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We are living in a world of stylistic convergence; where wine individuality is banished and flavours are designed to suit the current whims of consumers. This flavour-of-the-month approach translates into an avalanche of similar tasting critter wines from Australia. Thanks to multinational wine conglomerates, who can produce knock-offs virtually anywhere, wine me-too-ism is spreading everywhere.
Which brings me to this week's Vintages May 12th release thematic Portugal: Ancient Traditions, Modern Wines, which features 25 wines. This wonderful destination is one Europe's few remaining wine enclaves where indigenous grapes and styles translate into a refreshing change of pace. Take Vinho Verde (or green wine) from Portugal's most northerly vineyards. It's a perfect light bodied, low alcohol, faintly spritzy, pick-me-up for sultry summer weather. The just-released Quinta de Azevedo 2006 Vinho Verde (727115) at $11.95 hits the spot with its light, ripe, lemon-melon flavours.
The only other two whites in the release will appeal to the discerning palate. At $17.95, Esporao 2005 Vinho Branco Reserva (500033) helps dispel Portugal's cheap and cheerful image. This blend of Roupeiro, Arinto and Antão Vaz was partially fermented in new Aureal oak. Look for dry, well-structured, complex, ripe lemon-melon-pear flavours with hints of toast and cedar on the lingering finish. This first class white that will marry well with mom's roast chicken.
From the venerable house of Quinta da Aveleda comes the smooth, ripe, melon-pear flavoured Aveleda 2005 Follies (687616) at $18.95. This modern-day Bairrada blend of Chardonnay and indigenous Maria Gomes is just one of a number of wines in the brand new Follies range. It would be perfect with poultry, seafood and appetizers. I must mention that anyone visiting Oporto should not miss visiting the spectacular Aveleda gardens only 40 km to the north east of the city, for more information on the garden at Quinta da Aveleda click here.
While I was hoping that a tasty Vinho Verde rosé might finally make a LCBO debut, 2006 Cabriz Rosé (30445) at $12.95 is worth trying. This dry, crisp, plummy-melon flavoured blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro would be great for picnics and Sunday brunch.
Moving on to the reds, there are some excellent values. One best buy is 2005 Terras do Po (687020) at $14.95, which comes from Teras do Sado region south east of Lisbon. This 100% Castelao (aka Periquita) is versatile and quite delicious with ready-to-drink, slightly spicy, harmonious, plummy-cherry flavours. While listed in today's Vintages release Catalogue, you will have to wait for another two weeks before it actually hits the shelves on May 26th. It is very frustrating for all concerned when the Vintages Director of Sales/Purchasing doesn't have the courtesy of letting wine writers know about such changes.
Luckily, my other recommendations are available. I am a huge fan of the Baga grape, which is grown in the Bairrada region. It is a challenging grape - the Portuguese equivalent of Pinot Noir. When its good, it's very good and vice-versa. Thankfully, the extracty Marques de Marialva 2003 Baga Reserva (677781) at $14.95 is worth a detour. Dry, intense and well structured (14% alcohol), the somewhat rustic, baked ripe plum and cherry purée flavours would pair perfectly with bbq steak. It can be aged for another 8-12 months.
Another tasty effort is the gently juicy 2004 Quinta do Vallado (694992) at $17.95. This indigenous blend of Tinta Barroca, Roriz and Franca with Touriga Nacional and Sousao (all from the Douro Valley) has lots of ripe plum and mocha flavours with a touch of red licorice and dried apple on the finish
Also from the Douro comes my top scoring wine Quinta do Crasto 2004 Douro Reserva Old Vines (990572) at $29.95. Owner Miguel Roquette's full bodied red has an abundance of cedar tinged, rich, plum and cherry flavours. For more information on this premium wine operation click here.
For dessert, two tasty Ports await you. The plummy, sweet Quinta do Estanho 2000 LBV Port (687350) at $28.95 just edged out Quinta de la Rosa Finest Reserve Port (715540) at $22.95. What I really miss those reasonably priced, delicious, 10-year-old (and older), Malmsey and Bual from Henriques & Henriques that haven't been available at Vintages for much too long.
Those wanting to discover the best of Portugal should check out two top dining destinations on the north side of College Street between Ossington and Dovercourt. The classic culinary genius at Chiado (at #864 College) needs no introduction. One of my favourite dishes at the former is something called Assorda, which is a very dense, stew-like affair consisting of monk fish, lobster, clams, bread, coriander, garlic and extra virgin olive oil ($50 for two at lunch or $45 ). Meanwhile, just down the street at Cataplana (at #938 College) offers great dining value awaits you. At a recent dinner a visiting friend from California, "Pooch" Puzcilowski, pigged out on not one, but two very generous servings of delicious grilled sardines served with roasted peppers and onions at a modest $7.95 each for dinner. After sharing a terrific plate of grilled squid served with roasted peppers, in extra virgin olive oil, garlic and coriander (a bargain at $8.95), I feasted on Cataplana of pork and clams at $19.95.
May 17 - New Zealand Wine Fair
- 2007 Tasting Note Database
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