Wines of Portugal -whites – London tasting

I’ve finally discovered Portuguese wines and what a find!! Forget all those outdated images of sickly sweet Mateus or thin and watery whites, the stuff coming out of Portugal now is the real deal.
Being in the trade and poorly paid, I’m always on the lookout for trade tastings. One of our biggest sellers at the moment is a Portuguese red, Quinta de Bons Ventos. It’s a light, easy going red. I thought, if this is the tip of the iceberg, I should get on down to Lord’s ¬†Cricket Ground and check’em out.
I think one of the hardest things about Portuguese wines is just learning to pronounce the names of the grapes. When the Portuguese say them, the words just roll off their tongues. When I try and say them it’s as if the sounds are in a mad, incomprehensible stampede to get out of my mouth. Forget about trying to learn French pronunciation, I need to practice my Portuguese.
On to the wines. There were so many but here are the ones that stood out for me.
The first wine we tried was an Alvarinho, Via Latina 2006. It’s from the Vinho Verde DOC. I had no idea that vinho verde was a DOC (obviously I didn’t pay much attention to Portugal when I was studying for the WSET Advanced), I thought it only meant young wine in Portuguese. This particular example was fresh and zippy with plenty of apple and peach on the nose and palater with a nice bit of citrus at the end. In fact, most of the whites were in this similar vein. One Alvarinho that was a bit different was made by producer, Quinta de Melgaco, Castrus de Melgaco, 2006. 100% Alvarinho but matured in oak for 2 months. “Two times used oak,” as the producer so helpfully informed us. The oak was not overpowering but gave a very subtle hint of spiciness on the nose, with vanilla and baked apple on the palate. A fab wine to drink on it’s own or maybe with a soft, creamy cheese.
Quintas de Melgaco had one other wine up their sleeve, a fortified white – not white port, mind you, more like a sherry. It was a bit difficult to get the right information since the producer didn’t speak much English. The wine is called Carcavelos and it was amazing. Similar to rich old oloroso but not. Deep amber in color with a honeyed, nutty nose and more of the same on the palate with a bit of bitter almond thrown in for good measure and just the right balance of sweetness and acidity. The finish was the longest, nuttiest finish that seemed to go on forever.
Everytime I thought the wine was done with me, another wave of fresh nuttiness would wash over my palate. Stunning. It retails for 100 euros at the cellar door so I didn’t even bother to ask for the price over here.
Another interesting white was a white from Beiras made from the varietal, Maria Gomes. What is it with those Iberians and naming their grapes after people. First Pedro Ximenez and now Maria. But anyway, Luis Pato made this particular, still wine and it was lovely. Grapey on the nose but dry with good acidity. It’s most outstanding feature was the grapeyness of it, reminded me of Moscat. There were also quite a few white blends on show but they tended to be a rather neutral lot, not quite Pinot Grigio but getting close (sorry P.G. but you do have that reputation and I don’t mean that in a positive light.) There were some good blends but nothing that really knocked my socks off. This was quite a show with a lot of producers so I’ll write about the reds next time. Til then….Den

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