jamie goode's wine blog

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another good Portuguese white

Another impressive Portuguese white to report on.

Esporao Reserva 2008 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro. Lovely floral, lemony nose with notes of tangerine and a hint of vanilla oak. The palate has citrus pith, grapefruit and peach notes with a touch of spicy oak. A bright, focused wine with lots of interest. Fresh, full flavoured and well balanced. 89/100

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Two nice Portuguese reds

Two very impressive Portuguese reds: one from the Douro, one from the Alentejo. Both show lovely focus and definition, and subtle use of oak. The Portuguese seem to be so much less heavy handed than the Spanish with their oak use (yes, a generalization, I know).

And well done England! (Cricket...)

Arco de Espor„o 2008 Alentejo, Portugal
14% alcohol. A blend of Syrah, Aragonez and Touriga Nacional, made by David Baverstock. Deep coloured. Some subtle meaty, savoury notes here alongside the sweet dark fruits. Slightly floral aromatics are really appealing. Nice balance with a spicy savouriness countering the sweet dark fruits very effectively. A delicious fruit-driven style thatís focused and less spoofy than some of the riper Alentejo wines. 89/100 (£9.99 Waitrose)
Quinta do Portal Reserva 2007 Douro, Portugal (pictured above)
40% Touriga Nacional, 40% Tinta Roriz and 20% Touriga Franca; 14% alcohol; aged in new French oak for 9 months. This shows a lovely nose of meaty, spicy, floral blackberry, plum and dark cherry fruit. The palate is focused with meaty dark fruits and some black olive character. Fresh and savoury with good acidity and firm tannins. Itís a really expressive, focused sort of wine that shows real personality. Quite serious, in a distinctive savoury style. 91/100

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

Portuguese cheese with Alentejo wine

There's been an Alentejo theme to supper for the last two evenings. Tiago, the marketing dude for the Alentejo region, kindly gave me two cheeses at the trade fair, left over from the food and wine matching session. So I felt it was only right to accompany them with a serious Alentejo wine: Malhadinha 2006.

Now the Alentejo is a warm region in the south of Portugal, which as well as producing some of Portugal's best-loved wines (mainly, but not exclusively red), is also known for its cork, wheat, sheep and the famous black pigs.

These two cheeses are pungent and intense ewes' milk cheeses. The first is Serpa, which is a semi-soft cheese that's coagulated not with animal rennet, but with an extract from the flowers of a plant that's a relative of artichoke (cardoon thistle). It is deliciously rich and intense, but not totally crazy. You open up the cheese with a knife and then scoop it out with a spoon.

The second is queijo de Nisa, which is cured for longer, and is semi-hard. It comes in small wheels that are about 10 cm across: you cut them into slices and eat the lot, rind and all. It is intense, spicy and delicious.

The wine? I don't normally find red wine a great match for cheese, but this coped very well with the intense flavours.

Malhadinha Nova 'Malhadinha' 2006 Alentejo
A blend of Alicante, Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in new French oak. This has a fresh, aromatic spicy nose with pure blackberry and raspberry fruit. It's ripe (15% alcohol) but not lifeless and over-sweet. In fact, it's really well defined. The palate is fresh and complex with wonderful spicy notes and vibrant fruit, but this tends more to red than black fruit in character. It's carrying quite a bit of oak, but this integrates almost perfectly with the vivid, bright fruit. I reckon this could age really well. 93/100

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Friday, March 13, 2009

More from Portugal

Just back from Portugal, and a very enjoyable, successful trip. I do worry about the weather, though: while temperatures in the 20s are very enjoyable, it is only March.

I came back very impressed by the various projects of Joao Portugal Ramos (above). Since I last visited in 2005, the wines have all improved (they were already pretty good) - the 2008 Alentejo wines are spot on, including a great 3 Euro wine, the Loios, showing amazing vibrancy of fruit. The new Duorum project is exciting, and not least because the Colheita 2007 is retailing at a price where it offers incredible value for money (c. £10 in the UK). Below is the view from one of Joao's vineyards towards Estremoz.

I was in the Ribatejo today, at the Falua winery with winemakers Antonina Barbosa and Mario Andrade. We took a look at some vineyards - pictured below are budbreak in a Trincadeira block, and wild flowers in an old vine Castelao (Periquita) vineyard.
The Falua winery is home to the Tagus Creek brand, as well as Conde de Vimioso. The Ribatejo isn't a very well known region outside Portugal, but the wines offer excellent value for money.

We lunched on cow's feet and chick peas at a small restaurant close to the winery. The cow's feet were gelatinous (mostly collagen), but the overall effect was a good one!

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Two impressive newer Alentejo reds

Friday night after a satisfying week of hard work. I'm still trying to get the balance right as a freelancer, and a couple of weeks ago I realized that I was probably spending a little too much time travelling and going to tastings and dinners, and not enough time actually writing. One of the strengths of having a well-read website is that you can write everything up. What I've found of late is that I was accumulating enormous amounts of information that deserved a readership, but wasn't getting written-up.

So I've made a bit of a shift, and this week I've had quite a few days spent at home, working, with just one day and one evening spent in London. [I'm off to Tuscany next week though.] So, to close a week of much writing, I decided to do a bit of compare and contrast with two Alentejo reds, both of which are from relatively new projects.

It's a slightly unbalanced comparison, in that one of the wines (the Malhadinha) is more expensive, but they are both from the same vintage. Both are highly impressive. The first is the second vintage from winewriter Richard Mayson's project in Portalegre; the second is the fourth vintage from Malhadinha Nova, in Albenoa, which is much further south, and therefore quite a bit warmer. Both involve consultant winemakers. Richard has chosen Rui Reguinga, while the Soares family have chosen Luis Duarte. I've decanted both bottles to give them a chance to evolve and show what they have to offer. Some more points to note: both wines have brilliant label design, and both are aged in French rather than American oak.

Pedro Basta 2006 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 12 months in new and used French oak. Dark blackberry fruit on the nose with overt roast coffee character, plus a bit of plummy spiciniess. Quite savoury. The palate is dense with some firm, savoury, spicy structure underneath the sweet blackberry and plum fruit. Quite well structured with nice balance and focus. This is a warm climate wine with nice definition. 90/100 (£10.50 The Wine Society)

Herdade de Malhadinha Nova 'Malhadinha' 2006 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 14 months in new French oak. Aromatically intense, with beautifully forward lush, sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Real purity here, as well as some warm spicy notes. The palate is ripe and sweet with concentrated, lush, pure fruit that marries well with some spicy oak notes. Despite the sweetness, there's lovely spicy definition and good acidity. Delicious now, but with the potential to develop. 93/100

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Serious Alentejo wine

Alentejo producer Malhadinha Nova is a relative newcomer, but from the start their wines have received a hugely positive response from the press. This is my first chance to look at their top wine, Marias da Malhadinha, and I'm really impressed. It's certainly a ripe, warm climate wine with plenty of oak influence, but it works. A serious effort. There's a slight discrepancy between the technical fiche and the back label concerning the grape varieties - I'll assume the former is correct (the latter misses out the Alicante Bouschet component).

Marias da Malhadinha 2004 Vinho Regional Alentejo
A blend of 40% AragonÍs, 25% Alicante Bouschet, 15% Cabernet, 10% Syrah and 10% Touriga Nacional, aged for 26 months in new French oak. This is an intensely concentrated red with a sweet nose of ripe blackberry and plum fruit with complex spicy notes. The palate is dense and sweetly fruited with spiciness and smooth but firm tannins. This generous red wine is ripe but not jammy, and there's lovely balance between the sweet fruit and the more savoury, spicy elements. Massively intense and multilayered, this should age really well, and in terms of style it's similar to a high-end new-wave Rioja. 94/100 (08/08)

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vibrant Alentejo red

Very attractive red wine tonight from leading Alentejo producer Herdade de Malhadinha Nova.

Monte da Peceguina 2007 Alentejo, Portugal
From Malhadinha Nova, this a blend of Alicante Bouschet, AragonÍs, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tinta Caida, aged in French oak for seven months. Itís a vibrant, pure, fruit focused red for early consumption, offering blackberry, raspberry and ripe cherry fruit, with a bit of spicy tang. Itís ripe and sweetly fruited, but thereís a lovely freshness, with good acidity and just a hint of attractive plummy bitterness on the finish, which makes it food friendly. Impressive stuff. 90/100

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Weekend wines: Portugal and pink Burgundy

Two wines to report on from the weekend. One a leading Portuguese red from the Alentejo; the other a delicious pink wine from Burgundy.

Malhadinha Nova Pequeno Joao 2005 Alentejo, Portugal
A small production run of Cabernet, Aragones and Syrah that's bottled in 50 cl format. Beautiful purity of sweet raspberryish fruit with foresty, blackberry notes in the mix too. The palate is pure and intense with lovely fruit intensity and nice spiciness. Ripe, rich, fruit-driven and delicious. 92/100

Simonnet-Febvre Bourgogne Rose 2006 France
Pink orange in colour, this has a sweet nose of strawberry and redcurrant fruit, with a herbal freshness. The palate is richly textured with a nice sappy finish along with the sweet fruit. Stylish and appealing. It's hard to make serious rose, but this is almost there. 87/100 (£9 Hayward Bros, Anne et Vin, Hennings, ND John)

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Two from Espor„o in Portugal's Alentejo

I would like to like the Espor„o wines more. Let me try to explain what I mean by this.

Espor„o is one of the largest producers in Portugal's Alentejo region. Based in Reguengos, they make large quantities of the Monte Velha brand, plus some more serious wines, the Reservas (tried here), the varietal wines, and a few high-end bottlings such as the Garrafeira. David Baverstock, an Aussie who's been working in Portugal for a coulple of decades, is the likeable and extremely able chief winemaker.

It would be so convenient if I really liked the wines. After all, they are highly thought of in Portugal, and I'm a big fan of all things Portuguese. But I'm not all that keen on the reds, and this Reserva in particular. I think it's the imprint of American oak that I find off-putting. But this could just be a personal thing. The white Reserva is very nice.

Espor„o Reserva (Tinto) 2005 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of the Trincadeira, Aragones and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties, this is a deep-coloured wine. It shows fresh, bright plum and blackberry flavours, with a distinctive slightly roasted, tarry savoury edge and a hint of bitterness, that isn't completely masked by the sweet coconut and vanilla characters from the American oak that was used here. It's an attractive, food-friendly red, but, if I'm going to be ultracritical, I don't find the oak that well integrated, and the bitterness on the finish is a bit off-putting. 85/100 (£12.30, UK agent Charles Hawkins)

Espor„o Reserva (Branco) 2007 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Arinto, Ant„o Vaz and Roupeiro that spends six months in new French and American oak barrels. The nose is attractive, with lemony fruit as well as some grapefruit freshness, and any oak notes right in the background. The palate is savoury, with citrus pith and grapefruit, together with a hint of waxiness and good acidity. A food-friendly style of wide appeal, with very little obvious oak, aside from a hint of vanilla. It's a really nice wine. 89/100 (£9.95 UK agent Charles Hawkins)

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Alentejo times two

Two Alentejo wines to report on. I follow Portuguese wine quite closely - it's a country I was switched onto in the mid/late-1990s when Fiona bought me a surprise bottle from Bentalls wine department - an Alentejo red from Cartuxa. It was complex, more-ish and really caught my imagination.

The two regions with the lion's share of top Portuguese wines are the Douro and the Alentejo, but they're quite different places for growing wine grapes. The Douro, in the north, is reliant on short-ish hot summers and schistous soils, with proximity to the river and altitude (as it's a valley, the two are quite closely correlated), as well as aspect, as the important factors for shaping the wines' personalities. The Alentejo is in the sunny south, and here we have sun-baked plains, resuling in wines in more of a new-world sort of style. Of course, there's more to it than this, but in general the Alentejo wines are riper and more accessible than the Douro wines. Red is king in both - although some nice whites are being made also, they're second fiddle to the red wines.

The two Alentejo wines here show distinct personalities. The first is tighter and more savoury; the second more forward and sweet. Both are very good and are worth the asking price. Which you prefer may well be a question of personal stylistic preference.

Pedra Basta 2005 Vinho Regional Alentejano
This is the wine from (writer) Richard Maysonís Quinta do Centro, made by Rui Reguinga. Itís a blend of traditional varieties Trincadeira, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet with Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for a year in French oak barrels and weighing in at 14.5% alcohol. Itís a bit restrained and tight on the nose at the moment, not offering a lot. Closed? The palate is savoury with brooding dark fruits and a distinctive minerally, earthy seriousness. This is ripe, but itís fresh and well defined at the same time Ė not as showy or new-worldy as some Alentejo wines can be. Although this is a little angular and closed at present, I think itís quite a serious effort and I suspect this will age well in the medium term. 90/100 (£9.95 The Wine Society) (You can read Richardís informative diary here)

Howardís Folly 2006 Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal
A blend of Syrah, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional, made by Portuguese-resident Aussie winemaker David Baverstock. Itís a deep-coloured wine with a seductive nose of sweet dark fruits and nicely integrated oak. The palate is broad and sweetly fruited with nice density and some freshness. Ripe, full and generous; made in a modern, new world style but it seems to me that this is still retaining a sense of Portugueseness (albeit only just). 89/100 (£8.95 UK agent Charles Hawkins)

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

A brace of Portuguese reds

Two Portuguese reds this evening. Different regions - the Douro and Alentejo - but sharing the same rather elegant font face for the name on the label (was the same designer employed?). As an aside, over the last few days I've been decanting all the reds I've been drinking. It seems to have worked quite well, and it's something I might be doing more of. Must get an early night tonight: I'm playing golf first thing tomorrow.

Malhadinha Nova Monte da Peceguina 2006 Vinho Rehional Alentejano, Portugal
I'm enjoying this new wave Alentejo red, but there's just something about the finish that I'm not totally sure about. Deep coloured, it shows ripe, rather meaty but otherwise pure blackcurrant and raspberry fruit. It's really engaging, with good concentration. The palate has a nice freshness to it with - rather higher acidity than you might expect from such a ripe wine - and a finish that has a bit of a prickle to it. Is this a hint of Brettanomyces? It's really hard to say. But it stops what would otherwise be an excellent wine from being quite as good as it might have been. 89/100

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Grande Reserva 2005 Douro, Portugal
This is a concentrated, tight wound, rather classy Douro red with vibrant red and black fruits ensheathed by lots of creamy, vanilla new oak that adds a sweet sheen to the otherwise quite savoury, high acid character on the palate. There's a hint of austerity to the tannic structure, which, combined with the acidity gives a savouriness to the wine. An ambitious wine that may well develop in interesting ways, but at the moment the oak and the fruit aren't working completely in harmony. But what I do like is the aromatic plummy, herby character on the nose, that's almost Burgundian in poise. Maybe a day in the decanter might help. 90/100

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Some wines with Luis Antunes

Continuing my recent Portuguese theme, Luis Antunes came round for tea last night. He's an academic (home page here) at the University of Lisboa, and in his spare time he writes about wine for Revista Vinhos, Potugal's leading wine magazine. I first met Luis for real (i.e. other than online) at Dirk Niepoort's 40th celebration weekend in Porto back in 2004, and have subsequently rubbed shoulders with him in the Douro and Bordeaux. So we had a really fun evening of modest excess.

We began with some fizz. Champagne Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque 1999 is pretty serious stuff. I suppose it should be, retailing at £75 and coming in a beautiful painted bottle. It has a lovely expressive, Chardonnay-dominated complex nose that is toasty and lemony. The palate is crisp and toasty with delicious savoury, lemony complexity. Sylish and quite serious. 93/100

Then we had a look at the Tapanappa Whalebone Vineyard Cabernet Shiraz 2004 from Wrattonbully in South Australia. It's an elegant Aussie with sweet, smooth fruit. Some structure, too. This is still noticeably Australian, with its sweet fruit profile, but I think it will age well.

So, to Luis' bottle - a rare bottling from Alentejo producer Esporao.

Herdarde de Espor„o 2000 1o Prťmio do X Concurso Os Melhores Vinhos do Alentejo 2000 Alentejo, Portugal
This rare wine from Esporao has a sweet, aromatic, slightly volatile nose with sweet red fruits and a bit of tar. The palate is quite spicy with dense, rather sweet red fruits and good acidity. It's still fresh for a 2000, the volatility the only thing that gives its age away. Interesting but not great: I expect that this would have been very impressive a few years ago, made in a very fruit-forward modern style. 89/100

This is the stage where I dug out an old Portuguese bottle that I wasn't that hopeful about. I'd bought it for peanuts many years ago from a retailer in a bin-end sale, and it hadn't been terribly well stored since. But it proved to be a brilliant wine, ageing nicely.

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas 1995 Bairrada, Portugal
60 year old Baga vines have made this wine, which was aged for 10 months in new oak. It's really fantastic now, 12 years on. It has an earthy, spicy, savoury red and black fruits nose which is quite stylish and aromatic. The palate is smooth with a nice spicy, earthy savouriness and still quite a bit of fruit. Quite fresh and drinking very well now, especially with food. 90/100

Then we hit some sweet stuff. A brilliant Tokaji. Every time I drink a Tokaji, I kick myself for not drinking them more frequently. For me, this was the wine of the night, although the Bairrada was the one that left the strongest impression just because it had aged so unexpectedly well.

Disnůk? Tokaji Aszķ 5 Puttonyos 1995 Tokaji, Hungary
Orange/gold colour. Complex, sweet marmalade, apricot and spice nose. The palate is complex and sweet with spice, vanilla, apricot, citrus and tea notes. Quite viscous and dense with lovely lively acidity. Fantastic, complex sweet wine. 94/100

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tasting Portugal's best

Each year, a journalist gets asked to pick what they consider to be Portugal's 50 top wines, which are then used as the basis for a tasting held each February at the Portuguese Embassy. It's a popular event that's usually full to bursting. So far, Richard Mayson, Tim Atkin and Charles Metcalfe have done the honours; this year the job has fallen to Simon Woods.

Because he's an all-round nice chap, Simon invited a few of his journalist chums to join him in tasting through the pre-selection samples. It turns out I was the only one able to take up this generous offer, and so I spent an enjoyable few hours with him yesterday afternoon and this morning, steadily working through over a hundred wines from all the major Portuguese regions.

The wines turned out to be a little mixed. As you might expect, the Douro put in a strong showing, although I wonder whether 2005 is quite the vintage some people reckon it is. While the 2005s looked good at the New Douro tasting last month, they didn't look as good today. Perhaps just a little too warm in the Douro during the 2005 growing season?

The whites (from all regions) showed strongly. Yes, it was a small group, but Portuguese whites are getting better and better. However, the reds from Estremadura and Ribatejo struggled a bit. Some good wines, but no great ones. Many average bottles.

The selection from Dao was small but good, with the various wines from Alvaro Castro leading the way, followed by a couple from Sogrape. We had a few nice Bairrada wines, but all were labelled 'Beiras', rather than using the Bairrada appellation itself.

The Alentejo reds were pretty good in a ripe, modern style. Again, 2005 seems quite a warm vintage, in what is already a warm-climate region. As an aside, the Douro and Alentejo together account for the majority of Portugal's top wines, I reckon.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Tasting wines blind

Every now and then I play a bit of a game. I close my eyes and ask Fiona to choose some wines from the various racks I have in the kitchen and serve them to me blind. Of course, I know roughly which wines I have in the rack, but there are a lot of them, so this makes the game quite fun. The stash includes numerous samples (perhaps 150) and a spattering of wines Iíve put there because they need drinking soon. In truth, there are a few wines that I'd rather Fiona didn't pick out, because they are expensive and deserving of a special occasion, but having them in there adds a bit of spice to the game.

Tonight I tried two whites, which Fiona had selected because they had similarly coloured (yellow) capsules. The first was clearly a new world Chardonnay, but a very good one. It was brilliantly balanced with lovely fruit, some lemony freshness, and well integrated oak. I couldnít really place it. It could have been a very good Australian, or even an exceptional Chilean. It turned out to be South African: the Boschendal Chardonnay 2006 (£7.99 Waitrose, Thresher). This is a wine I might not have rated so highly if Iíd seen the label, which is a bit unfair on it. Now I can give it full credit.

The second wine was really interesting, and equally good. It was aromatic and open, with lovely pure fruit. I though it was old world: maybe something serious made from RhŰne varieties, with some Viognier in the mix. Clearly not Chardonnay or Sauvignon or Riesling. It was actually the Ant„o Vaz 2006 from Alentejo winery Malhadinha Nova. I tasted this fairly recently and quite liked it; blind it seemed even better. A really interesting unoaked white wine.

Buoyed on by the success of these first two picks, Fiona chose a third Ė a red. I took a sniff and got lots of sweet, ripe, spicy fruit. New-worldish, but probably old world made in a ripe new world style. Pretty good, but accessible and drinking well now. It turned out to be the 2004 Peceguina Joao from Malhadinha Nova. What is it about this winery? Iíve been tasting quite a few of their new releases in recent weeks, and itís odd that Fionaís random-ish picks should find two of them. There's some spicy seriousness to this wine, although the 15% alcohol makes it taste a little hot. I reckon it has the stuffing to age in the medium term, though.

In conclusion, I like tasting blind. It really helps understand a wine first to taste it blind and then have the identity revealed. I must do it more often.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Estremoz, Alentejo

Just returned from my trip. The route back through Portugal from the factory in Spain took us through the middle of the Alentejo wine region, so it seemed sensible to try to have a look around.

After yesterday's continual heavy rain we were greeted by bright blue skies as we set off. The Alentejo looks very different in December to the way it did when I last visited in July 2005.

We stopped off at Estremoz, where Joao Portugal Ramos is based. Within half an hour I had pictures of vineyards, cork groves, workers pruning the vines and also a mechanical pruner in action. There's a sort of bleak beauty to winter vineyards.

The town of Estremoz itself has a sort of rather worn, lived-in feel. The old centre, walled and perched on top of the hill is quite stunning, but in an untidy, unmanicured sort of way. Marble is used as an everyday building material here. Pictured is the tower of what is now the Pousada da Rainha Santa Isabel - remarkably, this is made of marble too. It would have been great to have stayed for a while, but we had a plane to catch. One day I'm going to spend a serious amount of time in Portugal. My fantasy is to buy an old Landrover and spend a few weeks exploring with the family.

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