Prazo de Roriz – Douro, Portugal

This young beauty starts with a refreshing blueberry and blackberry bouquet.  Violets and crushed flowers lead into a fast, berry-heavy start with tinges of vanilla.  Very nice.  The fruit rolls in with some slatey tannins – not too much – to bring it to a tight, luscious finish.  A very pleasant wine, medium bodied and delicious.  I expected less and got a lot.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Prazo de Roriz
  • Winery: Prats and Symington
  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals:
  • Price: $17
  • Where to Buy: wine.com
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Quinta dos Corvos, Porto, Portugal

We lucked into this place entirely.  Wine tours in Porto’s Gaia wine house district don’t tend to start until 11ish, but we don’t often let silly formalities like operating hours slow us down.  With all the big, famous name Port wineries still shuttered we stumbled into this place by chance – and an open door.

Corvos Entrance            Admittedly, the early arrival got us invited to, oddly, “relax” in the restroom while folks pulled themselves together.  An older German couple straight out of central casting joined us (i.e. rude, cranky, weird older man in ill-fitting and awkward neo-90’s techno tank top and shorts accompanied by very kind, cordial wife with spiky red hair).  Our tour guide, Isabel Santos, took just a few minutes to shake off last night’s partying cob-webs before launching into a well-rehearsed (but not tired) introduction to the history of the family wine house.  A beneficiary of one of the world’s oldest zoning charters – 1756 by Portugal’s beloved Marques de Pombal – the property in Sabrosa along the Pinhão river produces an average of 40,000 bottles a year.  The Quinta was acquired by the Queiroz Cardoso family in 1989 and has since remained in the family (with a few small enlargements) and is planted in an 80/20 red to white ratio, with the exact makeup of the varietals – like with the wines – something of a secret.

Isabel never missed a chance to needle some of the nearby “multi-national” wine houses for not being Portuguese enough, or abandoning old world artisanal methods for mechanized and sterile (perhaps too) modern methods.  A particularly excellent feature of the tour was her willingness to dive down as deeply as their secret recipes would allow into winemaking and grape-growing minutiae, on request.  I tried to not make the tour laborious for my companions, but did take the chance to ask a few advanced questions – questions which Isabel was able to answer concisely.

Corvos Stack            The tasting room at this wine house is stellar.  One could make an afternoon of it by ordering food and other goodies.  Some light snacks and a generous introductory tasting were included with the tour.  Again, Isabel knocked this out of the park, appropriately generous and thorough with both pourings and knowledge.  Unlike many other wine houses, Corvos offers up tastings of anything they make, if for a very reasonable price on several of the older, more advanced offerings.  My comment on the likely malvasia content of the white ports (airy salinity that balances out the usual cloying sweetness of white port) won a knowing squint from Isabel, before simply commenting that she couldn’t really comment.  I opted to go deep into some of the Vintages, as well as the 20 year old white port.  Ultimately, I walked with a bottle of 1996 Vintage (the year I first visited Lisbon), a bottle of the 20 year white, and a bottle of their cosecha.  If you only have time for one wine house tour while in Porto, make this the one . . . and don’t miss it if you’re piling up visits.  Oh, and in case it isn’t already obvious, ask for Isabel.

Quinta dos Corvos, Rua Guilherme Gomes Fernandes nº 63, 4400-175, Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto), Portugal

 

Pacheca Grande Reserva 2011 – Douro, Portugal

This powerhouse greets the nose with a blend of peppery spice, moss, black fruit, raisins, and cocoa.  The front palate gets a kick in the face from fresh strawberries and cocoa, and a hint of pepper.  Black rubber, old leather, cocoa, faint vanilla, and red fruits are pulled together by powerful (but no too) tannins and a peppery finish.  This is a true reserva, with all the aged wisdom that comes with that.  It was fantastic with roasted pork, and I imagine it paring well with any version of parillada.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Pacheca Grande Reserva 2011
  • Winery: Quinta da Pacheca
  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Touriga Nacional
  • Price: $?
  • Where to Buy: Lisbon

 

Vale da Poupa 2015 – Douro, Portugal

A bursting fresh nose with kiwi, citrus, pear, and passion fruit.  If you’re more familiar with New Zealand’s Marlborough Valley Sauvignon Blanc, this will feel comfortable.  Acid, grapefruit, and passion fruit hit the front palate like, well, a mallet.  So full and vibrant it almost feels bubbly in the mouth.  Slides across the center of your tongue like a flaming snake, delicious and unpredictable.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Vale da Poupa 2015
  • Winery: Consultores, Lda – Quinta da Faisca
  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Moscatel Galego Branco (Muscat Petits Grains)
  • Price: $?
  • Where to Buy: Lisbon

Terra do Zambujeiro 2011 – Alentejo, Portugal

Leather, dry leaves, and crushed flowers on the nose, with a faint hint of dark berries.  Red and black fruit, with vanilla on the front palate.  Dusty, chewy tannins come in on the mid-palate, with tobacco and more leather and pepper.  The rear palate is the real revelation where briny cherry flavors burst forth, complementing the dark, leathery and peppery finish.  I had this with a spicy pasta and the wine more than doubled the strength of the cayenne pepper in the pasta as it all washed down.  This gorgeous wine spent two years in French Oak and is unfiltered.  It was recommended to me by Tatyany Matos at Garrafeira Nacional in Lisbon.  Spot on recommendation (the woman’s a genius), true to the tagline on the label:  every drop, a drop of perfection.

  • Rating: Stunning
  • Name: Terra do Zambujeiro 2011
  • Winery: Quinta do Zambujeiro
  • Region: Alentejo
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Touriga Nacional
  • Price: $?
  • Where to Buy: Lisbon

Herdade do Peso Reserva 2013 – Alentejo, Portugal

Cherries and violets on the nose.  Nice acid, cherries, and cocoa hit the front of the palate.  Chocolate and leather notes intensify as it flows across the tongue, with woody notes shored up by powerful tannins.  The finish is long and chewy, and you’ll feel and taste the red fruits in your jaws as you swallow.  Herbal and earthy notes linger after the finish.  A nice red, worthy of the Portuguese label.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Herdade do Peso Reserva 2013
  • Winery: SOGRAPE Vinhos SA
  • Region: Alentejo
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Alicante Bouschet, Syrah
  • Price: $?
  • Where to Buy: Lisbon

 

 

Tradição 2015 – Palmela, Portugal

A very fresh and mineral-driven selection grounded by fermentation and a brief layover in French Oak for 4 months.  Fresh vegetal and citrus notes greet the nose, with faint orange and coriander.  Very soft on the palate, with a gentle brininess and soft vanilla wrapping the tongue like a cashmere blanket.  A crisp finish and faint echo of green apples linger like the last dance.  One doesn’t first think white wine with chorizo, but damn if Nuno didn’t nail the pairing again.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Tradição 2015
  • Winery: Família Horácio Simões
  • Region: DO Palmela, Setubal
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Semillon (Boal in Portugal)
  • Price: $?
  • Where to Buy: Wine Bar do Castelo, Lisbon

Montefino 2005 – Alentejo, Portugal

You’re not ready for this wine.  You won’t believe it exists.  But, like the devil, it believes in you.  Yes, that is balsamic and cherries on the nose.  Soft acid, dark fruit, dried prunes, and a hint of rosemary-like vegetal greet the front palate.  Exquisitely balanced tannins shore up the structure, focusing the flavors.  Faint pepper and spice play on the mid palate, reminiscent of the haunting spice of the ubiquitous piri-piri.  Cherries and florals form the long finish for this tawny beauty.  I’m not the genius that found this wine – thank Nuno Santos of Wine Bar do Castelo for that – but you’re welcome, nonetheless.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Montefino 2011
  • Winery: Francisco B. Fino, Soc. Agricola, LDA
  • Region: Alentejo (non-DO)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Trincadeira 25%, Aragones 25%, Alicante Bouschet 25%, Touriga Nacional 25%
  • Price: $?
  • Where to Buy: Lisbon

Meruge 2011 – Douro, Portugal

Cherries, burnt sugar, and florals on the nose.  Concentrated dark fruit and leather, with mineral and briny notes on the palate.  Very well balanced, with just the right tannins on the backend and a somewhat dusty finish, like musty old leaves.  A gorgeous wine.  I hauled this one back from Lisbon in my baggage a couple of years back and do not recall what I paid for it.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: Meruge 2011
  • Winery: Lavradores de Feitora
  • Region: Douro
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional
  • Price: $?
  • Where to Buy: Lisbon

Sidónio de Sousa 2009 Baga – Bairrada, Portugal

100% Baga. A traditionally fermented Portuguese table wine, fermented in clay ancas with traditional maceration (i.e. trodden). Crushed cherries and violets on the nose. Chocolaty, velvety body with red fruit and a hint of vanilla flavors. Tough, Portuguese tannins give it a lot of structure. Faint slate and coffee notes on the finish. I picked this up at Brooklyn Wine Exchange for around $35-40. Solid, but I won’t buy it again at that price point. The M2, which we drank along with it, kicked its ass thoroughly. In fact, this wine and its Robert Parker 92 point rating is the poster child for why I started this blog: meaningless ratings by people who have sold their name to producers.

  • Rating: Impressive
  • Name: 2009 Baga
  • Winery: Sidónio de Sousa 
  • Region: Bairrada
  • Country: Portugal
  • Varietals: 100% Baga
  • Price: $35-40
  • Where to Buy: Brooklyn Wine Exchange, 138 Court St, Brooklyn, NY 11201