Showing posts with label Douro. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Douro. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wine Movie: "A Year In Port"

When I see a picture of a vineyard in France, Italy, or Spain I may not recognize it as such. A vineyard in Portugal, or anything in Portugal for that matter, is unmistakably Portuguese. David Kennard's movie, "A Year in Port" brings that point home solidly. The camera work captures the innate beauty of Portugal perfectly in some scenes, while displaying its lovely capriciousness in others.

Following "A Year in Burgundy" and "A Year in Champagne," this film makes a wonderful trilogy of wine movies. It presents the feeling of Port wine as well as the tradition of it.

While opening on the activity in the coastal city of Porto, where Port wine is blended and marketed, the film quickly moves into the valley of the River Douro, where Port wine is grown. That starts about a hundred miles away and goes all the way to Spain. There, we get to see how young winegrowers are trying to carve out a place for themselves by growing, and making, table wines instead of Port.

The movie shows that the way Port is made is so expensive that young winemakers can't hope to get a foot in the door. The blends involve barrels that are as much as a hundred years old. These upstarts are putting their future into table wines. This makes a way for them to get into business, but it also means lower prices for the growers in a region where it is very expensive to grow and harvest grapes.

Is the future of the Douro Valley in Port, or is it in table wines? The Port producers are certainly trying to hold onto their traditions - and market share - while debating whether table wines are the wave of the future. It's an "old world" versus "new world" battle unfolding within the same small wine region.

The movie is definitely worth a view for anyone who has an interest in Port, or for anyone who has an interest in how tradition adapts itself to the future.

:A Year in Port"is also available as a trilogy with the other two companion films. iTunes is offering the trio for a special price of $14.99, which I assume will go away at some point. Find it here.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

2011 Vintage Port Declaration


Port wine - produced in Portugal's Douro Valley - is typically a blend of several vintages of wine.  When exceptional vintages are identified, a vintage port is declared.  Winemakers usually make this determination about two years after the vintage.  Vintage port makes up only about two percent of total port production, so the wines are rather rare and usually rather expensive.

You may have seen wines made in America bearing the name "port," and that's because the US does not recognize port as a protected style.  The European Union does, however, so any European wines made in the style of port may not carry the name unless they come from the Douro Valley.

The Douro is the world's oldest official wine region, having attained that status in 1756.  It predates Bordeaux as a recognized appellation by nearly a hundred years.

Port wine is made by adding a grape spirit to the wine during fermentation.  That stops the fermentation and provides a good deal of residual sugar along with a higher alcohol content than is usually seen in wine.  Port generally registers about 20 percent alcohol.

There are over a hundred grapes permitted in the making of port, but it usually boils down to five grapes: Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão, Tinta Roriz - known across the border in Spain as Tempranillo, Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional.

The Event

One of three stops across America for the five major port houses, the Los Angeles event showcasing the 2011 vintage ports was held at the Beverly Hills Hotel in early June 2013.  The hotel is a pretty swanky joint, known for its Polo Lounge - as in, "I'll take my calls at the Polo Lounge."  Although it's not such a necessity since the advent of cellular technology, it must have been quite a bit of social bling to have a waiter bring the phone to your table there, back in the day.  Now, you're just another cellular idiot ruining everyone's restaurant experience.

We gathered in the hotel's Sunset Room to feast on the recently declared - and widely hailed - 2011 vintage ports.  As an added attraction, there were vertical tastings of the other declared vintages of the past decade.  Represented were The Fladgate Partnership - Taylor Fladgate, Fonseca and Croft - Quinta do Noval and Quinta da Romaneira.  Quinta, I learned, is the Portuguese word for "estate."

The 2011 Vintage Ports

The elegant booklet provided at the tasting contained a paragraph on what makes the 2011 vintage so special that it was declared.  "The 2011 harvest was preceded by a cold, wet winter, providing ground water reserves which allowed a balanced ripening of the grapes during the hot, dry summer."  The description goes on to call 2011 a "textbook viticultural year."

Croft 2011 - Five thousand cases of this wine were produced, which is down from eight thousand cases produced of the Croft 2009 Vintage Port.  Croft is known for its opulent ports, and this one follows suit, with beautiful, ripe fruit and a satiny texture.

Fonseca 2011 - The big, bold nose is quite complex.  There is massive fruit here, tinged with a savory aspect.  The black currant flavor is colored with notes of chocolate and anise.  It's wine has great tannic structure.

Quinta do Noval 2011 - Dark aromas mix with floral notes, giving a delicate feel to a powerful wine.  It's a great wine to ruminate on, if one is so disposed.

Quinta do Noval Nacional 2011 - The Touriga Nacional grapes used in the making of this rare wine - only 125 cases were made - grow on Portuguese rootstock.  Ungrafted and never affected by phylloxera, the vines are considered national treasures.  2011 is this vineyard's first declaration since 2003.  The wine has extremely dark color and an explosive nose full of dark fruit.  The tannins really reach out and grab me.

Quinta da Romaneira 2011 - This wine shows a brambly edge on the nose and dark fruit on the palate is so concentrated it can be called bright.  It feels very fresh in the mouth.

Taylor Fladgate 2011 - Here is another very dark wine - dark in color, aroma and taste.  The winemaker calls it "textbook Taylor Fladgate."  It's an elegant quaff which finishes warm and vibrant.

Taylor Fladgate Vargellas Vinha Velha 2011 - A big and very focused wine, there is a surplus of dark fruit in the forefront and a nice, mellow finish.  It is exceptional.

Other Vintages

At the Croft table I was told that not everyone declared in 2009.  The Fladgate Partnership felt it was notable, though, and the Croft 2009 shows why.  Pungent herbal notes, leather and cedar mark the nose, while the tannins provide great structure.  The 2007 vintage has a great nose and a delicious blueberry finish, while 2003 shows a savory side to the currant flavor.

The Fonseca 2009 is almost black and displays huge fruit on the nose and palate.  A eucalyptus note shows through in the 2007 while 2003 delivers minty cherry flavors.

Taylor Fladgate's 2009 is drinking extremely well now.  It's big and powerful, with cherries and blackberries notable.  In their 2007 vintage, forest floor underlies the black currant.  Wonderful fruit defines the 2003 as well.  The Taylor Fladgate Vargellas Vinha Velha 2004 is a showboat of black cherry, cassis and chocolate, with a particularly strong finish.

Quinta do Noval 2008 shows lots of spice in its bold, savory fruit.  Their 2007 gives lovely aromas and bright, fresh fruit flavors.  The 2004 vintage really has the spicy notes coming forward.  The Quinta do Noval 2003 also shows the spice, while giving a really nice, soft feel to the fruit.  Their Nacional 2003 has big fruit and even bigger minerals.

Quinta da Romaneira 2008 has a deep floral nose and a dark, sweet show of fruit.  Winemaker Christian Seely told me he is "an eccentric declarer," explaining why only his two houses declared in 2008.  Their 2007 is loaded with expressive dark fruit aromas and flavors tinted with a savory edge.  Great finish.  The 2004 vintage is mineral-laden and delicious.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011


Capote Velho

A recent jaunt across Southern California - actually just a little bit east on the Ventura Freeway - landed me at Rosso Wine Shop in Glendale.  The store had undergone an expansion since my previous visit, so it was nice to get a look at the new space.

It's always nice to visit Jeff Zimmitti, owner of Rosso, who has never steered me wrong on a wine recommendation.  This time, he cited a big value wine, Capote Velho Tinto Vinho de Mesa.  This $10 bottle was not only full of good wine, it was one full liter instead of the usual wine bottle size of 750ml.

The grapes are 100% Tinta Roriz, one of the top grapes of Portugal’s Douro Valley and the only one not native to the country.  You might be better acquainted with the grape under its Spanish name, Tempranillo.  It's a modest 11.5% abv, so those who shy away from high alcohol wines will want to look into this one.

The red table wine shows an oily nose with aromas of cherries and cola, along with a slight trace of a musty attic.  The palate rocks big red fruit flavors cloaked in earthy tones.  The structure is great, and so is the acidity.

I expected a bigger flavor based on the smell, but what’s there is nice.  The wine has a medium red hue and a medium mouthfeel.  In Goldilocks terms, that's "just right."  The tannins make themselves known, but they don’t get in the way.

This Portuguese drink finishes dry with a red licorice aftertaste I really loved.  Don’t overthink it though - it’s simple and rustic and priced right.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vidigal Douro Vinho Tinto 2005

The Christmas season of 2009 was full of hustling and bustling and running about, as most Christmas seasons are.  Denise and I took a break after visiting the Glendale Galleria - which is the perfect time for a break - and stopped to check out a wine store I had not been to before.  At 55 Degree Wine I was met with such a wide assortment of possibilities I felt a bit daunted.  After much evaluation, I managed to pick up a few bottles to take home.  This wine, Vidigal Douro, was one of them.

I felt I had been lax in exploring Portuguese wines of late, and the grapes involved - 60% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Amarela - seemed very interesting.  I was familiar with Touriga Nacional.  It's the main grape variety used in making Porto.  The Douro region is where Porto comes from, and you can taste the flavor of port in this wine.  It plays remarkably well without the sweetness of Port.  The wine's earthiness really dominates the flavor profile, so don't expect a fruit bomb with this one, at least not in the California style.  

It's a medium-bodied wine with a dark, inky color you cannot see through.  A ruby red tinge around the edge looks quite lovely.  On the nose, expect black cherry with leathery, cedar notes.  The palate shows the wine to be dry with a distinct lack of sweetness.  It strikes me as a rather prunish taste, but I certainly don't mean that to be off-putting.  The acidity is good and some backend heat dies down after 45 minutes of breathing. 

Vidigal's website lists the Douro as “not currently available in the U.S.”  Obviously, that's not quite true, and I am glad it's not.  We paired this wine with our incredible rib roast for Christmas Eve dinner, and it was a stunning hit.  It seems made for beef.

Vidigal Douro Vinho Tinto 2005

Varietal:  60% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Amarela
Appelation:  Portugal > Douro
Vintage:  2005
Alcohol Level:  14%
Price:  $14
Acquisition disclaimer:  I bought this wine.