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€
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€
Ancestral Wine Cellar - Khikhvi 2014 95
First harvest of Khikhvi. Light apricot notes, peach skin, lemon peel. Citric in the mouth, fresh, lively acidity, vibrant. Very holistic, full and deliciously good.
100% Khikhvi · 12% · 30GEL
Petriaant Marani - Khikhvi 2015 94
Bruised red apple, touch of lemon peel, limestone minerality, and some white pepper notes at the back of it. High acidity and full in the mouth. Luscious, involving, elegant wine.
100% Khikhvi · 14% · 25GEL
Domaine of the Bee - Cuvée 2015 93
Ruby with minor garnet rim. Rich red fruits with an underpinning of ripe plum, orange peel, licorice, cocoa. Broad, round tannins with a touch of toast and sweet cocoa in a long finish. Manages to stay very light on the palate despite the higher alcohol.
50% Grenache 50% Carignan · 15% · 25EUR
Tchotiashvili - Khikhvi 2014 93
Apricot, yellow peach, orange peel, and a touch of honey. Quite complex aromatically. Orchard fruit much more prevalent in the mouth with young apricot notes. Rich and elegant, touch of astringency in the finish.
100% Khikhvi · 13.1% · 28GEL
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Blanc 2016 93
Lemon and white peach, strong kick of salinity, and toasted notes. Very fleshy and full on the palate, peach notes more prominent as well as Meyer lemon, medium plus acidity and a lengthy finish.
100% Grenache Gris · 14.5% · 20EUR
AA Badenhorst - Secateurs Red Blend 2012 93
Forest bramble with ripe red fruit, touches of cherry, ripe red plum, tiny bit of prune, cumin, anise, black licorice, wet cement mineral note, underlying fig jam. Crisp medium plus acidity, medium tannins, medium plus length, medium alcohol, overall medium plus body that’s ripe and lively but super fresh and balanced at the same time. Bit of rugged wildness to it but doesn’t get out of hand. Easy to drink but with just enough underlying complexity so that it stays interesting.
56% Syrah 27% Cinsaut 6% Grenache 4% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% "Others" · 13.5% · 12EUR
Domaine Treloar - Motus 2015 93
Dark ruby, minor rim. Big, mighty bouquet of red cherry and other brambly forest fruit, vanilla, almond blossom, orange peel, and cocoa. Rich and full on the palate with a wealth of tannins still integrating, leading into a crunchy, lingering finish.
80% Mourvèdre 10% Syrah 10% Grenache · 14% · 14EUR
Clos Henri - Petit Clos Pinot Noir 2016 92
Earthy, red cherries, young, crisp cranberry, light herbal notes, leafy, minor chalk. Medium tannins and medium plus acidity as well as length. Light sweetness on the palate but with a very pleasant, lingering structure and lightness to it.
100% Pinot Noir · 13.5% · 16.50EUR
Domaine Augustin - Adéodat Rouge 2015 92
Medium ruby. Fresh red cherry, raspberry, and young strawberry, lifted and breathy, saline tinge along with light stoniness and rosemary and garrigue. Fresh red fruit on the palate, medium acidity but still light on the palate, fresh, and while the alcohol sticks out a little, holds and excellent, long finish.
Grenache Carignan Mourvèdre · 14.5% · 20EUR
Domaine Fontanel - Prieuré 2014 92
Dense ruby with brick flecks. Crisp red fruits, lifted by a waft of volatility making for a light nose with a spicy licorice and leather component. Crisp and lively with red cherry fruit in the mouth and a nudge over medium acidity. Nice, lingering finish.
50% Syrah 25% Grenache 25% Mourvèdre · 14.5%