Last Saturday’s wine, food and art market at the showrooms of Wine Emotions in Mexilhoeira da Carregação was a roaring success. Now in its second year, the event was packed with wine lovers eager to sample the offerings of the 30-plus small but high quality producers from all over Portugal represented by Wine Emotions.
Local artworks were on display and food stalls offering some very tasty snacks added to the overall experience whilst an auction offering a bottle of wine from each producer raised money for the ‘Amigos do Canil de Portimão’ animal association. The event is a great initiative that will no doubt become a firm annual fixture.
Whilst there was no shortage of excellent wines available for tasting to the general public, it was behind the scenes that a small group of restaurateurs, sommeliers and yours truly gathered for two vertical tastings that just happened to focus on my two most beloved Portuguese grape varieties: Alvarinho and Baga.
First up was winemaker João Pedro Araújo who has two wineries, one in Dão and the other in the Minho. In the Minho, he produces a range of Vinho Verde wines under the Quinta de San Joanne label and he can take credit for having been the first producer in the Vinho Verde region to intentionally create a white “vinho de guarda” (wine intended for ageing).
Our vertical tasting was of his premium label, San Joanne Superior, from the 2015, 2012, 2009, 2007 and 2005 vintages. The backbone of the wine is Alvarinho, providing the body and acidity needed for ageing, along with a touch of Malvasia Fina.
The 2015 has not yet been bottled and will only be released after three years of bottle-ageing, so we will not see it until 2019, at the earliest, but it was interesting to compare it alongside the other vintages going right back to 2005, the best of all in my opinion, although the 2009 came a very close second.
Araújo explained to us how he had initially received negative press from Portuguese wine journalists when he first released the 2005 in 2009 – some said it was oxidised and others simply asked ‘why would anyone want to drink aged Vinho Verde?’ But they all missed the plot and those who have tasted the 2005 10 years after bottling, as we did on Saturday, must be literally drinking their words. This is a stunning wine.
The 2009 is no less impressive and Wine Emotions still have a few bottles of this vintage available.
And now for Luís Pato, the great man himself, and a tasting that became something of a master class in understanding the Baga grape. When I say ‘great man’, I do not say it lightly, as Luís Pato has single-handedly done more to promote the Bairrada region, and specifically the Baga grape, than anyone. And his globe-trotting promotional activities make him one of the foremost ambassadors of Portuguese wine around the world.
We were treated to one of his premium labels, Quinta do Moinho, a vineyard planted in 1990 from which the first vintage under the Quinta do Moinho label was produced in 2008. Here, our vertical tasting took on an unusual format, starting off with three recent vintages from 2010, 2009 and 2008 before jumping back a decade to sample the 2000, 1999 and 1998. Pato spoke in great detail of how high quality Baga wines change over time. He compares the relatively young wines such as the 2008 to Italian Barolo wine, rich and full-bodied whilst elegant with the typically dry finish.
Then moving back to the wines approaching 20 years in the bottles, such as the 2008 we tasted, he compares the wine to the lighter style of Syrah produced in the Rhone Valley. He also talked about his oldest vintages, going back to the 1980s when Baga takes on many of the characteristics of Burgundian Pinot Noir.
I am now on the lookout for a bottle of his original Luís Pato label from the 1985 vintage which, he told me, is one of the best.
By PATRICK STUART [email protected]