(TORONTO, ON) – I am glad to have hopped on the Portuguese wine train early, before prices start to rise when Portugal is finally recognized for being a powerhouse in red wine production. However, as prices for tourism and wine remain reasonable, if not cheap in Portugal, they will come.
They will be impressed.
I was last in Portugal in mid September and continued to be impressed with both the power and finesse of Douro wines. But, there is more to Portuguese reds than those from the Douro. And when wine drinkers realize it, it’s off to the races.
Why not start with the Douro Frontaria from Portal. I keep hearing of new wineries popping up in the Douro, or ones that are finally getting distributed in Ontario.
The 2014 Frontaria is dark ruby coloured, full of gorgeous notes of lavender, black cherry, blackberry, licorice, and notes of the Douro Valley in the fall. Namely a slight smokiness as the wineries burn their piles of pruned vines.
Slippery Jim tannins that sneak up, but are solid rather than overpowering. Solid mouthfeel but, all said and done, a smooth yet assertive wine.
Some sour cherry and blueberry on the palate mixed with blueberry pie. I am tempted to stop here and say this wine is both juicy and elegant. I’d say this will slowly improve to a peak in 2022.
I can’t say this would pair well with beef, but with roast cabrita (goat) or octopus stew. Wow. And the price.
(Quinta do Portal Frontaria 2014, Quinta do Portal, Porto, Portugal, 750 mL, 13%, $14.95, LCBO #324533, Square Media Group Rating 92/100)
Just south of the Douro we have the Beira appellation. Ruby coloured with aromatics of smoke, oak, blueberries, rhubarb, Cohiba cigars, and raspberry Jello.
This is light on the palate with not much intrigue. Delicate and feeble notes of raspberry and black currant. This seems somewhat dilute to be taken as a serious wine. Perhaps best suited to a Sunday brunch where light and happy rules. Hard to take as a serious wine.
The sticker on the label indicates this is a Wine Enthusiast Best Buy. I have trouble with that logic.
I’d suggest decanting this for a half hour as the aromatics pick up wood, despite stainless steel only fermentation, and the palate picks up more structure and fruit. But, it just can’t seem to pick up points on the palate.
Drink now. Good with pizza or simple pasta sauce. Might match well with your Super Bowl Chile, provided your recipe has some brown sugar in it to neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes. Not enough acidity though for salsa. 10% Mencia and 90 % Tempranillo.
(Beyra Vinhos de Altitude Red 2014, D.O.C. Beira Interior, Rui Roboredo do Madeira, São Jão de Pesquiera, Portugal, 750 mL, 13%, LCBO #408120, $12.95, Square Media Group Rating 86/100)
José Maria da Fonseca is a huge producer of wines as far as Portugal goes. The Quinta de Camarate strikes me as interesting as it has some Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.
It is ruby coloured with chirpy notes of bacon, red plum, and black cherry. Medium in tannins, but it’s a feisty little one.
Big and solid mouthfeel. Tastes of black cherry, charcoal, raspberry Jello, and hazelnut wafers. Big enough to handle beef or an oyster and shitake mushroom risotto. Decant and the wine softens up and delivers more of a cheery cherry/mocha finish.
(José Maria da Fonseca, Quinta de Camarate 2014, Vinho Regional Peninsula de Sebútal, José Maria da Fonseca, Azeltao, Portugal, 13%, $15.95, LCBO #471268, Square Media Group 87/100)
I like reds from the Lisboa region as often wineries blend the big international reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot with indigenous Portuguese grapes. In this case Merlot (60%) and Touriga Nacional (40%) are blended.
Mid ruby in colour, the aromatics are of smoke, chocolate, blackberry, and sweet red cherries.
On the palate it has some heft, but the tannins gently lurk in the background. Lots of cassis, red currant, black cherry, and a dollop of smoke. Pleasing, but not overcomplicated.
What I might refer to as a utility wine, good with pizza, burgers, or a Franchesina, which is a massive meat fest sandwich served with rich beer based sauce. I remember having one of them at the Hotel Teatro in Porto for lunch then going to my favourite restaurant in Porto by the name of Postigo do Caravão for dinner.
My owner friend Alessandro had laid out a feast for me and another journalist but eight hours later that darn Franchesina was still sticking to my ribs. It’s hard faking hunger when you are stuffed.
(Principium 2012, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Quinta da Romeira, Portugal, 750 mL, $13.95, LCBO #479329, Square Media Group Rating 87/100) Drink now