AFWS Wines of Portugal Tasting

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.

Some of the wines on offer

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!

Check out the rest of the photos via my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Malmaison’s ‘Toast to the Roast’ at Smoke Bar & Grill

I was given the opportunity to try out Manchester Malmaison’s Sunday offering of ‘Toast to the Roast’, housed in their recently opened Smoak Bar & Grill. Never one to pass up on an opportunity to dine in one of Manchester’s premier hotels, myself and a friend opted for an early time slot and enjoyed a drink at their impressive bar arrangement until our table was ready.


Chicken Liver Parfait

Positioned in the corner, overlooking a long open planned room consisting of booths, singular tables and comfy chairs, we were offered a choice of Spanish Rey Viejo red or white wine whilst we browsed their Sunday menu. A choice of either Slow Roasted Plum Tomato Soup or Chicken Liver Parfait to start, with Roast Topside of Beef with Red Wine Gravy, Roast Pork with Red Wine Gravy or Baked Gnocchi Sorentina with Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella – all served with roasted potatoes, seasonal vegetables and Yorkshire pudding as a main. We both opted for the parfait to start, whilst my friend went for the roast pork, and myself the roast beef for our mains.

Despite at the time their only being two tables in, the musical ambience created a good atmosphere as we chatted over a glass of the Spanish red – a dark nose with juicy red berries moving to a mix of refreshing cherries and raspberries on the palate. Our starters soon arrived, set out on a long wooden board with a small jam jar of chicken liver pâté nestled next to four slices of toasted brioche and a dish of raisin chutney. A selection of bread was also laid out on a separate wooden slab to accompany. A great combination to start, with the flavours of the pâté and raisin chutney combining well as we made our way through our first course. But no sooner had our starters been taken away, our mains were being delivered, with Malmaison stamped plates carrying our choice of meat and Yorkshire pudding, hot skillet of carrots and runner beans and a gravy boat each to drizzle red wine gravy to our hearts content. With the pork piping hot, and the beef looking like perfection, we duly tucked in whilst sipping our way through the bottle of red.

The restaurant around us was filling up nicely, with a mixture of families, couples and of course being Mothers Day, a fair few Mothers. This didn’t seem to faze any of the staff, and their were plenty to go around as no problem seemed too small, and no customer left out. As for ourselves, clean plates were taken and followed with the placing of the desert menu. Well it would be rude not to take a look!

The Cheese Platter

I decided to go for the Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with White Chocolate Ice Cream, but almost regretted it when i saw what arrived for my friend – a selection of artisan cheese, crackers & chutney. Carried on a tray that needed its own set of legs to stand, twelve cheeses were on offer, with different chutney and biscuits to make a spectacle that even had the rest of the restaurant talking! Served by a waiter who explained what each cheese offered (I would name them, but I really wouldn’t be able to remember!), six small pieces were placed on a piece of slate, whilst my piping hot chocolate fondant arrived with a ball of ice cream placed delicately on a split strawberry and finished with a dusting of icing sugar. A desert that wasn’t too rich, but instead quite light, with the ice cream there to sooth the palate.

After spending a good two hours (which flew by) we finished the wine, complimented the staff and high service we had received and headed off to the rest of the day – full, yet still buzzing from seeing the Malmaison set the bar for cheese platters everywhere!

£15 per person is money well spent. Although a slimmed down menu for the day, there were still options I could have easily gone for instead, with all food piping hot, well cooked, very well presented and faultless service. I’ve recommended the Smoak Bar & Grill before, and he himself has come away with nothing but a fantastic experience. Consistency is the key.

Check out some of the fantastic photos from the day on my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Johnnie Walker Tasting Notes

Tonight, the Manchester branch of the Malmaison hotel chain hosted an insight into one of the worlds best-selling blended malts – Johnnie Walker. Hosted in their exclusive Ember bar, and by a gentleman ironically named Johnnie Walker, himself a former craftsmen cooper and now a Director of Wine and Spirits for Malmaison, the seven of us were sat in front of three offerings, Green, Gold and Blue Label.

But before we were sampling the delights, Johnnie gave us an insight into the Johnnie Walker brand and how in 1805, the legacy began. Born in Kilmarnock, he purchased himself a grocery store at the age of 14 after his fathers passing and ran the business, selling everything from writing paper to his own whisky, until his death in 1857. His son Alexander took over and set about globalisation just a few years later, trademarking the name Johnnie Walker in 1877. In 1889, his sons Alexander II and George took over after his passing, and introduce the now iconic symbol of the Striding Man, created by the cartoonist Tom Browne, which adorns each bottle of Johnnie Walker and credited as one of the first global marketing icons. In 1909, the bottles were named after the colour that each were associated with, with the Red and Black Labels the first to be born, and each bottle was now housed in its distinctive square bottle as of 1920. From here, a Royal Connection followed in 1934, where still to this day they supply the royal household after receiving a Royal Warrant.

So with a rather regal history, how does the Johnnie Walker range fair?

Johnnie Walker Green Label – 40%

The only vatted malt in the range (no grain, only 100% barley) and has a blend of only 4 single malts with the youngest being 15 years. Slight peat aromas on the nose mixing with citrus and orange to create a light offering. Smooth on the palate with just a whisper of peat that has a burst of mouth-watering flavour at the end, although it doesn’t stick around.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label – 40%

Blended from over 15 single malts, and created to commemorate Johnnie Walker’s centenary. A very light, smooth and sweet nose which carries on to the palate. Lots of honey and mixed cereal with a gentle smoke that creates a long after-taste.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label – 40%

Specially blended to recreate the authentic character and taste of some of the earliest whisky blends created in the 19th century. A bold nose with dried fruits, spice and toasted corn aromas that turns to a rich, silky offering on the palate. A good kick-start of sweetness with vanilla and caramel that almost makes this verge itself to be a whisky liqueur. A long finish of cloves, spice and wood.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label

Tonight was a fantastic insight into not only Johnnie Walker, but also whisky in general, with Mr Walker indulging in the production methods of single malt whisky, the regions and delights that each offers, as well as how blended malts came about. It’s great to try Johnnie Walker Blue Label again after first trying it at this years Diageo World Class Seminar, and at around £130, it’s not to be passed upon.

Since this night, I’ve been able to sample some of the rest of the Johnnie Walker portfolio –

Johnnie Walker Red Label – 40%

A nose of light, soft heather, fruit and honey, creating a creamy palate with subtle flavours of fruitcake and wisps of smoke and oak. Short.

The more familiar Black label will hopefully appear soon on my site to partially complete the collection under the Johnnie Walker family – I say that due to the fact their Johnnie Walker Blue Label King George V is around £350. Anyone with a spare dram?

To check out more photos from the event, click here to be taken to my Facebook page.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.