Richmond Wine Society gathered over two nights to sample the delights of Portugese wines that are off the generally beaten track.
Our focus was on regions that are less well known, and because it was Portugal, a bunch of grape varieties that don’t turn up in most tastings.
We started with a sparkling Alvarinho from the Minho in the far north. Vinho Verde country, but a pure varietal, made in the traditional method (ie second fermentation in the bottle, like Champagne). Most people enjoyed the pretty peachy fruit and hint of biscuits, though at £24/bottle it was definitely in treat category.
Our two whites were a Reserva from the Beira Interior (east of Dão) which has really interesting herbal and mineral notes (I don’t think anyone had tried a blend of Fonte Cal and Síria before) and would have been a knock-out with some freshly grilled fish, and a DOC Bairrada from Luis Pato (who we visited in 2007 on our Portugese tour). The second was a more gastronomic wine, with a creamy flavour, no-one was sure whether it was the Bical grape or the chestnut barrels it had spent time in that added its distinctiveness!
The rosé was from the Alentejo, pale pink, as is the fashion, but bursting with flavour (which I often find is not the case with pale pinks). Roll on summer!
Three reds gave us some great contrasts. From Tras-Os-Montes, a rugged region to the north of the Douro Valley, the Saroto Tinto was a field blend of both red and white Portugese varieties, it had lovely freshness, and just 12.5% alcohol – a complete change from the blockbuster Douro reds we have become familiar with. The Duckman Baga, from Joao, the daughter of Luis, was a blend of 85% Baga (the key grape of the Bairrada region) and Touriga Nacional, but because it was a blend of four vintages, it could only be classified as Vinho. This was a lovely expression of the Baga grape with cherry fruit and a piney freshness (and just 12% alcohol!). Our final red was from the Alentejo, from Quinta do Mouro, a highly reputed estate. A more Parkeresque wine – 14% alcohol but beautifully balanced with Cabernet Sauvignon adding a bit of familiarity to the otherwise Iberian grapes. This one came with a price tag – though £42/bottle for a wine of this quality (and a 2017 vintage with nice evolution) was actually very good value.
We finished each evening with a fortified wine. On the first night a 7 year old Carcavelos from the Lisboa region, which had spend those 7 years in oak barrels, made from white grape varieties but every bit as warming, nutty and raisiny as the 10 year old Tawny Port enjoyed on the second night.
On both evenings I think there was very broad agreement that the range of styles and quality of Portugese wines mean we should be drinking more of them!
Details of vintages and pricing are on the Wines we have tasted page.