PORTUGAL
Author:  M.A. de la Mata
COPYRIGHT PROTECTED

WHITES

 NV Ponte de Lima, Vinho Verde. This wine has the sparkling, just as in the previously described Vinho Verde. It has good lemon-apple refreshing flavors, and a pleasant light finish that lingers with harmonious orange rind flavors. Pair these Vinho Verdes with shrimp, oysters on the rough, steamed clams or lobster...

NV Vinho Verde, Caves Alianca, Vinho Verde ($7.99)(7/97). A generously fruity Portuguese wine with crisp and refreshing acidity, and a bit of fizz in the palate. I could not think of a better wine for clams, raw oysters, steamed shrimp and mussels, at ½ to 1/3 of the price of a Muscadet.

1993 Bairrada white, Caves Primavera.and red, 1993 & 1990. The white is nice and straight forward with hints of peach and apricot.

1993 Albarinho Vinho Verde $ 19.99/btl. Likely, the price is the reason other distributors have not dared to bring it in. The wine is worth the price and more. It is a varietal of the Alvarinho grape (100%) and it is made in the true style of Vinho Verde with small bubbles and all. The Alvarinho vine produces one of the lowest yields of any vines in the world. They are even more finicky to adverse conditions than Pinot Noir vines, thus the cost of producing these jewels is very high. This Vinho Verde is citrusy and tasty with refreshing ripe pear and salty overtones. If you think you are worth the best and deserving of a true Vinho Verde, buy it,. Also, we brought in some very good value non-vintaged Vinho Verde for those people that are penny conscious.

1994 Dao Branco, Caves Primavera, Dao, $6.99**.  A grab-bag of 20 pure Portuguese grapes among them is a bit of Alvarinho, esgana cao, etc,
no wood aging.  This is one bone dry white wine, with medium fruit flavors and balanced acidity.  Another great wine for quaffing while you prepare tonite’s dinner.  Sipping wine.
 

REDS

1984 Garrafeira CO, JM da Fonseca, Portugal ($NA). A local wine buyer whom shall remain nameless (you will thank me one of these days) upon tasting this wine a few years back, said that he had to get rid of it quickly because it was fading. I kept my lips together and did not say a word (if you know me, you know what a true miracle that was). At any rate, there was very little else that I could think other than the obvious; this guy wants a cheaper price for excellence…This wine, two nights ago, showed still bright red edges and a nearly purple core. It was still closed in and beginning to slightly hint at the power of a Portuguese Garrafeira CO, a wine known for its longevity and endurance. It was chewy and full of flavor in the core and finish, not elegant, but full, at least yet. The remaining three bottles of this wine will be drunk starting March of 2004…We matched this wine with Sarah’s (Humble Pie) superb home-made Cajun Ravioli with sun-dried tomato sauce, and Cajun sausage and vegetables (as you can tell, we all shared our dishes). This wine is the only thing that I can think will stand to such a spice and spice and spice combination.

1986 Quinta de Camarate, Setubal, Portugal Revisited ($8.99) (2/96). A delicious red that is at its peak right now. Tannin is fully developed into a velvety-soft mixture of light walnut flavors. The wine is deeply aromatic and fully ephemeral in the palate. Cassis, earthy and ripe fruit are part of the rewards awaiting those who had enough patience to wait ‘till now.

1986 & 1987 Tinto Velho (4/93). Grapes: Periquita, Trincadera Preta, Mureto, and Aragonez. All the grapes come from the Rosado Fernandez Estate. Region: Alentejo - Sun-drenched summers and mild winters with minimal precipitation . Soils: granitic in nature. This wine is made by human power - pressing the grapes by foot in large granite lagares, just like in the old times. Subsequently, the wines are fermented and aged in 1,800 liter clay amphorae under ground. It is an interesting the way to perform temperature controlled vinification in a region where water is at premium. They pump the cap and hose the outside of the amphorae with water three to four times a day, all manually. The reason for the water hose is simple, there is no water to waste in this permanently-in-drought region. If the wine musts were vinified in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, the water bill and subsequent fines and penalties will price the wine although closer to its real value, not so affordably. The principle operating behind the cooling process is simple. Since the climate is extremely dry, the clay amphorae soak-in water which subsequently evaporates. This evaporation results in the cooling of the amphora's wall. That together with the frequent pumping of the cap results in a fermentation process at 22 Deg C, while saving the valuable water for the "dudes" pumping the cap manually. Tasting notes: In my previous description of the wine, the 1986 was noted as a medium-body refined wine with a nice balance and roundness, very interesting complexity with rich raspberry, spicy, and gamy flavors that follow in the long finish. This wine will improve over the next 5 to 8 years. I had a bottle of the 1986 a few weeks ago and it is turning into a very interesting and even more mind boggling wine. In line with my projections, this wine seems to be taking more of a Rhone character with enhanced spiciness and added ripeness. Actually, it has gained body and depth. The 1987 release is still young. It is quite livelier than the 1986 with more acidity and cleaner fruit flavors. It is a bit lighter that the 1986, but at this point I cannot help but to wonder if the same thing is going to happen to the 1987 as what is happening to the 1986. Personally, I love this wine for two reasons: 1) it is damned good and 2) I feel that I am drinking a piece of history every time I open a bottle. I hope Rosado Fernandes does not give in into the Wine Spectator's pressures for more fruity plunk to satisfy the masses in exchange for a better rating, thus change his tradition-filled way of making wine (although they could do like every other greatly rated wine and shell out the $3,000 to $5,000 advertising fee while hoping to receive a nice 87 pt rating). Meals: Poultry, veal, roasts, pastas, shell fish, duck. Serve @ 18 deg C.

1986 Tinto Velho, JM da Fonseca (Revisited), Alentejo ($13.99)(8/96).  Tinta Pinheira, Tinta Roriz, Periquita.  Foot pressed grapes, fermented in clay tinos doused with water 3x/day and aged in chestnut barrels for 18 months.  A delicious ever-changing wine.  As you may recall, the first time that this wine was sampled, it resembled a full Pinot Noir.  As time passed, it resembled more of a Rhone styled wine.  Although the Rhone character seems still predominant, it has developed a Portuguese backbone of cedary notes with concentrated ripe plum and tobacco nuances.  Medium finish with spicy and cedary flavors.  Will age for another 3 years.  Beef.

1987 Garrafeira AP. The AP has always been exceptional and the 1987 release is no different. It is tight, young, complex and deep. This is another fine age-worthy example from the Fonseca estable. I would give this wine at least two years before entertaining the idea of blowing the cork off a bottle. It is tannic, no question about it. This wine will evolve into true elegance given proper cellaring conditions. The flavors are those typical of fine claret with roses, cinnamon, figs and plenty of lively cherry. The long finish is intermingled with oak, tar and gamy notes. It has a nice balance between the different alcohols and esters that make up this wine. All I need to add is that this wine could be easily mistaken with a much written about St. Estephe red, but you be the judge.

1988 Dao Terras Altas, JM da Fonseca, Portugal ($??).  This was a beautiful example of Portuguese endurance and undervalued hard work.  It was deeply aromatic of figs and toasted almonds.  It offered deep currant flavors with cassis and generous cigar box flavors.  Exuberant and nearly ready.

1988 Tinto Velho Garrafeira. This wine I bought without tasting. My only mistake was to buy too few cases. I had read about it in several journals and coincidentally all of them agreed that it was one of the best Garrafeiras to come out of Portugal from the 1980's vintages. This rare coincidence clued me into the fact that the wine may actually be in the very least decent, so only I purchased what was ordered plus one case for myself (as always. Hey ! if I am not going to make any money doing all this work, I can at least drink some good wine). Big mistake, I should have brought in a pallet of this baby and keep 6 to 10 cases for myself, thus assuring my own supply for the next 10 years. I will try to bring some more in this year if there is some left at the winery. Describing this wine is not difficult It is like a raspberry brandy. Elegance and substance define this Garrafeira as a clean and beautifully flawless wine. The finish is long, profound and like nothing else I have sensed in a long time. Meals: well prepared, but skip the meal and drink the wine by itself. Serving temp: Room temp.

1988 Garrafeira TE. R. Parker liked this wine, but wrote that it would be controversial. The Wine Spectator, on the other hand gave it a 67 rating with an AVOID! recommendation. When I first wrote about J.M. Fonseca wines I had not tasted this wine, as I noted on my article. Personally, I love this wine. I tasted it and fell in love with it. It is not the most profound Garrafeira that I have tasted in the last 12 years, and neither it is the worst (1978 Caves Velhas has that dubious distinction. Actually, Caves Velhas was not bad at all, but it ranks lowest in my notes). Why do I like the 1988 TE so much? Because it is flavorful, very! It is jammy and packed with density to the point of almost being unctuous. The finish is ball gripping and loooong, so if you agree with the Spectator do not even consider this wine because you are going to have this wine's flavor in your palate and nostrils for a hell of a long time. Any way, I like it, so screw the critics...

1988 Bairrada Chestnut Aged, Luis Pato. If you are looking for a "monster wine" (term not in books) you have found it. This is a heavily extracted wine with tons of tannin and balanced acidity. It is made from the Baga grape, a Portuguese grape known for producing ink colored wines that will out last your grand-children. For my money, there is no better age potential wine coming out of Portugal these days than the Luis Pato. PLEASE GIVE IT A FEW YEARS. Wine drinking is not a contest of who can eat the hottest jalapeno without shedding a tear or two, but who can wait 'till the wine gains elegance and distinction. You are investing in a long term commitment with this wine, just like a Grand Cru Classe from Bordeaux, and for a fraction of the price. I know...some of you will have to test the waters, so go ahead...buy two or three bottles,. try one and put the rest away for when your children graduate from college. Then, you may surprise the Cabernet-sucking crowd with something that may be as good, if not better, and from a region that the franchise restaurant-minded masses would not dare to acknowledge as part of reality.

1989 Quinta de Camarate. Grapes: Periquita (45%), Espadeiro (30%), Cabernet Sauvignon (25%). Region: Arrabida (formerly Setubal) - sandy soils. Techniques: fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel (15 deg C.) for 20 days, aged in large 7,000 liter limousine oak vats for 10 months, small 225 liter limousine casks for 12 months, and in the bottle 15 months before release. Tasting notes: gamy, earthy, blackberry aromas that follow in the palate with elegant fruit, gamy flavors, currant and medium to long finish. This is perhaps the best release when compared to the 1986 and 1987. They did not make a 1988 vintage wine. 1988 was a tough drought year with very concentrated wines , but extremely low yields. It made great Garrafeiras but there not enough grapes to go around for all the styles of wines. Meals: game, red meats, pheasant, souvlaki, rack of lamb, spare ribs (beef). Serve 21 deg. C.

1989 Dao Primavera. This Dao is lighter than the Fonseca, but also more affordable. It retains all the cedary and peppery character that the Dao wines are known for, but with lighter tannin and acidity. Drink it now with bar-b-q, beef, grilled tuna or mahi-mahi.

1990 Bairrada red, Caves Primavera. More robust, and extracted than some of Fonseca's releases, although not as elegant.

1990 Dao Terras Altas. Grapes: Touriga Nacional (20%), Tinta Pinheiro (45%), Bastardo (35%). Region: Dao. Soils: granite mixed with clay. The grapes come from sloped sites between 1200-1500 ft above sea level. Aging: 18 months between large 7,000 liter limousine oak, and 225 liter chestnut casks. Bottled 12 months before release. This Dao will improve over the next 5 years, with a possible cellaring capability of 10 to 12 years. Tasting notes: Medium light body, firm tannins, with tar and black fruit flavors and a medium finish. Comparatively, this wine is not as round and soft as the 1988 release. However, its aging potential is superior to that vintage. It is significantly livelier and more concentrated that the 1988 and 1989. Meals: lamb, pork, beef, grilled, barbecued, or roasted, well seasoned game and poultry. Serve @ 65 deg F.

1991 Periquita. This wine is made from Periquita (90%), Espadeiro (5%), and Monvedro (5%) (just like the 1989 and 1990). The grapes come from the Pamela D.O.. The vines are grown on clay, limestone and sandy soils. 10% of the harvest is aged in 600 liter Limousine oak casks, and the rest is aged in 7,000 liter Portuguese oak vats. The total wood aging is 14 months, and six months in the bottle before release. Generally, this wine needs 4-5 years to reach their peak, and in a good vintage, ten or more. Tasting notes: Velvety tannins, with intense and pointed fruit, cedary-tobacco flavors, well focused, medium to low acidity, medium body and finish. The 1991 release, contrary to what I was told, is more concentrated than the 1990 and very similar to the 1989, but with more fruit and density and lesser acidity. I should have bought more of this wine....Meals: red meats, salmon, trout, grilled tuna, tomato sauces, pasta, pesto, spicy Indian food. Serve @ 65 deg F.
 

OPORTOS

NV 20 Anos Tawny Port, Barros, Oporto ($45.00). Delicious chocolate, blueberry and oaky flavors. This Port is wholesome, elegant and perhaps one of the best that I have tasted lately. Try this with chocolate desserts.

BARROS IMPERIAL GOLDEN WHITE ($14.99).  It can be served slightly chilled (~60 o F).  It has nutty flavors, mingled with honey and caramel, well balanced and sweet.

BARROS RUBY ($14.99).  Very nice and fruity sweet red with intense bing cherry flavors  and a lasting tobacco-cinnamon finish.

BARROS IMPERIAL CHOICE TAWNY ($14.99).  A finer and more complex Port with nice brick color, balanced sweetness  and a lasting cashew nut finish.

BARROS 20 YEAR OLD TAWNY ($41.99).  Complex and compelling with layered flavors and a long smooth and elegant finish.

20 Yr-Old Tawny, Noval, Gaia, Portugal ($??)(7/97).  A myriad of grapes that constitute the make up Ports, 20 years in oak, 20% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  Very interesting paly-dough/putty aromas, with firm alcohol and blanaced finish into a honeyed chocolate cake lasting impression.  R.

NV Ruby, Dow, Oporto ($??). Very mice and light with the same alcoholic trait as the vintages Tawny above described. It offers licorice and honey flavors and finish. Try it with flan and caramelized fruit.

1985 Vintage Port, Dow, Oporto ($??). A nice round Port, yet for a 1985, too light and alcoholic. A disappointment.

1985 Colheita Port, Barros, Entreposto de Gaia, Portugal ($27.99)(7/97).  A myriad of grapes that constitute the make up Ports, 10 years in Chestnut, and Yugoslavian oak, 20% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  If you like aged Tawnies, get a bottle, or even better, get a case of this wine.  It offers the elegance, depth and complexity of a 20 or even 40 year-old tawny for about half the price.  Very long finish with honey and caramel notes, even a bit of cherry!  Folks, this is a real bargain, just go price  similar Ports and then decide. O.

1994 Port, Churchill, Oporto ($$??).  Grape blend unknown (although it can be any combination of Boal, Esgana Cao, Tinta Roriz, etc, all varietals utilized in Pot-making), unknown wood aging period. This is a fantastic Port with depth and character.  Although quite young, you should probably wait another 8 years before considering opening a bottle of this Port, it shows nice balance, low tannin and rich fruit, with a long lingering finish of ripe grapes and chocolate.  Chocolate cake.  Highly recommended.

1994 Vintage Port, Barros, Entreposto de Gaia, Portugal ($29.99)(7/97). A myriad of grapes that constitute the make up Ports, 18 months in oak, 20% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml bt.  Yet another bargain from Barros.  Once more, go price vintage Ports and then compare to this one.  How do they do it??  I don’t care.  All I care is that it is available and for about half the price of similar products.  This is rich and densely packed wine that needs some serious aging.  Deep purple, with a full mid-palate, and lasting finish.  Although not very pleasurable now (neither is any 1994 vintage Port), wait 5 to 8 years.

NV Port Founders Reserve, Sandeman, Oporto ($??)(8/97).  Unknown grape blend, unknown wood aging period, 20% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Alcoholic and hot aromas that followed in the palate, a bit rough.  However, after a few weeks this wine mellowed out quite a bit (I guess once some of the non-integrated alcohol blew off), and offered nice honey and chocolate flavors with a medium finish.  R.

NV 10 Year-old Tawny Quinta do Porto, Ferreira, Vila Nova de Gaia ($22.00-$24.00)(8/97).  Grape blend, 10 yrs oak barrels, 19.5% Alc. By Vol., 750 ml.  Dense and packed with good weight and finish.  Chocolate, honey and oak flavor frame a nice long finish.  HR.