A little bit of Portugal comes to London
One of the best things about my job is that I have the luxury of taking time off to attend all the fantastic trade wine tasting events in London. Wines of …Austria, Italy, Tuscany, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, just to name a few of the events this past month.
I went to the Annual tasting of Portuguese wines sponsored by Viniportugal, week before last, at Lord’s Cricket Ground in north London. One of the very first events I blogged about was the annual tasting last year so it was with great anticipation that I traipsed up to St. John’s Wood. Viniportugal’s mission is to bring their delectable wines to the masses and they did a pretty good job of showcasing the best that Portugal has to offer.
Oh sure, there were the usual Ports and big reds but there were also plenty of new and exciting wines around. I wish that I’d had time to sample the Ports, there was some serious vintages laying around, 1969 Madeira, vintage Ports from the 80’s as well as 20 and 30 year old Tawneys but I resisted because I knew if I started on the ports, I’d be a goner by dinner.
I wandered around the hall with Rob from wineconversation.com. He was into trying all the whites so I went along with him. Some of the standouts were made from the Arinto varietal, a grape that is indigenous to Portugal and gives up wines that are fresh and crisp but with a nice heft to them and lovely green apple/citrus fruit flavours and aromas. Rob preferred the unoaked versions and so did I.
The Portuguese also experiment with non-native varietals and one such wine was a blend of arinto and chardonnay from the Quinta da Alorna Reserve white 2008. Only the chardonnay had been fermented in oak so as not to overpower the delicacy of the arinto. The result was a creamy, buttery mouthful, vanilla in da house but not takin’ over the mic, allowing the baked apple flavours and aromas to seep out along with a burst of fresh orange blossoms- get it if you can!
Of course no visit would be complete without a stop by the reds. Touriga nacional was well represented showcasing reds with plenty of body and acidity, great tannic structure and lovely balancing fruit. These are wines meant to be drunk with food. I stopped by the stand of Bacalhoa Winery, the winery has locations in the all Portugal’s main wine regions. I was especially taken by their dry red, the Palacio da Bacalhoa 2005, a bordeaux blend, a nose of blackberry and cassis followed by plenty of sweet spice, on swishing it around, I found more of the same along with gripping tannins and sweet ripe fruit. Excellent wine and well worth the £20 retail price.
The Portuguese seem determined to show that they are serious contenders in the wine world. I met some great people, including the fellows from Castas, a joint venture between an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Portugese chap. Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but these guys are determined to bring not only quality wines to the UK but to also export the sense of place and lifestyle that is Portugal. Following is a short interview with one of the partners, Remi Cognet.
All in all a great show. Next year I’m not doublebooking an event for the same day so I’ll be able to sample all those lovely tawneys and other such fortifieds.