Warming Up For Port Wine Day 2017

(TORONTO, ON) – I do not wish to pat myself on the back but this is this the third year in succession I have been invited to Port Wine Day in Porto, Portugal. Some 50 of the most recognized Portuguese wine writers throughout the world are invited.

It is a rare and privileged opportunity to meet top Douro Valley Port and table wine producers and, of course, try their Ports and table wines.

I consider the invite a great honour to both The Square and to me personally. I am invited because The Square publishes many of my articles on Portuguese wines. I write about Portuguese wines because they are good and to express my thanks to Portugal and the EU who foot the bill for my trip.

The Port Wine Day festivities are very focused and can be exhausting, especially for the select few North American wine writers invited, given the six-hour time difference.

Last year it was off the plane after an overnight flight then right into the Douro Valley for a visit to a Quinta, complete with a huge lunch and a big tasting of Ports and Douro table wines. Then there was a municipal dinner until 2am before a full slate of activities the next day.

In any case, I thought we should warm up with a few Portuguese samples.

We start with a Quinta da Devesa 10-year-old Port bottled in 2015.

It has a honey brown colour, and on the nose a strong whiff of Portuguese roasted almonds, honey, rhubarb, mango, and apricots. It is a mid-weight Port.

On the palate, very ripe strawberries, raspberries, apricots, and candied orange. Too powerful for a Tawny, yet not up to battling an LBV or Vintage Port. Best suited with just about any Portuguese custard-based dessert or even an almond torte.

There is no great length to this Port, just a desire for a food matching. And the food is a dessert. On the French side, a crème Brule would be magnificent or on the Brit side, a bread pudding.

(Quinta da Devesa 10 Year Old Porto, Quinta da Devesa, Régua, Portugal, 750 mL, 20%, $ 21.25, LCBO # 43184, Square Media Group Rating 88/100)

As of the time of writing the product is sold out, but keep an eye on it for future releases.

One more stab at Port and this one is still on the shelves at the LCBO. It is a Poças Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009. LBV’s are a bargain hunter’s delight, delivering tremendous value and often ageibility at much less cost than vintage Ports.

This Poças is dark black cherry in colour. there are divine aromas of black cherry, blueberry, mocha, stewed rhubarb, strawberries, and raspberries. Gigantic and comforting tsunami of cassis, blackberry, and coffee all in a creamy, decadent, almost heart stopping wow.

A fantastic post-dinner and dessert sipper. And, if you have bravado, take with rare grilled beef.

I can easily imagine this hankering in until 2040. It is almost just too good to drink for us mortals.

Increasingly I am attracted to LBV’s for their richness, depth, adaptability, and longevity.

(Poças Junior, LBV 2009, Manoel D Poças Junior, VNG, Portugal, $21.75, 750 mL, 20%, LCBO #642058, Square Media Group Rating 94/100)

Now hitting the bottom of the price scale from the Douro, I recall seeing it served in economy on flights to Portugal. Very pleasant black cherry predominates on the nose along with some blackberry and blueberry.

Although far from complex on the palate, it is neither sour nor raw. There are subtle notes of black fruit with some licorice and herbs. The tannins are gentle and acids are in balance.

A well-made wine, but on the low end of wow. Has a short finish.

Good for a basic BBQ, baked potatoes, and corn on the cob. An “outdoor wine” best bypassed when there is more complex and heavy fall and winter fare. A neutral and faceless wine.

(Vila Regia, DOC Douro 2015, Sogrape, Portugal, 12.5%, 750 mL, $8.25, LCBO #4643888, Square Media Group Rating 85/100)

Douro whites are pleasing and very well suited to salads, pork, and fish. But, in terms of garnering international acclaim, they lag behind their red counterparts.

Made with grapes like Rabigato, Arinto, and Gouveio they offer a glimpse into indigenous grapes. Perhaps they will just take a bit longer to catch on. The wins are proudly vinted and served to me in the Douro without anyone batting an eyelash.

The Quinta da Rede is made with Arinto and Rabigato with a final fermentation in new French oak barrels. Light gold in colour.

Lusty tropicality on the nose brimming with pineapple, guava, pear, and melon. The lushness carries on right through to the palate with a full mouthfeel and a long finish. Muted acidity makes this a great sipper, sometimes rare with the more typical raciness of Douro whites.

This is a fine wine and I think the new oak does it wonders. More whites like this and it will be a red and white Douro army marching in unison.

Douro roast pork and potatoes are your food for this one. And if you have any roast turkey coming up, this is a good choice with white meat. Drink before 2019.

(Quinta da Rede Grande Reserva Douro DOC 2014, Sociedade Agricola, Santa Cristina, Portugal, $21.95, 13.5%, LCBO #477943, Square Media Group Rating 92/100)

Sagrado-wineWhat a delight to see a Sagrado red in a recent LCBO Vintages release. I had the pleasure last year in the Douro to have lunch with José Maria Cálem the owner of Quinta Sagrado. The wines I tried were several years older and of higher pedigree than this one, and they were exceptional.

From the $14.95 price point, this looks like Cálem’s basic and most inexpensive red.

In colour the wine is light purple. There are aromas of black plums, cassis, and black cherry. Rich on the nose indeed.

Moderate tannins on the palate and well integrated black fruit, particularly blackberries, black plum, and cooked rhubarb. A nice round and full-bodied wine with a moderate finish.

I can see this matching very well with roast cabrita (baby goat) and roasted potatoes, a traditional Douro duck casserole, or grilled octopus. Despite its youth it is still a very good sipping wine.

Drink now until 2021. This one is going to age nicely. Right now it’s rather juicy, but very approachable.

(Sagrado Douro 2013, Douro DOC, Nova Quinta do Sagrado SA, Opporto, Portugal, 13.5%, $14.95, LCBO #380907, Square Media Group Rating 91/100)

The grapes are all old vine; Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz, and Tinto Cão. Foot trodden in traditional lagares and aged in French oak for 6 months.

Considering these factors, you are getting a tremendous deal. Most Ports are not even foot trodden anymore.

As a last gasp, let us move on to Quinta da Rede Red Reserva. If you recall above, their white Reserva was stellar. How does their red match up?

The colour is black plum.

The nose is very tight and disciplined with blackberry, black cherry, and cassis, tinged by an envelope of charcoal.

On the palate, both juicy and rustic, but with enough discipline to refer to this wine as elegant. A perfect synchronistic mix of acids and tannins leading to a very militaristic wine. It is almost as if its firm structure rules over its fruit.

And, there is fruit on the palate; a hefty dose of cassis, black cherry, and stewed rhubarb. A stern and medium finish.

It’s a bit of a chameleon wine in that it is both very approachable yet stand-offish. Is this some Albert Camus/Jean-Paul Sartre wine playing philosophical challenges to our palate?

I think the best thing to suggest is rather contradictory.

Enjoy now, as is, or set it aside for a few years to let the contradictions harmonize. I like a wine that challenges and this one certainly does. It is a good wine, but give it a few more years to decide where it wants to be and you may be patting your back for your patience.

(Quinta da Rede Reserva 2013 Douro DOC, Sociedade Agricola, Santa Cristina, Portugal, $17.95, 750 mL, LCBO #431742, 13.5%, Square Media Group Rating 91/100)

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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