On 9th July I went to this unusual tasting of Portuguese wines, organised by “Wines of Portugal” in Tokyo. I say unusual because it is quite rare to have such a big tasting for this Country: there were 50 stands, hosting both importers and producers in search of an importer, you could really lose yourself in that abundance.

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Wines from everywhere, Douro, Minho, Dão, Madeira, Algarve, Setùbal, Tejo, Alentejo!
I was there almost as a neophyte, I mean I know something about Portuguese wine, but they tend to make all these complicated blends of obscure grape varieties, so for me it was kind of an “explorative” tasting, just to get the feeling and go back home with some new knoweldge.

That’s why I used the first 10 minutes to give a thorough scan of the booklet I had been provided at the reception. I just couldn’t throw myself on the wines, I had to choose some targets.

Here are some of the useful things that I learned this time

Castelão: the portuguese answer to Pinot Noir?

The first stand I visited was the one hosting the wines of Pegos Claros, with director José Gomes Aires standing there energetically promoting his products. Between all the blends it was interesting to see five wines made from just one grape variety, Castelão, grown in the Penìnsula de Setùbal.
I had a white “blanc de noirs”, a rosé and three reds (two already on the market, one still “experimental” and not for sale). Mr. Aires defined the grape as the Pinot Noir and Portugal and I can get his point, as they were quite elegant, even though there is a bit more concentration and “darkness” in this variety. White and rosé were nice and fresh, the reds were really great and well balanced.

Crispy sparkling wines from the Douro

Another very nice surprise was discovering the good sparkling wines from Vértice. Son of winemaker Celso Pereira (sorry, I don’t remember the name, although his face reminded me a bit of Gerard Piqué) was there and poured me their four cuvées (Rosé 2014, Millésime 2011, Gouveio 2008 and Vertice Cuvée NV, not tasted in this order), all made in the champenois method.
I discovered that Vértice has been the first producer of sparkling wine in the Douro. Schramsberg (yes, that one) gave the idea to Celso Pereira in 1989 when they came to the region to produce bubbles. They left in the meantime, but Celso Pereira went on and still goes on to this day.
Isn’t it too hot to make this kind of wines in the Douro? Not in their vineyards it seems, where the climate is moderate enough to have some good sparklers thanks to the altitude.

Educational Vinho Verde

Nuno Barros was standing at the tasting for Aveleda (12 million bottles a year, a giant in its category). The wines very nice, especially in the oppressing heat of the japanese summer.
The single cuvées from Loureiro and Alvarinho were great, but from an “educational” point of view I found Casal Garcia series interesting as well. The basic Vinho Verde in particular (the most widely sold Vinho Verde in the world it seems) was a very typical example of this kind of wine, so typical in fact that it could be very easy to use during a lesson. The Rosé and the red were also nice.

Dão vs Setùbal

Camilo Leite was there for Boas Quintas, another producer in search of importers. The wines really deserve recognition and I hope that he found some good contact on his trip. I also liked Camilo himself, he seemed a bit reserved at first, but then started opening up like a premium wine and gave me many interesting information.
Since he has wines both from Dão and Setùbal I was curious to know the differences between the two regions. Dão is more continental climate, with high diurnal variation, while Setùbal is very near to the sea on sandy soil and the plants need irrigation or they would die.
Then I asked him where he prefers to make, if in Dão or in Setùbal. He said that making wine in Setùbal is easier, because in Dão you have more disease. However he likes the wines of Dão better. And they were great in fact: the three “seriours” red cuvées (Fonte de Ouro Red, Fonte de Ouro Touriga Nacional and Fonte de Ouro Reserva) are especially good, although the second one is still quite young and “shy” (2015 vintage). The Fonte de Ouro Encruzado is also interesting, though the oak is really evident (I am still not sure if I liked it or not).

A final mention for another good producer, Quinta do Convento do Paraìso, which made me discover the good wines from Algarve and especially an Alvarinho (Euphoria 2016) which is light years away from that of Minho.
My note on the red Convento do Paraìso 2015 reads: “great; ready, but can age”. Also the label have been drawn by the children of the owner, every vintage a different one, and they were very cute.

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