24-04-2017

A smattering of Portuguese wines

All my British acquaintances seem to possess an uncanny ability to deride something in its entirety using one sentence or less. A former work colleague summed up Portugal as, “That shitty little scrap of land on the Atlantic?” (see John Oliver for more.) And this was the largely-held attitude towards the wines overall for some time with the exceptions of Port, Madeira, and maybe Vinho Verde.

As the reinvention-as-a-modern-wine-region story has been pressed out for the last 10 years now, Portugal was indeed rather uninteresting in terms of its dry, still wines for some time, but then people started turning an eye to quality and now of course, “they’re a great value for the money”. It’s a narrative that Spain can’t seem to escape, so while it may draw initial attention, good luck ever breaching the 15€ a bottle mark if just making clean wine at reasonable prices is your main selling point.

Despite Portugal being a hop to the other side of the Iberian Peninsula for me, I’ve not visited it (this will be rectified in June) and I rarely get to taste its wines. Of course when everyone starts talking up the wines, it intrigues me to no end and last year there was a local tasting led by some fellow who has been selling them in Spain for years. The selection was decent and while I personally wasn’t blown away, I still wanted to see what else was out there.

The editor-in-chief behind this sack of word bits, Èlia, was in Porto last July and brought back a selection of wines that we tried in order to see what could be found when one is actually in Portugal. It was an incredibly irregular group. There was one that was exceedingly good which was a white and did indeed fall into that “excellent value” category but then there were reds that were just not interesting or even flawed. One wine from the region of Dão I’ve not even listed here as it was just squalid.

As Èlia found, it was quite hard to actually find decent shops to buy the wines and you were often stuck with a supermarket selection or then going to one of the very few wine bars and getting a wine that the owners were personally bringing there from the cellar. It’s quite clear that while they’ve made great strides recently, there’s still a lot of work to do for Portuguese wines.

Casa Azeredo – Alquimista (Douro) 2014
Slightly greenish in hue, fresh white peach, cantaloupe, crisp, medium plus acidity, nicely balanced, slight saline tang to it like Fino, crisp bitter melon in the finish. Quite a brilliant wine.

65% Viosinho, 20% Gouveio (Godello), 15% Others 13.5% 8€
** Q

António Canto Moniz – Vinha Paz (Dão) 2014
Red and dark fruit, notes of mature cherries and light plum, lightly herbal. Quite high acidity, alcohol not terribly integrated nor the oak. Touch brash and rustic.

Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz, Jaen 13%
*

Julia Kemper Elpenor – Red (Dão) 2011
Initially reduced. Plum, red cherry, a bit hot and spicy in the nose, dark spices, black pepper, touch of tar. Bit flat in the body, not a great deal of tannins and a short finish with lingering alcohol notes.

*

Vadio – Bairrada 2012
Medium ruby with medium ruby crest. Plum, stewed strawberry, limestone, dark cherry, black pepper, forest floor, light cedar, spicy Kirsch. Medium tannins, medium plus acidity, alcohol a bit aggressive despite being medium. Spicy, bit of a kick although on the decline.

100% Baga 13% 15€
**- Q