I recently traveled to there to be a judge at the Wine of Portugal Challenge and to visit the wine country.
This video also captures one of the top winery visits of my life.
Lastly, I’ll include some of the other wine/food related experiences along the way. And the back part of this video, I’ll discuss some of my favorite Portuguese wine producers, along with the top award winners from the wine competition.
Some competitions are marketing machines, with this one less than 10% of the entries won gold medals. Most judges were from the Portuguese wine trade, including many winemakers. The international judges included many somms, some writers and few others connected to the trade of Portuguese wine. The range of styles is broad, often unlike anything else in the world, the average quality is very good and often the pricing is crazy affordable.
At the Masterclasses, there was plenty of talk of regions, grape varieties, winemaking techniques and so on. A major point of difference with the rest of the world is the strong presence of indigenous varieties, over 97% of what is produced there. Every region in Portugal produces wine to varying degrees. Places like the Douro and Dao, get a good deal of attention, but the reach goes well beyond that. Aside from the vast range of grape varieties, the terrain varies greatly as well from long stretches of coastal maritime influenced to inland, often mountainous continental climates.
Then is was off to one of Portugal’s lesser known wine regions. A four-hour bus journey on lightly traveled rural roads, until arriving in the Beira Interior. The region is split into three sub regions, the further north one goes, the higher the altitude.
The visit to Beyra and chief winemaker Rui Roberedo Madiera, this one ranks as one of the most interesting wineries that I’ve ever visited. Uber quality minded, high altitude vineyards, old vines, very low yields, no irrigation, indigenous grape varieties, native yeasts, judicious oak use, wines with an artisanal presence.
I’ve visited 100s of wineries over the year, they can start to look the same, but not this one. Sure, this one had the commonly found modern winemaking equipment, but I liked how the wines are not made by formula, they reflect the individual vintage, vineyard and grape variety.
Time for a quick vineyard visit, as is the case with most top-notch wines, they are made in the vineyards. Here is a 145 year old wind swept vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards that I’ve visited, planted to a field blend, a common practice from years ago. The yields are extremely low, often under two tons per acre. It’s like a living museum.
The terrain is rolling, the vegetation is scrubby and wind is constant. This is an ideal environment for low vineyard yield wine production, often one of the key factors of elevated wine quality. Combined with indigenous grape varieties and non-intrusive winemaking, it set up well for a good result.
The panoramic views kept coming around nearly each twist and turn of the road, until we arrived at Quinta do Cardo.
After a quick glass of sparkling, it was time to jump into a two-meter-deep ditch freshly cut into the vineyard. It was done to show soil structure and the depth of the vine rootstock. This is largely a dry place, with no irrigation, the vine roots must go deep for water and nutrients.
Later was about wine and regional foods out in the vineyards. The very young kid goats were roasted in an old stone oven for several hours.
This eye chart captures my final results from the competition, but my recommendations to you go beyond the wine competition. These are wine sources that bring very good quality for the money. Some get good international distribution; others will be more hit or miss. If you can’t find the wine producer, I suggest at the very least you search out some of the Portuguese grape varieties that I mentioned.
Casa Santos Lima and Sogrape
Villa Oliveira DAO
Quinta do Crasto
Post Scriptum is another excellent value getting good international distribution.
Best of the Year – Quinta Nova Vinha Centenária Ref P29/P21, 2019 – Douro
Best Fortified – Henriques & Henriques Sercial, 2001, Madeira
Best Red Varietal – Quinta do Crasto Touriga Franca, 2018, Douro
Best White Varietal – Villa Oliveira Encruzado, 2020, Dão
Best Red Wine (Blend) – Quinta Nova Vinha Centenária Ref P29/P21, 2019, Douro
Best White Wine (Blend) – Quinta da Rede Grande Reserva, 2019 Douro
Best Sparkling – Casa de Santar Vinha dos Amores Espumante Touriga Nacional, 2016, Dão
The complete list of award winners is at at: https://concursovinhosdeportugal.pt/
#winetasting #portugal #portuguesewine #wildlife #wset #masterofwine