Borges A Sleeping Wine Giant?

The Douro is in northern Portugal and has achieved its fame, at least initially, through the production of Port wines. The Brits developed a mania for Port, who have now been replaced by the French as the biggest consumers of Port.

In Canada its Quebeckers who are the biggest consumers of Port. Strangely, the production of Port has been dominated by foreign interests, primarily Scottish and English, from a historical perspective. Now it seems its moving toward some ambivalent multinational conglomerate where wine is simply a component of its portfolio.

Considering Port’s quality, I think it’s not long before prices rise and Port is considered a luxury good.

As far as the Borges Winery is concerned, it was founded in 1884 by brothers António and Francisco Borges who, aside from wine, had interests in banking, currency exchange, lottery, tobacco, matches, and of course wine.

In 1904 they purchased the jewel in the crown; the Quinta Soalheira.

Borges wines are now distributed in 50 countries on five continents. Borges owns three estates in the Douro, Dão, and Vinho Verde regions, as well as three vilification centres in each one of these regions. It would appear, without doing a through corporate search, that Borges is now in the hands of the Vieira family, hence not held by some anonymous EU insurance company or hedge fund.

In addition to its table wines, it has an enormous Port portfolio as well. It produces some six million bottles each year. Obviously no mom and pop producer.

Now, of course, the question is for me is, can such a geographically diverse producer present us consumers with something more than anonymous bulk wine in pretty bottles?

The Borges Quinta da Soalheira is from the Douro region of Portugal. Dark garnet in colour. Delightful aromas of black cherry, mint, dark chocolate, plum, raspberry, and blueberry tart. Are we sampling some Australian fruit bomb? Some California jam jar wine?

No, we aren’t, because it all is rather restrained on the palate. Excellent balance of tannins and acids. So structurally terribly sound and well made.

On the palate, what could be overpowering jam pot sweetness is reigned back into a slightly sour cherry and tart black plum. There are bits of charcoal, lavender, and chocolate.

Don’t be eager to judge this wine, as with a bit of decanting and patience its qualities sneak up on you. A fact I am beginning to learn with Douro wines.

After 15 minutes of aeration, it is transforming into a very good wine from an average wine. In fact, sweet red cherry and light wood smoke muscle into the picture on the nose. Its finish is serious, but I am guessing give it an hour and it might be purring like a sweet serine Greek Goddess.

As a wine reviewer I am almost embarrassed to witness such consistent quality from Douro Red table wines. Hopefully my embarrassment translates into a very happy consumer. In any case, let’s see how this rates. (Quinta da Soalheira, Douro Tinto 2013, Douro DOC, produced and bottled for Vinhos Borges, Gondomar, Portugal, 750 mL, 12.5%, $15, private order from agent only, Square Media Group Rating 90/100)

Produced by predominately indigenous grapes, except for Tinta Roriz, the wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta-Roriz, Tinta-Barroca, Touriga Franca, Tinto-Cão, and Sousã. A Homie Portuguese wine man.

If there ever was a rapper for red wine in Portugal this wine is a true Little Wayne.

By the way “Soalheira” in Portuguese means “sunny”. However, the wines are grown at altitudes of 250m to 650m, which means there is some escape from the relentless summer heat of the Douro.

Now the white Quinta da Soalheira Douro 2014 is pale gold in colour with a strong nose of pineapple, baked custard, lemon meringue pie, and pear jam. A fair degree of acidity on the palate, but not enough to unbalance the wine.

On the palate, crisp apple, quince, banana, and pear. The delightful aromas just can’t be equalled by the palate.

This is a typical Douro white. I’d restrict it to a sipper for a hot day or pair with grilled Atlantic Ocean whitefish, such as grilled sardines. A utilitarian as opposed to an iconic wine. Or, in other words, a typical Douro white. (Quinta Da Soalheira Douro Branco 2014, Douro, DOC produced and bottled for Vinhos Borges, Gondomar, Portugal, 750 mL, 13.5%, $15, private order from agent only, Square Media Group Rating 88/100)

Now we are headed into the below $10 range where, in Portugal, it will net you a very good wine, but in Canada?

The Pérola Tinto is below that $10 range, which may be to your advantage if your consumers are perhaps not terribly sophisticated or your fare is basic grilled burgers on a hot summer day and you chill the wine a tad.

Garnet in colour with an aroma of black cherry, raspberry, and chocolate covered cherries. Perfectly balanced on the palate, but rather lacking a definitive description. Some black cherry and strawberry, but only a fleeting reference.

On its own a rather unimpressive, but not flawed, wine. Drinkable, particularly for a crowd with beef or lamb burgers or, perhaps, pulled pork, but a memorable wine? I don’t think so.

Remember the mobs rule. (Pérola, Vinho Regional Duriense Tinto 2013, produced and bottled for Vinhos Borges, Gondomar, Portugal, 750 mL, 12.5%, $8.50, private order from agent only, Square Media Group Rating 85/100)

Let’s not forget the Pérola white. Light gold in colour. Aromas of pear, apple, and parsnips. There is a bit of pineapple too.

Simplistic on the palate, but yet again lacking the characteristic acidity of most Douro whites. Gentle apple and pear on the palate with a short finish. Well balanced, but too simplistic in a world of competitive wines.

I’d categorize this as a hot mid-day sipper. It seems a bit weak to stand up to most foods, although it might suit a grilled cheese sandwich. (Pérola, Vinho Regional Duriense Branco 2014, produced and bottled for Vinhos Borges, Gondomar, Portugal, 750 mL, $8.50, private order from agent only, Square Media Group Rating 85/100)

Just below the $10 range, can cheap be cheerful? Let’s try the Lello red.

Black cherry coloured there is blackberry, cherry, and raspberry, with a touch of lavender on the palate. The fruit on the nose continues through to the palate. Very well balanced with a short finish.

Once again, this wine is not made for fine dining, but at its price point it is definitely a good value wine which can handle a crowd at a BBQ. Preferably pair with beef, and stuffed Portobello mushrooms for the vegetarian crowd.

The wine needs to breathe, so if you don’t have a decanter open at least an hour prior to serving. (Lello Douro Tinto 2013, Douro DOC, produced and bottled for Vinhos Borges, Gondomar, Portugal, 750 mL, 13%, $9.95, private order from agent only, Square Media Group Rating 87/100)

The Lello White is also from the Douro and is pale gold in colour with aromas of pear, apple, peach, lime, and a hint of marzipan. On the palate, very simplistic, but some custard and lemon meringue pie.

The finish is subtle and surprisingly long and smooth.

Douro whites usually have a bit more bite where acidity is concerned, but this one is surprisingly smooth. No flaws in this wine or in any of the Borges wines for that matter. This is a good sipper and, instead of the usual fish I am more inclined to recommend with a Douro white, I’d say it would go well with just about all matter of chicken and pork.

At $9.95 an ideal party wine due to a lack of any strong identifiable qualities. I would think it would go well with a Sunday brunch. (Lello Douro White DOC, Produced and Bottled for Vinhos Borges, Gondomar, Portugal, 750 mL, 12%, $9.95, Private order from agent only, Square Media Group Rating 89/100)

The last bottle we try is a Borges Porto White Port.

It has a mid-golden colour. No doubt aromas of peach, apricot, burnt vanilla, and mango. It has about exactly the same result on the palate. Medium finish and perfectly balanced.

Pairs particularly well with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, although ordinarily I’d say this is a classic pre-dinner drink, particularly if a heavier meal is expected.

It’s a nice lead in to a main course of substance, whereas Champagne can been seen as a palate cleanser for a multi-course meal. May I suggest a starter for roast pork or chicken, particularly if you follow the Euro tradition and finish off the meal with a salad.

Alternatively, great with ice, tonic water, and a twist of lime.

White Port is a bit simpler in categorization than red Port. Sure, I have had knockout 40 year-old white Ports, but at $13.95 I’m not arguing with this basic white Port. It does the job. (Borges Porto, White Port, Vinho Do Porto, produced and bottled for Vinhos Borges, Gondomar, Portugal, 750 mL, 19%, $13.95, private order from agent only, Square Media Group Rating 87/100)

Made from Malvasia-Fina, Gouveio, Rabigato, and Viosinho grapes. Oh la la so Portuguese.

Now I had mentioned all these wines are private order from their Canadian agent. If you are interested in any of these wines contact Amandio Martins at 8777 568 6777 or by email.

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About the Author

Robert Stephen (CSW)
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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