jamie goode's wine blog

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sarah Ahmed's 50 Great Portuguese Wines

Just on my way back from Sarah Ahmed's 50 Great Portuguese Wines tasting. Having done this job last year, I know how difficult it is to narrow down this selection to just 50: Portugal must be the most underrated wine-producing country on the planet. Sarah is pictured above, with one of her favourite whites.

Sarah's selection was excellent. I think we have quite similar tastes in terms of preferred styles, opting for precision and elegance over raw power. But while there was inevitably some overlap with last year’s top 50, I made a few new discoveries from her selection. And this year saw more whites than ever before, which I think is a good move.

My favourites from the tasting?

The Quinta das Bageiras Garrafeira Branco 2007 from Barraida was brilliant. For me, it was the pick of the whites, with precision, minerality and complexity. Also stunning were the Quinta de Saes Reserva Branco 2008 from Dão and Dirk Niepoort's Redoma Reserva Branco 2008 which will likely age brilliantly. I should also mention the superb Po de Poiera white 2008 and the dense, bold Pera Manca Branco 2007 from the Alentejo.

I was really taken by the MJC Colares 2005 with its sappy, fresh cherry fruit profile. Lovely wine in a lighter style, and nice to see something from this tiny appellation. Filipa Pato's Lokal Silex 2008 was probably the red wine of the tasting: beautifully precise and perfumed with elegance and power, like a great Burgundy. Her dad's Vinho Barrosa 2005 Barraida is an incredible wine, too: dense, structured, spicy with a hint of mint and eucalypt – massively concentrated. Filipa is pictured below.

Falorca's T-Nac 2007 shows how beautifully perfumed Dão Touriga can be. Alvaro Castro is a Portuguese legend, and his Pellada Reserva 2006 Dão showed really well, with power, concentration, freshness and elegance. Also from the Dão, a new wine to me was the dense, taut, Touriga-dominated Vinha Paz Reserva 2005.

To the Douro. Niepoort's Redoma Tinto 2007 is fresh, bright and focused with some stern structure hiding under the pretty fruit. This will age very nicely. Jorge Borges (above) was present showing his Passadouro Reserva 2007, and it's a brilliant example of the Douro at its best, with a tight minerally core to the focused, structured dark fruits. Quinta da Crasto's Vinha do Ponte 2007 is a remarkably complex wine, albeit one made in quite a ripe, forward style with noticeable oak. Still, there's no doubting its complexity and interest. It was nice to be able to try a back vintage of Quinta do Vale D Maria, the 2004. This is opening out and developing, and is now sweetly fruited and elegant – probably the right time to drink it.

The Alentejo selection showed well. Herdade de Grous 23 Barricas 2008 is surprisingly light and fresh with some elegance. The Malhadinha Tinto 2007 is a superb wine with amazing purity of rich, ripe fruit. I was really impressed by the Sao Miguel Descobridores Reserva 2007, which showed beautifully poised cherry and blackberry fruit. But the two stars from this region were the wonderfully fresh, finely poised Mouchão Tonel 3/4 2005 and the almost impossibly dense Grande Rocim 2007, a varietal Alicante Bouschet.

Overall, a very exciting tasting with some really impressive wines, showcasing the excellence and diversity of the modern Portuguese wine scene.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Video: train ride in the Douro

A brief film of a train ride through the the spectacular Douro wine region in northern Portugal, ending up at Quinta de Vargellas, which is one of the properties owned by the Taylor Fladgate group. The train is an excellent way to travel in the Douro because the track runs along the river, whereas the road is less direct, and less scenic. You can take a train from Porto all the way to the Douro, changing at Regua (see the timetable at www.cp.pt); here we started at Pinhao, in the heart of the wine region, and headed out towards the Spanish border, stopping a short way before the end of the line at Vargellas' own station (the line now ends at Pocinho, a few stops further on).

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Superb organic Port from Fonseca

I always turn to Port in the winter. I should be drinking it all year round, but it tends to get forgotten a bit in the summer months. Here's a favourite of mine, that delivers a lot of pleasure for a relatively affordable price. It's Fonseca's organic Port, Terra Prima. There are very few organic Ports at all, because the spirit that is added to stop fermentation (about one-fifth of the blend) has to be organic too. And the Taylor Fladgate group were able to source and get approved organic spirit only in 2002, when this wine was first produced. It comes mostly (or all?) from selected blocks on Quinta do Panascal (where the fermenting grapes are pictured, above).

Fonseca Porto Terra Prima NV
This is wonderfully focused and almost vinous, with dense, spicy dark cherry and plum fruit showing lovely purity and good structure. The sweetness is offset by lovely dry, spicy tannins (almost Italianesque) and deliciously vivid, focused dark fruits. Better than most Late Bottled Vintage wines. Quite serious. 90/100 (£14.99 Waitrose)

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Churchill's Quinta da Gricha 2007: serious Douro wine

2007 is a very successful vintage in the Douro, which is one of my favourite places on earth. And this Quinta da Gricha is one of the many serious table wines made this vintage, by the growing bevy of top flight Douro producers. I wonder how long it will be before Portugal is given the credit it deserves for its best wines? Nice touch to see a black and white aerial view of the vineyard on the label.

Churchill Quinta da Gricha 2007 Douro, Portugal
Brooding, dark and intense with lovely floral blackberry, tar and sweet dark cherry nose. The palate has attractive mineral undertones to the smooth but firmly structured blackberry and plum fruit. Lovely concentration of fruit here with some savoury complexity. It's a warm-climate wine, but there's really good definition and this should age well over the next couple of decades. 93/100 (c. £30, UK agent Stokes Fine Wines)

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The beauty of the Douro

Just been editing some of my pictures from this year's trips to Portugal's Douro. It really is a spectacular place. If you've never visited, you owe it to yourself to go there.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Douro 2007 - a thrilling vintage

Today was the long-awaited New Douro 2007 tasting, where we finally got an in depth look at the 2007 vintage in the Douro. It was held in the spectacular east room on the seventh floor of the Tate Modern (the view is above). 2007 is a very exciting vintage with some lovely wines. And its interesting to see a diversity of styles, too. You'd be hard pressed to put your finger on exactly what the 'Douro' style is. It's a region that seems to express itself in many ways.

From a tasting like this, I feel bad about picking out just a few highlights, because there were so many really good wines. And as well as the table wines, we got a chance to look at many of the 2007 Ports (although the big omission here was the Taylor Fladgate group, who don't make a table wine). 2007 is a great vintage both for Ports and table wines.

Also worth pointing out is that this New Douro group is a sort of club, and there are some top Douro wines that aren't part of the club. For example, Noval has been allowed in at last, but there's no Romaneira here. There's no Passadouro. No Bago de Touriga. No newcomers such as Conceito, Sao Jose and so on. Including these would probably make the tasting too large.

I have to mention a few wines. Niepoort's 2007 line-up was thrilling. The wines have taken on their own personalities in ways that they haven't before. They are getting more elegant, more linear. Redoma is perhaps the best yet, with a move away from just small oak to larger, more neutral oak (40% of the blend) which Dirk has purchased from Italy. Charme is just incredible in 2007, with newfound elegance and purity. Batuta is so focused, taut and fruit-driven but with amazingly persistent fine yet firm structure.

I re-tried 2004 Robustus, and was awed. This wine has, in bottle, begun to fuse into a taut core, putting on weight and structure, and paradoxically getting fruitier and purer. It is perhaps Portugal's greatest wine ever? It will need patience, though. Luis Seabra says that the 2005 is better still.

Jorge Borges and Sandra Tavares of Wine & Soul/Pintas, produced some great wines in 2007. As well as the lovely reds, the 2008 Guru is a serious wine. It's white (Douro whites are an emerging story) from old vines, and it has lovely grapefruit pith precision with well integrated oak. It reminds me of the very best white Bordeaux.

Jorge Moreira's Poeira is a Douro first growth, and its getting better and better. The 2007 is the wine Jorge is happiest with of all those he has made. It's focused, pure, quite elegant and is tight-wound, with a long future ahead of it.

The Symingtons (or the Syms as they are commonly known) finally have a world class red table wine in their portfolio. It's the 2007 Quinta do Vesuvio, and I really like it. 70% Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Franca and 10% Tinta Amarela, It's sweetly fruited, aromatic, but structured and alive, too. Fantastic stuff.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Delaforce Quinta da Corte 1991 - just brilliant

Looking for a Port to drink now? Well, here's a fantastic Single Quinta Port that's from a superb vintage, and which is over-delivering by some margin.

Delaforce Quinta da Corte 1991 Douro, Portugal
This is a superbly complex Port that is drinking well now. Complex, warm, intense spicy nose is herby and aromatic. The palate is really smooth and elegant with lovely rich spicy complexity. Wonderful poise and elegance here. Top quality Port to drink now. 93/100 (£17.99 Majestic, but £15.99 if you buy two bottles from 30/10/09 until 01/02/10)

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Monday, October 12, 2009

A Douro white

Portugal's Douro Valley is primarily red wine country, but of late the whites have really begun to impress. It would be interesting to do a tasting of high-end Douro whites, but serving them to tasters blind, so they were tasting without prejudice. The results might be fun.

Quinta do Judeu Branco 2008 Douro, Portugal
13.5% alcohol. Mixed varieties, old vines. Lovely forward aromatics with some grapey richness (is there some Moscato in here?) as well as herby, waxy, citrussy notes. The palate is rich and quite bold with fresh, waxy, pithy citrussy fruit, as well as richer grapey, peachy notes. There are lots of different flavours here, all working together to create an interesting, textured, fruit-driven wine. 89/100

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Two brilliant, affordable Douro reds

Two brilliant wines from the Douro, from two rather different properties, under the same management. They are both the 'second' wines of the respective estates, which makes them relatively affordable (c. £12 each, well priced for wines from these amazing terroirs), but they deserve to stand on their own merits as reasonably serious efforts. They are both from the 2007 vintage, which in the Douro was fantastic.

Cedro do Noval 2007 is classified as a Vinho Regional Duriense because it has a good dollop of Syrah in it, as well as the native Portuguese varieties. It's beautifully aromatic, balanced and nicely structured, with lovely sweet dark cherry and blackberry jam fruit backed up by good acid and grippy tannin. No hurry to drink this. It's named after the famous cedar tree in front of the Quinta (pictured below).

R de Romaneira 2007 is perhaps a little richer and darker, but still with great definition to the sweet fruit, and hints of meat and spice adding complexity. Lovely fusion of rich fruit with fresh acidity and some assertive but ultimately tamed tannins.

Both wines are classy and show great balance, with 13.5% alcohol.

(Find these wines with wine-searcher.com)

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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Four remarkable old Colares wines

Some fantastic wines were shown at yesterday's portfolio tasting from Clark-Foyster wines. But there was a nice surprise, too. Filipa Pato and William Wouters brought with them, along with their own wines (which are great), four bottles of old Colares, from the 1968, 1955, 1952 and 1934 vintages. This was really kind of them: we got to taste a bit of Portuguese wine history. The wines were just fabulous. My write up, with a bit of background on Colares is here.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

Missing the Douro - more pictures

I wish I was back in the Douro. It's such a magical place. Here are some more pictures from last week's trip. They're from Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas in the Douro Superior.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

2007 Vintage Port: a great vintage

Just written up the 2007 vintage Ports on the main part of the site here. If I wasn't paying for one of my children's education, I'd go big on this vintage, which I think is fantastic. I also think the 2003 vintage is equally excellent, after having retried a number of the wines.

My choices? I'd order a case of Noval, a case of Niepoort (backward but serious), a case of Taylors, a case of Graham, a case of Warre, and then some Romaniera and Silval to keep me going in the meantime. Vintage Port rocks.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Video: the Yeatman, a new luxury hotel in Porto

Here's a short film from last week's visit to the new Fladgate Partnership (Taylor, Fonseca, Croft) hotel project, the Yeatman. It's an ambitious and exciting venture, and it's due to be completed early summer 2010.

You can read my full write-up here.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some more from the Douro

Mostly pictures of last week's trip, which will be written up in full.

The Douro's most famous grape variety: Touriga Nacional, here at Quinta de Romaneira.

Yesterday morning. Under the famous cedar tree on the terrace at Quinta do Noval, an awesome tasting of Noval VP and Nacional back to 1963 is laid out.

Margaret Rand and Chris Losh, my fellow tasters, with Christian Seely in the background.

These babies don't come out to play very often. It was a truly incredible tasting. Christian also included the vintages from Noval's dark era, when quality wasn't what it was supposed to be.

Christian contemplates the single, small lagar of 2009 Nacional, which was picked and filled earlier in the day.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

More from the Douro

Had a fantastic time at Noval; now on my way back home, logging on in Porto airport. Just time to post a few photographs. This morning we had a vertical of Noval VP/Nacional going back to 1963, which was rather fun.

Top to bottom: Picking Tinta Roriz at Noval; Quinta de Romaneira; Quinta do Noval; picking Nacional; filling a lagar; and a Noval terrace.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

In the Douro

For the last few days I have been in the Douro, first of all staying at Taylor´s Quinta de Vargellas, and now at Noval. Harvest is coming to a close here; it has been an early vintage, with a very hot dry July and August. Winemakers are describing it as complicated. The weather for this week has been very hot and sunny.

Last night a group of us got in a lagar. It was tremendous fun treading grapes. I have so much to report on, but time is short, so it will all have to wait.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Porto

A quick post from the road. I'm in Porto, staying at the Pestana hotel (below) on the waterfront, looking over to the town of Vila Nova de Gaia where all the Port lodges are located. The Pestana is a lovely hotel. The last time I stayed here in 2002 it was called the Carlton.

Last night we dined at the Factory House with Adrian and Natasha Bridge. It's a huge building that used to be the hub of the English Port Trade, liberated from the French in 1811. It is still owned and used by the English Port shippers, but there are now just three companies left because of mergers and consolidation: the Symingtons, the Taylor-Fladgate group, and newcomer Churchill.

Still decorated as it would have been 100 years ago, the Factory House is a piece of living history.

Every Wednesday the shippers would gather for lunch, drinking Port together, and playing guess the vintage. Wednesday was chosen because this was the day when no post arrived, so there wasn't much work to be done.

The Port last night? Fonseca 1970 from magnum. It was superb.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

High-end Douro red: Casa Amarela

I'm off to the Douro tomorrow, so I thought it would be appropriate to blog on a high-end Douro red.

Quinta Casa Amarela Reserva 2006 Douro, Portugal
14.5% alcohol. Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz, aged in new French oak. Sweet, dark intense nose with ripe dark fruits, some spicy notes from the oak and a savoury, mineral edge. The palate shows good concentration of sweet ripe dark cherry and plum fruit with a tarry oak veneer and good acidity and tannic structured. Rich but well structured, with some potential for future development. Well made and modern-styled, showing some oak, but with substance, too. 90/100 (£25.99

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

Some thoughts on terroir: different expressions of Touriga Nacional

Regular readers will know that I'm really interested by the way that different soils influence the flavour of wine. It's usually referred to as 'terroir', but there's more to terroir than just soils. Climate also plays a big role.

Portugal has a great demonstration of terroir in action. Consider the different expressions of Touriga Nacional in the Dao and the Douro regions. Yes, the climates are a little different (Douro is warmer and drier), but one of the chief differences is the soils.

Pictured above is a typical Dao soil type: sandy granite. Below we have the signature soil of the Douro: schist. Both are good vineyard soils in that they limit vigour and are free draining, but Touriga is quite different when grown on each.

This is perhaps a big generalization, but Dao Touriga is brighter, fresher and more aromatic, with distinctive floral/violet aromas, and red berry and black cherry fruits. Douro Touriga is typically richer and denser, with more palate weight and some meaty blackberry fruit. It can be floral, but it's usually richer and meatier.

Both are fantastic. I think Douro Touriga is usually best as part of a blend, though. Dao Touriga is also usually blended, but I think it can stand up on its own as a single variety. Still, generally speaking, Touriga is a fantastic blend component, and that's the way it is most effectively used.

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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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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/)

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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Vesuvio vertical

Quinta do Vesuvio, in Portugal's Douro Superior, makes some of the best vintage Ports of all. A while back, I was lucky enough to have a pretty much complete vertical tasting of the recent era (the Symington's purchased the property in 1989). These are seriously good Ports, and my write up is here.

Pictured above is the view of the property from the river. This photo was taken back in July 2006 when, as part of the Quinta de la Rosa centenary celebrations, we enjoyed a train ride up to Pocino, and then a boat ride back down to Pinhao.
It was a scorchingly hot day, and many of us decided to have a swim in the Douro. After disembarking, I remember swimming again, in the pool at Bomfim and drinking beer with Luis Antunes, before a low-key dinner where Jorge Moreira poured from a magnum of Batuta 2004, after which there was a power cut. The following evening was the crazy party, which went on pretty much all night. Great memories.

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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)

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Quinta do Vallado 2006 - a delicious, affordable Douro red

As regular readers will know, I'm a great fan od the red wines from Portugal's spectacular Douro Valley. However, they can be quite expensive. So it's nice to find one that's sort of affordable, and which is still pretty serious.

Quinta do Vallado 2006 Douro, Portugal
This nicely packaged wine is essence of Douro, with rich, plummy, spicy blackberry fruit and nice grainy tannic structure. There's some nice savoury, meaty character, too. A ripe, forward wine that manages to retain its focus and restraint. A delicious expression of the Douro. 90/100 (£11 Noble Green Wines)

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Duorum Vintage Port 2007

Above: José Luís Moreira da Silva, João Perry Vidal and José Maria Soares Franco of Duorum.

Duorum is latin for ‘from two’. It’s a joint project between João Portugal Ramos and Jose Maria Soares Franco. As well as two famous enologists, the ‘from two’ also refers to the fact that the wine is a blend from two rather different parts of the Douro. On the one hand, Duorum is renting two old vineyards and buying from a further 15–18 growers in the Cima Corgo; on the other, the Douro Superior, further up river towards the Spanish border. Currently, the Douro Superior vineyards are rented, but Duorum have also purchased 150 hectares – from some 60 different owners – which is being converted into a spectacular Quinta, called Castelo Melhor.
The first release of the Vintage Port, 2007, is what I'm drinking now. It's tannic and dense, but it has lovely violet and dark cherry fruit, with real intensity and some finesse. There's a spicy element to the structure. I love the combination of fruit purity and dense structure. 93-95/100 (this is a cask sample)

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