Bright Eyed And Bushy Tailed

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By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)

(GAIA, PORTUGAL) – The first visit to Manoel D Poças Júnior in Gaia. While writing about wine has its attractions the story about wine and its people is far more interesting. In this case I’ll get a bit personal and tell you a bit of my story as I arrived in the mid afternoon on a Saturday in Porto, Portugal. Stunned my hotel room was not ready I was rather compelled in a sleep deprived state to have a lunch of roast goat and potatoes (cabrito al forno) then a two hour nap.

Dinner with the GM of Hotel Teatro at 7 including tastings of white and red Ports, a cheese platter and dessert with 40 year old Tawny Port. In bed at 10 p.m. totally exhausted. A fitful sleep. Wandering the streets of Porto on late Sunday morning with lunch at the hotel of a gigantically freakish local sandwich called a Franchesino smothered with a beer saturated sauce then a 7 p.m. dinner at Postigo do Caravho with homemade desserts and more 40 year old Tawny Port.

A blazing hot shower at the hotel and a great sleep until 8:00 am where a wonderful buffet breakfast and a cup of my beloved jasmine tea has me ready to fly.

Then I take a close look at my itinerary prepared by the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto (IDVP). To the uninitiated it looks like some sort of fantasy but in reality it’s quasi-brutal. A jam packed 5 day pocasschedule augmented by several private tastings and dinners I organized on my own. I have another sip of jasmine tea and a chunk of goat cheese but as I am heading off to a 10 a.m. tasting brushing teeth is out of the question. What further sacrifices must I pay?

Absolutely brimming with energy and not really totally aware of the excitement and exhaustion that will accompany my visit our driver Antonio deposits us in a rather industrial setting of Manoel D Poças Júnior in Gaia, Portugal.

For many years Poças distilled brandy for use in Port production but in the 1960’s started making its own Port and then in early in the 90’s started producing table wines. Although they are headquartered in Gaia they have three Quintas in the Douro Valley with over 100 hectares under cultivation. Our contact Maria Manuel Maia informs us there is a move from actual Port and table wine production into the Douro Valley itself instead of the Douro Valley transporting wine to Gaia for blending purposes.

Poças produces some 1.7 million bottles of Port a year and 250,000 bottles of table wine. It’s rather refreshing to start our tour with a non-multinational owned giant. There is a tougher and slightly more gritty atmosphere here of a smaller producer trying to make a point which they prove with me as we motor through a bevy of table wines and Ports. Of the ten table wines and Ports sampled the lowest rating I give is an 86 to the Poças Reserve 2009 Douro red table wine which has boysenberry, raisin, chocolate and rhubarb on the palate. It’s purple coloured, well structured and has been ageing 12 months in oak.

The 2011 Vintage Port is still a baby but full of rich black fruit. Unlike many of the 2011 Vintage Ports tried during the trip it is clearly more of a classic Vintage Port in that it needs time to mature. It’s worth an 89. I like the Poças 2009 Vintage Port with its elegance, earthiness and a great long finish and reward it with 91 points. Now give these two Vintage Ports a decade in the bottle the scores just might hit the mid 90’s.

We go through some Colheitas, Tawnies and Late Bottle Vintage Ports all just simmering below the 90 point range. Poças may not be the biggest game in town but it certainly holds its own against the mega monster Port producers we will encounter further down the road.

A very annoying and unhelpful website can be found online.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he loves The Square. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."Email Robert Stephen
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