Portugal, Port & Madeira

Tasting #3 of 3 this week. Portuguese wines, port and madeira. Mmm.

Initially, Bill said that he thought that Portuguese wines are one of the best value for money. We pressed him, and he finally went out on a limb and said, yes, Portuguese wines are the best value for money.

Looking back at this line up of wines we had though, I wasn’t particularly excited about any one bottle until we came to the ports and the madeira. Yes, the Portuguese wines are crazy cheap, and for the price, really awesome. But it’s hard to imagine an occasion to open up a bottle. These are dry robust reds meant to accompany food. If we do cook at home (which we strive to regularly, but realistically manage to twice a week), we’d prefer a nicer bottle as a reward/incentive. If we do go to a friend’s for a meal, we would bring a more expensive bottle. The only time we’d open a bottle is if we had friends over for dinner, and we might open the wine after we’d had our fill of the nicer wines.

2011 VERA Alvarinho Vinho Verde Moncao e Melgaco $16
Alvarinho = Albarino. Green apple, lemons. At $16, it’s supposedly twice the price of the other albarinos from the area.

2004 Azamor Alentejo Tinto $15 (NA)
Blend of syrah 30%, merlot 22%, touriga nacional 6%, alicante bouschet 14%, touriga franca 10%, trincadeira 8%
Slight brownish tinge; some spice (I got a fleeting hint of Christmas spiced wine). Very drying.

2009 Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita Setubal $15
Female winemaker with the unusual name of Jose… also unusual too is her height, reportedly 6’8!
Nice perfume of pine. Tons of tannins. Nice for the money. Setubal has supposedly the best muscadel for the money.

2010 A.Semedo Bairrada Tinto $16
Wines here can be classified “barrida” only if they use 50% baga grape. In this case, it was a blend of 50% baga, 50% touriga nacional.
Some metal in the wine, more lush the others though. Jeff liked this one

2003 Adriano de Ramos Pinto Douro Tinto $15 (NA)
Bill said the area reminded him of the Game of Thrones. In the summer, the weather was hot and dry like the lands Daenerys trekked through; in the winter, it was bitterly cold, like north of Winterfell, by the Wall. The Douro wines are much less fruity, more dark and broody than the earlier wines we had.

We thought the wine was a little oxidized – somewhat dried out.

2007 Jose Maria da Fonseca Douro Tinto “Domini” $15
Almost sweet nose, but not in the mouth. Ketchup? No sweeping finishes.

2008 Quinta do Portal Douro Tinto Reserva “Mural” $12
One star. This was a blend of tinta de roriz 40%, touriga franca 40%, touriga nacional 20%. Fairly aromatic nose. Lynda said it reminded her of a tempranillo (which makes sense, since it’s 40% tinta de roriz, another nickname for tempranillo). Longer finish, with notes of black pepper

2009 Quonta do Passaduoro Douro Tino $30
One star. Now this clearly distinguished itself head and shoulders from the rest. It’s so much silkier, smoother, complex. I don’t know if it’s worth $30 (we’d have to compare it with other $30 wines), but I definitely like it best of the lot so far. Aged in 80% French oak – which gave the wine a hint of vanilla characteristics.

2010 Symington Family Douro Tinto “Altano” $10
I thought it was a comedown from the Quonta, but everyone else enjoyed this one for the price. Someone said it had a nose of “burnt leaves”; someone else said “graham crackers”, notes that might have come from aging in oak.

2008 Quinta de la Rosa Porto Late Bottled Vintage $30
Mmmmmm. One star for sure. Spicy, gorgeous nose. So, we learnt that there are really only two kinds of port: port of the glass (never seen wood; only 3% of all ports are made these way, and these are the vintage ports), and port of the wood. This late bottled vintage is a “port of the wood”. It sat in oak barrels for 2 years before being bottled in 2008.

Quinta do Novel Tawny Port 10 Year Old $30
One star! I love tawny ports. Gorgeous nose of chestnuts. Jeff said it reminded him of a sherry.

Bonus: Sandeman 20-year-old Tawny Port $50
Two stars! Bill had wanted to save this for some special occasion, but on the spur of the moment, he dug it out of the cellar and opened it for us to enjoy. So delicious. Beautiful sunset color. Tasted of burnt orange peel. Amazing!

Blandy’s Madeira Malmsy Aged Five Years $25
We ended the evening with madeira, to go along with a Mexican chocolate cake that Robert had so thoughtfully baked and shared with us. Delicious!

Here’s an article Jeff dug up later about the differences between fortified wines like Sherry, Port, and Madeira. Quite instructive.

Well, that’s it for the moment – our tastings with Bill. It’ll be nice to get a little break from the intellectual drinking and a chance to dip into our own cellar again and enjoy the drink without having to spit. 🙂


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