jamie goode's wine blog

Monday, August 10, 2009

Superb Portuguese white

Portugal's red wines tend to get more attention than the whites. I'm guilty here: my recent 50 Great selection had just five whites in it, if I recall correctly, and all from the Minho. Here's a superb white from the master of Dão.

Quinta da Pellada Primus 2007 Dão, Potugal
From Alvaro Castro, this is a serious white wine. It’s made from old vine Encruzado, Cercial and Bical. Castro is trying to replicate a great 1964 white he had, made by CEN (Centro de Estudos Vitivinícolas de Nelas) oenologist Cardoso de Vilhena. Castro has been strongly influenced by Vilhena, who he believes was a brilliant winemaker. This, the second release (2006 was first vintage) has a beautiful, intriguing nose: floral and herbal with lemon oil and waxy notes. Refined fruit character dominates the palate, which has lovely depth and intensity. There’s a rich herby complexity as well as some spice. It only has a hint of oak. Just a baby, this will develop beautifully and could age well for a long time. It’s a shame to drink it so young, really. 92/100 (£28 Castas, http://www.castas.co.uk/)

Labels: ,

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Essence of Touriga Nacional

Portugal's most famous grape variety is Touriga Nacional. I really like it, but it is an angular grape that sometimes performs best as part of a blend. The two most successful regions for this variety are the Douro (on schist soils) and the Dao (on granite-based soils). Here's a brilliant - but angular - Dao version of Touriga Nacional, which captures the lovely floral signature of this variety.

Falorca T-nac 2005 Dao, Portugal
This is a really good example of Dao Touriga Nacional from Quinta Vale das Escadinhas. It's just so typical of really good Touriga, even though it's a slightly edgy wine that won't be to everyone's taste. Lovely meaty, spicy, olivey, sweetly fruited nose with enticing floral notes that are so typical of this variety. The palate is concentrated with firm tannins and robust, spicy, meaty fruit backed up by good structure. Dense, firm and wild with lovely depth of flavour. 92/100 (£12.99 Castas.co.uk, also available from Armit)

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A brilliant, affordable Portuguese red

After some negative comments about a widely available Portuguese red a few days ago, here's one that I'm happy to see well distributed. If you haven't tried a Portuguese wine of late, get thee to Waitrose or Majestic to pick up a bottle of this. It's a really good example of why Dao is one of Portugal's most interesting wine regions. And best of all, it's affordable.

Sogrape Pena de Pato Dao 2005 Portugal
From Portugal's Dao region, this is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro, and it's just delicious. Deep coloured, it has lovely violet, dark cherry and blackberry aromatics, with hints of spice and meat. The palate shows fresh, bright modern fruit with some peppery structure and lovely fresh acidity. There's perhaps a hint of jamminess to it, but overall this is a beautifully fresh, cherryish, fruity red wine with lovely definition. A great introduction to the new Portugal. Pena de Pato translates 'duck's feather'; there's no relation to Luis Pato of Bairrada fame. 88/100 (£6.99 Majestic, Waitrose)

Labels: ,

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another great Portuguese red

Took RTL for a late afternoon walk along the Tarka trail, and on the way back had a quick look around the 'Cheers Bottle Shop' in a small arcade in Braunton. They have a few interesting wines, and one that really caught my eye was Alvaro Castro's Quinta de Saes Dao 2006. This is his least expensive wine (it was £8.29), but it's brilliant and massively overdelivers. The 2005 was superb, and if anything the 2006, which I tried with him last month at the winery, is even better. A definite repeat purchase, and a brilliant ambassador for Portuguese reds.

Quinta de Saes 2006 Dao, Portugal
Beautiful stuff. It's dark and intense with a lovely aromatic nose of dark cherries, raspberries and spice. Pure fruit dominates. The palate is concentrated with dense spicy structure and good acidity adding a savoury complexion to the bold, sweet, pure fruit. A vivid, expressive and rather primary wine of immense appeal. 90/100 (£8.29 Cheers Bottle Shop)

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

...and so does Dao

After a wonderfully educational and productive day in Bairrada, I spent Tuesday in Dao. The day started with a quick visit to the Paco dos Cunhas de Santar, an ancient property dating back to 1609 which Dao Sul are now rebuilding. Carlos Lucas told me that it will be finished by August, and will include a wine shop and a restaurant of Michelin star standard. We then walked over to the Casa de Santar, a beautiful manor house that makes wine (I visited four years ago), and which Dao Sul have bought a controlling interest in - their goal is to raise the quality of the wine to new heights. It's a beautiful place (pictured above).

Then, retracing my steps of four years ago, I revisited Alvaro Castro, who is currently making the Dao's best wines - his wines are actually among Portugal's very best, in my opinion. We toured his three vineyards in his fantastic Toyota Landcruiser, which is as old as me and required a bump start. First, Quinta da Pellada (pictured above), Quinta de Saes and a new block that used to belong to Passarela, which he recently acquired. It was a beautiful morning: temperatures in the mid-20s, bright sunshine, a gentle breeze. Then we did an extensive tasting of some fabulous wines, and had some lunch, joined by his daughter Maria, who is an enologist. I was very excited by these wines.

The afternoon consisted of a tasting at the Solar de Vinhos de Dao (above - they are celebrating the centenary of the demarcation of the Dao region this year) with 11 producers who'd all brought their wines along for me to taste. It was a great opportunity to look a broad range of wines that would not have been possible otherwise. As with the joint tasting in Bairrada, I left impressed with the quality.

Then it was time to drive across towards the Spanish border and up a bit to a remote part of the Beira Interior, where we were to spend the night. We were joined by Jose Almeida Garrett, who was presenting his wines, and also Joao Portugal Ramos, Luis de Castro and Jose Maria Soares Franco, who happened to be staying there the night on the way to their new project in the Douro.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Champagne and Portugal

Today was a busy day of tasting. Two unmissable events, for me at least: the annual tastings for Champagne and Portugal. The day began with a prompt 10 am start at Banqueting house for the Champagne gig, which was preceded by a pleasant wander over the Thames from Waterloo station. It was a lovely early spring morning, but a hint of freshness in the air and diffused, milky sunshine.

I tasted a lot of very good Champagnes, more than a few excellent ones and just a handful that I’d rate as just ordinary. Highlights rather predictably included the 1995 Krug, a monumental wine that won’t be approaching drinkability for another five years at least, and also a couple from Jacquesson: the 1996 vintage and the non-dosage Dizy 2000. Tarlant impressed, as did Larmandier-Bernier.

Then it was off to Lords, a beautiful venue for a tasting on a bright Spring day. Main focus here was the selection of 2005 cask samples from the Douro (very promising vintage; possibly a little better than 2004). The big surprise was the presence of Alvaro Castro (of Quintas da Pellada and de Saes in the Dão) – he doesn’t usually come to the annual tasting. He had a wonderful roster of wines with him, including the marvellous Caroussel, Dado and Pape wines, as well as wines from his two Quintas. I was really impressed by these. Sad aside: Alvaro remembered that I'd put a picture of his dog on my website, roaming his vineyard. The dog is no longer, having been poisoned by hunters, he reveals.

Now I’m on the way home, with a stained, wine-residue mouth and reams of notes to type up. Tomorrow should be a little less strenuous: just the Majestic press tasting in the morning and then a tutored tasting of Vin Clairs in the afternoon.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, February 09, 2007

Portugal rocks!

Last night's Portuguese wine awards dinner at the Portuguese embassy was a fun event. If followed the Top 50 Portuguese Wines tasting, which was extremely well attended. The big relief on my part was that my cold/flu symptoms had just eased off enough that I was able to taste again. It would have been a big disappointment to miss this one.

The wines, this year chosen by Charles Metcalfe, showed very well on the whole. I can't think of a country that has progressed so far in wine quality in such a short time (although we do tend to forget about France because of its established classics, whereas a lot of exciting progress is being made in less well known areas). Where's there's a market for good, interesting wine, and where there exist good conditions for making it, it's likely to emerge, and this is what has happened in Portugal's premium wine regions of late.

Of the 50 wines chosen, it's hard to single out just a few for praise. You'll have to wait for the write up. With dinner, two of the wines that impressed most were from the Dao region: Alvaro Castro's remarkable Quinta da Saes 2005, and Sogrape's Callabriga 2004. Both are affordable (under £9) and are utterly delicious with it.

Pictured are Rita and Joao Soares of Alentejo estate Malhadinha Nova. You can see the rest of my pictures from the event here.

Labels: ,