The next best thing to physically being in Portugal is discovering the wines of Portugal. Lucky me; I was able to attend a grand tasting the other day at the Coast Plaza hotel in Vancouver. Always a pleasure to discover unfamiliar and delicious tasting wines and meet nice new people.
I’ve tried wines from Portugal before but most of the ones at the “Wines of Portugal” tasting are not yet available for purchase in Canada (or elsewhere in North America for that matter).
I didn’t realize their scope of native grape varieties are so plentiful – 250 different kinds to be exact!
The prized and distinct grapes are considered a national treasure and have been savoured by generations of Portuguese wine lovers. Wine drinkers elsewhere in the world will discover fresh new flavours when they sample.
Here are some fun facts:
Portugal is home of the first Demarcated and Regulated wine region in the world – The Douro Valley, now a Unesco World Heritage site.
The Portuguese were the first to bring European wines to the Americas and to Asia.
Portugal has the highest density of native grape varieties in the world.
*Jancis Robinson, in a 13 year tasting, ranked Portuguese red wines the highest.
*(British wine critic, journalist and wine writer. Jancis currently writes a weekly column for the Financial Times, and writes for her website JancisRobinson.com, updated daily. She also provides advice for the wine cellar of Queen Elizabeth II).
Portugal was elected for the 3rd consecutive year as “Best Destination in the World”by the World Travel Awards and in total won 39 awards.
The wine region of Lisbon was considered by Wine Enthusiast one of the “10 Best Wine Travel Destinations 2019.”
Forbes magazine elected the best wines of 2019 and in its list there are 3 Portuguese wines in the first 12 places.
And of course there’s the PORT:
It’s important to not drink too much on an empty stomach.
Don’t ask me how I know this
Luckily the room had plenty of tasty appies to choose from.
A good but blurry beginning to the start of this week as I was invited to a media event at Secret Location in Vancouver’s trendy Gastown district.
A MASTER CLASS! The event was to promote and educate those in the room about the different wines of Portugal. And I never miss an opportunity to drink learn more.
Secret Location is a concept store that offers thought-provoking fashion and food. They’ve covered all their bases. They describe themselves as one part lifestyle boutique, one part restaurant. The elegantly prepared food was excellent along with the wine pairing accompaniments. Cheers to the chef!
In short: get these people liquored up, fed well and maybe they’ll write something nice. In all fairness it was a very enjoyable afternoon sitting at a fun table with exceptional food, pleasurable wines, and an informative presentation by Marta, the lovely sommelier. It’s interesting to find out how the grapes are selected, harvested and then fermented to obtain the desired body and structure – a caring, lengthy process. Well done.
We sampled 7 wines and a port. Of course we all expected nothing less than greatness from the Port, but we were a bit unsure of the wines because many people are only familiar with the pretty in pink bottle called Mateus (remember, we all drank this when younger) which has been around forever. I have a somewhat funny but embarrassing Mateus story to share at the end. “I get juiced on Mateus and just hang loose.“ – lyrics from Elton John’s “Social Disease”
Hey, I think they’ve improved it over the years.
The thing to note is that Portugal has less grapes than other European wine growing regions but they have some special ones, notably the Touriga grape which is used to make port – that’s why they’re famous for producing the finest port known to man.
In short, the wines were very drinkable and were superb with the food pairings. The price points are excellent. All cost under $20 including the Port. If you haven’t tried any of them, I recommend doing so for a change.
Of special note:
Periquita Reserva 2012 – a soft & balanced red with medium/long finish. $15.79 Quinta do Crasto Douro Doc 2013 – a fresh on the nose red with intense berry fruit aromas and elegant floral notes. $17.49
There is a lot to note about each particular wine we tested so the best thing is to write all the pairings with a short tasting note on each.
Aperitif – grilled octopus with celery hearts, fingerling potatoes, crispy wheat berry, lemon dressing. Wine Pairing: Mateus Rosé Original (it brought a smile to my face)
Appetizer – duck sausage, slowly poached egg, local carrots, black truffle puree. Wine Pairings (yes, two for this one): Vale Do Bomfim – Douro Red (fresh fruits, plum and blackberries, full bodied, fresh, good balance, length and finish) & Periquita Reserva Vinho Regional Red (intense ruby, vanilla, coffee, cassis, blueberries).
Main – stout braised bison short ribs, caramelized onion, parsnip puree. Wine Pairings (again, two): Duas Quintas – Douro Red (flavourful, concentrated, elegant, silky, long finish) & Cresto, Quinta do Crasto – Douro Red (elegant, balanced, well-structured on the palate, lingering finish).
Dessert – chocolate & sour cherry dense chocolate cake, sour cream ice cream. Wine Pairing: Pedra Cancela Seleccao de Enologo – Dao Red (not your typical dessert wine but given the intensity of the dessert it was surprisingly perfect) Intense red fruit, ripe plum and hints of cacao, final taste is very soft, nice and long.
Wait…it’s not over just yet.Finally a local cheese platter (Smits & Co. aged gouda, Kootenay cheese company Nostrella, Farm House goat pyramid, Salt Spring Island Cheese Company Romelia paired with Sandeman Porto Ruby – Port Wine (brilliant ruby colour, full rich flavours of fresh plums and red fruits, very well balanced.
And that was the end of my day! It was only 3:30 p.m. (it might as well have been a.m.)
My Mateus story: when I lived in Montreal my BFF (at the time) and I were friends with a music promoter and he gave us tickets to some shows and then we got to go backstage and meet the musicians and sometimes hang out (it must be noted we were not groupies in any way, shape or form – they disgusted us). One evening we were invited to after party with a very famous singer (I won’t say who) and he said something about liking Portuguese wine…so the very next day we decided to send him a bottle of Mateus tied with a ribbon and a note that we enjoyed the concert and the visit. We were not so wine savvy and that was the only Portuguese wine we knew of. We may not have impressed him but I’m sure it brought a smile to his face. We meant well. We didn’t break the bank either. We were young.