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SWA 2011: PORTUGAL

Portugal
Somewhat under-powered compared to previous years, our tasters would have liked to see a bit more evidence of this country’s famous quirky individuality

In the past, the Portuguese whites section has tended to be small but perfectly formed, often providing two or three really exceptional wines – occasionally at high prices. This year, though, was more disappointing. There were (strangely, given that overall entries were up by 35%) fewer entries than in either of the last couple of years. And the wines, while generally warmly received, were not so universally popular as in the past.

Medal count was fractionally down on last year, with half the number of Gold List wines – perhaps due to the non-appearance of Sogrape’s Callabriga wines, which had a significant impact in 2010.

‘Competent,’ was Pierre Hobeika’s somewhat sniffy assessment.
Portugal might not be known for its work with white grapes but it has, nonetheless,
a pretty strong record in turning out Golds, at everywhere from bargain basement to hand-sell pricey. Sadly, for the first time since 2007, there were no Portuguese whites on the final list this year, although the Silver medal-winning Quinta da Romaneira attracted a lot of positive comment and can consider itself unlucky not to have gone the extra step.

As usual, there was rather more enthusiasm for the reds, which were felt generally to deliver in terms of value, quality and interest, across a range of styles. The strength of the euro has had an obvious impact on the lower-end wines, moving them from ‘sell on price’ towards ‘personal recommendation’ territory, although Kelvin McCabe was unfazed by that.

‘There was a nice range of styles, ranging from fragrant, fruit-forward wines to more robust, tannic wines,’ he said. ‘There were some good-value wines with nice character which could go on the list.’ In the end, our judges went for the well-priced Quinta do Crasto and the unashamedly pricey (but classy) Quinta do Portal Grande Reserva (whose little brother reserva from the same vintage picked up Gold last year) for Gold.

Overall, this is a country that remains popular with the tasters and one that merchants might want to consider getting behind a bit more forcefully next year.

“A lot of wines were showing good quality at the price. Some good wines to get people involved with Portugal and help them to understand its styles of wine. ”
Ivan Vegas, Hotel du Vin


GOLD LIST

Quinta do Crasto 2009, Douro, Portugal
£7.66 @ Enotria
SWA 2011 Gold List Thumbs up for the complex nose, with its oak and cedar wood notes alongside intense aromas of red fruits, spice and cassis. The palate sports spicy undertones with layers of black fruits, oakiness and cedar. ‘Good balance, good value for money,’ said Senthil Kulandhaisamy. ‘I’m thinking rack of lamb.’

Quinta do Portal Grande Reserva 2007, Douro, Portugal
£19.80 @ Charles Hawkins & Partners
SWA 2011 Gold List Plenty of tannins and well-judged oak in this dark-fruited serious wine. The palate is both intense and balanced. ‘It has young fruits and juicy, smooth, full tannins with good acidity,’ said Joris Beijn. With cedar and warm black fruits, Team Leader Tom Forrest felt this needed time.

SILVER  

Quinta da Romaneira Douro White 2009, Douro, Portugal
£11.22 @ Liberty Wines
Ripe citrus and white fruits on the nose with sweet spices and fennel, the palate is rounded, quite rich with good yellow fruit, minerality and freshness. Team Leader Sarah Jane Evans MW spoke for all when she commented, ‘pricey but complex’.

Alianca Dao Reserva 2007, Dao, Portugal
£5.04 @ Boutinot
Spiced fruits and violets on a relatively restrained nose precede a blend of ripe dark black and red fruit on a well-structured palate with good balance and a touch of vanilla oak. ‘Smooth and easy drinking,’ said Senthil Kulandhaisamy.

Quinta do Portal Tinto Reserva 2008, Douro, Portugal
£11.14 @ Charles Hawkins & Partners
Elegant and balanced, with vanilla notes alongside tangy flavours of dark fruit and coffee.
‘There’s some complexity with good dried fruit, soft, high tannins and medium-plus length,’
said Laurie Watson.

BRONZE

Delaforce Touriga Nacional 2007, Douro, Portugal
£9.85 @ PLB Group
Exciting and complex, this has plenty of dried fruit and spice. ‘Check out the rich berry flavours, soft tannins and toasty, lengthy finish,’ said Ivan Vegas.

Quinta do Portal Tinta Roriz 2009, Douro, Portugal
£18.60 @ Charles Hawkins & Partners
Although the panel were divided on the price, all agreed on the quality of this red, with its cassis-filled nose, its concentrated fruits on a full-bodied palate, with grippy tannins and its long finish.


Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – May/June 2011

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