Our “in depth food and wine exploration” this time was to Portugal. A small country, easy to travel in, but with absolutely insane automobile and truck drivers. I do not understand how they do not have more accidents. I guess they are skilled aggressive drivers. Very hard on the nerves!
I logged over 250 wines from as many of the regions I could visit or purchase their wines (And as expected, the range of approvals and rejections fell into the same ratios I experience here in California at tastings for import wines). Most of them were not available in the USA. Some table wines were local co-op wines made only for local sale, and several of these were quite excellent for around $2.00 a bottle.
The premier region of course is the Douro, where port comes from. Many of the firms are well represented in the U.S.A., and I did not find anything special that is not exported. Very little white port is made, and hardly any is imported into the USA. I tasted some very nice examples, and Paul Jr. is working on a possible December selection.
The island of Madeira was certainly worth the detour. Unfortunately, their wines are much less popular in the USA today than they used to be in the 1800’s.
Talking about dessert style wines, I really fancied the Muscatel (de Setúbal). (what else can you expect from on old wino like me! [I hate that word!]) But this Muscatel was not 89¢ a bottle. Prices started at about $8 a bottle and aged ones were as high as $60 a bottle. The taste of the wonderful flavors and nuances of the muscat grape were well coordinated here.
For table red wines I had some very fine examples in the Alentejo region with it’s five subregions of Redondo, Vidigueira, Portalegre, Reguengos, and Borba. We had a formal tasting at the University of Evora, and we are working on availability of one of these for a monthly selection. Again, if you are ever in Portugal, seek the Alentejana wines.
Dao region wines were also exceptional for their red wine examples. I had tasted several of these in San Francisco, at the Portugal booth of the Food and Wine Trade Show, and liked them very much. Alas, no California importer came forth to import them (understandable… we are chauvinistic about California wines, and Portugal does not ring a loud bell!). Anyway, Paul Jr. will be in contact with some names we were given.
For the Vinho Verde, in the far north, where the best known white wines of Portugal are made, my impression leaned towards favoring the jug and pitcher wines we were served in the restaurants, than the ones in the bottles. For some years now, I have been offered in California several versions of Vinho Verde imported by one distributor or another. I found one that pleased me, but they did not have enough to fill our needs. Of the Vinho Verde wines I tasted in the region, I was not overwhelmed by any. The region was fascinating though. The vines are mostly trellised, and other crops and vegetables are grown in the vineyards underneath the trellis. Harvesting is by overhead reach or by ladder.
All in all, there were some good finds that Paul Jr. and I are working on.
Rosemarie and I will report on the wonderful, different and interesting foods we discovered in future issues of this newsletter.