Tag Archives: Portugal

The Vincast Episode 107 – Sarah Ahmed the Wine Detective

Sarah Ahmed left a career in law to pursue a passion for wine, particularly for investigating and reading clues in wine, hence the alias The Wine Detective. After working for many years with wine retailer Oddbins, she became an independent wine communicator and educator, and since 2005 has contributed to some of the worlds foremost publications and reference books, particularly in her renowned fields of Australian and Portuguese wines.

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Sarah Ahmed

Sarah Ahmed

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The Vincast Episode 064A – Josh Cooper from Cobaw Ridge

On part-one of this special episode of The Vincast, I’m joined by Josh Cooper. Josh’s family established Cobaw Ridge in the Macedon Ranges the same year he was born, at a time when growing grapes for wine was pretty risky in such a cool climate. They found great success with their wines, particularly after converting to biodynamics. Josh spent time studying viticulture and winemaking at Adelaide University, and in the past few years has not stopped, working vintages in Australia and Europe. Recently he has started a few local projects of his own, making some left-of-centre styles that are turning a few heads.

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Josh Cooper Wines

Josh Cooper Wines

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The Vincast Episode 030 – Rosé with Wiremu Andrews

When many people think of rosé they think of a sweet pink wine, but times have changed (for the better) and you can easily find good quality fresh and dry examples being produced around the world. For episode 30 of The Vincast I invited sommelier friend Wiremu Andrews (currently working at Rockpool Bar & Grill in Melbourne) to discuss the history of rosé, the production methods & styles, and what you can expect from certain regions and varieties.

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Wiremu Andews

Wiremu Andews

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Impressions of Portugal

Firstly I’d like to point out that I only spent two weeks in Portugal and only nine days of which was spent visiting wineries. Secondly I only visited four (five if you treat Oporto separately) regions in Portugal, all of which are in the northern part of the country. I was also able to visit some of the absolute top producers in each of these regions and thus was only able to experience the best of what Portugal produces. This does also mean that I was exposed to the cutting edge and future of Portuguese wines, and meet people with experience in different regions and producers representing different elements of the wine industry. So it seems a little silly to be making assumptions and assessments about a country that requires significantly longer to get to know, but I wanted to talk about Portugal which is a producer that certainly I had very little experience with and understanding of, but feel that everyone out there needs to get to know better.

Traditional method sparkling wine in Bairrada

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It’s not easy being green (Vinho Verde, Portugal)

The Vinho Verde region is in the far northern part of Portugal on the border with Galicia, Spain. The astute amongst you would have noticed (if you didn’t already know) that the translation into English is literally ‘green wine’. I’m sure most people would hear this name as I did when I was out for dinner in Lisboa, and be slightly shocked at the idea of green wine. The name of course refers to them being young wines that need to be drunk within 12 months, and the fact that the grapes are harvested a little early to retain the acidity. There are around about 30,000 growers in the region who predominantly grow the fruit in pergolas so that they can grow other crops underneath and more intelligently use the land. The wines are pretty awful in general, and are mass-produced and often pumped with carbon dioxide to give it a little spritz. As far as I know this is the only region where the region is named after the wine rather than the other way around. The associations with the region and the quality of the wine don’t make it way for the few producers who are trying to make higher quality wine, the most prominent of which I visited in the evening.

Duck rice, a typical dish from Minho in northern Portugal

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Quinta do Ameal – 19/07/2012

Branco 2011
Wonderful honey notes, quite waxy with lovely citrus rind notes. Lovely texture and ripeness but texture and finesse, focus and distinction, some richness and even a salty kind of acidity. Wonderfully fresh and will continue to open up.

Escolha 2009
Nice depth and richness on the nose, slightly broader and more floral elements, slightly riper and bolder, some honeysuckle notes. Still wonderfully fresh and light, but a very late wave of complexity and some creaminess. Wonderfully integrated oak, only adding an extra dimension of some texture and viscosity.

Solo 2011 (non-interventionist wine)
Wonderful floral sherbet notes, completely subtle and unique character, bright and pure, unadulterated. Pure and natural, no better way to describe it. Just fruit, wonderfully simple and shows what wine can be.

Branco 2003
Quite a funky oily oyster shell, water chestnuts, extremely complex, Japanese vegetables, daikon(!). Extremely subtle texture and fruit, soft and gentle, layers of complexity, very subtle creamy savoury notes.

Special Harvest 2010 (passito method)
Has kind of a spirit rum port kind of nose, oxidative and a little volatile. Good acids and focus, a little rich and textural on the front that softens very quickly. Very honey characters.

Quinta do Ameal Arinto 2006

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Extremes (Douro, Portugal – Day Three)

Considering there are about 44,000 hectares of vineyards planted you can imagine the size of the region and the range of terroirs, so there are a myriad of opportunities for different expressions. There are so many elements of the Douro that are taken for granted in many other regions well-known for super-premium wines, such as very old vines, steep slopes and thousands of  different vineyard owners. Something that they haven’t had in the past was wine that was designated as a single estate or vineyard, something that is so common in places like Burgundy, Mosel and Alba. The Douro Boys are at the forefront of raising the Douro Valley to the same level as such iconic regions, highlighting the aspects generally regarded as of the highest quality. They are also attempting to differentiate the Douro through the very traditional elements like the great range of varieties planted often in a field blend, and the fermentation and maceration of red wines in lagares mostly made of stone. Having the abilities and technology to much better understand their terroirs, varieties and wines there is very little to stop Douro wines in the future.
Amazing vineyards at Quinta do vale Dona Maria

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Alright, still (Douro Valley, Portugal – Day Two)

The shift of focus from fortified port wines to still wines could not have waited much longer in the Douro. The entire fortified wine market has been diminishing since the 1980s as more people have been drinking dry wines all over the world. The limitations of matching port with food don’t help with the accessibility of these wines as well, as there are only so many styles and they are generally sweeter and all more alcoholic. In the past fortified wines were one of the most popular categories – particularly port and sherry wines – and they were even produced as far away as the USA and Australia. The growth of still wine production of course has been seen all over the world to the unfortunate detriment of fortified wines. Thus in an effort to stay alive it was important for the producers of the Douro to explore the opportunities of still wine production, and in a sense it couldn’t have come at a better time. The climate is one of the biggest influences on the style of wine they can produce which is big, rich and red. This style of wine has been popular for about 20 years in a number of key markets around the world, thanks in part to the influence of US wine critic Robert Parker who loves this style of wine. Thus a confluence of factors has provided them a great opportunity into the future. The producers I visited on my second day are some of the most important producers of still wine in the region.
If it weren’t empty I would be making wine angels

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Niepoort – 17/07/2012

2011 Malolactic white
Very textural, creamy yet fresh and tropical in nature. Balanced and long, well-integrated but in need of some more time in the barrel.

2010 Vertente
Broad and soft, but focused with gentle tannins, some maturity and drive, great balance and already drinking well. Slight savoury character, almost reminiscent of tonkatsu sauce in a sweet and sour kind of way.

2010 Redoma Red
More intense and brooding, slightly more dark fruit characters, more of that mulberry. Slightly more classic Douro red profile, tighter tannins, but still a hint of tonkatsu.

2010 Red
Very intense and structured, powerful focused and expressive tannins, more layers of complexity that will take time to open up. More in the soy spectrum, beautiful with a sukiyaki. A sensational wine that is looking closed and reductive for now.

Dry White Port
Fine and focused, balanced but a little sharp and volatile. Needs more time to soften and then blended to make it a rich textural wine really good with food.

2010 Moscatel
Rich round and viscous, sweet profile and so similar to muscatel sherry they would be indistinguishable.

2010 Charmes
A truly unique wine, like Cote-de-Nuits made in the Douro. Whole bunch maceration and partial fermentation, completed in barrel to give the wine a soft but very savoury funky character, unbelievable complex and long, and will age interestingly.

LBV 2007
Rosy smoky toasty depth. Quite warm initially on the palate, but very focused and bold, nice concentration, dark fruits, velvety and full, will actually age gracefully in the bottle.

Bioma 2008
Nice dusty red earth characters, showing a little toastiness. Wonderful concentration and density, very tight and focused with a great core of acidity, the elegance is lurking in the background urging you to age it for at least 10 years.

VP 2009
Amazingly intense and brooding, concentrated but not expressive. Far too young to be showing anything, need to give it time to open up. Dense powerful bold and assured on the palate, wonderful integration of fruit, sweetness and alcohol. Very long and complex on the palate, supple and slightly savoury on the back. Need to see it again in a couple more years.

10-year-old tawny
Lovely subtle yet bright fruit nose, very elegant caramel influence, not a lot of nut or oxidative elements. Full and intense, exceptional focus and precision, balance and intensity, freshness.

LBV 1987
Very fine, complex and subtle, smoky creamy milk chocolate and wonderful orange characters, some bright red fruits, fresh and lively and full of life and vibrancy. Very special wine. Still retaining some sweetness but the savoury notes showing through beautifully.
Old Niepoort bottles

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Quinta do Vale Dona Maria – 18/07/2012

2011 Vina Ameio (200m 70 yr old south facing)
Very dark on the nose, really intense deep earth and black fruits, extremely brooding toasty elements. Juicy fruit sweet, retaining some R/S? Quite supple but dense and full.

2011 Alampassa (same as before, deeper into the valley, more tinto roriz)
Brighter more ruby in colour. Again, quite fruit sweet but drier and more intense in the tannins and acids, a little warmer profile too. More masculine and granitic and intense. Deeper, and earthier.

2011 Silvas (old vine north facing)
Quite serious deep and mature in character, concentration and finesse at the same time. The most complete component I’ve ever tasted. Exactly what I mean when I talk about approachability when young but deserving of cellaring. Fresh intense vibrant, wonderful balance and intensity.

2011 Vina Nova (7 year old vineyard, malo in barrel)
Quite simple and light, ice ripe fruit, fresh and full but very youthful.

2011 Abaixo + Ameio
Showing a lot more toastiness. Big soft and fruit sweet, some R/S from the Ameio perhaps, dense and yet supple and structured. Needs some more time to open up.

Van Zellers Branco 2010
Nice fresh vibrant green fruit notes, citrus and some very slight herbal notes. Excellent ripeness, perfect balance, very fresh but great character, harmonious to a ‘T’. Good intensity and focus, but clean and pure.

VZ Branco 2011
More leesy and creamy nose, but still showing the lovely citrus elements. Completely shut down and reductive, barely expressing anything. Good structure though, just not a particularly good vintage for the whites.

Rufo do Vale D. Maria 2010 (45/45 touriga franca and nacional, 10% tinto roriz)
Bright fresh vibrant red fruit nose. Nice and pure and fresh, but well structured with some nice approachable fruit sweetness. Bright acids and friendly tannins.

Van Zellers 2010
Deeper and more intense, showing more textured barrel characters. More savoury notes, structure but still great finesse. Looking quite shy at the moment, will really benefit.

Casa de Caval de Loivos 2010
Nice density and maturity, bold dark red fruits, slightly rustic lagar notes. Showing the fruit sweet, but not residual sugar sweet, very supple and well structured, warm but balanced. Full-flavour but lovely and velvety, old oak a perfect complement.

Quinta do Vale Dona Maria 2010
Very serious nose, really intense and mature, wonderfully floral dark fruits. Quite broad and soft, very supple, I think it’s lacking in structure. Quite easy-drinking, I think it needs more oak or tannins (can’t believe I’m saying it). Starting to open up, looking quite shy for now I guess.

CV 2010
Mostly showing fruit at the moment, really young and a little shy, very dark and full on the nose. Nice texture and sharpness, an interesting tang to it, focus and freshness but will integrate and express more once it is in bottle for a while.

A barrel at Quinta do Vale Dona Maria

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