jamie goode's wine blog: Great wines from Mr Duck

Monday, March 03, 2008

Great wines from Mr Duck

What better way to start my freelance life than a long lunch, with some great wines.

Today was the Luis Pato ('Pato' is Portuguese for 'duck') tasting and lunch at London's leading Portuguese restaurant Portal. Luis is one of Portuguese wine's great ambassadors. Not only does he make great wines, chiefly from an unfashionable grape variety (Baga) in an unfashionable region (Bairrada), but he also does the leg work of presenting them to journalists and merchants across the globe. And he's a friendly, engaging guy, albeit in quite a low key sort of way.

The wines today were very impressive: the triumvirate of top reds, Vinhas Velhas, Vinha Barrosa and Vinha Pan, from the 2005 vintage, are all exceptional wines that need some time in the cellar to show their best. Quinta de Ribeirinho Per Franco 2005, a small production number, is also exceptional.

We were treated to some older wines. By way of almost bizarre coincidence, one of the three older wines on show was a bottle I'd recently opened for Portuguese journalist Luis Antunes when he came to dinner (the report is here). It was the Vinhas Velhas 1995, and I wasn't expecting much of this when I showed it to Luis, because I'd bought it a decade previously in a Majestic bin end sale for just a few pounds, while I was visiting my brother down in Southampton. But it's a wine that has aged really well, and it gave me a strong reminder that Bairrada makes some serious, ageworthy wine. We also tried a Vinha Pan 1995, which was even better and still quite tannic, and a 1985 Bairrada which was very evolved but still alive.

One of the best wines we tasted was the 2005 Vinha Formal, a white wine of great presence, depth and minerality that will age beautifully - it's one of Portugal's best whites.

Apparently you can still buy vineyards in Bairrada for between 125 and 400 Euros per square metre. Tasting these wines makes me think this might be a gamble worth taking. Luis reckons Bairrada is best for sparkling wines, whites, and high-end red wines. With a quality minded approach, you could make some great ageworthy reds here that combine elegance and power to good effect - think Nebbiolo from the great Piedmont terroirs, and you have an idea of what Baga at its best can achieve.
Portal performed. Eel pie to start (no connection with the island), then a stunning slow roast wild boar that had been seeped for 24 h in Madeira. The green bean and chorizo mash it came with didn't complement it terribly well, but the boar was so sensational I didn't mind. Pudding was custard tarts. Very Portuguese, and utterly delicious.

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At 7:08 AM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

Interesting Jamie,as I am always on the lookout for new vineyards.
Do you think though,that their is a market for these wines,and perhaps more importantly,can the winemaker/owners get value for money.
Thats my problem with the Roussillon.Lovely wines no doubt,but low prices.

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous Pedro Guimaraes said...

Hoping Jamie doesnt mind, i will leave a few words to Keith...

Bairrada, as Jamie pointed out, is capable of producing amazing wines, both white and red - wines capable of ageing while offering a unique style. The terroir is very specific (and demanding), but this can actually work as an advantage if the producer knows how to handle it....I would say that we can find in Bairrada the necessary qualities to produce and sell a great wine - Unique terroir with a difficult grape (Baga)+ Wines capable of delivering something unique and ageworthy + good marketing image (burgundy style) = Wine with a story which is in many cases what makes the consumer pay the extra $$$$$

Hope one day to drink one of your Bairrada wines Keith....maybe even a single-viyneard :)

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous ryan said...

I have the chance to meet "mr duck" this week, at essencia do vinho and I can't wait to taste some good Baga. Sadly up till this point I haven't had many that stunned me. Though I do suspect there will be some tasted this week.

On the other hand the sparklers from the Dao and Bairrada, are wines that never fail to amaze me!

At 1:34 PM, Anonymous Keith Prothero said...

Thanks Pedro. I do not dispute that great wines can be made in Bairrada,but can they be sold for a decent price?
Will certainly check the area out.Any good contacts you can put my way?

At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Pedro Guimaraes said...

Unfortunatly i cannot give you names of people who might have land available to sell....I can leave you some producers (my favourite) who you might try to contact and understand the possibilities of a future project, maybe....

Besides Luis Pato, i would point out to:

Quinta das Bageiras (tradicional producer with amazing wines - the garrafeira, both in red and white is an unique piece of liquid)

Quinta de Baixo - also with a terrific garrafeira label

Sidonio de Sousa - very traditional producer but with a good top wine named.....garrafeira!!!!!

Quinta da Dona - this Quinta was bought by the Alianca group but it delivers good quality at a good price

Quinta Foz de Arouce - Leaving the Bairrada region to the north we find this quinta also working with the Baga grape - the white is one of my favourites and they produce a single viyneard very worthy

Quinta dos Cozinheiros - In the oposite south, already outside Bairrada, we encounter this producer with good range of wines -the top wine Utopia is very good

Campolargo - old grower but recent producer of wines, is doing good wine using other grapes than Baga...some of the wines are very tasty and affordable

So keith, i hope you will find some guindance and also taste some of this unique wines....the majoraty of the top-end wines from bairrada (red and white) are true "vin-de garde", they miss though a good marketing campain to be recognized abroad...The key elements are old there - native grapes, unique terroir and the possibilty to create a story behind the wine!!!!!!

p.s. - for all of you people wondering....im not from Bairrada :)

At 10:29 AM, Blogger Jan-Tore Egge said...

Bairrada is a seriously underrated "appellation".

At 2:23 PM, Anonymous keith prothero said...

Many thanks Pedro.Will follow up

At 11:29 PM, Blogger Jamie said...

Just looked at the pictures again and realized that Luis kept his coat on through the tasting and all through lunch.


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