Location: Whitby, Ontario, Canada

Born in Malta but in Canada since age 5. Has written three books and presently does several columns about wine and food for various magazines.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Portugal Rises To The Occasion---Again!

The Ontario Art Gallery was an appropriate site for a grand display of Portuguese Wines last February. Portugal is becoming much more renowned in the wine world but it is surprising that more people haven't discovered these fine wines which now rank among the World's best----and I'm not talking about the magnificent Ports and delectable Madeiras which are obviously equated with the country. What I am talking about are the magnificent red and white wines from the Douro, Ribatejo, Estremadura, Terras Do Sado among many.

In my last visit to Portugal, I had the pleasure and honour of meeting some of the great winemakers and visit some of the superb estates (many that go back to the 15th Century) and obviously, I fell in love with the them.

This year at the Portuguese tasting some of my old friends were not there. Absent were Lagoalva, Cortezia, Casal Branco and that was to my disappointment. The one card I do have up my sleeve is that I will be seeing them soon when I go to Portugal this July (courtesy of ViniPortugal) to do a production called "New Wine Frontiers".

However, there were enough of my old friends to make me feel at home this time at the Art Gallery Of Ontario.

Wineries That Impressed

Quinta Da Alorna and I became fast friends at my last visit to Portugal where I stayed overnight at the lovely mansion. Like its area Ribatejo, the estate is unbelieveably lovely. If art is synonymous to the Gallery, then so is it a part of this magnificent and picturesque estate which goes back to the beginning of the 18th Century. The manor, both outside and within, is a work of art that is impeccably done with beautiful carved entrances and unique works of art along its walls.

Its wines also impressed me with powerful Cabernet blends, sumptuous Touriga Nacionals and Casteloas. At the show it only got better!

Da Alorna Wines

Quinta Da Alorna Branco

Made from indigenous grapes Arinto and Fernao Pires, this is a very approachale white that has flowers, citrus mandarin and ripe fruit on the nose followed by citrus and fruit on the palate. A nice pleasant acidic finish gives this wine a charming light personality. (Fish or even better, chowder/fish soup).

Quinta Da Alorna Branco

Chardonnay and Arinto are the main components of this beauty! Flowery nuances on the immediate nose meld into fine fruit aromas of apple, pear and then proceed to tropical/citrus butterscotch. On the palate, there are layers of apple and pear that are supplanted by mango and pineapple with nuances of butter/vanilla. The wine leaves a very pleasant and long lasting finish that keeps evolving long after the drink is put away.

Quinta Da Alorna Tinto

This red is made with Tinto Roriz, Syrah, Castelao and Alicante Bouschet. It is a unique blend that is spicy with herbal pepper and vanilla oak on the nose with red fruit aromas with cherry, raspberry and currant flavours on the palate. A nice wine. (Burgers, spicy sausage, pork loin).

Qunita Da Alorna Tinto

A Cabernet Sauvignon/Touriga Nacional Blend, the wine has black currant, blackberry and violet aromas wtih nuances of pepper, mint and a hint of chocolate. On the palate the ripe dark fruit flavours and vanilla spice produce a very intense and long lasting finish.

I did not get a chance to taste all of the Da Alorna wines but I am sure that they were also of the highest standard. A fine Quinta with a fine future.

Signature Wines and Spirits is a relatively recent newcomer to the scene of wine agencies but it has made quite an impact on the types of quality wines being brought in to Canada. This time it's the turn of Portugal to take a bow with this rapidly growing agency. Always elegant and stylish Louis Banyard introduced me to the latest aquisitions.


Quinta Da Cachao 2005

Duoro produces some of the finest wines anywhere and this wine is no exception. Made from a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz, the wine had a pwerfully found but silky smooth mouthfeel with cherry, ripe currant and raspberry flavours. A long lingering finish added to the experience. (grilled meat, turkey and roast chicken).

Quinta Do Valdoeiro 2005

The Barraida region produces the next two wines made from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Baga, and Touriga Nacional grapes. On the nose there is pepper spice, ripe red fruit aromas (Cherry, red currant and raspberry) with light vanilla spice. On the palate the wine has a forward feel that makes it immediately drinkable yet it can evolve for several years. (roast beef, lamb)

The above wines big brother which is a Reserva has a deeper colour with black fruit flavous, pepper and vanilla spice and coffee/chocolate nuances. The wine is a keeper which will live on for years though it is approachable now. (definite a game wine though quite excellent with lamb or Fillet Mignon)

Quinta d0 Panedo

I love Touriga Nacional and when matched with Alfrocheiro, the combination is sumptuous. This wine is no exception. Deep ruby red in colour, it exhibits lovely floral notes followed by mounds of ripe red fruit and mild vanilla oak. The wine has a great mouthfeel of roundness with red fruit flaovours with vanilla spice. (grilled meat, steak, roast chicken)

Dados Reserva

Indegenous grapes Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz brings this Signature tasting full circle and back to Douro. In fact this wine is actually a joining of two regions since it is formed at the Douro/Duero river birthpoint in Spain. On the nose it can be detected smoke, vanilla oak spice and toast from the oak with some ripe red and black fruit flavours. On the palate, there is a strong power to this wine with toast, coffee, black cherry and blackberry flavours. The finish is persistant. (game, beef, roast turkey).

Peter Mielzynski Agencies (PMA) is considered a giant in the Canadian wine trade. I have long been familiar with this excellent agency and have been proud to have had them sponsor my television productions for many years. This relationship started back in the early '90's when I did a show called the "The Wine Companions" and it continued through various incarnations ot the show and then through my monthly stint with Rogers Television. The relationship has been a good one. PMA was also at the Portuguese Show and produced some first class wines that were certainly "avant garde"! Since I am well familiar with most of the Mielzynski wines, I only tasted several of the newer ones. The wines were from the Alianca company.


Quinta Da Garrida

From the Dao area, this wine is a blend of Tinto Roriz, Jean and Touriga Nacional. Dark in colour, the wine has a bouquet of smoke followed with black fruit mainly plum and pepper spices. It has a round mouthfeel again with ripe black fruit and spices with a lingering finish. (agency food suggestion: Mushroom Risotto with Parmesan. I would also suggest a Portuguese "porco a alentejana")

Quinta Das Baceladas

From Bairrada, this wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Baja. On the nose there is pepper, cherry, currant and vanilla spice while the wine is quite powerful on the palate with ripe black and red fruit leaving a long and lingering finish. (game and beef).

Quinta Dos Quatre Ventos

From the Douro area, this is yet another but very powerful combination of the Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz and Touriga Franca. Deep and dark in colour, the bouquet eminates coconut spice with ripe black fruit . On the palate the wine exhibits a velvety mouthfeel with ripe black and red fruit (plum, blackberry, black cherry and raspberry) which continue on to a very long finish (again a game, rabbit, lamb wine).

Portugal's wines are continuing to make a splash wherever they are tasted. It is a no brainer that Port and Madeira are Portuguese giants however now they must begin to pay hommage to the upcoming new breed!