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Portuguese Wines Seminar

by Tom cannavan, 11/12

Since winning the title of Wine Journalist of the Year from the Portuguese wine industry in 2010 I have been fortunate enough to be asked by them to present the occasional masterclass or seminar on the wines of Portugal for both consumer and wine trade audiences. Recently, a masterclass for wine service professionals was organised by the Academy of Food and Wine Service and Wines of Portugal, where I presented six wines to a keen and enthusiastic audience of sommeliers, food and beverage managers and staff trainers from the hospitality industry. These are my own notes on the six wines.

white wines

Sogrape Vinhos, Morgadio da Torre 2011, Vinho Verde
One of the new wave of single varietal Vinho Verde wines, this is 100% Alvarinho (Spains's Albariño). Only two sub-regions are allowed to bottle single varietal Alvarinho, Melgaco and Monçõo, both hugging the Spanish border with Galicia. This with its modest 12.5% alcohol seemed just a little dull on this showing. It is full-textured and ripe, with some peachy fruit on the mid palate and a big blast of pithy citrus on the finish, but perhaps lacking the vital spark of the best examples on this showing. 86/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Terra d'Alter, Verdelho 2011, Alto Alentejo
Australian winemaker Peter Bright makes this wine in the Alto Alentejo, a plateau at 300 metres that is cooler than the rest of the Alentejo, from a vineyard planted on granite soils. It's a pretty big wine, with floods of texture and lots of ripe fruit and weight. Despite that, there is plenty of acidity here, and the finish is sharp, yet full and balanced. 88/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Fita Preta, Palpite Branco 2009, Alentejo
A blend of Arinto (40%), Antão Vaz (30%) and Verdelho (30%). The complexity of the winemaking here means that 70% of the must is fermented in four different types of new French barrels, using four different yeast strains with lees stirring and 12 months maturation. There's a touch of honey and cashew here from the oak ageing, then a powerful wine (with 14% alcohl) and with mouth-filling texture, lots of fruit verging on the tropical and good spicy character too. Is the alcohol and oak a little too rich? Still a striking wine. 89/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

red wines

Julia Kemper Wines, Tinto 2009, Dão
Julia Kemper, a lawyer by profession, has a passion for organic issues and when she had the opportunity to restore the family's vineyards, in the Dão region, converted them to 100% organic farming, with family friend Dirk Niepoort as winemaker. The blend is 50% Touriga Nacional, 25% Tinta Roriz (Spain's Tempranillo), 15% Alfrocheiro and 10% Jaen, fermented in lagares before 12 months in French oak barrels. A serious, sinewy wine with meaty aromas and cedar and deep-set fruit. On the palate it is a touch austere perhaps, suggesting maybe a little time in the cellar will allow it to expand a little and loosen up, but undeniable concentration and quality. 89/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Quinta do Crasto, Douro Reserva Old Vines 2009, Douro
Vines here have an average of 70 years, from a vineyard that is a mix of 25 to 30 different varieties. Ageing in French and American oak barrels for up to 18 months. A high proportion of the grapes used in the blend are foot trodden in lagares. A big wine with 14.5% ABV, and a joyous one - flooded with sweet berry fruit after the mellow, toast and coffee tinged opening, but beautifully structured too with ripe, rich tannins and gentle acidity leaving it long and delicious. 91/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Herdade de Mouchão, Licoroso Alicante Bouschet 2006, Alentejo
Stunning stuff this, a fortified wine of 21.5% alocohol made from 100% Alicante Bouschet, a teinturier grape with red flesh and juice. The aromatics are beautiful, soaring from the glass with wild flowers, cherry and kirsch and such concentrated, sweet black fruit. Somehow on the palate the alcohol is barely there, the sheer svelte ripeness and mouth-filling sweetness of the wine dark, full and beautifully poised. Fabulous stuff. 94/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.