By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)
(PINHÃO, PORTUGAL) – A Tasting with Vicente Leite de Faria in the Hills of the Douro Valley – While in Porto and in the Douro Valley in Portugal we have been guests of independent producers and subsidiaries of mega multi-nationals. Although the corporate structures may differ the hospitality never waivers. For a change of pace we are headed to meet a virtual winemaker!
After a chilling boat cruise on the Douro River in the single digits we are transported to a well known bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Pinhão in the Douro Valley of Portugal. The bed and breakfast, Casa do Visconde de Chanceleiros is very upscale with
pool, sauna, billiard room and beautiful grounds. I am delighted to be in the warmth and smell a wonderful lunch being prepared. In November the Douro is quiet which perhaps all the more compelling reason to visit it is.
I am also very curious to meet Vicente, a virtual winemaker meaning he makes his wine in leased/borrowed premises avoiding the overhead and costs of a permanent facility. Vicente is no small fry as he produces approximately 800,000 bottles a year 99.9% of which is exported. Ontario, Quebec, Belgium, China and Switzerland are his main markets. His marketing demands easy and clean labels recognizable by consumers.
We taste the wines in a light and airy dining room overlooking the Douro hills and the few table wines we try are of good quality and being of moderate price are good buys in the Canadian marketplace.
The Gloria Alvarinho 2012 is 100% Alvarinho and is a regional wine of the Minho and not the Douro. It has basic aromatics of apple, pear and quince and on the palate apple, pear and grapefruit. A great accompaniment to simply prepared chicken, pork or fish. I score it an 86. It retails for $15.95 in Ontario.
The Gloria Riserva 2009 is a Douro wine made with Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz all vinified separately. It has aromatics of plum, mocha, black currant, coffee and tobacco. On the palate a mid tannic wine full of black fruit. Although the finish is medium it is hauntingly infused with a lingering chocolate covered cherry. I score it an 87.It sells for $15.95 in Ontario.
In between wines I ask Vicente about screw top wines replacing cork in Portugal. Given that Portugal is a major cork producer I would think a move to Stelvin screw tops would be a disastrous blow to the reputation of cork and to the Portuguese economy. Vicente remarks that he has given no thought to screw tops.
We try an Animus Douro 2011 from the Douro. It’s made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz with gasp, some oak chips being used. It has some smoke, plum, tar and sour cherry on the palate. It’s a bit brackish, tart and tannic on the palate. I score it an 85 somewhat shivering at the thought of oak chips being used.
Now let’s give these wines a whirl with lunch which starts with virgin olive oil and fresh bread for dipping. The olive oil is nutty and pure the olives are dark black and awfully tasty.
The Alvarinho matched the grilled prawns in a simple olive oil, garlic and parsley sauce, a delightful match. The roast pork and potatoes with sautéed cabbage is matched by the Gloria Riserva perfectly but the Animus Douro sputters and is defeated by the cabbage.
A Tawny Port is served with a chocolate torte with a plum reduction and orange zest sauce. Not tolerating chocolate I have a couple of Algarvian oranges instead and watch the happy chocolate eaters.
We meet our driver Antonio and head back to Porto up and around and through the hills of the Douro our stomachs sloshing and careening about. It was a rather nice break to relax with only a few wines to try and the promise of a hot shower in a warm hotel room in Porto. Although the Quintas we visited were glorious heating was far from comfortable and a shower in the morning was rather invigorating with the damp cool air! My first task is to unpack and have a wonderful shower at Hotel Teatro.
Details as to Vicente’s wines are available online.