More Wineries to Check at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival #VPIWF

As I mentioned in my earlier blog article, the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, has a PDF brochure now available. It  has a listing of all the wineries attending this year. I started to point out some wineries to visit at the International Festival tasting, but needed this second article to finish off the list.  I already covered Spain, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France, and BC.  Although I may not mention each winery listed, I still suggest trying them as you may find a wine you love.

Wines from Germany

Germany is well-known for their rieslings.  In their Qualitätswein mit Prädikat rating system. You have:

  • Kabinett
  • Spätlese
  • Auslese
  • Beerenauslese
  • Trockenbeerenauslese and
  • Eiswein

With increasing level of sweetness.  But don’t forget that Germany also produces wines from Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir,  Scheurebe, Bacchus, and Gewürztraminer (and more). Bürgerspital Estate would be one winery to try as they do have a wide range of varietal wines to try.  It is also amazing to consider how steep the slopes are where they grow their grapes; check out the picture I included from their website. Schloss Schonborn is another premium winery, has a wide range, and a sparkling wine.

Wines from Italy

In Italy, the first in the list is Antinori.  This is a large, well-known, and regarded winery, that has it’s winery in Italy, but also wineries in California and Washington state.  Their innovations played a large part in the “Super-Tuscan” revolution of the 1970s. They are well-known for their launch of Tignanello, a barrique-aged wine from the Tignanello vineyard that contained not only Sangiovese, but also Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which meant that it was ineligible for the Chianti Classico appellation.  This wine, plus Sassicaia from another Tuscan winery, helped to bring about the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification in Italy. Needless to say, if they are pouring Tignanello, you should try it.

Accordini Igino is from the Veneto region (NorthEast) of Italy, famous for Valpolicella and Amarone. If you have never tried an Amarone, you should be in for a treat.  Amarone is a rich, dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara grapes. The drying process concentrates the remaining sugars and flavors in the grapes to produce a full-bodied wine with lots of flavour. Consider an Amarone for a special dinner.

Beni di Batasiolo is from the Piedmont (NorthWest) corner of Italy.  Beni di Batasiolo is quite well-known for their off-dry Moscato d’Asti, but they do have a wide range of red and white wines.  On the red side, we may be treated to a Barolo, Barbaresco, or Barbera d’Alba.

Ca’ del Bosco is a winery from the Lombardi region of Italy. They are a relatively new winery, who is on the leading edge of the exciting new wave of Italian wine producers, making top-quality sparkling and still wines.  I checked their website and they do have quite a range of sparkling wines, that I am looking forward to tasting.

Wines from New Zealand

New Zealand and BC are quite similar.  We both have been producing wines from the noble grapes starting the 1970s.  We are both also cool-climate wine producers, and I think make some very nice Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. Astrolabe, Giesen Wine Estate, Man O’War Vineyards, Mud House Wines, and Sacred Hill Wines are wineries that you may not have heard of, but they all are very good producers.  Try Astrolabe‘s Sauvignon Blanc . I can recommend the Mud House Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008. When I tried it last year it had a range of smoky, cherry, and leafy aromas. Wild flavours on your palate with cherry, oak and strawberry flavours.  Also try Mud House’s Pinot Gris.  I also recommend trying the Giesen “The Brothers” Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2008. Again from a past tasting, it had lots of herbal and gooseberry aroma. Bracing acidity with green flavours.

In August 2010, I was able to meet with Man O’ War winemaker, Mr. Duncan McTavish. At that time I recommended his Man O’ War Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 and his red blend made with Merlot / Cabernet / Franc / Malbec 2008.  The winery also has a premium level of wines called their Black label wines.  They are named after great battleships or classes of battleships.  Hopefully Duncan will be bringing his  Valhalla Chardonnay, Dreadnought Syrah, and Ironclad Bordeaux blend. Read my MyWinePal Meets Man O’ War article here.

Wines from Portugal

The G7 Wines of Portugal group visited Vancouver a few months ago, introducing us to the still white and red wines of Portugal, and of course their wonderful port.  Aveleda has a variety of labels: Casal Garcia, Aveleda Fonte, Quinta da Aveleda, Aveleda Alvarinho, Charamba, Follies and Adega Velha. You may be most familiar with their Casal Garcia Vinho Verde, “green wine”.  Vinho Verde, comes both as a red and a white wine, but I think only white wines have reached BC.  Vinho Verde is a very refreshing and versatile white wine that has a bit of effervescence to it. Try it with some seafood. They also have a Follies line of wines. I was fortunate to taste their Follies Cabernet Sauvignon / Touriga Nacional (30/70%) 2008 (~$16). It was one of my favorite wines from the G7 tasting. Violets, black fruit, spice and mint aromas. Full bodied. Good fruit / tannins balance. Purple fruit flavour with a dry tannic finish.

Quinta do Crasto is well-known for their ports here, and will hopefully show us their range of still red wines. There are a few of their red wines currently available through the BCLDB, but there are many more to show. Their single varietal Touriga Nacional and their Touriga Roriz should be interesting to taste.  These are two of the indigenous grapes to Portugal that go into the blend for port. The most expensive ports are primarily made from Touriga Nacional. It has aromas and flavours of violets, blueberries, black fruits, and spice. A grape that produces a very full-bodied wine. Touriga Roriz is the most widely grown grape in Portugal.  It has cherry, jam, blackberry and spice on the nose. The grape has high tannins, and can age for a long time. Quinta do Vale Dona Maria is another producer of both port and still red wines to check out at the festival. Symington, Fonseca Guimaraens and Taylor Fladgate are famous port producers.  You should visit all of them, but maybe wait toward the end of your tasting session as these ports could overpower your palate for white and red still wines.

Wines from South Africa

South African wines are a bit of Old World and New World style put together.  People tend to have strong feelings about South African wines, either for or against.  Many of their wines are in my opinion built for drinking together with food.  We are lucky to have some premium South African producers at the Festival.  Boekenhoutskloof produces some great red wines from entry level to premium.  On the entry level they have The Wolf Trap, which is a blend containing syrah, mourvedre, and viognier. You get spice, structure, and perfume from these three grapes respectively.  On the premium, hopefully we will have a chance to try their Boekenhoutskloof Collection Syrah.  On the label you will notice 7 deck chairs, which I was told represents each one of the winery principals. It is quite a process to produce this wine which is fermented with native yeasts.  Here is the description from BHK’s website:

“In 2008 the fruit was harvested over an one week period starting on February 25st. The complexity of this wine also benefits from the diversity in grape maturity from the different picks. The fruit is kept in the cold room overnight before it gets sorted and crushed into concrete fermenter. A small percentage of whole bunches were put into the bottom of the tank of some batches to get a slight effect of carbonic maceration. After 4 days of cold soaking, the fermentation starts by only using native yeasts. The primary fermentation is done within two and a half weeks with the temperature that peaks at around 29°C. During the fermentation the wine gets a delestage 2 – 3 times per day. Pigeage was never done on this Syrah. It also received a postfermentation maceration for another week before being pressed to 2nd filled barrels to undergo MLF. After 18 months in barrel the wine gets a light egg-white fining and racking before its final 9 months in oak.”

Graham Beck Wines produce a wide range of wines, from sparkling to dessert to white, rose, and red wine.  Graham Beck also has a social conscience and opened the Graham and Rhona Beck Skills Centre near Madeba in Robertson. Part of an extensive and innovative social development program, the centre aims to facilitate skills development for the long term upliftment of the farming community in the Breede River Valley.  They also are supporters of the environment. You can read about Graham Beck’s Biodiversity drive here. I have enjoyed their Game Reserve Shiraz, Game Reserve Chenin Blanc, and their Méthode Cap Classique Brut NV sparkling wine in the past.  Glen Carlou‘s Syrah and Chardonnay has won many awards from around the world.  Their Syrah 2004 was awarded John Platter’s Wine of the Year in 2006.  Their wine is reasonably priced, is a general listing in the BCLDB, and in my opinion a great deal.

Wines from the USA

There are plenty of wonderful wines from the USA. From Oregon there is the solid King Estate.  They are well known for their excellent Pinot Noir, but I also really like them for their Pinot Gris.  For Washington State, you will want to try Columbia Crest.  The Columbia Crest 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, was Wine Spectator’s No. 1 Wine in the World for 2009. Also I’ve tried their H3 Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and really enjoyed it (Horse Heaven Hills = H3).   There are several California wineries to choose from.  If you like big, jammy Zinfandels, I would expect to see the wide range that are produced by RavenswoodCaymus Winery and Clos Du Val are two cult level wineries for Sauvignon Blanc. Another good producer of Cabernet Sauvignon at a lower price point is Louis M MartiniRodney Strong (both their white and red wines are excellent), Robert Mondavi, and Stag’s Leap are also excellent producers of wine.  Give them each a try.

I could keep going on about all these wineries, but I think I’ll stop with this.  If you have any favorite wineries, please let me know, and go out and enjoy the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival!!!

Balthasar Ress Antinori
Bürgerspital Estate Azienda Vitivinicola
Deinhard Accordini Igino
Henkell Badia a Coltibuono
Schloss Reinhartshausen Bastianich / La Mozza
Schloss Schonborn Beni di Batasiolo
St. Urbans-Hof Fontanafredda
GREECE Rocca Delle Macìe
Boutari Tenuta Sant’Antonio
Santa Margherita /
Ca’ del Bosco
ISRAEL Tedeschi
Galil Mountain Winery /
PORTUGAL Astrolabe
Aveleda Giesen Wine Estate
Blandy’s Madeira Kim Crawford Wines
Fonseca Guimaraens Man O’War Vineyards
Quinta do Crasto Mud House Wines
Quinta do Vale Dona Maria Oyster Bay Wines
Sogrape Vinhos Sacred Hill Wines
Symington – Dow’s Port Stoneleigh
Symington – Graham’s Port
Taylor Fladgate / Croft
SOUTH AFRICA Bonterra Vineyards
Boekenhoutskloof Caymus Winery
Durbanville Hills Clos Du Val
Graham Beck Wines Delicato Family Vineyards
KWV Wines Francis Ford Coppola
Presents LLC
Glen Carlou
J. Lohr Vineyards
& Wines
Louis M Martini
Miner Family Vineyards
OREGON Quady Winery
King Estate Ravenswood Winery
Ridge Vineyards
Robert Mondavi Winery
WASHINGTON Rodney Strong Vineyards
Columbia Crest Signorello Estate /
Hedges Family Estates / Edge Winery / Fuse Wines
Snoqualmie Vineyards Stags’ Leap
Trefethen Family
Truchard Vineyards
Wente Vineyards

Here is the download link for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival brochure.  Enjoy!


Enjoy some Port and Cheese for Christmas?

With this cold snap here in Vancouver, it got me to thinking about opening a bottle of port and enjoying some cheeses over a couple of evenings. I thought that you may also enjoy such things, so I am giving you a short list of some ports and some cheeses that you may want to try.

Port is a fortified wine made in Portugal by definition.  It is usually quite sweet and typically made from one or more of the grape types: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Cao, and Tinta Barroca. Other countries make a fortified wine and sometimes call it port, just like some countries make sparkling wine and call it champagne.  So when I am talking about port, I am meaning port from Portugal.

I checked out the Everything Wine store website, to see what port they have in stock in the $25-$50 range (sometimes it is nice to spoil yourself).  Most of the port listed is from Portugal, but there is at least one in the list from Australia (can you spot it?):

Croft Pink Port 750ml Port $29.99
De Bortoli Black Noble 750 mL Port $46.99
Fonseca LBV 2001 Port 750ml Port $38.99
Graham’s The Vancouver Club Reserve Port 750 mL Port $29.99
Graham’s 10 Year old Tawny Port 750 mL Port $39.99
Graham’s 98 Quinta dos Malvedos Port 375 mL Port $36.99
Graham’s 99 Quinta dos Malvedos Port 375 mL Port $36.99
Graham’s Six Grapes Vintage Character Port 750 mL Port $29.99
Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 750 mL Port $28.99
Hardy’s Whiskers Blake Classic Tawny Port 750 mL Port $29.99
Kopke Colheita LBV 1997 Port 750 mL Port $49.99
Nieport Colheita 1995 Port 375 mL Port $44.99
Quinta de Ventozelo Ten yr old Tawny 375 mL Port $32.99
Quinta Do Crasto 2005 LBV 750ml Port $34.99
Smith Woodhouse LBV Port 750 mL Port $37.99
Taylor Fladgate 10 Yr Tawny Port Port $39.99
Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 750 mL Port $25.99
Taylor Fladgate Quinta de Vargellas 1995 Vintage Port 375ml Port $49.99
Ventozelo 1998 Port, LBV 750ml Port $39.99

You may have noticed different terms for the ports: Vintage, Tawny, LBV.  Here is a bit of info about these different styles of port (Note that there are more styles than just these):

Vintage:  This is port that is produced from grapes from one year (vintage) and deemed to be of exceptional quality by the port house.  Not every year is declared a vintage in the Douro. The decision on whether to declare a vintage is made in the spring of the second year following the harvest. About 2% of the total port production is Vintage.

Tawny: is a basic blended port,  which is aged in the barrel before being bottled. This type of port can be aged from 3 to 40 years.  The aging in oak causes the wine to take on a reddish-brown colour and develops a dry nutty flavour with raisin notes.

LBV:  This stands for Late Bottled Vintage. iThis is port that was originally destined for bottling as Vintage Port, but was left in the barrel for longer than had been planned. This type of port is bottled between 4 and 6 years after the vintage. The filtered version of this wine has the advantage of being ready to drink without being decanted, is bottled with a stopper that can be easily re-corked and enjoyed over many tastings.

If you want to try some BC “port”, there is some that you can try from Grey Monk and from Sumac Ridge.

Some ports that I’ve reviewed in the past:

Portugal, Taylor Fladgate, White Port, NV
–  Medium gold colour. Oxidized aroma.  Green, orange marmalade, lemon meringue pie, lime, almond aromas.  Medium low acidity, fuller body and intensity.  Sweet, caramel, citrus, dried fruit, and apricot flavours.

Portugal, Taylor Fladgate, 20 year old Tawny Port, NV – Medium tawny colour.  Pronounced intensity.  Figs, red fruit, dried fruit, red cherry, earthy aromas.  Medium sweet.  Medium plus acidity / body / intensity.  Spices, raisin, red fruit, dried fruit and red cherry flavours.  Elegant.

Portugal, Quinta do Panascal, Fonseca Single Quinta Vintage Port 1991 – Opaque purple colour.  Some deposit in the glass.  Black fruit, dried fruit, orange and oak aromas.  Full bodied, medium sweetness.  Spice, raisin, red fruit, black cherry flavours.  Medium to long length.

Some suggestions for cheese to go with port:
Blue cheeses. Stilton is a traditional pairing with port.  The saltiness and the bitterness of the blue cheese balancing with the sweetness and fruit of the port.
aged cheddar
aged gorgonzola
– experiment with other salty cheeses

I hope this gives you a starting point for your Christmas holiday tipple. Enjoy!

Being Impressed at the G7 Wines of Portugal Tasting – Part 3

There was so many wines to taste and information to ingest at the G7 Wines of Portugal tasting, that I had to leave the food and wine pairing to Part 3.  The event was held at the Bill Reid Gallery in downtown Vancouver.  A wonderful exhibit of some of Bill Reid’s Haida art, as well as art by other First Nations people.  The food for this tasting was catered by diva at the Met, and each course was spectacular.

We started our food and wine pairing with:
Rare seared albacore tuna, marinated cucumber, and a basil emulsion served with the Grande Follies Branco 2007.  The Grande Follies Branco 2007 is a blend of chardonnay and the Portugese grapes Maria Gomes, Cerceal, and Bical. It had aromas and flavours of lychee, pineapple, and stone fruit, along with some vanilla.  The pairing was quite nice.  The acidity of the wine balanced with the marinated cucumbers and complemented the tuna.

Our next course was:
Butternut squash risotto with Oyama shinkin speck, served with Quinta dos Quatro Ventos Reserva 2006 and Tinto da Anfora Grande Escolha 2006.  The Quinta dos Quatro Ventos Reserva is the name of the vineyard, and is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca.  It is only produced in exceptional years. This wine has good structure.  Lots of purple fruit flavours and spice on the palate.  The Tinto da Anfora Grande Escolha is a blend, but primarily Tinta Roriz and Touriga 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.  Thse Portuguese reds although having structure, have a supple roundness to them so that they complement the cheese in the risotto, as well as balance well with the cured shinkin speck.

third course was:
Slow braised beef shortrib, carmelized parsnip puree, natural jus, served with Quinta do Cachao, Grande Escolha 2007 and Periquita Superior 2008.  The Quinta do Cachao Grande Escolha is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca.  This wine had a bit of a closed nose but made it up on the palate.  Lots of purple fruit and soft mouthfeel.  The Periquita Superior is a higher level of quality of wine in Portugal, but below the Reserva level. Deep purple in the glass.  Oak, mint and black fruit on the nose.  Medium body.  Firm tannins with purple fruit flavours.  Dry finish.  These red wines worked very well with the beef, which was already very soft from the slow braising.

Our dessert was:
Orange creme tart, toasted almond, apricot garni and dark chocolate, served with Porto Messias Colheita 1985, Moscatel de Setubal 1999, and Alabre 20 Anos. The Moscatel de Setubal 1999 (aka the Muscat of Alexandria grape) 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. The Porto Messias Colheita 1985 had honey and nuttiness on the nose.  Orangy colour.  Medium body, with spiciness and sweetness.  Good level of acidity to cleanse the palate.  The intensity of flavour plus the spice and full body of these wines balanced nicely with the orange creme tart.

I hope I’ve whetted your appetite for Portuguese wines, red, white, and dessert with these last 3 blog posts.  Please post a comment if you enjoy Portuguese wines, and which ones you like in particular.  Gracias!

What Portuguese Wines are in BC?

With my fantastic wine tasting of Portuguese wines this week (see earlier blog articles), I thought I’d make a quick check to one of my favorite private wine stores,, and see what Portuguese wines they have in the $15-$25 range. There are 46 wines, ranging from, white, red, rose, and fortified (e.g. Port).  Here is the list:

Wine Name Varietal Price
Alfrocheiro Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $21.99
Arca Nova Vinho Verde Rose Espadeiro 750ml Rose $16.99
Azul Alentejo Reserva Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $23.99
Azul Bairrada Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $15.99
Azul Palmela Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $19.99
Azul Ribatejo Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $19.99
Azul Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $18.99
Azul Vinho Verde 750 mL White Blend $16.99
Cabriz Red Blend 750 ml Red blend $16.99
Carm Organic Red Blend, Douro 750 mL Red blend $21.49
Casa Santos Lima Amoras 750ml Red blend $16.49
Casa Santos Lima Fernao Pires 750ml Fernao Pires $18.99
Cockburns Special Reserve 750ml Other $22.99
Collalbrigo Rose Brut 750 mL Rose $22.99
Dfj Grand Arte Alicante Bouschet 750ml Red blend $24.99
Dona Helena Terras do Sado Branco 750 mL White Blend $15.99
Encostas do Douro Palestra Red Blend 750ml Red blend $17.99
Espumante Luis Pato Maria Gomes Bruto 750ml Maria Gomes $21.99
Flor de Crasto 2004 Red Blend 750ml Red blend $16.99
Fonseca Bin 27 Reserve Port 750ml Other $22.99
Wine Name Varietal Price
Fonseca Ruby Porto 750 mL Red blend $21.99
Forgotten Field Red 750ml Red blend $15.99
Forgotten Field White 750ml White Blend $15.99
Graham’s Six Grapes Vintage Character Port 375 mL Port $17.99
Jose Maria de Fonseca Periquita Terras do Sado Reserva Red Blend 750 mL Red blend $17.99
Lemos & Van Zeller Golfers Branco 750ml White Blend $22.99
Lemos & Van Zeller Golfers Tinto 750ml Red blend $18.99
Mateus Rose 1.5L Rose $18.99
Ochoa Rosada de Lagrima 750 mL Rose $16.99
Ochoa Tempranillo 750 mL Tempranillo $20.99
Quinta da Garrida Tinto 750ml Red blend $19.99
Quinta De Azevedo Vinho Verde 750ml White Blend $18.99
Quinta De La Rosa douRosa Rose Wine 750ml Rose $22.99
Quinta De La Rosa douRosa White Wine 750ml White Blend $24.99
Quinta de Roriz Prazo de Roriz 2004 Red Blend 750ml Red blend $23.99
Quinta de Ventozelo Vinzelo Red – Douro 750 mL Red blend $17.49
Quinta do Correio Tinto 750ml Red blend $21.99
Quinta do Crasto Crasto Douro Tinto 750 ml Red blend $19.99
Quinta Do Crasto LBV Port 2000 375 ml Port $20.99
Quinta do Encontro Merlot 750 ml Merlot $16.99
Wine Name Varietal Price
Quinta Do Vallado Douro Branco 750ml White Blend $21.99
Sandeman-Finy Ruby Porto 750 mL Red blend $19.99
Taylor Fladgate 1st Estate Reserve Port Port $22.99
Taylor Fladgate LBV 2003 375 mL Port $18.99
Taylor Flagdate White Port 750 mL Port $22.99
Warrior Port 750 mL Port $24.99

You will see that many of the wines are listed as blends.  For the reds expect 2 or more of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Baga. For the wines expect a blend of Alvarinho, Louriero, and/or Arinto. I’m looking forward to my next trip to Everything Wine to pick up some of these wines and enjoy with friends.



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!

Being Impressed at the G7 Wines of Portugal Tasting – Part 1

There is always so much to learn in the world of wine. Different varietals, different wine regions, different wine vintages, etc. Today, I learned a bit more about the 7 major wine regions of Portugal, and their indigenous vitis vinifera grapes.

We started out the tasting with a description of the wine regions of Portugal and the history of vitis vinifera in Europe, lead by Domingos Soares Franco, the senior winemaker of Jose Maria da Fonseca. With the latest ice age, vitis vinifera survived in the southern most parts of Europe, which included Portugal. After the ice sheets receded, then the grapes from these regions spread to other regions in Europe. So we have Portugal in part to thank for the survival of the vitis vinifera grapes.

While most people think of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, and the Pinot varieties, when they think of vitis vinifera, there are many other grapes in this family. In Portugal there are approximately 256 different indigenous vitis vinifera types of grapes. These grapes have names like Alvarinho, Louriero, Arinto, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Baga. Our speaker Domingos Soares Franco took us through a tasting of these Portugese varieties to show us the potential of each varietal.

To keep this blog article short, I will cover the white wine varieties, and in Part 2 of this blog article, I’ll cover the red varieties. Tudo bem?

Alvarinho is the first white grape variety. The wine I tasted from this varietal was bright in the glass, medium yellow in colour. Lemon, vanilla, peach and banana aromas. Medium body and acidity, round mouthfeel, with lemon, banana and vanilla flavours. A bit of spice and a long finish. I was very impressed with the Alvarinho grape and look forward to enjoying wines from this variety in the future and exposing other people to this variety.

The second white of the day was from the Loureiro grape. I tasted wines from this grape in the past and it always impresses with it’s aromas and flavours. Loureiro is typically a blending grape, but I think it is a wonderful grape on it’s own. The wine I tried today was medium lemon in colour. Flowers and orangy aromas and flavours. Off dry with good acidity to balance the bit of sweetness.

The Arinto grape is very important in Portugal due to its high level of acidity. The wine from this grape can be blended with other white grape variety wines that to do not have as high a level of acidity so that you can enjoy the flavours of the other white grapes, add flavour complexity, and the refreshing component brought by Arinto’s acidity. The wines from this grape typically have tropical fruit flavours.

In Part 2 of the blog I will cover the red grapes Moscatel de Setubal, Tinto Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Baga. I’ll then cover the second flight of wines we had, and finally our food and wine pairings! Lots to cover.