Portuguese Wine Pals

Header-image-StephenBy Robert K Stephen (CSW)

(TORONTO, ON) – Gorgeous aromas of lavender, honey, black currants, charcoal, and blackberries. Wowsers. What a charmer.

This purple coloured wine delivers complex layers of nuts, black cherry and liquorice in a tremendously long finish which fades beautifully. Despite its ostensible power, its tannins are terrifically compact, hidden in a blush of black liquorice. The honeyed notes make this wine unique.

It is a mid-weight wine and very disciplined.

Although a decent sipper, once again a foodie wine begging for some fall roasted pork and potatoes with boiled cabbage on the side.

Portuguese power in red wines. It makes me want to say Ontario really should stick with Cabernet Franc and don’t try for any more richness and finesse than that can deliver. (Montefino 2005 Vinho Regional Alentejano, Francisco B. Fino, Monte de Penha, Portugal, 750 mL, 14%, $17.95, LCBO #165159, Square Media Group Rating 92/100).

No wonder this is a charmer with the magic Alicante Bouschet at 25% Trincaderia at 25%, Aragones at 25%, and Touriga Nacional at 25%, aged in oak barrels for 12 months. Mention Alicante Bouschet in an Alentejano wine and I am like a pig drawn to truffles. Drink this within the next couple of years.

Back to the Douro, old dependable that it is.

This blend of 50% Touriga Franca, 30% Tinta Roriz, and 20% Touriga Nacional is light purple in colour. On the nose a few bells start ringing, with perhaps just too much coffee and not much fruit, or at least fruit that seems masked by the coffee. There is some black cherry and liquorice, but a smell of rawness of over extracted grapes.

A big load of blackberry on the palate. Medium weight tannins and that horror word in wines, jammy, of course which can, on occasion, be fun.

Most well crafted Douro reds are powerful but graceful, and full of dark fruit. Unfortunately this wine is a rag tag Douro bully, capable of some road rage as it barrels down the vineyard.

It’s roughness might suit a Chorizo sausage dish or tofu in a warm chilli and garlic sauce.

There is absolutely no benefit to ageing this. This is not a young wine sleeping but rather a bully bellowing. (Quinta do Roncão Reserva 2012, D.O.C. Douro, Maria Manuela M.S.F. Mendes, Regua, Portugal, 750 mL, 14%, $14.95, LCBO #147942, Square Media Group Rating 81/100).

I am hoping this Delaforce Touriga Nacional can bolster the Douro score from the previous wine. It’s producer, Real Companhia Velha, I have visited a couple of years ago. It’s a massive industrial complex producing over 350,000 cases of Douro table wine a year. My memories of my visit and tasting were that they produce quaffable but not memorable wines or Port.

However, this Touriga Nacional 2012 has travelled all the way to Canada from Opporto, so let’s give it a try.

In colour, the power-hyped purple Douro colour.

Very disciplined on the palate with perfectly picked fruit neither flabby or over brixxed. Loads of crisp and precise black cherry, creamy cassis, schist, and mocha. On the palate again, a bit of a creamy and smooth finish with that black cherry and any sort of sweet black fruit kicking in.

If you are really looking for tannins, not always a good idea for casual drinking, they are there, but if you are not looking for them they’ll leave you alone. Both a good sipper and good with solid fare particularly pork and cabbage with roast potatoes served in a Douro Valley kitchen.

Velha has exceeded my expectations this time and I am delighted. Bravo Douro.

Twelve months in oak casks. A nice medium finish punctured by lavender notes. At times slightly reminiscent of Petit Verdot. Drink by 2017. (Delaforce 2012 Touriga Nacional, D.O.C. Douro, Real Companhia, Villa Nova de Gaia, Portugal, 750 mL, 14%, $22.95, LCBO #324517, Square Media Group Rating 92/100)

These guys may produce an industrial volume of wine but they should be proud of this one.

Mondego Munda wineWe have two 92’s in this review, so the question is, can the streak continue with a Quinta do Mondego with a rather bold and uncharacteristic label, certainly not like Charles Smith’s labels for his Washington wines, but very bold for Portugal; black and silver with very large “QUINTA DO MONDEGO” on its front.

It’s dark purple in colour. Like the Delaforce above, it has a certain creaminess and smoothness to its nose. If such a dish exists it would be reminiscent of creamed cassis or pancakes with Port syrup. A very special dessert in the Douro hills. Blackberry and cassis abound in the deepest soul of this wine.

It has some heavy duty tannins if you go looking for them, by swishing and swirling. Good, solid, and well disciplined black fruits, but very tight and secretive.

The finish is blunt and serious.

You know, Portugal has converted many monasteries into luxury hotels in their Pousada system; unfortunately now privatized. Like many a Pousada property, there is a grand exterior to this wine on the nose but its palate is serious and, may I say, potentially magnificent, like so many Portuguese Pousadas.

Don’t bother touching this fellow for at least a couple of years. I think it will drink well from 2018-2020. (Quinta do Mondego 2009 D.O.C. Dao, Fontes de Cunha, Nelas, Portugal, 750 mL, 13.5%, LCBO #39766, Square Media Group Rating 93/100).

Portugal represents a tiny miniscule of wine imported into Canada. What a shame.

In terms of quality and consistency in the red wines we do see here in Canada, Portugal is more deserving of our attention, and I am not only talking about wine but also as a tourist destination.

From north to south geographically, from wine experience, from the ancient Roman ruins, from the tremendous food and hospitality and value, I am hooked on Portugal. I think of it as my second home.

Please do me a favour and try these wines.

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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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