wines relatively recently we’ll concentrate on other wines in this tasting.

Historically I picture the Portugal Wine Regions a bit  like the map here – The 8 regions mentioned above together with  the great Island of Madeira, plus another offshore area – Açores (Azores); plus Trasosmontes; Tavora Varosa; Beira Interior and Algarve:

Rough mental image of Portuguese Wine?

Rough mental image of Portuguese Wine?

Vinho Verde is a wine area as well as the name of its most notorious product: the sharp, light, slightly spritzy white. Sometimes, and lately often called Minho, the area also grows the Alvarinho grape, famous as Alboriño just over the border in Galicia, with some success.

The Douro (Port) area, where big reds from the Port grape varieties are used. These especially feature Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) for table wines. As you might imagine from the Port connection, these are often tannic wines with the characteristic rich earthy note found in so much Portuguese wine. Often one can detect port-ish nuances too. Whites from higher altitudes are making an appearance too.

Dao: 40-80 kms to the South, with a similar, but slightly lighter style. Touriga Nacional is the best grape and Dao wines must include at least 20%. The pliant, sweet fruit and herby qualities of the Jaen grape (called Mencia in Galicia), and Pinot-ish character of Alfrocheiro soften the wines.

To the east of all this is the little seen Beira region.

Bairrada lying to the west, Atlantic, side of Dao. The area uses the Baga grape, which reminds me – at least – of Sangiovese. Unusually for Portugal, this grape is often vinified on its own, or with some Touriga Nacional. Pure examples show the sour cherry and fruitcake spectrum one is used to in Chianti, but again with that typical earthy twist.

Lisboa, (Riba)tejo and Setebul are near the City of Lisbon – lying to the North, East  and South respectively. Sub divided into smaller regions these areas produce more light gluggable styles and more white wine than the other areas (where red is usually over 70%).

Alentejo: a large area centred about 100km South East of Lisbon, extending East to the Spanish border. This is a hot, modern wine area often basing red wines on Aragonez (another synonym for Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira. This area behaves a bit like a new World area – with a hot climate and modern methods. Although Cabernet, Chardonnay and especially Syrah are creeping in, the old grapes – mercifully – are still in the majority.

More recently some of the areas have been slightly renamed and re-organised – here’s a more up-to-date and detailed map – showing sub-regions, wine types and/or main grapes for each region!

portugal-wine-map

Portuguese wine is dominated by indigenous grape varieties – someone actually counted 248 in production a few years ago. There is also quite a lot of regional specificity – grapes predominantly found only in one or two regions. There is no big national grape variety: Castelão is the most widely planted variety with 7½ % of vineyard area. Unless you count Tempranillo (known as Tinta Roriz in the North and Aragones in the South), which is equal* second most widely planted at 7%, the most common International variety is Cabernet Sauvignon (with about 1% of vines). There are so many grapes used and so much blending that perhaps place, Regionality, is more important than grapes.

*Fernão Pires a high-yielding aromatic white, has roughly equal vineyard area, but probably more wine

 

The proportions of production by each region in 2015 are shown in the graph below. DOC wine is the highest category (like AC in France). In this graph Port is included in the Douro figures…

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This graph tells us a lot – firstly the four areas at the top of the chart  do not contribute significantly to total production or (especially) in DOC production (<3%) . Even if you include the generally prolific regions of Lisboa and Tejo plus Beira the DOC figure only goes up to about 7%. However the high figures of IGP production in Lisboa and Alentejo show an interesting change in production – the growth of newer styles and untypical grapes that haven’t yet set quality standards – especially in Alentejo.

For this tasting we will skip Port as I’ve said, and I’ve tried to track down bottles at that rare – in the UK – upper-middle price/quality level. So we’ll sample: Madeira; a classy wine from Minho; a (rare in UK) high quality Bairrada; a Duoro and take a look at quality and modernity in  Alentejo wines…

Notes will appear in 4 or 5 days.

Until then….

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