Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Portugal: Expand Your Wine Horizon

By: Eric Guido

What a difference a year can make. This time, last year, Portugal meant one thing to me; it meant Vintage Port. It’s a wine I have enjoyed in place of a dessert or for a quick guilty sip. It can last for many decades and makes for a great way to mark special occasions and birth years. But something Port is not is a table wine or a wine that can be easily sipped and enjoyed on a regular basis; it’s simply too rich, too sweet—too hedonistic. Yet it has a valued place in the world of wine and is as branded as Bordeaux. So why look any further, right? Wrong.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about wine, it’s that a closed mind and palate stunts your growth. You’ve seen those people, such as the Italian wine lover that still drinks Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio. So when the opportunity arose to try a dry table wine from Portugal, I made sure to give it a shot, and I sure am glad that I did.

If you’re imagining another spin on Cabernet and Chardonnay, just in a Portuguese style, stop right there. This isn’t about the usual suspects’ grown in another terroir; this is about obscure and native varieties like Aragonez (or Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet, Viosinho, Rabigato and Touriga Nacional, which are heavily relied upon in blending for Port. They produce beautifully fragrant wines with unique aromas and exciting textures, complemented with ripe fruit that fills the palate and exceptional balance and structure.

Remember, this isn’t a new, emerging viticultural area. This is a country that has been producing fine wine since the days of the Roman Empire. The fact is that what we’ve always seen as a country devoted to the production of Port is in reality a region that’s producing exceptional wine of many styles, of which we have only recently been introduced to. Listed below are two wines that I just had the pleasure to taste, and both are worth your attention. Also, these are just in time for the Spring season. The Dourum, a white blend, would make a great accompaniment to seafood salad, scallops or sushi, and the Alente Riserva is a versatile red that would do well against hearty red meats, rich chicken dishes and a showstopper at a barbeque.

On to the wines:

2006 Adega do Monte Branco Vinho Regional Alentejano Alente Reserva - The nose showed a mix of ripe wild berries and sweet spice, with hints of ginger, leather, dusty earth and floral violet tones. On the palate, it was medium-bodied and soft with a zesty personality, showing notes of blue and blackberries with pleasant spice tones and inner floral notes. It leaves a beautiful floral-blueberry flavor on the finish that lingers long. (92 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

2011 Dourum Douro Tons de Duorum - The wine showed the color of white gold in the glass. On the nose, I found a mix of ripe peach and pineapple with hints of lime, sea breeze and minerals. It was immediately pleasing and soft on the palate with ripe pit fruits, green apple and brisk acidity, which kept it lively and refreshing. Tart green apple and minerals last through the fresh, crisp finish. (89 points) Find it on Wine-Searcher!

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