Tasting No. 218 – February 24, 2020- Wines from Portugal

Club del Vino


Capri Ristorante, McLean VA

Tasting Overview: Portugal wines do not cease surprising wine lovers.  Coming from a reputation of producing cheap and mediocre quality wines several decades back, there has been a remarkable transformation of wine making in the country.  Use of modern techniques, better vineyard management and fruit selection and blending have resulted in a vigorous, modern and world class wine industry at par with the most advanced and traditional leading countries.  On top of that, prices are affordable even for the top quality Portuguese wines.

The  main objective of this tasting is to explore wines and grape varieties from Douro, Beiras and Alentejo regions in Portugal.

Type of Tasting: Blind

Wines presenters:  Clarita Estrada and Jorge García-García

These are the wines:

  1. 2016  Vinhas Velhas Vinho Branco, Beiras, Luis Pato
  2. 2014 Carvalhas Tinta Francisca, Douro, Quinta das Carvalhas. 
  3. 2017 Post Scriptum de Chryseia , Douro, Prats & Symington
  4. 2016 Alicante Bouschet, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Herdade do Rocim
  5. 2003 Colheita, Quinta do Noval, Old Tawny Port

This is the menu:


1.Fried calamari & zucchini
2. Risotto with chorizo and mushrooms
3. Caprese salad
4. Beef medallions with brown sauce, roasted potatoes and green beans
5. Dessert or coffee

Participants: Mario Aguilar, Marcello Averbug, Ruth Connolly, Clarita Estrada, Jaime Estupiñán, Jorge García-García, Agilson Perazza, Claudia Perazza, John, Redwood, Lucía Redwood, Jorge Requena, Alfonso Sánchez, Jairo Sánchez, Ricardo Santiago, Germán Zincke.

Information on the Wines

(The information below has been compiled from various internet sources) .

2016 Vinhas Velhas Vinho Branco, Beiras, Luis Pato

The Wine: (RP) The 2016 Branco Vinhas Velhas is a roughly equal blend this year of Bical, Cerceal and Sercialinho, unoaked and coming in at 12.5% alcohol view Technical Note below). This simply coats the palate and seems full bodied, rich and very dense this year….As with the 2015, this will likely show better with a year more in bottle, around the summer of 2018. It should age beautifully, perhaps better than indicated. I suspect the 2015 will eventually win out, when both have shed their baby fat, but at the moment, this shows better. At the pricing provided, there is no way you can go wrong with either. They are both super bargains.

(Astonwines.con staff review) This wine proves, without question, that Bical and Cercial are as good as Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is as good as Chablis. This wine is as good as Vouvray. This wine is as good as Sancerre. Actually, it’s better- if you factor in price.  …. It is one of those rare wines that is both elegant and fun. It has old world style in spades: vibrancy, whispers of savory flavors anchored by barely-ripe fruit. It inspired giddy excitement in me when I first tasted it, the kind you get when you know you’re being let in on a secret.

The Winery: Luis Pato is an innovative wine producer in the northern Portuguese region of Bairrada. The proprietor, Luis Pato, is a champion of the local red grape Baga and produced his first wine from the variety in 1980. Today, Pato has a diverse wine portfolio that includes still, sweet, and sparkling wines.

The estate is made up of 60 hectares (148 acres) of vineyard land spread throughout nine vineyards around Bairrada. The more southern of these have chalky-clay soils, while the more northerly vineyards are composed of sand.Along with Baga, the vineyards are planted with Touriga NacionalTinto CãoBicalMaria Gomes and Cerceal da Bairrada.

Read more at: https://www.wine-searcher.com/merchant/25236

2014 Carvalhas Tinta Francisca, Douro, Quinta das Carvalhas

The Wine: (WE) Although no longer widely planted, Tinta Francisca is often found in old vineyards. It doesn’t have the power of some Douro reds, but it does have the concentration and a fine balance of fruits, tannins and acidity. There is a freshness that brings a bright edge to this fruity wine. A bonus: It is ready to drink.

(WS) “A concentrated red, with a plump, ripe profile of boysenberry and raspberry flavors, underscored by herb, white pepper and licorice details. Floral and mineral hints mark the integrated finish.”

The Winery:  Quinta das Carvalhas is one of the most emblematic and spectacular properties in the Douro Valley. Written references regarding this magnificent vineyard can be traced back to 1759. Enjoying a prominent position on the left bank of the Douro river, in Pinhão, the estate covers the entire hillside facing the Douro river and occupies part of the slopes of the right bank of  the tributary Torto river.

Quinta das Carvalhas is characterized by very particular soil and climatic conditions. Its vines are located at various altitudes – extending from river border to the top of the slope. The largest vine surface of the Quinta faces a northern sun exposure, yet, another fraction of the vineyard, on the other side of the mountain, faces a southern exposure. Most of the parcels are planted in areas of deep inclination, with only a small fraction planted at a less inclined location, at the top of the hill.

The viticultural heritage is constituted of almost-centennial vines of field blend, in which rare indigenous varieties are considered interesting repositories for an ampelographic variation. Younger vines are composed by distinguished varieties and benefit from a modern viticultural approach.

 2017 Post Scriptum de Chryseia , Douro, Prats & Symington

The Wine: (RP) The 2017 Post Scriptum de Chryseia is a 49/51 blend of Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca this year (approaching equality), and it aged for 12 months in French oak. It comes in at 14% alcohol. This is not much bigger than the Prazo (also reviewed) this year in most respects, but it shows more finesse and freshness. There is more power as well and a far longer finish. Most of all, though, this has lift to the fruit. This is simply a more sophisticated wine. It provides a step up in quality, but there is admittedly also a step up in price. Bargain hunters may be quite happy with the Prazo this issue, but if you do step up, you’ll be rewarded. This will drink better next fall, but it is approachable now.

The Winery:  Chryseia, which means “golden” in Greek, is one of the leading red table wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley. Crafted by Prats & Symington family, Port producers since 1882, and Bruno Prats, former owner of the famed Chateau Cos d’Estournel, Chryseia began with some experimental lots of wine in 1999. Sine that time, the wine has demonstrated the incredible potential of combining winemaking expertise from the Douro Valley and Bordeaux, two of the world’s best wine regions. Chryseia further underscored its commitment to producing wine in the Douro Valley with the acquisition of Quinta de Perdiz, and the legendary Quinta de Roriz in 2009.

(From Wine.com): The home of Port—perhaps the most internationally acclaimed beverage—the Douro region of Portugal is one of the world’s oldest delimited wine regions, established in 1756. The vineyards of the Douro, set on the slopes surrounding the Douro River (known as the Duero in Spain), are incredibly steep, necessitating the use of terracing and thus, manual vineyard management as well as harvesting. The Douro’s best sites, rare outcroppings of Cambrian schist, are reserved for vineyards that yield high quality Port.

While more than 100 indigenous varieties are approved for wine production in the Douro, there are five primary grapes that make up most Port and the region’s excellent, though less known, red table wines. Touriga Nacional is the finest of these, prized for its deep color, tannins and floral aromatics. Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo) adds bright acidity and red fruit flavors. Touriga Franca shows great persistence of fruit and Tinta Barroca helps round out the blend with its supple texture. Tinta Cão, a fine but low-yielding variety, is now rarely planted but still highly valued for its ability to produce excellent, complex wines.

White wines, generally crisp, mineral-driven blends of Arinto, Viosinho, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina and an assortment of other rare but local varieties, are produced in small quantities but worth noting.

With hot summers and cool, wet winters, the Duoro has a maritime climate.

2016 Alicante Bouschet, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Herdade do Rocim

Wine: Catarina Vieira’s estate blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet is firm in its structure and rich in its black fruits. It is made from organically grown grapes, giving a wine with ripeness, clean tannins and fruitiness and a fine medium-term future. Drink from 2020.

The Winery: (From Wine.com) Located in the Lower Alentejo region in the southern half of Portugal, between Vidigueira and Cuba, lies the estate of Herdade do Rocim on 100 hectares, 60 of which are under vine. Alentejo is sparsely populated and, in contrast to the rest of Portugal, has many large estates. The climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. Having fairly reliable weather combined with the large plots of available land equates to quality at an affordable price. Wheat is the most important crop grown here, but olive trees, cork trees and vineyards are all important agriculture here as well. Wines from Alentejo are becoming popular as consumers realize the great opportunities available here, and quality is improving exponentially. It is thought to be the new world inside the old world, with highly professional wineries using a scientific approach while respecting the terroir.

The Rocim estate was purchased in 2000 by Movicortes group, which is a Portuguese company that specializes in agricultural machinery, but has its roots in farming and vineyards. Catarina Vieira, daughter of the late Jose Ribeiro Vieira, the founder of the Movicortes group, has been coordinating the development of the estate. Catarina believes that Alentejo has the unique conditions required to produce world-class wines. With respect for the terrior and the natural resources there, they produce a freshness and minerality in the whites and an elegance and complexity in the reds.

2003 Colheita, Quinta do Noval, Old Tawny Port  

The Wine: (WE) In terms of aged vintage tawnies, this beautiful wine is relatively young. That means the fruit is still there, hinting at bold red fruits as well as the dried fig and sultana flavors that have also emerged. The wine is finely balanced with its rich texture and poise coming in between dry and sweet. Drink now

The Winery:  (From: Wine.com) One of the oldest port houses, Quinta do Noval is also arguably the greatest. It is unique among top port houses in that most of the ports are made from estate-grown fruit and, notably, all of the vintage Noval wines are from the single Quinta do Noval vineyard. In addition, it is difficult to elaborate on Quinta do Noval without mentioning Nacional, the legendary port made from a 6 acre parcel of ungrafted vines. When declared, only 200-300 cases of Nacional will be made, and instantly become the most sought after port in the world. Many vintages of Nacional are considered as the finest ports, and some of the finest wines, ever made.

Noval is mentioned in land registries going back to 1715, and has been sold just twice in that time, once in the late 19th century, and to its present owners in 1993. Noval has, however, a reputation for being an innovative, independent producer.  The astonishing terraced vineyards of Noval, perched above the Douro and Pinhao rivers, are an infertile schist, and not soil as much as sheer rock. The elevation of the vineyards goes from just above river level to 1,200 feet, with density at about 2,000 vines per acre, and vines producing on average 30-35 hectoliters per hectare. The tremendous rewards of the work done at the estate over the last fifteen years are visible across the range of Noval ports, and have placed Noval a step ahead of everyone in the Douro.

Read more at: https://www.wine-searcher.com/merchant/22229

CV Members Rating

View full evaluation here: 218 Summary of Tasting Scores

Best Rated Wine: 2016  Vinhas Velhas Vinho Branco, Beiras, Luis Pato

Best Buy: 2016  Vinhas Velhas Vinho Branco, Beiras, Luis Pato

Best Red: 2016 Alicante Bouschet, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Herdade do Rocim

Technical Notes 

Jairo Sanchez compiled the following brief note on Portuguese wines (includes the map of Portugal wine regions): Portugal Modern Wines

There is additional information on the wines of Portugal here:  http://www.winesofportugal.info/

(From Wine- Searcher) Bical is a yellow-skinned wine grape variety grown in the Portuguese regions of Bairrada and Dão. Its high acidity sees it often blended with Arinto (Pederna) in various regional sparkling wines, but it is also used in dry table wines, both blended and varietal. Bical is noted for its stonefruit flavors of apricot and peach, with additional tropical notes in warmer vintages. Bical ripens early in the vineyard and can develop excessive levels of alcohol if it is left to hang on the vine too long. It is mildly aromatic, showing floral and occasionally soapy scents in its youth. Bical responds well to oak aging and extended lees contact. The best examples can mature for over a decade and can take on similar characteristics to aged Riesling. In Dão, Bical is known by the nickname Borrado das Moscas (which means “fly droppings”), due to its appearance in the vineyard. Small brown freckles appear on the grapes, giving it the appearance of being slightly spotty. Synonyms include: Borrado das Moscas, Bical de Bairrada.

Cerceal (sometimes spelled Cercial or Sercial, but not to be confused with Madeira’s Sercial) is a light-skinned wine grape variety found in the DaoBairrada and Tejo wine regions of mainland Portugal. While single-variety Cerceal wines do exist, they are relatively few and far between. The grape’s most common application by far is as a blending component, most often with BicalBaga or Encruzado. When Cerceal is used alone, it produces relatively restrained, straw-colored white wines. Their aroma profiles tend more toward minerality rather than fruit, although notes of lime and grapefruit are typical. Their taut acidity makes them not only refreshing, but also capable of aging for up to a decade. With time they can take on aromas of honey and fennel, all the while complemented by mineral, sometimes smoky, notes of gunflint, akin to the pierre à fusil associated with Pouilly-Fume.

Sercialinho is a crossing between Cercial from Madeira and Albarinho from the north of Portugal.  It was developed at the Alcobaca Research Center by Miguel Ferreira de Almeida.  Luis Pato is the only producer in the world of this hybrid from 40+ years old vines.  It used in withe wine blends especially to give acidity and pine tree resin aromas.

Tinta Francisca is a red-wine grape of Portugal’s Douro region (the home of Port). It is entirely distinct from, and largely unconnected to, the more popular Touriga Franca. The two varieties are often confused due to the similarity of their names; to make matters worse, Touriga Franca sometimes goes by the name Touriga Francesa. Tinta Francisca is permitted for use in Port wines, but it does not figure among the list of officially recommended varieties. Although its berries are naturally rich in sugars, the must lacks structured acids, tannins and aromatic complexity. As such, the variety is limited to lifelong service as a blending component. Single-variety wines made from Tinta Francisca – were they ever produced – would be light bodied and lacking the depth of flavor expected by modern wine consumers. This is all of particular importance when considering Portuguese wines as a whole. The trademark style of Douro table styles (not to mention fortified Port) is defined by aromatic complexity, depth and power.

Touriga Nacional:  Considered to be the finest of the grapes that are used to create the substantial and long-lived fortified wines known as Port. Touriga Nacional has a thick skin and small clusters of berries which help to contribute to the colorful and tannic wine it creates. In addition to the flowers, tannins and extract the Touriga Nacional brings to the Port table, the grape is an integral part of the blends of still red wine found in both the Duoro and Dão valleys, producing wines that are heavy in both red fruits and structure. Yields are low, but recent clonal selection has improved production.  https://www.winegeeks.com/grapes/45

(From Wine-Searcher.com) Touriga Franca is an important dark-skinned grape variety used in the production of Port and dry red wines from Portugal’s Douro wine region. Even though it is much more widely planted than Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca is the less prestigious of the two grapes.

Touriga Franca is more aromatic and lighter bodied than Touriga Nacional, though lacking sufficient intensity and concentration to make it a blockbuster variety. Its origins are unclear and its name misleading, for Touriga Franca is not a French grape. It seems most likely that Touriga Franca is either a mutation, or a crossing of Touriga Nacional and an unknown parent, possibly Mourisco Tinto (Marufo). Either way, Touriga Franca’s plentiful yields have made it a favored and integral component of Douro wines.

(From Wine-Searcher.com) Alicante Bouschet is a teinturier grape variety widely planted in Spain, Portugal and France, particularly in the Languedoc-Roussillon region. It has a long history in the wine world but lost ground in the later 20th Century in favor of more fashionable international varieties. However, Alicante Bouschet is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, with modern producers making some excellent examples at attractive prices.

The variety is a crossing of Petit Bouschet and Grenache, and was first cultivated by viticulturalist Henri Bouschet in 1866. Originally designed as a blending grape to improve the depth of color of such popular 19th-Century grapes as Aramon, Alicante Bouschet quickly became popular, not just for its intense coloring but for its generous yields. With its high-yielding, easy-to-grow vines, Alicante Bouschet was used to help rebuild devastated European wine industries following the phylloxera epidemic.

During the time of Prohibition in the United States, Alicante Bouschet was often grown in California and sold on the East Coast as table grapes. The variety’s thick skin made it sufficiently robust to withstand transportation in crates and its juicy flesh enabled illicit winemakers to press the grapes several times, ensuring that nothing went to waste.

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