Thursday 19 June 2014

Dry Portuguese Wines: To stop at the red light when going for a revolution
Have you ever seen the Portuguese movie April Captains? April Captains (Original title: Capitães de Abril) is the first full-lenght movie of the actress Maria de Medeiros as a director, which she has a role in the movie too, and it is a very fun movie about The Carnation Revolution of Portugal in 25 April 1974, which starts telling about a group of leftist military officers who are about to start a left wing junta against the fascist Portuguese government, to stop the recruitment for more massacres in Africa concerning the Portuguese colonization of Guinea, Mozambique and Angola in 70's (isn't it always the leftist who fights against the massacres?). Even though it is about a coup, the movie has such a humorous way and it is hard to stop chuckling, even sometimes laughing :) I would definitely recommend you to see the movie with a fine bottle of Portuguese wine during a calm, early evening.

But how come together this movie and wine? For me it is possible, if we are talking about wine, the metaphors are everywhere. In this movie, there is a funny moment which made me think about the dry Portuguese wines at some point and that moment is the scene where the tanks all stop at the red light in the city, which is told to be true when they come from Santarém to Lisbon in the morning to overthrow the government. Then while the tanks are waiting, we hear the officer Fernandes: "So what, the traffic lights will stop the revolution?" :)

Tanks waiting at the red light :)
It is very funny and surprising since "a revolution stops at the red light", even though it is succeeded, and I somehow connect this with the production of dry Portuguese wines. Just like the revolution in the movie which stops at the red light, it is surprising that the Portuguese dry wines were just not that much popular to produce and sell outside the country until 1990s(1986 Portugal in EEC and wine monopolies abolished) despite all the distinctive characteristics and deliciousness full of deep flavors and surprising acidity. I think it has kept a potential wine revolution for good value but the producers were somehow not focused on that revolution-maybe even did not care that potential- and kept it waiting at the traffic lights(monopolies might be the traffic lights). Even though the country has the world´s first wine region with a formal demarcation (Douro) the production and exportation were under the Port wine domination until the 90s and talking about Portuguese was always perceived as talking about Port or Madeira. Today still, the consumers do not have so much ideas about the dry Portuguese, since Port is still something prestigious for the ordinary customer. But this will change in future for sure, I think dry Portuguese wine merits serious attention and sooner or later, it will get the attention.

I believe that the Portuguese dries are such great value wines which will bring up a revolution to the wine world, and so to say, maybe in the 80s and 90s, some producers had believed that too, and then just like the officer Fernandes did in the movie, they also raised their voice: "So what, the traffic lights will stop the revolution?"... And then they started to produce the great dry table wines of Portugal in big volumes to promote also at the outside of the country.

The revolution day, barrels filled with beautiful carnations

In the beginning of 2000s and still today, the wine world, -professionals, importers, sommeliers, wine intellectuals-, have got into a new search of different wines made of indigenous grape varieties and Portugal started to rise among some other countries like Greece, Georgia, Austria, etc. The wine world has started to look for something different than Cabernet, Merlot or Chardonnay, though these are great varieties which unfortunately have had horrible industrial examples (especially in the New World) and have become ordinary for people who do not really know from which region to choose these varietals. Right here, Lets see what Jancis Robinson says about Portugal in 2010:

"Portugal's advantage in wine terms - its isolation, which has kept its inheritance of indigenous vine varieties intact and virtually unaffected by Chardonnay- and Cabernet-mania -... has also been its disadvantage. The Portuguese have had this strange habit of making wines to suit the palates of other Portuguese rather than making the sort of fruity, juicy-yet-structured wines that appeal to the majority of the world's wine consumers. The wines that have traditionally been most respected within Portugal are incredibly tough reds that have typically spent rather too long in storage before being bottled and some slightly tired whites whose unfamiliar flavours may strike some outsiders as slightly rank."

Of course she talks about slightly a past age and maybe on some topics she is right, but still, considering all these truth, the Portuguese producers succeeded to stay more distinctive than other countries which have had planted the French/International varieties regarding the business point of view(Though these varieties might give gorgeous wines in specific areas, for example see Bolgheri in Italy).

Also another advantage of Portuguese, according to me-for sure the best about these wines-, is the price-quality ratio; today Bordeaux and Burgundy classics, Sassicia-like, Gaja-like Italians, Vega Sicilia-like Spanish fellows, Screaming Eagle- or Sine Qua Non -like Americans have prices up in the air, somewhere close to the Stratosphere, so, the price-quality ratio of Portuguese wines will always be a safe harbour for the consumers looking for the best value wines. From the quality perspective, the democracy to the wine shelves will be brought by the Portuguese. But in the movie "April Captains", we hear officer Gervasio saying: "Ah, democracy! The human ambition in all its glory... Vanity, revenge and privileges under the orders of high finance... The turn of the chieftains..." Hopefully these wines will not get too high prices in future and the democracy of Portuguese wines in price will never turn into what Gervasio depicts. But there are still very expensive Portuguese wines too; for example, Barca Velha, the cult of Portuguese dry wines, which I would love to taste someday, but the price... the price is a kind of oh my goodness...

But all in all, what makes the Portuguese special? For me the answer is that deep characteristics in reds which makes them strong, jammy but delicious and supple at the same time, and for the whites, the floral, citrus-like aromas with high acidity, especially from the Vinho Verde region. Being indigenous, original but still humble, rustic yet delicious, masculine yet elegant, robust yet feminine, serious yet enjoyable... There are still so much words to say for dry Portuguese wines and I believe the consumers will very soon be aware of the quality of these wines and the producers have already awaken and saw the interest of the world on their wines. As it is said on the internet portal Wines of Portugal: "It’s an ongoing revolution."....  I am sure everyday more and more, the Portuguese will rise, because no revolution stops at the red light!!!  ;)

From the movie, officer Maia´s first victory and his warm smile

Some tasting notes on few Portuguese wines, which some are available in Finnish Monopoly:

Photo: Alko
Cabeça de Toiro Reserva 2008: Pink rims with ruby red color, blueberry, blackberry and then black currant comes to scene. Jammy with black pepper notes with strong but integrated tannins. Maybe little bit woody with a relatively low acidity but these are definitely not casting a cloud on enjoyment. Medium to full bodied, an elegant wine with a log final. 2010 recolte is right now available in Finland. 87/100

Esporão Reserva 2010: Ruby red, almost black. The nose is a carnival of dark forest berries, baked fruits, then sweet spices, little bit cinnamon and vanillin reveal. Medium to full bodied, in the mouth, blackcurrant dominates in time. The final is long dominated by vanilla flavor. The balance is impressive. It makes me feel like keeping the wine in my mouth for some time to enjoy the feeling longer before swallowing. Strong yet balanced, an iron fist in a velvet glove. 2011 recolte is available in Finland. 90/100.

Quinta das Setencostas 2010: Dark ruby red, opaque. A feminine nose, rose hip jam, blackcurrant, then in the mouth it is more intense and masculine, blackberry aromas together with a refreshing freshness. The nose gets dominated by lovely vanillin in time and blackcurrant-like aromas reveal in the mouth. Integrated tannins, medium bodied, velvety, the sweet final is moderate. A classic Portuguese. Good price-quality ratio. Available in Finland. 87/100

Photo: Alko
Quinta da Garrida Touriga Nacional 2007: Dark ruby red, opaque. The first nose is strong and impressive in fruit. Rose hip, blueberry, baked fruits like cherry jam; animal notes dominates the second nose. The fruitiness is in a harmony with leather and earthy aromas. Full bodied yet elegant with a satisfactory acidity. The warm final is moderate to long. Roasted dishes, stews, barbecues might go well together and it can handle lightly-spicy dishes too. 2009 recolte is available in Finland. 90/100

Quinta da Ponte Pedrinha 2010: Purple rims with dark red color. Strong nose with the domination of dark forest berries; blackcurrant. In the mouth, dusty tannins but lush. Aromas in the mouth reflects the nose. Full bodied, deep, jammy with a long and delicious final. Satisfying and feminine with its own elegancy. Not available in Finland. 88/100

Opta Dao Reserva 2011: Dark red color, berry notes with a nice slightly spice at the nose. Lovely vanillin takes the scene in time. Little bit astringent, tannins are really strong, final is quite long under the domination of alcohol but that does not really disturb. Masculine yet fruity and balanced. Not available in Finland. 88/100

Vallegre Douro Reserva Especial 2005: A brownish red color, reminds me Piedmont. Nose has a nutty touch baked fruits and honey. Surprisingly very floral, too. Medium to full bodied with a desired high acidity, significant yet integrated tannins. Moderate final is delicious, interesting, different. This is a strange wine. I mean totally positively strange. Still fresh fruitiness and a strange similarity to Burgundy whites in the nose, this wine is a very different Portuguese. Not available in Finland. 92/100

May your glass be filled with good Portuguese wine. Cheers/Kippis!



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