A few weeks back we mentioned a review in The New York Times of a little known Portuguese wine we carry. Eric Asimov’s opinion carries a lot of weight and many of you came into the store to try out the $8.99 bargain called Padre Pedro.
Well guess what? This week the same writer in the same newspaper published a piece entirely on the red wines of the Douro region of Portugal (Port’s Not-So-Sweet Cousin), and I am happy to report that The Spanish Table carries all but one of the wines that were reviewed. Some of the vintages and prices are different than in the article, but the fact remains that The Spanish Table is an excellent source for high quality Portuguese wines at all price points.
Rather than simply copy and paste the information from The New York Times article (which you should read for yourself, and check out the tasty sounding recipe too!) I have re-purposed some of my own previous notes on these wines to give you a little more perspective on these delicious and interesting wines (many thanks to Eric Asimov for doing my job this week in addition to his own).
Vinha da Palestra 2003 $11.99 The “best value” candidate from The New York Times article is this wine. We featured it in our wine club earlier in the year (wine club members are ahead of the curve yet again). This is a young Portuguese wine from D.O.C. Douro composed of roughly equal parts Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo by another name) that offers a gentle glimpse at the powerful Douro reds of days gone by. This new style of Douro trades rustic power for poise and balance. The brash tannins are pushed to the background in favor of bright fruit character and lively acidity. Hints of smoky oak are faintly discernable though present in sufficient quantity to remind one of where this wine comes from. Serve Vinha da Palestra with your favorite Portuguese chicken recipe (there are so many) and a big salad.
Sogrape Douro Reserva 1999 $15.99
The Times reviewed the 2003 vintage which was the final year for this wine. Going forward, Sogrape has rebranded the wine as Callabriga and it is now produced in a Douro, a Dao and an Alentejo version. This is a mature, full-bodied wine with loads of concentrated dark fruit and tannic oak flavors. This balanced, spicy wine offers abundant pleasure straight from the bottle (no breathing time needed).
Quinta dos Quatro Ventos Reserva 2003 $22.99 This reserva level Douro red , composed of a blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional sees 14 months of barrel age in a combination of French and American oak. Dark garnet color with concentrated berry aromas and flavors augmented by spicy tannins and earthy foundation.
Vertente 2004 $27.99 In the Douro valley in Portugal the Niepoort family are long-time port producers and, more recently, innovative red wine producers as well. Dirk Niepoort is leading the table wine renaissance in the Douro and while most of his excellent products carry significant price tags, Vertente is made specifically to satisfy the buyer looking for distinctive Portuguese wine in the under $30 price range. They use the full range of Douro grapes (too many to name) to produce this wine that displays dark color, vivid, spicy aroma, ripe berry fruit, good acidity and slate-like minerality.
Casa de Casal de Loivos 2003 $35.99 Looking for a well priced, small production wine from the Douro region in Portugal? Check out this younger sibling to the well-known and more expensive Quinta de Vale D. Maria Douro red. Opaque garnet color, concentrated port-like aroma and rich fruit character are what you expect from this region and this wine delivers all of the above with some additional wild herb notes in the background.
2004 Quinta Vale D. Maria $43.99 Cristiano Van Zeller is a pioneering winemaker in the Douro Valley .He was the former enologist and owner of the famous Quinta Do Noval Estate, best known for the production of Port wine. Starting in 1996, he began to produce table wine as well in small quantities. This wine is made from a long list of typical Portuguese grape varietal including but not limited to Rufete, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Amarilla. 21 months of barrel age lend tannic complexity to this elegant, concentrated red wine.
2002 Pintas from $43.99 Jorge Borges and Sandra Tavares da Silva are the husband and wife team behind Pintas. Jorge has close ties with Dirk Niepoort (See Vertente above) and Sandra has worked for many years with Cristiano Van Zeller (see Vale D.Maria above). This well connected couple now makes their own wine (in miniscule quantities) called Pintas. Dozens of regional grape varieties, many of them from old vines combine to create this opulent, balanced wine that features the combination of poise and power that typify the best of the Douro region red wines.