Tom Cannavan’s 50 Great Portuguese wines selection – the seventh such selection – was unveiled on the 6th June at 11am, in London at the Portuguese Ambassador’s Residence in Belgrave Square.
Of his selection wine-pages’ founder Cannavan said “From the crisp and mineral white wines of the verdant north, to the sultry reds of the Mediterranean south, Portugal’s long, thin strip of coast and country can produce the whole gamut of wine styles. Combine that with a stock-pot of indigenous old vines and a wine industry that is rushing to improve those whilst exploring new – and sometimes surprising – directions, and Portugal’s relevance and fascination for the wine lover is assured.”
Sure enough, the selection reflected Portugal’s key strengths - the diversity and individuality of its wines. Below you’ll find my picks of the bunch (and all 50 listed here).
Julia Kemper Reserva White 2009 (Dão) – I discovered Kemper’s wines in March and the white wine was looking every bit as delicious on Monday with a herbal/flinty riff to its honeyed, fruity and lingering nose and palate – loved Tom’s “fat lemon fruit” description! (See here for my report on this producer and watch out for her new Touriga Nacional of which I tasted a barrel sample at London Wine Fair).
Quinta do Feital Alvarinho Dorado Superior 2009 (Vinho Verde) – though Alvarinho has proved a runaway success at tastings thanks to its beautiful fruit, Marcial Dorado’s use of natural yeasts, lees and low levels of sulphur in this unfiltered wine puts the fruit on the backfoot, making for considered drinking and taking it beyond the classic shellfish match into more substantial, meatier fare. A touch plumper than the 2008 vintage (see here), with a buttery quality to the palate, but great intensity and underlying minerality.
Filipa Pato Nossa White 2009 (Beiras) – since I tasted it last year (see here), this single vineyard 100% Bical white has really hit its straps and showed beautifully – it’s become a very fine swan indeed with Burgundian weight and balance.
Fita Preta Palpite 2008 (Alentejo) - I’d shortlisted the 2007 vintage for my 50 Great Portuguese wines last year so great to see Palpite 2008 make the cut this year! And another Portuguese white which invoked the B word (Burgundian) yesterday. This poised blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Verdelho shows an impressive weight of fruit but, less honeyed/tropical than many leading Alentejo whites, it’s more restrained. Well groomed by oak, it also shows impressive structure and line.
Esporao Private Selection White 2009 (Alentejo) – no surprises that Aussie winemaker David Baverstock is a dab hand with Semillon, the lead variety in this blend with local grapes Arinto and Antao Vaz. It’s deep yellow gold with lashings of lemon curd and toast. More South Australian than Hunter Valley. Naughty but nice and a silver medal winner in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards.
Valle Pradinhos White 2009 (Trás-os-Montes) – this unusual blend of Riesling (90%), Gewurztraminer and Malvasia Fina from a vineyard at 600m was new to me and put me in mind of an Edelzwicker from Alsace. From 20 year old vines and made with a short period of skin contact it’s dry but shows good palate presence with its spicy, textured layers of bruised apple, green tomato, ginger and rose petal. A great food wine. Very good.
Quinta Dona Maria Reserva Red 2006 (Alentejo) - this refined blend of 50% Alicante Bouschet, Petit Verdot and Syrah shows plush, velvety layers of spicy fruitcake and plum pudding . As supple and sensual as kid gloves.
Fundação Engénio de Almeida Pera Manca Red 2007 (Alentejo) – a beautifully structured, lifted red with wonderful backbone and line. Terrific purity to its lifted briar and red and black berry fruits. This first vintage at the new winery (see here) couldn’t better endorse the benefits of its extensive cool rooms, selection tables and gravity transfers. Fundação Engénio de Almeida is rocking!
Terrenus Reserva Red 2007 (Alentejo) - when I wrote up this wine in November 2009 I observed “it remains tight over lunch, so this is most definitely one to come back to and I’d like to come back to it and see how it evolves.” 18 months later it’s still tight, sinewy – all about the structure – but it’s tannins have fleshed out a bit, looking chocolatey. With it’s herbal hints this imposing red from Alentejo’s northermost, highest and coolest sub-region bears a closer resemblance to Bairrada’s Baga blends. I’d be very happy to have it in my cellar – positively bristles with potential.
Mouchão 2006 (Alentejo) – very Mouchão, floral, deep yet soft, long and rolling with dried fig, round plum and damson fruit, spice and leather hints. Lovely balance.
Luís Pato BTT Red 2009 (Beiras) – this new blend of Baga, Tinta Cao & Touriga Nacional comes from a year Pato describes as “the vintage from my life.” Though initially a little reduced on the nose, in the mouth it’s tight but bright with lifted incense spice notes to its animated red fruits. The impression of levity is reinforced by its fine tannins. Pretty and serious.
Quinta das Bageiras Garrafeira Red 2001 (Bairrada) – from one of my favourite winemakers, Mario Sergio Alves Nuno, this is a compelling Baga which enfolds you in its long, luxuriant spice-licked layers of black berry, cherry and currant fruit. The finish is youthful and intense with pine needle/coltsfoot and saline notes. Fabulous.
Quinta dos Roques Touriga Nacional 2008 (Dão) – a little reduced on the nose and still quite tight knit in the mouth, but this is a lovely, elegant Touriga with fresh red cherry and berry fruit, pine needle notes and ripe but present slightly chocolatey tannins. Still much more to give but looking great.
Dão Sul Cabriz Reserva Red 2008 (Dão) – tight and bright, with dark but lissome black currant and berry fruits and a long, focused, sinewy finish. Very good.
Poeira 2008 (Douro) – well, I wrote this up very recently in my report of a visit to the vineyard with Jorge Moreira (here) and, put simply, I’d have eaten my (virtual) hat if it didn’t make the cut! Fine, fresh and perfumed with elegant length and line – a shimmering, seamless beauty.
Niepoort Batuta 2008 (Douro) – for Batuta, this is marvellously approachable, retaining the fabulous fluidity it showed last October at the New Douro tasting, not to mention its cool minerality. But make no mistake, it’s a keeper!
Quinta do Portal Touriga Nacional 2009 (Douro) - looking much prettier – more perfumed/floral – than last month when I wrote it up (see here), with good freshness, length and focus. Early days but lots of potential.
Quinta do Noval 2008 (Douro) – a schistous, mineral nose leads onto a well structured palate with ample oak seemingly easily absorbed by its wealth of blackcurrant and black berry fruit. A balanced powerhouse with impressive purity.
Quinta do Vale Meão 2008 (Douro) – a spicy toasty nose and palate with melt-in-the-mouth tannins and impressive freshness to its long finish.
Dão Sul Quinta de Tecedeiras Reserva Red 2008 (Douro) – a slick Douro red with glossy black but succulent black cherry and berry fruits, gingerbread spice and fine tannins. Good animation and length. Smart, modern wine.
Quinta do Ameal Special Harvest 2007 (Minho) – I’d not have guessed this hailed from Vinho Verde such is its intensity of sweet (tarte) tatin-ed appley fruit, but it’s lingering, long and intense.
Horácio dos Reis Simões Moscatel de Setúbal Superior 10 Anos (Península de Setúbal) – Portuguese fortified Moscatels performed brilliantly at this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, bagging two trophies (see here). I’d not previously tasted Horácio dos Reis Simões’ wines and what a treat! What a finale! A little funkier than I’ve previously encountered with more texture and savoury layers (coltsfoot/fennel spice) to balance Moscatel de Setúbal’s classic moreish sweet caramel notes and floral, orange blossom lift. Droolsome.
The Wine Detective
(Wines tasted 6 June 2011)