Last Friday, Julia Harding MW’s 50 Great Portuguese Wines 2012 were unveiled.
An exciting facet of this annual selection is that it is subjectively framed. It’s not about purporting to identify the 50 “top” or “best” Portuguese wines. Rather, the only criteria is that the person selecting them reckons the wines are “great,” which allows them to set their own terms of reference.
For Harding, with the “honourable exceptions” of Tinta Roriz and Alicante Bouschet, she focused exclusively on Portugal’s treasure trove of native grape varieties. Her aim? To showcase “wines that could come from nowhere else but Portugal. Wines that expressed through these indigenous varieties the land, the climate and the people.” It made for a scintillating selection – a celebration of (my word) ‘Portugueseness.’
I was equally thrilled to see that Harding included 18 white wines (19 if you include the first sparkling wine ever to make the cut). In 2010, one of the goals of my own 50 Great selection was to mirror the quantum leap in quality of Portugal’s white wines with a quantum leap in the number of white wines chosen (14 in my case). As Harding has demonstrated, the category goes from strength to strength.
I think the same is true of the character and quality of mid-priced wines. Retail prices were not provided for all the wines, but I reckon Harding’s 50 Great included markedly fewer big hitters than in previous selections (the first dating back to 2005). All in all, it was an extremely strong line up – diverse and eminently digestible – my favourite so far.
Click here for my notes on those wines which particularly floated my boat. As for my totally tip top favourites, of the white wines, Quinta da Pellada Primus 2009 and Quinta de Saes Reserva Encruzado 2010, both made by Alvaro Castro, hit their mark (and why is this genius without a UK importer – snap him up someone!), as did the thoroughly intriguing Dominó Monte das Pratas Branco 2010. Among the reds, I was utterly entranced by Douro reds Niepoort Robustus 2007 and Poeira 2009. And for the fortifieds, I was delighted to become reacquainted with Casa Agrícola Horácio Simões Excellent Moscatel Roxo NV (pictured).