Last week, the Academy of Food and Wine hosted alongside Wines of Portugal a masterclass at Manchester’s Malmaison hotel, with the chance to try out a range of the New World wines that are slowly hitting our shores.
Hosted by Joe Wadsack, a freelance wine professional, former columnist for The Daily Express, presenter on Saturday Kitchen, Ladette to Lady, and Richard and Judy and an internationally respected wine judge, we were guided through various wine styles from across the Portuguese land of Vinho, Verde, Douro, Aletejo and Dão. But first, a little history of the Portuguese wine trade.
Portuguese wines were first shipped to England in the 12th century from the Entre Douro e Minho region (which today includes modern Portuguese wine regions such as the Douro and Vinho verde). In 1386, Portugal and England signed the Treaty of Windsor which fostered close diplomatic relations between the two countries and opened the door for extensive trade opportunities. The 1703 Methuen Treaty furthered advanced English economic interest in Portugal by reducing tariffs and give Portuguese wines preferential treatment in the British wine market over French wines. Around this time, the fortified wine known as Port was increasing in popularity in Britain. The lucrative trade in Port prompted the Portuguese authorities to establish one of the world’s first protected designation of origin when Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal established boundaries and regulations for the production of authentic Port from the Douro in 1756.
For centuries afterwards, Portuguese wines came to be associated with Port. In the mid-to-late 20th century, sweet, slightly sparkling rosé brands from Portugal became immensely popular across the globe-with the British wine market again leading the way. In the mid-1980s, Portugal’s introduction to the European Union brought a flood of financing and grants to the stagnant Portuguese wine industry. These new investments paved the way for upgrades in winemaking technology and facilities. Renewed interest in the abundance of unique Portuguese wine grape varieties shifted focus to more premium wine production with a portfolio of unique dry red and white wines being marketed on a global scale.
There are 14 wine regions in Portugal that incorporate 33 different grape varieties over 7 styles. I was lucky to try 7 different wines from 5 regions, so below I give to you my tasting notes –
São Domingos Sparkling Rose 2010 – 12%
Light, fresh and fruity on the nose with a soft strawberry and refreshing longevity on the palate that gives a slight tang on the end.
Terra D’Alter Verdelho 2010 – 14.4%
Slightly heavy on the nose, with a deep, bold honey aroma mixing with dry bananas to create a balanced sweetness. Smooth on the palate with mouth-watering flavours of mandarin. Rather short and dry from the beginning.
Morgadio Da Torre Alvarinho 2010 – 13%
Pear, melon and citrus notes mix well on the nose, with a big boost of honey and flavours of a fruit salad hitting the palate. A long finish with a slight sweetness.
Terra D’Alter Aragonez 2009 – 14.5%
A good hit of soft red fruit with some spice lingering on the nose. Very dry when it hits the palate, with rich tannins and a blend of strawberry and spice creating a long finish.
São Domingos Bairrada Red 2007 – 13%
Soft on the nose with a creamy, old oak aroma with hints of chocolate. Very soft on the palate, with lots of tannins and creating a short offering. Dry from the beginning.
Callabriga Dão Red 2009 – 13.5%
Lots of flavours with spice, floral and balsamic blending nicely on the nose. Fresh and light flavours of red fruit on the palate, but very short and dry.
Quinta do Portal 2009 – 14.5%
A hit of spice and oak with herbal aromas on the nose flowing into a spice hit on the palate. Very dry to begin with but mellows smoothly into a mouth-watering chocolate end.
A good balance of Portuguese wines were on offer with personal highlights being the Morgadio Da Torre Alvarinho for the white, and a tie between São Domingos Bairrada and Callabriga Dão for the reds. The São Domingos Sparkling Rose was also a refreshing change from your usual Cava’s, Prosecco or Champagne.
I’m not a fussy man when it comes to choosing a wine, but I, like most of you, go for countries that have been well established in the wine sector for many years. The new world wines though have many a gem, and gems that can give its neighbours of Spain and France a run for its money. Give the Portuguese a try. Desfrutar!
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