(TORONTO, ON) – Portugal is the master of Port, a top contender for red wines from all its regions, but as for white wines they fail to impress. Utilitarian, they are dry, often lack unique characteristics other than dryness, and a terrific adaptability to matching the mass of Portuguese seafood.
Good, yes. Memorable no.
Just to check out my initial paragraph, we try a Vidigueira Antão Vaz from the Alentejo.
It is pale gold in colour. A pleasing aroma of quince, apple, pineapple, and pear. It’s close to being a Chenin Blanc from the Loire.
Rather non-descript on the palate and overcome by its dryness, its well controlled acidity leaves one struggling with traces of pineapple and banana. Just blah on the palate, and not enough acidity to stand up to fish. But, it would pair well with chicken and roast potatoes.
(Vidigueira Antão Vaz, 2013, D.O.C. Alentejo, 750 mL, 13%, Opimian Private Wine Club Order, $26.17, Square Media Group Rating 87/100) A sneaky tropical aroma gives this wine a few points more than it might initially deserve. This is no longer available to Opimian members as it was in a past offering.
The Spaniards make wonderful wine from the Alabriño grape. Here we have it in a blend with Avesso and Arinto, creating a golden coloured wine.
The aroma is rich and warm with a noticeable streak of acidity. Notes of ripe apples, honey, wood, and lychees.
On the palate light and simplistic, teeming with restrained acidity. It’s crisp and refreshing until that last bit of finish where, seemingly out of nowhere, some ultra rich and decadent pear nectar makes a brief pop up.
Best with regional chicken and pork dishes. (Casa do Arrabalde 2014 Avesso, Alvarinho and Arinto, Vinho Regional Minho, A&D Serviços e Investimentos Lda, Baiõ, Portugal, 750 mL, $14.95, LCBO #429324, Square Media Group Rating 87/100)
Now, from the consistently excellent Douro region of Portugal we try a 2009 Frontaria. That usual excellent nose of black cherry, blueberry, liquorice, charcoal, and schist is complimented by Portuguese roasted almonds, cranberry, whole wheat toast, smoked meat, and roast ham.
Relatively subdued on the palate, which may be indicative of its age. Unfortunately its initially a bit dull and unresponsive on the palate. On the flip side, concentrate a bit more and let the wine open up a bit, and the initial dullness might be considered as an elegant aged Douro full of red plum, green tea, and rare grilled beef.
Young Douros can appear as rough and tough, but age them and they are sweet little tamed babies. Yes, there is Barolo and Xinomavro, but Douro reds age in a sweeter and gentler, if not in more approachable, fashion.
A complicated wine that demands decanting at least an hour prior to pouring. Not a wine that should be judged too quickly.
(Frontaria, D.O.C. Douro 2009, Quinta do Portal, Portugal, 750 mL, 13%, LCBO #3324533, $14.95, Square Media Group Rating, 91/100) This wine deserves some patience. Immediately from the bottle it fails to impress, particularly on the palate. An hour or so will bring out its best quality.
Do we save the best for last? Maynard’s 2011 Vintage Port.
Huge concentrated aromas of blackberry, massive ripe raspberry, liquorice, out of control pomegranate on some LSD trip, all pointing to a massive gigantic wine.
Rippingly rich on the palate. So rich and overwhelming it’s simply awesome, replete with ripe black fruit, fully concentrated and disciplined. It is an experience of decadence that perhaps Nero could only have experienced while watching Rome burn.
Astounding and, in a sense, treat-like, an ultra rich red wine more than a Port. A tremendous match for rare grilled beef for the brave.
You will be very well rewarded for that food match or, for you vegans, a dense mushroom pasta. My goodness. If you have not experienced a vintage Port this one will convert you. For lack of a better expression, this is a Barossa on double steroids.
About as close to perfection as you can experience. I say to try this as a super rich red wine as opposed to a Port.
Let’s break down the malformed stereotypes about Port. Not an esoteric wine to be enjoyed with pungent blue cheese and cigars.
Great sipping wine and a fab match with rich, semi-rare beef or rich veggie mushroom pasta. (Maynard’s Vintage 2011 Porto, Barão de Vilar, Vinhos SA, V.N Gaia, Porto, Portugal, $45.95, 20%, LCBO #432914, Square Media Group Rating 95/100)