By the time you are reading this, Rosemarie and I will be sleeping off our jet lag from an extensive exploration of Portuguese wines and foods. This is our first “four week” in depth study session…. Now that Jr. is running the shop, we can afford to spend that kind of time! (He is getting pretty good…. At the last formal tasting we both attended, we decided to separate, and sit at different tables. It was a Bordeaux tasting. When we finished and were waiting for our car, we compared notes. Both us started to chuckle, as we announced our score for each wine we had tasted…. we concurred on over 80%! of the wines.)
Outside of port, and to a lesser extent madeira, the availability of finer table wines from Portugal in the USA is very limited. Except for Mateus and Lancers, two popular “trade named” wines that have faded in popularity because of the White Zinfandel revolution, the shelves in wine shops and lists in restaurants hardly show any interest. Occasionally a brave importer will venture into a few representations at the trade tastings we attend. Now and then, I find a very pleasing Vino Verde to feature in our program, and on a couple of instances an outstanding red example from the Bairrada and the Dao came forth, but they never had enough inventory.
One of the things I have insisted on, in selecting and buying wine for our program, is the tasting of the actual wine after it has been imported into the USA and is in our importers or wholesalers cellar. The entire amount we need must be on hand, and from the same shipped lot. I have seen and tasted vast differences in subsequent shipments of the same wine. Enough to become wary of “buying on the boat”, or “in our broker cellars in Marseilles” inventory commitments.
Our membership numbers are growing, and I have to start finding the imports at their origin and securing their best shipment conditions.
So we will start with Portugal!
The Junta Nacionale do Vino has designated ten wine growing regions in Portugal. I hope to visit all ten; from Algarve on the south coast, through Setubal, Bucelas, Carcavelos and Colares, around Lisbon, to Bairrada and Dao in the center, to Douro for port, to Vinho Verde in the north coast at the Spanish border, and a short flight to the island of Madeira for that wine. (I am rather fond of Madera. About 14 years ago, I attended a tasting organized by the L.A. chapter of LADV. The tab was $80 for 8 half portions of older Madeiras, among which was a 1789 version. These can be fun historical exercises….and often rewarding wine experiences!)
I will report on my findings on this page, in future issues of this newsletter. Salud!