Being Impressed at the G7 Wines of Portugal Tasting – Part 2

In my last blog I introduced you to some white wines from Portugal. I didn’t mention, but should have, that the white wines of Northern Portugal, are well-known by the name Vinho Verde. (There are also some red Vinho Verde, but maybe I’ll talk about that another time).

In Part 2 of Being Impressed at the G7 Wines of Portugal Tasting, I would like to talk about the red wines made from the Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Baga grapes, and some food and wine pairings we enjoyed. I mentioned in Part 1 that there are approximately 256 different vitis vinifera grape varieties in Portugal. I wondered with this much variety, how many of the French vitis vinifera (e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay) are planted in Portugal. I was pleased to hear that in the past it was about a 50/50% split, but now, 80% of the grapes planted are indigenous Portuguese varieties. I do like variety in wines and trying wines that are particular to a specific place in the world. Maybe you can say that these particular grapes express the terroir of the land.

Tinta Roriz is also known as Aragonez in Portugal. To confuse you even more, this grape is known as Tempranillo in Spain. The wines made from this grape provides elegance and also some mintiness to a Portuguese blend. The wine I tried was deep purple in the glass with some mintiness and black fruit aromas. It was medium in body, with low tannins. Black cherry and oaky flavours. It is also one of the grapes that go into making port wines.

The second red wine we tried was from the Touriga Nacional grape. This is another port wine grape, but also can be blended or on it’s own for still wines. We tried Touriga Nacional from the North (Douro), the Central (Setubal), and the Southern (Dao) parts of Portugal to see the differences in the wine produced from each region. Overall I would say that the wines had more tannic structure in the north, and became softer and smoother as you went south. Touriga Nacional has similar aromas to shiraz. The Douro wine was opaque purple in the glass. An amazing aroma. Very fruity, black fruit and vanilla on the nose. Ripe purple fruit flavours with some spice and round mouthfeel.

Touriga Franca was the next variety that we tasted. Touriga Franca (also known as Touriga Francesca) is another port wine grape, but also great as a still wine for drinking. It is a very difficult grape to grow. It does not like humidity and is prone to botrytis. It is happy with little rain and is late to mature. BUT can produce a wine with exceptional flavours and aromas if kept to low production. The wine we tasted was opaque purple in colour. Meaty, stewed / dried black fruit, vanilla, and leather aromas. Black fruit, spice and chocolate flavours. Medium acidity and tannins. I was really impressed by this grape variety.

Baga was our last grape variety to try, but not the last red grape that I will talk about. Baga I was told has great aging potential. It is widely planted in Portugal. This wine was opaque purple in colour. Some mint, oak, and black fruit on the nose. Ripe black fruit, a hint of spice on the palate. It was full bodied, with medium tannins and a long length.

The last grape variety that I would like to tell you about is the Moscatel de Setubal. This is the same as Muscat of Alexandria from around Egypt. I saved this one to the last as this grape is used for fortified wines, and we tasted wines from this grape when we enjoyed the dessert portion of our food and wine pairing. We tried a Moscatel de Setubal 1999 and Alabre 20 Anos (years) with our dessert. The Moscatel de Setubal 1999 is aged in oak malt whiskey barrels. The barrels are stored in a building which is not temperature controlled so the wines are exposed to hot summer heat and cold winter temperatures. The wine oxidizes and evaporates in the barrels to provide additional complexity and concentration to the wines. This wine had a wonderful orange and flowery nose. The Alabre 20 Anos, is a blend of 20 different vintages of this grape from 20 years old to 80 years old! This wine has sweet aromas with orange and some nuttiness. Sweet on the palate with spicy and orange flavours. Very round mouthfeel. These two wines, plus a port were paired with an orange creme tart, toasted almond, apricot garni and dark chocolate. It was an unbelievably good pairing.

Back to the still red wines. After going through the flight of white and red wines, sans labels, we then tasted five labelled red wines. The first was the Quinta da Garrida 2007 from the Dao region. A blend of Tinta Nacional and Tinta Roriz (50/50%). Opaque purple colour. Pruple fruit and oak on the nose. Medium body with dry tannins. Chocolate, black fruit, oak and spicy flavours on the palate. Long length a wonderful wine.

Next was the Tinto da Anfora 2007. This is a blend of many grapes, but primarily Tinta Roriz and Tinta Nacional. There is 5% Cabernet Sauvignon in this blend which adds a bit more structure to the wine. Medium garnet in colour. Some earthiness, black cherry, oak, and mint aromas. Medium body, smooth mouthfeel and medium acidity. Lots of ripe black fruit flavours with some spice.

One of my stars of the tasting for me was the Periquita Reserva 2007 (~$15). This is a blend of 3 varietals. Pencil lead aroma. Medium body with purple fruit, more pencil leads, violets, and vanilla flavours. Round mouthfeel with low tannins.

My other star wine was the Follies Cabernet Sauvignon / Touriga Nacional (30/70%) 2008 (~$16). Opaque purple in colour. Lots of aroma in the glass. Violets, black fruit, spice and mint aromas. Full bodied. Good fruit / tanning balance. Purple fruit flavour with a dry tannic finish.

The last wine in the flight of five wines was the Dados Reserva 2008. This is a blend of Tinta Roriz (60%), Touriga Franca (30%), and Touriga Nacional (10%). This wine is made from a very dry vineyard. The wine was opaque purple in colour. Purple fruit and vannila on the nose. Vanilaa, and purple fruit flavours. Smooth mouthfeel and medium body.

I think I need to do a Part 3 to this tasting. As I have 8 wines to go for the food and wine pairing. So stay tuned for Part 3. I hope I’ve enticed you a bit to go to your nearest wine shop to check out some Portuguese reds. Enjoy!