Passion for Portuguese Wine – Connoisseur’s Corner at the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo

At the recent Gourmet Food and Wine Expo in Toronto I lead a tutored tasting of 6 wines from Portugal at Connoisseur’s Corner.  There was a white from the Alentejo region, a white from Terras do Sado, a red Vinho Verde, a red from Terres do Sado, a white Port, and a Ruby Port.

Tasting Wine at Connoisseur's Corner

I started with a very brief history of the wine industry in Portugal and then went on to talk about the specific regions where the wines came from.  I gave a short lesson on how to taste wine and then we got to the good stuff – the tasting.

Connoisseur's Corner

Here are the tasting notes from the wines we tasted that day.

Loios 2008 White:  This wine comes from the Alentejo region of Portugal where they have large fluctuations between day and night temperatures.  During the day the temperatures can reach as high as 35°C  and then plummet to 15° to 18° C at night.  The cooling down in the evening helps the grapes recover from the scorching temperatures of the day enabling them to retain some of their natural acidity.  This wine is a blend of two grapes: Roupeiro and Rabo Ovelha.  It was fermented at cool temperatures in stainless steel and has not seen any oak at all.  It has a light straw colour with a slight greenish hue.  There are delicate aromas of mineral and lime zest.  This wine is light-bodied with the same mineral and citrus flavours on the palate.  This is a very refreshing everyday wine that could be paired nicely with most seafood and light salads.

Quinta do Bacalhoa Serras de Azeitao 2008: Made in Terras do Sado, a vinho regional region in southern Portugal where there is a warm, maritime climate.  This area is originally the home of sweet fortified wines from the Muscatel (Muscat) grape.  The grapes used in this wine are Fernao Pires and Moscatel de Setubal.  It is a light lemon yellow colour and has grapey floral aromas, typical of the Muscat grape, lifted by subtle hints of straw and mineral.  It is dry with a round, smooth texture, and rich flavours of ripe tropical fruit with medium acid.  This wine would pair well with oriental cuisine, grilled octopus, chicken and turkey.

Ponte da Barca Red Vinho Verde:  In North America we are more familiar with the white wines that hail from this region in the northwest of Portugal, but up until the 1980s most of the wine produced in Vinho Verde was, in fact, red.  Most red Vinho Verde is consumed within Portugal with very little being exported.  Red Vinho Verde is made predominantly with the Vinhao grape which is one of the few grapes that has red flesh giving the wine a very dark ruby colour.  The wine has aromas of red berries and has a rather raspy angular texture with high acid and a medium length.  Definitely not for everyone.

Comporta 2005:  From the Terras do Sado region.  This wine is made with Aragonez (one of the Portuguese names Tempranillo) and Alicante Bouchet.  Interestingly, Alicante Bouchet is also a red grape that has red flesh instead of the greyish-white flesh of most red grapes.  This is a huge wine with dark fruit aromas of damson and other black fruit with hints of tobacco and leather.  It is very full-bodied with opulent tannins and a rich, velvetty texture.  This wine has the stuffing to grow and evolve in the cellar for many more years.  Although it is not available in our market yet, it will be released sometime in the summer of 2010.  It’s not going to be cheap though, at around $50 a bottle.

Fonseca White Port:  Another wine we don’t see a lot of in our market.  Apparently a substantial amount of white grapes are grown in the Douro Valley and all shippers produce a certain amount of white port.  Most are aged for no more than 18 months generally in cement or stainless steel tanks. Wood aging does add character.  The individual wines used in Fonseca White Port were aged in oak vats for 3 years.  The grapes used are Gouveio, Arinto, Voisinho, and Rabigato.  There are aromas of sultana raisins, white peach, spice, and toast.  The 102 g/l residual sugar gives it a very smooth, luscious texture.  This wine would be great with clam chowder, liver pate, or smoked salmon.  It’s not unusual for white port to be made into a cocktail.  A popular one is the “Portonic” which is equal parts white port and tonic with a dash of lime juice and garnished with a slice of lime.  Very refreshing!

Fonseca Bin 27:  Produced from 100% grapes grown in Fonseca Guimaraens own vineyards.  It is aged for 4 years in large chestnut vats and is lightly filtered before bottling.  It has pronounced aromas of raisins, prunes and dense black fruit.  There’s also a hint of spiciness.  The concentrated flavours fill your mouth with dark berries and black cherries.  There are lots firm tannins and it has a long balanced finish.  This port is meant to be consumed when purchased and is not meant for “laying down”.  At $15.95 it’s a great value!

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