The Portuguese Flow

(TORONTO, ON) – I find it rather bizarre there are more Portuguese wines flowing into Ontario, as part of LCBO Vintages releases, than wines from Lake Erie North Shore. I also receive more samples of Portuguese wines than I do from LENS. There are some serious marketing issues here.

Evel-wineToday, we start with an Evel 2014 from the Douro, which has a tag on the neck of the bottle proudly proclaiming it is number 50 in Wine Spectator’s top 100 wines for 2016. It is black cherry in colour with some very serious aromas of black cherry, blackberry, rhubarb, dark chocolate, and red currant jam.

On the palate, the tannins are moderate and the wine is smooth with a relatively long finish. This is a teenager needing a few more years to hit their stride and soften into a Douro kitten. Well hidden notes of black cherry, blackberry, and cassis just waiting to burst out, but held back, at least for now. This is a tight knit wine.

Made with a red blend including Tempranillo. This wine is a real winner and punches far above its price.

Best from 2020 and good and improving until 2025. Excellent choice with roast baby goat and grilled beef.

(Evel Douro 2014, Douro DOC, Real Companhia Velha, Villa Nova de Gaia, Portugal, $14.95, 13.5%, 750mL, LCBO #190694, Square Media Group Rating 93/100)

I find regional wines from Lisbon a refreshing difference from Douro wines. The latter are perhaps the best reds that Portugal has to offer, but they are really mired in indigenous grapes. Not a bad quandary at all, but Lisbon wines will throw Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon into the blend. I think this keeps Portuguese wines fresh and innovative.

The 2014 Mar de Lisboa has the usual Portuguese reds, namely Tinta Roriz (40%), Touriga Nacional (29%), and Touriga Franca (20%), but it also has some Syrah (11%).

Red plum in color. While very familiar with the black fruit of Douro reds, this wine adds a spicy note to the black cherry and blackberry notes. The Syrah adds some smoked meat and freshly ground pepper to the mix.

On the palate, the influence of the Syrah continues. It adds a degree of juiciness and tang to the wine. I would have preferred a degree of depth and richness. A rather shallow wine with a short and confusing finish.

Drink now. A casual Friday night wine with pizza or burgers.

(Mar de Lisboa 2014, Vinho Tinto, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Quinta de Chocapalha, Adeia Galega da Merceana, Portugal, $16.95, 13%, 750mL, LCBO #536342, Square Media Group Rating 84/100)

We move on to a Guadalupe 2015 from the Alentejano region of Portugal. It is a red blend of Trincaderia, Aragonez, and Alfocheiro. I reviewed the 2012 vintage in 2015 and gave it an 89.

Garnet in colour, solid notes of sweet red cherries, blackberries, red currants, and a slight hint of milk chocolate.

On the palate, mild tannins make the wine immediately approachable. Sweet red cherries appear on the palate and the finish is of moderate length. Although there is a hint of sweetness on the palate and the nose, a gentle acidity keeps the sweetness in check. There is a bit of frisky juiciness in this.

A decent quaff best consumed now and might suit a fresh summer tomato salad or spicy Portuguese sausages. I think it would also suit Portugal’s signature dish Bacalau. Red wine with fish. It works with this dish.

(Guadalupe Vinho Tinto 2015, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Quinta do Quetzal, Vila de Frades, Portugal, $12.95, 14%, 750mL, LCBO #336313, Square Media Group Rating 88/100)

Back to the Douro with a Lua Cheia old vines red.

Light purple in colour with a typical Douro nose for a younger wine. While the nose is presented with ample black cherry, blackberry, pomegranate, and cranberry, the aromas are well guarded if not downright serious. I can’t smell any whimsy in this wine.

On the palate, very compact, tight, and restrained black cherry and blackberry. Just a tiny hint of juiciness. Moderate tannins with a medium length finish. A wonderfully made wine with just the perfect amount of acids and tannins.

If you are a huge fan of immediately accessible wines, go back to California. I don’t think I would uncork this until 2020 and good until 2026. Talk about a low priced give away.

This is a “field blend” wine where all different grapes are commingled together in the field, so you might know the grapes, but not the actual blending percentages. Very old world where wine was made from different grapes growing in the same field unlike today, where we seem varietal obsessed.

If you want to open now, beef is the game for food pairing.

(Lua Chela Old Vines Vinho Tinto 2015, Douro D.O.C., Lua Chela em Vinhas Velhas, Gafanha da Encarncão, Portugal, $13.95, 13.5%, 750 mL, LCBO #266882, Square Media Group Rating 90/100)

I am not one to sing the praises of very many whites from the Vinho Verde appellation. While they are great for fresh ocean fish, I find them a bit thin and acidic for what might be called a well-structured wine.

This white from the Vinho Verde, Covela, caught my eye as it is made from the Avesso grape; one variety I can’t recall ever tasting.

The Avesso is a Portuguese grape grown mostly in the southeast of the Vinho Verde region. Acidity is lower than most Vinho Verde white grapes, therefore the wines can have some heft and substance. Covela is recognized as one of the best producers of wine made with this grape.

It is light gold in colour. Aromas of citrus, pineapple, and lemon tarts. It is bone dry. However, the acids are very well hidden.

On the palate, very simplistic and straightforward with notes of guava, apple, and lime. Rather tart. I would say an excellent choice for roast or grilled Porgy, Mackerel, or Dorado. Possibly even Sea Bream served with a lemon juice, olive oil, and oregano sauce with lots of country style Portuguese bread and fried rappini in olive oil with loads of garlic.

Simple can be beautiful and this wine is simple and pure, and so well suited to Portuguese seafood bounty in Vinho Verde country.

This is not one of those casual sipping wines. It demands seafood where it will excel.

Drink now. I can’t see any benefit from ageing.

(Covela Edição Nacional Avesso 2015, DOC Vinho Verde, Lima and Smith, SãoTomé de Covelas, Portugal, $17.95, LCBO #524868, 12.5%, Square Media Group Rating 85/100)

Lets finish off with a Quinta do Valdoeiro from the Bairrada Appellation. The label states it is a blend of “several grapes from our vineyards.” Further investigation reveals this is a blend of Baga, Syrah, Touriga Nacional, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

We have some international grapes with indigenous Portuguese grapes which often can add a bit of excitement to the purely indigenous.

A thick and intense black cherry tint to the wine. On the nose, an entirely warm and inviting presence with coconut, marshmallow, black cherry, cranberry, raspberry, and just baked raspberry and rhubarb pie. Enticing.

On the palate, moderate tannins. Loads of blackberry, raspberry jam and, all in all, a bit juicy, but not sour or tart.

Short finish. A bit of a nervous Nelly, but I can’t help being a bit excited by its quirkiness. All said and done, a very nice little wine, but as with so many Portuguese wines, best consumed with food.

I am not sure why I have this overwhelming thought, but a roast pork and potatoes with a bit of sautéed cabbage on the side is a killer combination. The Portuguese and Greeks make the absolute best roast potatoes.

The wine is great to drink now, but I think it will soften and reach its peak at 2024. A rather inferior cork leaves minute cork particles hanging about.

(Quinta do Valdoeiro Tinto 2012, DOC Bairrada, Vinhos Messias, Mealhada, Portugal, $16.95, 14%, 750mL, LCBO #039222, Square Media Group Rating 88/100)

Click for the latest news

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