Recently, the Advice Sisters have had the opportunity to review a number of different wines and wine regions. This has been particularly interesting for us, and we hope for our readers. While most people are familiar with traditional wine regions and wine grapes, we are often not as aware of some particularly interesting wines from less known regions.
At the end of April, the Wines Of Portugal, held an event in New York presenting a wide variety of wines from 46 producers from throughout that country. While most of us are familiar with Port wines, which is a sweet, fortified red wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern part of the country, Portugal is in fact home to about two-dozen different wine regions, which produce products from over 250 grape varietals. In fact, one producer, Ribafrexio, suggested to our reviewer that the country was actually home to over 1000 different varietals, although many were the same grape with different names.
The complexity of Portuguese viniculture makes it quite difficult to understand these wines based solely on their varietal but rather connoisseurs of wines from Portugal focus on producer and region. This is because the country, although relatively small, has a huge diversity of microclimates – from desert to alpine, and a number of different traditional styles.
Roquevale, a small producer that is still not generally imported into the United States, which produced a white wine from the Alentejo region, (Roquevale Reserva 2011) that could be considered a very traditional Portuguese white wine. Dry, fruity with good acid to make the wine very good for food, and a touch of citrus on the finish.
Toucas Alvarihno Vinho Verde 2012 is a Portuguese version of al Albarino, which is more commonly associated with Northern Spain. Since the north of Portugal shares a common climate with the north of Spain, one would expect to see this grape, and it is one of the mainstays of Portuguese white wines. We bound this particular version to be a bit on the sweet side, but this could just be our particular bottle since this same wine scored a 89 in Wine Spectator for its 2011 bottling.
Terra d’Alter Alentejo White, which at just $15 a bottle was a very reasonable example of a Portuguese white blend. The wine was a refreshing dry table white with a crisp dry finish and hints of citrus, a good substitute for a Pinot Grigio.
The Terra d’Alter Alentejo Red, also $15 a bottle, is also a fairly traditional blended red table wine with a purple color and plums and licorice on the palette. This wine was fairly smooth and not particularly tannic suggesting that it would be good to drink young.
A Californian opened Cortes de Cima, which produces some fine wines, at fairly high prices for Portugal, but its Incognito (2009 Alentejo Syrah) was spectacular, even at $55 per bottle. Our reviewer is not generally a fan of Rhone wines, nor of this particular grape, but the Incognito was smooth without the tannins that one generally gets from a Syrah, but with all of the body. One can easily see why Robert Parker gave this wine a score of 90.
The lower priced Cortes De Cima Petit Verdot (2009) is not yet available in the United States, but is another excellent varietal, this wine was more reflective of the tannic wine we would expect from the Syrah. This wine was also fairly acidic suggesting that it will age excellently.
We finished our evening with a number of Tawny Ports from Senhora do Coinvento. Port is about age, and the older the wine, generally the sweeter and more complex it is. As expected, the 40 year old Tawny from this producer was a spectacular finishing wine. All of this producers Tawny’s had flavors of dry fruits, wood and spices which come from being oxidized in oak barrels slowly get oxidized over a long period of time. As one went down in years, the wines became a bit less smooth, but all had the classic sweet tawny presentation.
The Wines of Portugal are an excellent place to spend some time. With the huge numbers of regions, producers, blends and grape varieties, Portugal is sure to provide a fine wine for any taste and for any event. You can learn more at : http://www.winesofportugal.info/
My thanks to John Dunham, The Advice Sisters’ wine enthusiast, for this report.