A Mile Of Oak Barrels


By Robert K. Stephen (CSW)

(GAIA, PORTUGAL) – After a mammoth lunch at the Bolsa in Porto with our friends from Cálem, we hop in our Mercedes van and Antonio takes us across the Douro River from Porto to Gaia to a massive industrial complex with gigantic tanks everywhere. We are at the Royal Oporto Lodge in Gaia which is but a part of the Real Companhia Velha corporate empire.

Reality or delightful fantasy sets in when we are shown the storage area with thousands of casks of Port. There are barrels of Port here from 1867! The size of this facility is beyond all comprehension for Canadians. We are admitted to a special cellar under lock and key coated with cobwebs where the oldest bottles of Port are from 1756 which is the year the company was founded. In addition to all this Port, Real Companhia Velha is the largest producer of Douro table wines producing over some 350,000 cases annually.

Their wines are very well represented at the LCBO and SAQ. We proceed to an industrial looking wing where we mount the stairs, walk along a long hallway and end up in a laboratory. We focus on wines that are available at the LCBO/SAQ . The wines tried are certainly drinkable but none top the exceptional level of a 90 plus rating and this is the first time this has happened on my trip. Things are not quite right. The spew into my bucket is off. I’m dribbling wine down my chin and the lack of napkins made available does not help. My goodness there are spots of wine on the table under my chin and on my tasting sheet! Am I falling to pieces?

No, I trust my taste buds. These wines are simply average and rather industrial like the laboratory they are served in. The Porca de Murça Tinto 2012 is a raw red with a bit of rhubarb and boysenberry as aromatics and sour cherry and liquorice on the palate. I am all puckered up and full of rawness in the mouth. Although I give it an 83 I am surprised this is the top selling export Douro wine and #2 in popularity in Portugal (LCBO #615244 by consignment).Also at 83 is the raw and tannic Delaforce Tinto 2011 which desperately tries to claw over its terrible rawness with aromatics of raging plum, lavender and black currants (LCBO #332585, $12.95).

There is one Port at the 84 rating , Royal Opporto 10 Year Tawny (SAQ #733790) while all the other wines and Ports are in the 86-87 point range. All said and done acceptable but not brilliant.

The two top scoring wines, one of which is the Porca de Murça Reserva Tinto 2001 which I rate an 87. It has forceful aromatics of black currants, blackberry and pomegranates with wonderful aromatics of big rich black ripe fruit (LCBO #684753 $17.95 and SAQ #902338 $19.75).

Interestingly I reviewed the 2008 previously.

Again we go to the Douro with a Porca de Murça 2008 accompanied by the usual black cherry concentrate on the nose of this almost black wine. Mocha, chocolate, rhubarb and blackberry as well in the powerful nose. The wine is so lush it almost smells creamy. On the palate a high toned almost sweet and sour blackberry with a minute touch of bitterness on the finish and a wallop of black liquorice. Hopefully you don’t pick the bitterness up. This would suit some very rich Portuguese octopus stew served in a battered up pot as you might find at Gilberto’s in Lagos in the Algarve. A bit homey for many tourists and packed with locals! Some of the best seafood you will ever have. ( Porca de Murça Reserva Tinto, DOC Douro, Real Companhia Velha, Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, 13.5%, 750 mL, $16.95, LCBO 684753, The Square Rating 86 /100). I’d say decant this for an hour and the bitterness may just fade into the background.

The Delaforce Alvarinho 2012 also deserves an 87 with great aromatics of banana, mango, vanilla, marzipan and gunpowder. With its golden colour it has great minerality, freshness and acidity (LCBO # 567817, $19.95).

We hop onto the Mercedes Van and leave the complex, so different than the bucolic Quintas we have been visiting. It’s a bit of a wait leaving. The barriers and intercoms are in stark contrast to the countryside we have just come from.

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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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