The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2015

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84  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2015 DISCOVERIES T he Douro glitters as it meanders around vertiginous vineyards; golden hay bales and cork trees stripped of their signature bark dot the warm Alentejo plains; verdant hills undulate across Minho. Such is Portuguese wine country. Mark Macedonio, founder of M Imports, regularly alights on such landscapes when visiting Portugal, its diversity reflected in the country's landscape of wine. His company specializes in Western Europe's last fron- tier, a place where traditional grapes combine with modern winemaking to produce many of the world's most exciting wines. "It's the next unexplored region" said Macedonio. "It's the Old World anew. The wines are being made in more approachable styles that are global in their appeal, and I believe Portugal is the next Argentina." Based in Fairfield County, Connecticut, M Imports is one of a few inde- pendent companies that market Portuguese wines on a national level, and it has risen to become the top U.S. importer of Douro and Bairrada wines by dollar sales. Macedonio currently markets 40 wines with 90+ point ratings, and over the last decade, 13 of his selections have landed on Top 100 lists of prominent U.S. publications. He believes premium red table wines define the future of Portugal's growth in the American market, particularly those from the Douro Valley. Since Macedonio's first pallet crossed the Atlantic nearly a decade ago, American tastes have evolved beyond Port alone, largely due to his cham- pioning of the Douro's outstanding but little-known dry reds. Arguably the most influential Douro table wine in America is the Quinta do Portal Mural Reserva. The brand has been the number-one-selling Douro wine in the U.S. by dollar sales for the last two years. Dense with black fruits and firm tannins, the 2011 offers exceptional value (SRP $13). From the same property, the Quinta do Portal 2012 Colheita is a step up in price (SRP $18) and in complexity. The Douro is not the only star in the firmament of Portuguese wine. Alentejo in the south delivers fruit-forward expressions that appeal to American tastes. The Herdade Grande 2008 Reserva is a serious example of the region's potential, with its power balanced by fresh acidity, and softly textured tannins. From Dão, Macedonio imports from historic property Casa da Passarella, one of four founding families to establish the DOC in 1904. The Casa da Passarella 2010 O Oenólogo Vinhas Velhas is a ruby-red field blend with big, dry tannins, a vibrant, fresh berry core and chocolate undertones. The Campolargo 2009 Rol de Coisas Antigas from Bairrada is another big, age-worthy red, this one based largely on the local Baga grape, a petulant grape known for its thick skin, robust tannins and acidity, and is valued for its richness and dried-fruit complexity. Macedonio focuses predominantly on red, but recognizes the value of beautifully crafted whites, especially when complemented by elegant packaging. The deeply perfumed Quintas de Melgaço 2014 QM Alvarinho, for example, delivers stone fruit, Granny Smith apple, and white floral notes on a nervy palate in a striking bottle. "I believe this wine is the finest representation of the Melgaços sub-zone," he said. Macedonio's bet on Portugal has paid off. Portuguese table wine has enjoyed double-digit growth in each of the last three years. Recently, Whole Foods and Costco executed nationwide Portuguese wine promotions, a telling example of the newfound power of the category. "The Old World Anew" M IMPORTS CULTIVATES PORTUGUESE WINE ACROSS AMERICA Mark Macedonio, founder of M Imports, photographed at Douro Restaurant & Bar in Greenwich, CT. PHOTO: ROBERT CURTIS by Lauren Mowery, DWS

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