Neil Phillips: The Wine Tipster's take on the Wines of Portugal tasting
In horse racing parlance, Portugal's red table wines are a handicap certainty. Recently though my form book has also been tracking all the exciting whites emerging from this fascinatingly diverse wine producing country. So, with the Cheltenham Festival coming up I was in the mood to check out the latest runners and riders at The Wines of Portugal Tasting at Lords at the end of last month.
Out of the starting gate was Arinto. An increasingly popular white varietal which continues on its upward course, demonstrating its versatility with dry, fresh and lemony styles like the Arinto by Quinta de Chocapalha 2010 from Lisboa, whilst in Alentejo Herdade da Malhadinha Nova has one hectare of Arinto currently in production with more on the way and their barrel fermented Malhadinha 2010 80% Arinto/Viognier/Chardonnay is well-balanced, not over-oaked, ripe, rich and buttery with refreshing acidity.
Indeed it was obvious from the tasting that there is a definite trend in Alentejo to reduce oak influence and harvest earlier. David Baverstock's Herdade do Esporão's Duas Castas 2011 Viosinho/ Semillon is a good example of an unoaked fresh style.
Elsewhere in Beiras, talented Filipa Pato's Nossa Bical 2011 has real depth and potential. Further north, in the Douro, the whites continue to excite at a premium quality level, demonstrating huge potential, whether as a blend of Viosinho, Rabigato and Gouveio with Guru 2010 from Wine & Soul or with single varietals including the 100% Rabigato from Quinta da Mieira 2010, who don't currently have an importer.
Of course in Vinho Verde it is easy to mention many good Alvarinhos like Sogrape's Morgardio da Torre 2010, but Louriero plays an important part too in a blend or on its own as demonstrated by the fresh, limey and super quaffable Docil 2011, Niepoort Vinhos.
Staying with Vinho Verde, and moving on to the reds, I would definitely back the Quinta da Raza 2010, made from 100% Vinhao and produced in lagares. Vinhao is a local variety with delicious upfront berry fruit and no edges - definitely a wine to chill and drink young.
Also keeping freshness to the fore was the medium-bodied, soft and brambly fruit of the Quinta dos Currais' 2010 Aragonez,Touriga Nacional,Castelao blend from the Beira Interior, whilst I sense a new debate as to the merits of 100% Tinto Roriz with Luis Pato's delicious, smooth, fruity, chocolatey Douro Quinta do Pôpa Pôpa TR 2008. Back in Alentejo, Richard Mayson and Rui Reguinga's Sonho Lusitano project continues at a pace with their latest release Pedra e Alma from the high quality 2009 vintage. Made from Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Aragonez, this is packed with fruit, yet refined and open to development.
So where is The Wine Tipster putting his money? First on the classic reds, which are still performing strongly from numerous producers and regions. Also a win bet on the fresh and accessible reds. My medium term ante post bet though is going on the emerging white styles which have huge consumer appeal for their accessibility and sheer drinking pleasure - their importance to the Portuguese wine industry will only increase.
Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster 23/2/12