Portuguese reds with AuZone

The most important event during the past autumn affecting Swedish-Portuguese relations was the football match in November (that’s “soccer” for those of you on the other side of the pond), where the 2-3 result meant that Sweden didn’t make it to the World Cup. However, there have also been other events, and events where both sides could actually come out as winners, and where the risk of sprained ankles or broken bones were minimal. I’m talking of a tasting our wine tasting club of Portuguese red wines. Due to somewhat few participants, the lineup was reduced to five wines.

Summing up, the tasting mostly confirmed the opinion I already had of Portuguese red wines, although I couldn’t claim that I’ve tasted any enormous quantities of them:

  • There are many good and solid wines, that perform well in relation to their price.
  • There are less common to find wines that are truly top class when tasted by my palate. It’s therefore not that surprising that this turned out to be a “89 point tasting”. Possibly, this means that Portuguese reds in the middle or upper middle price range, from reliable producers, may be the best buys for those that don’t have a special interest in Portuguese wines.
  • There are many wines with elegant and polished tannins, but it’s also fairly common to find wines that are somewhat rustic in style, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for those who like to put, say, meat stew on the table. For those that have French references that wines are often somewhat Rhône-like, on average perhaps more southern Rhône than northern Rhône. Comparing to the other side of the Iberian peninsula, I often get the impression that the Portuguese wines are less polished than modern Spanish wines.
  • The style can vary quite a lot, some wines are quite tannic and others are rather polished and adapted to be consumed young. It’s questionable if those that drink well young really have much to gain from cellaring.
  • For those of us who have most of our varietal references in French, “international” and possibly Italian grapes, it usually fruitless to try to identify the varietal character of the wines. It may not even be meaningful, because many of the better wines are blends, often field blends of old vines. If I should mention something that I’ve after all noticed, it would be that that wines with a lot of Tinta Roriz (= Tempranillo) tends to be more elegant, while those with a lot of Touriga Nacional tends to be more tough and tannic.
  • Dão is a region I would like to explore more, because the few wines from there that I have tasted have often been on the elegant side, which I appreciate.

I think we should give Portugal a “hats off” for keeping mostly to their traditional set of grape varieties, also when they have modernised their wine style. In my humble opinion, the world definitely doesn’t need more hot climate grown Merlot or Chardonnay (but could possibly have use of some Syrah of that kind). It is also important to point out that many producers are still experimenting with varieties and styles, and that different regions are in different phases regarding this. The wine style and quality in Portugal is still under development, and therefore it is worth to check in on the wines now and then to see if anything new has happened.

Picture borrowed from AuZine.

These were the wines:

2000 José de Sousa Mayor, from José Maria da Fonseca
Alentejo. Composition today: 58% Grand Noir, 22% Trincadeira, 20% Aragonez, and 11 months in new French oak.

Medium red, paler edge. Noticeably developed nose with barnyard aromas, leather, ripe berries, stony and slatey notes, some notes oxidation and dill. Has a nose like a classical Rioja, but of a somewhat rough character. Palate with red tart berries, some spice, medium(-) tannins. 86 p?

2 best and 3 worst votes (including my worst vote).

This wine gave me a feeling of a “sneaky cork taint” (a mild cork defect hovering at the detection limit), but it can possibly be the style that include notes that I perceive as “unclean”. Considering that it is the producer’s best wine, I would have expected it to perform better. Our host claimed that this wine had shown a consistent style over a number of bottles. The most old-fashioned wine in the lineup, but also the oldest, so it’s difficult to tell if this is due to winemaking or aging.

2004 Quinta Vale D. Maria
Douro. Today: vineyards with old vines (average 60 years) and mixed varieties including Tinta Amarela, Rufete, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Francisca, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Sousão etcetera. 75% new oak, and 25% barrels that have seen one year of previous use. 14,5% alcohol.

Medium to deep red, rather compact colour, slightly lighter edge. Nose with ripe, slightly sweet and rather dark berries, slate or similar stony notes with an impression of powdered stone, just a hint of flowery aromas, some dung heap notes, barnyard and other animal notes. Palate with powerful concentration, tart dark berries including blackberries and dark cherries, some sweetness of fruit, rather well embedded medium(+) tannins, aftertaste with berries and spice. Somewhat young but approachable now, a bit Rhône-like and rustic. 89 p.

1 best and 1 worst votes.

2006 Cedro do Noval, from Quinta do Noval
Douro. Composition today: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, and Syrah.

Deep red colour. Nose with ripe and sweet red berries and some dark berries, pronounced animal notes with meat juices and barnyard aromas, slate notes with with an impression of powdered stone, liquorice, and some dung heap. Palate with good concentration, tart dark berries, just a little sweetness of fruit, tar, medium+ tannins that are toned down by the berries, and a hint of bitterness. Slightly young, but would work now with rustic food, difficult to guess how it will develop. 88 p.

Neither best nor worst votes.

More animal notes in the nose than the 2004 Quinta Vale D. Maria, and more rustic on the palate.

2006 Quinta de Saes Tinto Reserva Estágio Prolongado, from Alvaro Castro
Dão. Today: 65% old vines (that at least include Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Aragonez), and 35% Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz, 14 months in French oak.

Deep red colour. Nose with ripe and sweet rather dark berries and some raspberries, slatey notes, some liquorice and flowery notes with some violets, and some dung heap aromas. Palate with powerful concentration, tart dark berries and some red berries, well integrated medium(+) tannins. Rather young, but should probably be consumed in that state, 90 p.

3 best votes (including wine) and 1 worst vote.

In the nose rather similar to the 2004 Quinta Vale D. Maria, but appears younger. Shows the most flowery nose of the lineup.

2009 Charme, from Niepoort
Douro. Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and other varieties, on average 70 year old vines, including some more than 100 year old, 14 months in French oak.

Deep red colour. Nose with ripe dark berries, spice, some tar, rather well integrated and well handled oak, discrete flowery notes, some brown butter and caramel. Quite concentrated palate, tart dark and red berries, the butter notes make a comeback, medium(+) tannins. Rather young, gained some from time in the glass, could probably develop, 89(+) p.

1 best and 2 worst votes.

Honestly, this wine definitely underperformed compared to what I had expected, when its identity was revealed. (It was the most expensive wine of the lineup.) The wines of Niepoort usually impress, and this is one of his three more expensive reds, and that of the three produced in a more elegant and “Burgundian” style. (Batuta is supposed to be more Bordeaux-styled, and that’s probably true also for the reintroduced Robustus.) With notes of caramel and brown butter, I can’t really consider this a Burgundian wine, no matter how the fruit or tannins come across. Can this be due to a too hot vintage? I’ve never encountered a bottle variation that introduces this type of notes into a wine, so I assume this is how it actually is. Wine Anorak has written a profile of Niepoort and his red wines, and my earlier encounters with Niepoort wines have been more in Wine Anorak’s direction, although I may not be quite so generous with my scores.

As a continuation at home a few days later, I opened an extra wine that belonged to the same there. It was a previous vintage of a wine – Poeira – where I had tasted the 2009 vintage in a tasting a few weeks earlier.

2005 Poeira, from Quinta do Poeira
Douro. Today: grape varieties Tinta Roriz (more known under its Spanish name – Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, and Tinta Barroca, 16 months in French oak, of which 1/3 new oak.

Deep red colour. Nose with cherries, raspberries and some liqueur of red berries, slightly flowery, and just a hint of barnyard aromas hinting at development. Medium bodied+, palate with cherries, red currants and strawberries, shows a character of rather ripe berries but stil a rather tart character with good acidity throughout; some spice, velvety medium tannins that are well integrated into the fruit. The aftertaste is rather long and fresh and dominated by tart berries. Fully approachable, but should be able to take much more cellaring, 90 p.

A very modern-style wine, but in a positive sense: good concentration and focus on fruit, accessibility and velvety tannins, but without excessive oak or too much alcohol. Simply balanced and elegant. In line with the 2009 that I tasted and scored 90 p, both in terms of quality and style.

Swedish version here.

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