Photo by Ilkka Sirén
The 10th edition of Essência do Vinho, Portugal’s biggest wine event (though not the best :)), is happening this weekend in the beautiful city of Porto. This year’s program is filled with exciting tastings and special events. In what has become one of the most awaited wine ceremonies in Portugal, Essência do Vinho has once again selected its Top 10 Portuguese Wines.
A list of 51 wines (38 reds e 14 whites) was pre-selected by Essência during the year. Then, a panel of international wine influencers (journalists, critics, bloggers) coming from such countries as Germany, Brazil, Denmark, Spain, Finland, Portugal and Sweden selected 2 white wines and 8 red wines for the final list.
Top 10 Portuguese Wines by Essência do Vinho
- Soalheiro Alvarinho Primeiras Vinhas 2011 (White, Vinho Verde, 15 €) – favorite
Grape varieties: Alvarinho
- Guru 2011 (White, Douro, 25 €) – favorite
Viosinho, Rabigato, Codega do Larinho, Gouveio
- Tributo 2010 (Red, Tejo, 22 €)
Syrah, Grenache, Viognier
- Curriculum Vitae 2010 (Red, Douro, 57 €) – favorite
A blend of +25 grape varieties from 80-plus year old vines including Rufete, Tinta Amarela, Donzelinho Tinto, Tinta Francisca, Sousão, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional
- Pintas 2010 (Red, Douro, 60 €) – favorite
A blend of +20 grape varieties from 78 year old vines
- Terrenus Vinhas Velhas Reserva 2009 (Red, Alentejo, 40 €)
Aragonês, Trincadeira, Grand Noir, Alicante Bouchet and others (9 different Portuguese varieties) from 90 year old vines
- Casa de Santa Vitória Grande Reserva 2008 (Red, Alentejo, 12 €)
Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah
- Passadouro Touriga Nacional 2010 (Red, Douro, 18 €)
- Grande Rocim Reserva 2009 (Red, Alentejo, 50 €)
- Hexagon 2008 (Red, Setúbal, 36 €)
Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Trincadeira, Tinto Cão, Touriga Franca, Tannat
I’ve marked my favorite wines from the list though I haven’t yet tasted all of the wines. I’ll do an update on the list as soon as I taste them.
The prices for the Top 10 Portuguese Wines start at an inexpensive 11 € (for the Passadouro) while both the top red and the top white are below 20 €. Some good value options in this list. The other good news is that many of these wines are available outside of Portugal. Enjoy!
Every couple of weeks I head to the Artis Wine Bar in Lisbon for a night of popular Portuguese food and one or two good bottles of wine. These are now popular nights amongst my friends who have become fans of the delicious wines available on the bar’s extensive wine list and the great food pairings.
One of the bar’s best and most popular foods options is the house-recipe Bitoque, a portuguese-style fried steak and egg with homestyle cube fries and a special tasty sauce. This is a brilliant pairing for a bottle of Meandro 2009, a Douro red whose flavors and structure will completely marry the steak, egg and fries fatness.
Meandro is the very attractive first wine of the Quinta do Vale Meão and the younger brother of the one of the best wines from the Douro (also named Quinta do Vale Meão). Made by winemaker Francisco “Xito” Olazabal the Meandro is a wine with pronounced fruit aromas, meaty and chocolaty flavors, all well balanced by a good soft chewy structure and clean fresh finish. A really great pleasure to drink!
The Meandro 2009 is a delicious blend of Touriga Nacional (35%), Touriga Franca (30%), Tinta Roriz (25%), Tinta Barroca (5%) and Sousão (5%). Some of the same varieties also used in Port Wine. The Meandro is a wine that will age for a few years (I just had a Meandro 2000 a few weeks ago and it was still very good) but thankfully it is also very ready to be enjoyed right now.
Meandro is clearly one of my favorite wines and one the best values in Portuguese wine. For around 10 € this is a must buy Douro red.
The 2010 is already on the market and it is as delicious as the 2009. For those of you reading this from outside Portugal I have good news. You can find Meandro in many wine retailers around the world. Enjoy!
Note: Artis is wine bar with a great wine list. Unfortunately it allows people to smoke inside. Most of the times it’s not a problem and people avoid smoking inside. However on some Fridays and Saturdays it can become way too much smoke for a #winelover.
Red | Douro | Touriga Nacional (35%), Touriga Franca (30%), Tinta Roriz (25%), Tinta Barroca (5%) and Sousão (5%)
Where to buy
I headed to the Dão wine region this weekend for the first #daowinelover Meeting, an event organized by two wine bloggers to help promote this Portuguese wine region. The event was a huge success and it represents a consumer-led breathe of fresh air for the Dão wine region.
Dão is often called by connoisseurs as the Burgundy of Portugal for it’s ability to produce highly elegant, age-worthy, food-friendly and complex wines. Despite this, Dão still lacks visibility and recognition amongst wine consumers and is often overlooked by wine professionals. Also, little is done at the regional marketing level and promotional activities generally lack differentiation.
It was in this scenario that two Portuguese wine bloggers (Miguel Pereira from Pingamor and Rui Miguel Massa from Pingas no Copo) decided to put their money where their mouth is and organize a series of initiatives to help promote their beloved Dão wine region.
They started with an online tasting called #daowinelover Day. It was a 2-hour event where wine lovers would select a Dão wine to drink and share online with other participants. People started sharing their choices and by the end of the tasting a good number of Dão bottles had been opened and talked about in a few places around the world. It was a promising start and quickly another event was setup.
This time the goal was to get consumers and Dão wineries together under the same roof in one same-day event and so the #daowinelover Meeting was created. The event joined together a few dozen wineries, passionate wine bloggers and Dão wine lovers. Participants came from different parts of Portugal to share their interest for the region, meet the winemakers and taste the wines.
The event was hosted by Casa da Passarella which opened its doors to the whole group including other wineries from the region. An obvious, but rarely seen, attitude in the world of wine. Well done.
The program included a unique tasting of old Dão wines with the goal of demonstrating their ability to age. The Centro de Estudos Vitivinícolas do Dão brought and presented a few rarities including the 1964, 1974, 1992 (whites) and 1971, 1987, 1996 and 1998 (reds). An incredible tasting with excellent old wines, some of which, almost with 50 years old were showing beautifully. The white wine CEV 1964 is nothing short of incredible, still being able to be enjoyed in all its greatness. If this doesn’t prove Dão’s age-worthiness I don’t know what will.
The tasting was followed by a walk-around tasting of all the wineries presenting their wines which included wines from: Casa da Passarela, Julia Kemper, Quinta dos Carvalhais, Quinta da Bica, Quinta da Falorca, Quinta da Fata, Quinta da Pellada, Quinta da Ponte Pedrinha, Quinta da Vegia, Quinta das Camélias, Quinta do Perdigão, Quinta Mendes Pereira, Vinha de Reis, Vinha Paz, Dão Sul, Casa de Mouraz, Boas Quintas, Terras de Tavares and a few more. Definitely a strong and representative group of some of the best wineries in the Dão.
I re-tasted some of my favorite wines and discovered new ones:
- Red Wines: Quinta da Falorca Garrafeira 2007, Fonte de Gonçalvinho Tinta Roriz 2010, Quinta da Vegia Reserva 2003, Casa da Passarella Old Vines 2008, Quinta dos Carvalhais Jaen 2011 and Vinha Othon 2009.
- White Wines: Primus 2011 (world class!), Casa da Passarella Encruzado 2011, Vinha de Reis 2010 and Quinta dos Carvalhais Colheita Seleccionada 2001.
The event finished with a group meal which consisted of a very traditional roasted lamb (cooked in Casa da Passarela’s own wood burning oven) paired together with any of the wines available at the tasting. Then Cottage cheese and pumpkin jam for a delicious dessert. A meal that ended with another great conversation opportunity between consumers and winemakers (just as the organizers intended).
It was time to head back home with the feeling of a having lived through a great example of what a group of motivated wine consumers can do for their beloved wines, wineries and wine region.
Consumers as Ambassadors
For a region that was established in 1908 (one of the oldest in Portugal), the Dão wine region has certainly lost its touch with the wine market at some point in its history. For many years little or nothing has been done to promote Dão’s quality and distinctiveness as a wine region to build awareness with wine consumers.
Now a group of passionate consumers decided to act and together with some wineries and key people from Dão, are bringing to Dão some of its well-deserved and much-needed attention and visibility. They are jointly doing for Dão what no winery or institution alone can do.
The fact that a group of consumers can help promote a wine region is as surprising as it is innovative. The Internet has certainly been the tool that allowed relationships to be created and evolve but it is at events like the one I describe above that business and relationships thrive and wineries win in the competitive wine marketplace.
Thank you Miguel Pereira, Rui Miguel Massa and Paulo Nunes (from Casa da Passarela) for the great event. You’re making sure the Dão wine region gets what it deserves, a great reputation to match its great wines.
I’m a big fan of wines made with Encruzado, a grape variety mainly planted in the Dão wine region in Portugal. They are generally very food-friendly and well balanced making great pairings with some of the most delicious foods like sushi or fresh grilled fish. On top of that they also tend to be great value for money.
The Quinta das Marias Encruzado 2011 is a good example of all this. For around 10 euros you get an extremely well balanced, quite bright and fresh, slightly crispy and rich finish wine. A recipe for pairing success.
I ordered this bottle at Sea Me, a nice seafood downtown Lisbon restaurant, to enjoy with some fish & vegetable tempura starter followed by a fresh grilled Turbot. A delicious world-class pairing with a touch of Portuguese elegance.
|Quinta das Marias Encruzado 2011
White | Dão | Encruzado
Where to buy
I’m very honored to have been nominated and awarded as the TWA Personality of the Year 2012.
It’s a great feeling to see my work recognized by my peers in the wine industry. Nominations and voting for the TWA Awards happen on the TWA Facebook group which includes over 650 bloggers, #winelover’s, winemakers, wine critics and wine writers from the Portuguese wine industry.
Being voted as the person who in 2012 most contributed for the promotion for Portuguese wine is a big honor with even bigger responsibilities. Thank you to everyone who has been supporting me throughout the years.
I hope this award has a deeper meaning for the Portuguese wine industry and is a clear sign that we’re are all ready for the much-needed change to the way we communicate wine and look at wine consumers. A change that will allow Portuguese wine to be even more recognized and respected around the world for its superior quality and exciting wines.
The Wizard Apprentice (TWA) is a Portuguese blog and community that organizes the TWA Awards. These awards nominate and vote on a series of different wine industry categories in Portugal including Best Online Communication (#winelover), Wine Event of the Year (Adegga Wine Market 2012), Best Producer Website (Niepoort) and Wine Personality of the Year. Thank you Hugo Mendes for organizing this second edition of the TWA Awards and for making it possible to showcase the work that is being done in Portugal and for Portuguese wine.
A very special thank you to the great team that helps put together Adegga Wine Markets year after year (including those not on the photo – you know who you are).
Now to celebrate by opening and enjoying a good bottle of Port Wine!
For a wine lover, visiting Quinta do Noval is a great opportunity to experience in loco the birthplace of some of the best Port wines on the market and to learn more about the incredible history and culture of wine in the Douro. On top of that, getting a chance to taste a very unique Quinta do Noval Nacional is, I assure you, nothing short of heaven.
Driving through the Douro, Quinta do Noval is a particularly hard property to miss. A few minutes after passing by the small village of Pinhão, Quinta do Noval shows up magnificiently on the hillside with its lines of terraced vineyards and aligned stair walls painted in white. Inside Quinta do Noval, the old house and cedar tree are a welcoming sign that people and history have had a long and strong connection in this place.
It starts raining slowly but for what seemed like an eternity we stay beneath the cedar tree listening to Rute’s voice telling the history of Quinta do Noval and observing the immensity of the Douro valley as it spreads throughout the hills in front of me.
As we visit the beautiful vineyards we make a stop at the birthplace vineyard of the great Noval Nacional. A small 2 hectare plot (ungrafted vines and untouched by phylloxera) where the average age is around 40 years and still includes some 80 year old vines.
Amazed by the beautiful landscape and the intense sense of history we head to the the first tasting, Noval’s Douro red wines. The Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional were my favorites of the tasting and are good examples of the kind of delicious reds that are coming out of the Douro. We move on to start tasting some Port.
- Noval Black
First Noval Black which is an easily accessible Port made to be enjoyed with no complications (no aging or decanting necessary). Like a good LBV, it screams for a piece of dark chocolate to go with it. Perfect Valentine’s day gift with that special box of dark chocolate. Deliciousness: 6.
- Quinta do Noval LBV Unfiltered 2005
Next the Quinta do Noval LBV Unfiltered 2005 which is simply one of the best LBVs on the market. Lush and powerful but beautifully balanced. Simply delicious. Pairs perfectly with a Stilton cheese. A great wine to have at home and sip one glass or two every week. Deliciousness: 8.
We move on to the Tawny Ports. Tasting 10 to 40 year old tawnies side-by-side is one of the most exciting Port wine experiences and one I like very much. Each of the wines is constantly evolving in the glass and transforms a tasting with a few wines in a rich experience of aromas and flavors. This tasting was no different.
- Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old
We start with the Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old which has a wonderful freshness and despite being just a 10 Years Old it already demonstrates an attractive complexity. Served chilled and on its own it’s one of the most delicious aperitifs you can have. Having friends over for dinner? Open this bottle, it’s a crowd pleaser. Great option for cocktails too. Deliciousness: 7.
- Quinta do Noval 20 Year Old
Next is the Quinta do Noval 20 Year Old which is an explosive, powerful and rich Tawny with a great long finish. Beautifully complex and vibrant at the same time. One of my favorite 20 Years Old on the market. A wine to be enjoyed with some time letting it evolve on your glass. A perfect companion for a dinner with special friends where you can prepare that delicious foie gras starter (a pairing made in heaven!) or end the meal with a tasty crème brûlée. Serve slightly chilled. Deliciousness: 8.
- Quinta do Noval 40 Year Old
Finally the oldest tawny of the tasting. The Quinta do Noval 40 Year Old is a fabulous tawny Port. Highly refined and delicate and showing some great freshness for its age. Lets not forget that a 40 year old Tawny is a blend of old tawny Ports from different vintages with an average age of 40 or more years. It’s quite impressive and I could be here for hours tasting this wine. This is a wine that I’ll enjoy as dessert on it’s own, no other pairing necessary, just time. Deliciousness: 8
Incredibly, the best of the night is yet to come. I’m now having dinner at Quinta do Noval looking at its amazing view of the Douro valley and enjoying a good conversation with a friend and our host. Finally it’s dessert and cheese time and I’m ready to taste some very fine Port.
- Quinta do Noval Colheita 1997
The Quinta do Noval Colheita 1997 is a fantastic pleasure to drink. Powerful but balanced and well defined with a lovely complexity and a vibrant finish. When tasting this bottle you can understand the richness in craftsmanship that goes into each bottle of Tawny Port in a house like Noval. Pure quality. The Colheita 1997 has been, since the day I first tasted, a loyal companion when I want to show my friends what a great young Colheita can be like. At around 40€, this a must buy. Deliciousness: 8
- Quinta do Noval Vintage 1994
The Quinta do Noval Vintage 1994 starts with subtleness like it was trying to hide something. But, as it opens, it starts showing why subtleness in this case it’s actually a virtue. The previously hidden complex layers of flavors are now present and the 1994 is just showing how different and elegant a Port wine can be. Pure balance and great pairing with a delicious Serra da Estrela cheese. Deliciousness: 8
We move on to taste and enjoy the last bottle of the night.
Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994
The Quinta do Noval Vintage Nacional 1994 is charming from the first moment. Extremely delicate yet firm. With incredible finesse but highly complex. Incredibly balanced at all levels. A pleasure to sense, an indulgence to taste.
Enjoying this Noval Nacional is like enjoying a slice of the perfect chocolate cake, made with layers and layers of very well defined and focused flavors of different quality chocolats that blend perfectly on each bite.
Simply one of the best Port Wines I’ve ever had. This is one of those wines that when you open them, that’s the special occasion they were made for. Unique. Deliciousness: 10
I woke up the next morning at 6am as if wanting to finish the previous night once again. I take a look outside and the valley is fully covered in low clouds. I can barely see outside the window but I decide to go for a walk. No matter where I look the view is always beautiful and surprising. I spend the next couple of hours lost between the vines, the view and my thoughts.
Returning to the house and after a fortifying breakfast (no wine but pun intended) we head over to the magnificent cellar at Noval’s. The cellar is a Port wine lover’s dream. It’s filled with a few thousand barrels that are used to store and age Port wine. Each individual barrel has its own story which is tightly connected to the wine they protect and age and is deeply related to the people (winemakers, barrel-makers and blenders) that handle them. An impressive heritage that contributes massively to the kind of quality Port Wines that Noval is putting on the market every year.
A last stop at the main house to buy some old Port. Suddenly I realize that I’m just leaving the Douro one more time and already can’t wait to come back. While away I miss the history, the culture and the people that make the Douro and Port Wine such an incredible rich part of our culture.
Thank you Christian Seely and the rest of the team at Quinta do Noval for taking good care of such an important part of the Douro heritage. Thank you Marie-Louise for your kind invitation to visit Quinta do Noval. Thank you Rute for your hospitality. Thank you Luiz Alberto once again for sharing such a great moment.
Next week I’ll be heading to Brussels to attend WBIS, the Wine Business Innovation Summit. #WBIS is a much-needed conference focused on the business of wine and its integration with innovation, disruptive thinking and new technologies.
During 1 day, wine professionals, bloggers, social media whizzes and business experts will discuss relevant trends and issues of the wine industry. Special attention will be paid to the wine consumer and to what should be done to better meet their needs.
Here’s a video presentation of WBIS
The programme includes 9 seminars on the topics of Business, Communication and Social Media.
I’ll be hosting 2 sessions together with Luiz Alberto:
- A session on the Potential ROI of catering to a community such as #winelover for wineries or generic organisations.
- A session on the challenges and opportunities of a Unique Wine Identification & Database Management where I’ll be sharing some of the stories behind AVIN and where the project is going.
The conference will take place on Saturday, January 19th. A few meetups will be organized around the same weekend so WBIS participants can have lots of opportunities to network, meet new people and taste some wine. On Friday, 18th there’s a #winelover hangout, on Saturday, 19th (after the WBIS) there’s the #WBIS Belgian Dinner and finally on Sunday, 20th there’s the Brussels #winelover Hangout.