This month, with spring just around the corner, we are very excited to offer wines from two of the finest producers in Portugal, a country with a winemaking history dating back to antiquity that is experiencing a remarkable oenological efflorescence right now.
Primarily known for the sweet fortified wine Port, Portugal’s dry wines have historically been overshadowed by the output of its more celebrated neighbors in Spain, Italy and France. That has begun to change in recent years, as winemakers and drinkers alike have recognized the immense potential created by Portugal’s relative insularity from the rest of the wine world. There are three levels of wine quality in Portugal, with the top tier being DOC. DOC stands for Denominacāo de Origem Controlada, and means the wine comes from a strictly defined geographical area with recommended and permitted grapes and maximum vine yields (to control quality). Technically there are 31 DOCs in Portugal, although 3 of them overlap, making it seem more like 28. Featuring an incredible 500 indigenous grape varietals (but no Pinot, Cab or Chardonnay), planted across dramatically variegated climates and terroirs - all in an area slightly smaller than the state of Indiana - Portugal is an utterly singular viticultural habitat that will be producing unique, age-worthy and relatively affordable wines for years to come.
The first selection, the Pats & Symington Post Scriptum Red, is the happy result of an inspired partnership between Bruno Pats, winemaker and CEO of Château Cos d’Estournel in Bordeaux for 30 years, and the Symington family. The Symingtons are considered the “first family” of Port, and have been making wine in Portugal since 1882. They own and run the iconic Warre’s, Dow’s and Graham’s labels. Begun in 1999, the Prats & Symington partnership started producing still wines in the Douro Valley DOC, one of the oldest established wine-making regions in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, applying Bordeaux wine-making methods to grapes traditionally used in vintage Port. The wine is made at the historic Quinta de Roiz estate, whose vineyards date back to 1565.
This month’s white comes from Anselmo Mendes, one of Portugal’s most celebrated winemakers, nicknamed “Mr. Alvarinho”, due to his mastery of the indigenous Portuguese varietal presented here. Anselmo himself says: “There is a special relationship. I was born breathing Alvarihno.” It is grown and produced in the Minho region, Portugal’s largest and northernmost DOC. Despite being just northwest of the Douro Valley, has a completely different climate; it is as wet and verdant as the Douro is arid and dry. A native of the region, Anselmo has an agricultural background; he majored in agronomy at university before deciding to focus on winemaking and studying in Portugal and France. He first began producing wine under his own name in 1998, and in addition to working on his own labels, has become an in-demand consultant for other Portuguese winemakers.
PlumpJack Wine Buying Team
Region / Country of Origin: Douro Valley, Portugal
Winemaker: Bruno Prats, Charles Symington, Pedro Correia and Miguel Bessa
Price: $27 bottle/ 291.60 case
About the winery: Prats & Symington own two prime Douro Estates, Quinta de Roriz and Quinta de Perdiz. Unlike most producers in the region, they select top quality fruit for Douro DOC wine production, not Port production. Both Quintas lie in the parish of São João de Pesqueira; Roriz lies in a natural amphitheater on the banks of the Douro Rover, while Perdiz lies on a steep gradient. The different microclimates and soils of the two vineyards produce different flavor profiles, with Roriz having more minerality and Perdiz showing more bold fruit.
About the winemaking: The grapes are sorted by hand before undergoing destemming and an automated berry selection process. They are then gently crushed before being transferred to the fermentation vats where they are inoculated with a specially selected yeast culture and fermented at 25C. During fermentation, the wines are gently macerated in order to produce an earlier drinking wine but with the ability to mature in bottle. Touriga Nacional 58%, Touriga Franca 39% and Tinta Roriz 3%.
Tasting Notes: Aromas of plum, licorice and spice lead to a dense and supple palate, with herb-accented berry fruit notes giving way to a slowly enveloping spice and long tannic finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: Rustic, gamey meat dishes like Wild Boar Stew or roasted lamb with garlic potatoes and broccoli; mushroom pizza, or Pesticos (Portuguese Tapas) such as figs with ham and goat cheese.
Region / Country of Origin: Minho Valley, Portugal
Winemaker: Anselmo Mendes
Price: $21 bottle / $226.80 case
About the Winery: Anselmo Mendes began producing wine with Alvarinho grapes in 1998, in Monção and Melgaço. It is now a family project, with his wife, son and brother working alongside him. The winery in the Minho Valley is a place for experimentation and research, where Anselmo Mendes' passion for the wine and the region takes shape and flavor. It is a place of reinvention, making each wine an expression of the land at its most sublime, a cultural trait, a mark of character.
About the winemaking: The grapes are hand-harvested before undergoing a long, slow fermentation using only indigenous yeasts, followed by 4 months elevage on the lees.
Tasting Notes: Notes of grapefruit predominate on the nose, underscored by hints of lychee and lemon zest. The palate is clean, light and refreshing, foregrounding juicy lime and white fruit structured by a zippy acidity and concluding with a briny flourish.
Suggested Food Pairing: Portugese classics like Arroz de Tamboril (Monkfish with cooked with tomato, garlic and rice) or Calo Verde (sausage, kale and potatoes), veal piccada with lemon, or Vietnamese tofu, jalapeno and cellophane noodle salad.