The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2010

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Steven Spurrier’s Letter from London PHOTO: DECANTER 50 Great Portuguese Wines This is the fifth year that Wines of Portugal has commissioned a well- known British wine writer to choose 50 Portuguese wines that he or she feels stand out for quality and individuality, and the nominee for 2010 was Sarah Ahmed, otherwise known as The Wine Detective. She set herself two bases for selection: “coups de coeur,” or heart-stopping wines at the pinnacle of Portuguese winemaking prowess, and “groundbreakers,” or wines of ambition that surpass the regional norm. While the original 50 Great selection by Richard Mayson in 2006 contained mostly red wines, Sarah included a record 14 whites, a testament to the revolution in quality of Portuguese white wines, where Vinho Verde has enjoyed the most daz- zling transformation, with the Alvarinho grape at the vanguard. For the reds, she found the Douro fabulously consistent, where the multi-faceted slopes and dif- ferent elevations produce an increasingly wide array of wines. Hardly a day passes in London when there are fewer than two tastings. I had been on the panel for Chablis Premier Cru 2007 that morning and was leav- ing for Rome that evening, but made a point of not missing this. I arrived early afternoon to find the room packed, not only with most of my colleagues, but with most of the tables hosted by the wine- maker or owner of the estate concerned, confirming how much Portuguese wines interest the U.K. trade, and vice versa. Here is a list of my personal favourites. White Wines Quinta do Ameal 2008 Vinho Verde, made from the Loueiro grape, with stunning minerality and persistence; Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas 2008 Vinho Verde, a floral Alvarinho with sufficient grip to age well; Quinta de Saes Reserva 2008 Dão, showing lifted fruit and complexity from four local grapes; Po de Poeira 2008 Vinho Regional Terras 22 / the tasting panel / april 2010 Durienses from Jorge Moreira’s north- facing vineyards that shows lasting finesse; Redoma Reserva Branco 2008 Douro, Dirk Niepoort’s blend of at least six Douro grapes, fuller and riper than I had expected, but all in balance and with great length; Pera-Manca 2007 Alentejo, a full, fleshy, oaky wine with hints of a white Hermitage. Red Wines Quinta do Monte d’Oiro Reserva 2006 Vinho Regional Lisboa, a blend of 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier with Michel Chapoutier as consultant, quite grippy but with a great future; Lokal Silex 2008 Vinho Regional Beiras, 100% Touriga Nacional made in a surprisingly seductive way by Filipa Pato; Vinha Barrosa 2005 Vinho Regional Beiras, a 100% Baga made by the king of this varietal, Luis Pato (who had brought a superb sample of his 2009), with Sarah Ahmed likening it to Aldo Conterno’s 2001 Bussia Barolo, a great, underrated wine; Quinta da Dona 2004 Bairrada, also from the Baga grape with plummy ripe fruit; Vina Paz Reserva 2005 Dão, from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Alfrocheiro, really good middle fruit with an underlying freshness; Quinta dos Roques Garrafeira 2003 Dão, the same grapes plus 10% Tinta Cão, floral and mature, a classy wine; Labrador 2007 Vinho Regional Duriense, made at Quinta do Noval and named after the winemaker’s dog, this is a beguiling expression of pure Syrah; Redoma 2007 Douro, Dirk Nieeport’s field blend from 60- to 120-year-old vines, deep colour with floral, complex fruit, for keeping; Passadouro Reserva 2007 Douro, full, great tannins, great wine; CV 2007 Douro, rich and sexy Rhône-style wine; Quinta do Crasto Vinha da Ponte 2007 Douro, lovely fragrant wine, the Lafite of the Douro; Herdade do Mouchão Tonel 3-4 2005 Alentejo, a great, black-red wine, the Hermitage of Alentejo. All wines to look out for.

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