Tasting Events

A Portuguese Posse

As you might have read on this blog I am a big fan of Portuguese wines, both white and red.  They are often made using indigenous grapes which aren’t known well (if at all) outside the country so are interesting, taste good, and are nearly always great value for money.

The first Saturday in April was a washout, but thankfully the day was made a little brighter by Sweeney’s of Glasnevin who opened some Portuguese wine for tasting.  Here are my brief notes:

Portuga Branco VR Lisboa 2014 ( 12.0%, €12)

Portuga Large

A blend of Arinto, Vital and Fernão Pires from around Lisbon.  Light and refreshing, quite simple and straightforward, but nothing wrong with that. Citrus notes with a crisp finish. Did you notice the low abv of 9.5%?  I didn’t when tasting it [update: because Google got it wrong on this occasion ]!

Quinta do Cardo Branco 2011 €14.50

Quinta do Cardo Large

This white is a blend of Siria (which I’d never heard of before) and Arinto (which is far more common).  The grapes are “ecologically grown” (which I suppose might mean organic) in vineyards at 700 metres elevation.

Compared to the Portuga above it has a more sophisticated nose, with orange in particular showing through.  The palate is less expressive, however.  This might be due to its age – most whites like this are consumed young.  Some inexpensive wines do develop further after their initial fruit has faded – like this ten year old Chilean Gewurz – but there is only trial and error to find out!

Lab VR Lisboa Tinto 2014 (13.0%, €12)

Lab Large

And now on to the reds.  This cheap and cheerful number is a blend of Castelão (35%), Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo, 25%), Syrah (25%) and Touriga Nacional (15%).  After fermentation it is aged in new Portuguese oak for 4 months.

A quick taste and details of the blend are forgotten.  It’s soft and fruity, a very approachable wine. Lots of cherry and other red fruits, but fresh, not confected nor sour. Immensely gluggable!

Segredos de São Miguel VR Alentejano 2015 (13.5%, €12 or 2 for €22)

Segredos de São Miguel Large

This time the blend is Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (aka Tempranillo, again), Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira.  It’s made in the Alentejo region but is a Vinho Regional (VR) rather than a DOC, and the back label suggests it’s a fun rather than serious wine.

On tasting I’d have to agree that it’s fun, but although nice it is very young indeed (only six months old?)  It shows promise but needs to relax and come out of its shell – perhaps in time for the annual week of Dublin sunshine?

Vale da Mata VR Lisboa Tinto 2010 (13.0%, €20)

Vale Da Mata Large

Although only a VR, the back label does state that this is from the Sub-Região Alta Estremadura.  Estremadura is the historical name for the province around Lisbon and in fact was the previous name of the VR Lisboa, so perhaps this is an indicator of quality.

After the Lab and the Segredos de São Miguel this is a bit more serious.  It has darker fruit and a touch of tannin (steak here we come!).  On its own it was good, but not great – I think it definitely needs food to shine.

Herdade de Rocim VR Alentejano Tinto 2010 (14.0%, €19)

Herdade de Rocim Large

We almost have a full house of varieties here: Aragonez, Alicante Bouchet, Syrah, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira.  As you might expect it is full of dark fruit, particularly blackberries and plums.  Note the vintage – 2010 – it’s already showing some development, with violets and pencil shavings on the nose.

Among the higher priced reds on show this was definitely my favourite.  Given the flavour profile and structure it reminded me of an Haut Médoc from a ripe vintage (such as 2010 in fact).  Interestingly (and reassuringly), when I last took notes on (the same vintage of) this wine nearly two years ago I recommended it to Claret lovers.  This wine and I are on the same page!

Herdade de Sobroso DOC Alentejo Tinto 2013 (14.0%, €22)

Herdade do Sobroso Large

The back label for this wine states that it is made from the “noble” varieties of the Alentejo, later revealing them to be Aragonez (30%), Trincadeira (30%), Alicante Bouschet (20%) and Alfrocheiro (20%).  This last grape was another one new to me, apparently favoured for the deep colour it brings to blends, and amusingly also known as Tinta Bastardinha.

“Barrique Select” on the front lets you know it has been aged in oak – and a wine geek like me would presume 225 litre French oak barrels, though the back reveals this to be only partly true; the wine was indeed matured in French oak barrels for 12 months, with the forest (Alier) even specified, but in 500 rather than 225 litre barrels.  If this seems like splitting hairs, perhaps it is, but the larger sized barrels add a certain roundness as much as oakiness.

I liked this wine, but I think it suffered from being after the Herdade de Rocim which had more intense flavours.  I’d like to give this wine another try in a big wine glass after a few hours in a decanter – I suspect it would really open up.

Advertisements
Information, Opinion

This Summer’s BBQ Wines #7 and #8 Quinta da Alorna

Quinta da Alorna Tasting Evening at Fade St Social
Quinta da Alorna Tasting Evening at Fade St Social

A few weeks ago I was the guest of thetaste.ie at Fade St Social where Colly Murray from RetroVino was showcasing the wines from Quinta da Alorna.  Representing Alorna was André Almeida, a true gentleman, who explained some of the philosophy behind each wine.  The talented chefs at Fade St Social prepared a dish to match each wine.  You can read a great report from the evening on the blog of my friend Laura.

I was very impressed with the wines overall, and will give a more in-depth report on the estate in the coming weeks.  What did strike me was that the wines were very good value, and were versatile enough to be enjoyed on their own or with food.  In other words, they would be great for a barbecue!  Here are the “entry level” white and red:

Quinta da Alorna Branco Vinho Regional Tejo 2013 (RetroVino: Fade St Social, Brasserie Sixty 6, Rustic Stone, Taste at Rustic)

Quinta da Alorna Branco 2013
Quinta da Alorna Branco Vinho Regional Tejo 2013

This white is a blend of two indigenous Portuguese grapes:

Arinto is known for its high acidity and citrus aromas and flavours.  It’s also grown extensively in Bucelas (so much so that it is sometimes known as Arinto de Bucelas) and in Vinho Verde, where it is often blended with Alvarinho and Loureiro.

Arinto grapes
Arinto grapes (www.winemakingtalk.com)

Fernão Pires has a more spicy aromatic character, often with exotic fruity notes.  As well as Tejo it is also grown in Bairrada, sometimes under the pseudonym Maria Gomes.

The two grapes are pressed and vinified separately at low temperature (12ºC) in stainless steel tanks to preserve freshness.  The two varieties are then blended, cold stabilised and clarified before bottling.

What this gives is a wine which can pair well with lots of different dishes, as different aromas and flavours from the wine are highlighted by the food.  Seafood is well complemented by the lemon and lime of the Arinto and its cutting acidity.  Asian and more expressive dishes are well matched by the exotic fruit of the Fernão Pires.  Chili and lime marinated prawns on the barbecue would be perfection!

Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012 (RetroVino: Fade St Social, Brasserie Sixty 6, Rustic Stone, Taste at Rustic)

Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012
Cardal Tinto Vinho Regional Tejo 2012

Not to be outdone, this red is a blend of three indigenous Portuguese grapes: Touriga Nacional (30%), Castelão (35%), Trincadeira (35%)

Touriga Nacional is of course most famous in Port, and now “light” Douro wines, though it’s not the most widely planted grape in the Douro region.  Often floral.

Touriga Nacional grapes
Touriga Nacional grapes (www.winemakingtalk.com)

Castelão’s name is derived from the Portuguese term for parakeet.  It is high in tannin so is often a component in a blend rather than a varietal.

Trincadeira is another Port grape, also known as Tinta Amarela.  It produces dark full-bodied and rich wines, with aromas of black fruit, herbs and flowers.

Production methods were fairly similar to the Branco above, with the exception that fermentation took place at 23ºC to help extract colour, flavour and tannin.

This wine is another great example where a blend can be more than the sum of its parts. The tannins are soft and gentle, there are wonderful floral aromas on the nose, and lovely plum and berry on the palate.  Just perfect for barbecued beef, or a juicy steak from one of Dylan McGrath’s restaurants!

This Summer’s BBQ Wines:

#1 – Bellow’s Rock Coastal Region Shiraz 2013

#2 – Château Michel Cazevieille Origine 1922 AC Saint Chinian 2012

#3 – and #4! Domaine de Maubet IGP Côtes de Gascogne 2014 & Venturer Côtes de Gascogne 2014

#5 – Byron Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir 2012

#6 – Lot #01 Mendoza Malbec Cabernet 2013

#7 and #8 – Quinta da Alorna

#9 – Langlois-Château Crémant de Loire Brut NV

Tasting Events

Five of the best Reds from Sweeney’s Wine Fair

I’ve already picked out five whites from the Sweeney’s Wine Fair that really impressed me, so now it’s turn for my selection of reds.  But first a brief introduction of the people behind the name:

Finian Sweeney, proprietor
Finian Sweeney, proprietor, after winning another award
Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)
Kevin (R) about to host the Wines of the Year Award & glamourous guest Tara (L)
Lynda (with a "y") enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney's Learn About Wine Course
Lynda (with a “y”) enjoying dessert at a food & wine matching meal, the last night of the Sweeney’s Learn About Wine Course

Apparently, for those who like that sort of thing, Sweeney’s also have a great range of artisan cheese from Sheridan’s cheesemonger.

So now for the reds:

5 Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012 (Liberty Wines, €15.95, 2 for €28.00)

Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012
Vigneti Del Salento I Muri IGT Puglia 2012

Grape: Negroamaro

A favourite with Sweeney’s staff and customers alike for a few years, I Muri hails from the heel of Italy – the beautiful region of Puglia. The most important local grape is Negroamaro, literally translated as “black and bitter”, and while this wine is listed as a 100% varietal Negroamaro it shows no bitterness. It does have black – blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with a savoury edge but a polished finish.

4 Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010 (Grace Campbell Wines, €19.00)

Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010
Herdade de Rocim “Rocim” VR Alentejano 2010

Grapes: Aragonez / Alicante Bouchet / Others

Aragonez is the Portuguese name for the grape known as Tempranillo in Spain (well, in Rioja at least).  Alicante Bouchet is a teinturier, the term for a (very rare) type of grape with red flesh, so both the skin and flesh give colour to a wine.

Do you remember the scene in the film Ratatouille where restaurant critic Anton Ego tastes the eponymous dish and is instantly transported to his childhood?  Tasting Herdade de Rocim gave me exactly the same sensation, except I was magically transported to a summer barbecue, drinking wine.  I think it’s a sign.

3 Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006 (Findlater WSG, €28.00)

Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006
Marchese Antinori “Marchese” Riserva DOCG Chianti Classico 2006

Grape: Sangiovese

Check out the vintage!  The current release is 2011, so it’s quite rare to see older vintages on the shelves, even in a good independent wine merchants, but this is entirely deliberate; Finian bought several cases of this when it was released and has kept it in bond to be released when ready.  And boy, is it ready!

It has all the hallmarks of good Chianti Classico – liquorice, tobacco, acidity, tannin, black cherry – but the extra years maturing have seen them knit into a smooth, harmonious whole.  I think it’s now closer in style to its big brother Badia a Passignano, which still remains the smoothest Chianti I’ve experienced.

Hearsay at the Wine Fair suggested I might be in the minority liking this bottle (it’s not the first time and certainly won’t be the last time I’m in a minority); reflection has led me to believe that some people who are used to drinking young Chianti prefer, or at least expect, the components mentioned above to stand out individually.  If that is more to your taste then I suggest trying the 2011 Marchese, reviewed here.

2 Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero 2011 (Findlater WSG, €20.00, 2 for €34.00)

Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero
Torres “Celeste” Crianza DOCa Ribera del Duero

Grape: Tempranillo

While also in the north of Spain and often using the same grapes as Rioja, Ribera del Duero isn’t a clone of its more famous counterpart. For a long time only the renowned Vega Sicilia made wines drunk elsewhere in Spain, never mind exported. Now the region’s reputation is on the up, with national heavyweights such as Torres joining the ranks of local producers.

Tempranillo here is usually known as Tinto Fino, and often has support from Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. However, even on its own it can show darker fruit than in Rioja.

Celeste has a nice name and a pretty bottle, but the contents surpass both of them. Bright red and black fruit are offset by creamy vanilla from the oak. It has wild strawberries rather than the poly-tunnel farmed ones that cheap Rioja can have, with blackberry and cherry riding shotgun. It’s a serious wine, yet it’s a fun wine.

1 Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon 2012 (Distinctive Drinks, €16.00)

Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon
Domaine Treloar “Le Ciel Vide” AC Cotes de Roussillon

Grapes: Syrah (45%) / Grenache (40%) / Mourvèdre (15%)

This wine is a rockstar – it stood out as the best wine of any colour from the whole tasting as it was just so interesting and funky.  Lots of fresh berry fruit is accompanied by smoke, earthiness and just a hint of farmyard.

Looking into the story of the Domaine is fascinating – it deserves a full post all to itself. The name of the wine is a direct translation of “Empty Sky”, a Bruce Springsteen song, which evoke memories of 9/11 for the owners who were working just one block away when the planes hit.

The blend of this wine has changed every year depending on the grapes available locally and how each variety fared in a particular harvest:

Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine
Le Ciel Vide blend by year, measured in litres of bottled wine

I love the complete honesty of co-owner Jonathan Hesford when discussing the first two vintages of this wine (2008 and 2009):

I’m not sure how these wines will age. They have the potential to develop even more fragrant aromas but don’t have the tannin structure of my other red wines.

His honesty is as refreshing as his wines!

Tasting Events

Alan Tay Jo at Sweeney’s

Sweeney’s in Glasnevin (Dublin) have just started listing several new Portuguese wines brought into Ireland by importer Kevin O’Hara.  Kevin was in the shop today showing the wines which were all from the Alentejo, hence the post title *cough* Alan Tay Jo which is a rough approximation of the pronunciation.  It is the largest wine producing region of Portugal and occupies pretty much all the southern half of the country except for the Algarve.

Just as in other European countries there are appellation laws, so some bottles here have the DOC Alentejo  mark, equivalent to AOC in France.  For producers wishing to use more foreign grapes not permitted by DOC laws (e.g. Syrah) there are the more forgiving regulations of Vinho Regional Alentejano .  I can understand why Portugal would like to preserve its heritage and not have it swept away by a Tsunami of Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, but equally having international grapes in the blend does serve as an introduction to Portuguese wines for those intimidated by the unknown.

Officially, these are two different quality levels, but the reality is that one particular VR might actually be superior to a DOC – the producer isfar more important.  You may notice that, very handily for producers, the 2 labels look quite similar – something that Italian Super Tuscan and French Vin de Pays producers might well envy.

With the major disclaimer that I was tasting with a head cold, here are three of my favourites from today:

 Pato Frio DOC Alentejo 2012

Pato Frio 2012
Pato Frio 2012

This is the new house white of Michelin-starred L’Ecrivain in Dublin, chosen by their Sommèliere Martina Delaney.  One of my favourite “everyday” whites Provia Regia has been the house white for the last nine years so it comes with high expectations.

Made with 100% indigenous grape Antão Vaz, this is crisp and refreshing with zingy citrus.  It would be delightfully fresh on its own (a great aperitif) or with seafood in particular.

Herdade do Sobroso Sobro Tinto Vinho Regional Alentejano 2011

Sobro Tinto 2011
Herdade de Sobroso Sobro Tinto 2011

Made in the cork-producing heartland of Sobroso, this is a blend of Aragonez (Tempranillo in Rioja), the red-fleshed Alicante Bouschet (from the Languedoc in France), Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

And it’s a beast!  But in a good way!   Full bodied with dark black fruit, chocolate and spice, this would stand up to barbecued meat or be a lovely winter warmer.  It had three months in American barriques to soften out the edges.  Great value.

Herdado de Rocim Vinho Regional Alentejano 2010

Herdade do Rocim 2010
Herdade do Rocim 2010

This was an altogether more serious wine, smooth and voluptuous in the mouth.  Again it is a blend of Portuguese and international grapes – Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet.

This is gentler and more refined than the Sobro with subtle crunchy tannins balancing the red and black fruit.  Claret fans should definitely give this a try – far more wine for the money than is usual from Bordeaux.