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.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Wines Tasted In The Azores

The Big Three
The Azores do make their own wine and frankly they do a pretty good job of it. Most sources indicate that the three main islands responsible for wine production are: Pico, Graciosa, Terceira and Sao Miguel also producing some first class wines.
Pico is a World Heritage Site and is known for the unique way vines are grown due to the wind and salt from the ocean.
Out of a point of interest the volcanic soils are very shallow consisting of basalt and forms of volcanic rock (trachyites, andesites) and clay. One look at the dark rock formations and it is easy to guess the origins since the whole group of islands are on three tectonic plates (African, American and European Plates) so you can imagine that there is constant volcanic activity occurring below and sometimes above ground.
There is continuing seismic activity as is evident with the multitude of hot springs, bubbling mud, flowing hot water and clouds of hot air in various areas of the islands. The soils produced are very fertile and enable many types of plants to grow.
Here are a few wines tasted and indulged during my 2017 stay in Sao Miguel. Not all of these wines originated here and I will group the Azores wines together under their own heading.
Vinho de Cheiro  "Il Has De Bruma" from Vila Franco do Campo, Sao Miguel Azores
Grape Type: Isabella
The Isabella is a North American "Labrusca" grape that is native to the United States. Sources say that it is suspected to be a cross between vitis vinifera and vitis labrusca since it is mildly susceptible to diseases such as mildew which plague the vinifera vines. It is resistant to "phylloxera" however and gained prominence and favour to many countries outside of the North American continent. It has recently lost much of its renown since the wines it makes do not compare with the "noble" varieties.
The wine is light red in colour with a fragrant raspberry/floral bouquet. Soft and light on the palate with a pleasant refreshing acidity. The wine is low in alcohol (9.5%)  and made to drink young.
It is used by chefs to cook with ---especially octopus!  Price in the Azores Euro 1.95  
Quinta Da Jardinete "Chardonnay"  from Fenais da Luz, Sao Miguel, Azores

Chardonnay is one of the most popular if not the most popular grapes in the World. It can be vinified into many styles and goes through various popularity styles. Fore example in the early 1990's and for a decade thereafter it was the oak chard made popular by California and Australia that was the rage. The oak was evident and the success or failure was based on the taste of vanilla oak in the wine. However things change and now it is the "natural" or unoaked style that is winning applause.
Quinta Da Jardinete exhibits the oak less style with no oak and just the pure varietal taste of citrus, pear, apple, floral and even a bit of peach that is the wine.
The wine is crisp and fresh and matches a wide assortment of dishes and is what I call "intermediary" meaning that it can be used with a salad and yet still be good with a fish or fowl dish right after.
Jardinete has all these qualities which makes it a wine that holds it own and even surpasses many other better known wines from around the globe!

Quinta Da Jardinete Fernão Pires/Sauvignon Blanc (above producer) Also known as “Maria Gomez” Fernao Pires adds fragrance to a wine. Pale yellow with a slight green hue, this brilliantly clear, crisp Sauvignon Blanc - Fernão Pires white blend displays delicate aromas of passion fruit and fresh citrus.

Quinta Da Jardinete Merlot/Aragones (Above producer)

A 60% Merlot/40% Aragones (Tempranillo) blend has ripe fruit and fine tannins balanced with subtle oak finish.

Adega Grande Reserva “CastelãoTejo, Portugal

This is a 100% Castelão also known as Periquita. It is a clear red wine with aromas of ripe fruit. In the mouth it is very soft and persistent with a long finish. Euro 1.99

Adega Grande Branco Reserva: Adega De Murca “Fernao Pires”   Tejo, Portugal

White, medium body, soft and flavourful on the palate with a fragrant with floral rose notes along with citrus lime! Euro 1.50
Coracao do Minho, "Frutado" Rosado Caves Campelo Euro .83 
A very inexpensive yet drinkable wine with red fruit flavours of strawberry and cherry. Excellent for a warm evening on a balcony or patio!
 Ontario Canada Wines
Owing to baggage restrictions I brought only two wines to share. 
Sandbanks Cabernet Franc Prince Edward County 
Red Wine.  Nose: Plum, Cherry, Cedar and earth notes. Medium to Full in body with cherry and vanilla oak notes. Spice on the finish. (Similar bottle given to winemaker Mario of Quinta da Jardinete).
Inniskillin Pinot Gris/Riesling Niagara on the lake
White Wine Nose: citrus, peach, pear notes  with a light body citrus, passion fruit on mouth and crisp finish.