PortoVino Summer Tasting at the Biscuit Factory

Portuguese wine retailer PortoVino, run by Alan Holmes and Paul Raven (fellow NEWTS), held their summer tasting at the Biscuit Factory in Newcastle last Thursday evening (can there be a better venue for a tasting than an art gallery?). I first wrote about them back in August 2009 on Reign of Terroir only a few months after they set up shop and have sampled their wares, on and off, for the last 2 years at various local tastings events.

First up was the Quinta da Romiera 2006 Bruto from Bucelas near Lisbon, a traditional method sparkler made from the Arinto grape. The Quinta is one of the Companhia das Quintas, a group of several wineries marketed together, and had produced a grown up glass of fizz with a dry, unripe apple aspect, some stone-fruit bitterness and a warming finish – very palatable and, at £15 a bottle, the match of many more expensive Champagnes.

Then onto a Quinta Cazas Novas 2010 Vinho Verde Bianco; Arinto and Avesso grapes giving a fresh, fruity nose with strong aromatics, although it was lighter on the taste than suggested. Clean and dry this had a herbal bitterness, going rich on the finish – well made and reasonably priced at £9.50 a bottle this was popular in the room but didn’t excite me.

The Quinta do Cardo 2009 Síria (that’s the grape) was poured next from one of the highest altitude wineries in Portugal, based in the Beira Interior DOC. The Síria had a rich, floral nose and a textured mouthfeel; creamy, balanced with a little alcohol spice – a serious wine and one I thoroughly enjoyed, probably worth the £10.75 being asked.

The 2008 Morgado de Sta. Catherina by Quinta da Romeira moved us back to the Arinto grape, but this time with some oak thrown in for good measure. Barrel fermented on its lees this is a big wine, compared by some to a good white Burgundy, and I’ve tasted earlier vintages previously. You could smell the wood components rising up from the glass and I enjoyed a citrus bite on the tip of the tongue before it moved into a smooth and complex phase all the way to the finish – good throughout and very well made, however, for £16.75 a bottle I wanted a little more variation on the palate to keep me interested, although I think I may have been in a minority in the room!

The colour changed to pink with the Quinta da Cardo 2009 Rosé made from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. I say pink, but it had a deep colour heading towards a light red, with a touch of rusting on the rim. The nose was full with sweet red berries and a suggestion of sharpness, a little like a berry chutney. That savoury aspect continued into the taste with a salty tang right at the front, surprising but a good foil for the berry fruit, making this a big, confident rosé and exactly what I like for the style, well worth the £8.75 asked.

Reds were next up starting with the Falcoaria 2006 Ribatejo (now just Tejo after the 2009 reshuffle of Portuguese regions); Castelao & Trincadeira grapes by Quinta do Casal Branco (the first of the night not made by the Companhia das Quintas stable). Although the price jumped up to £12.50 a bottle this wine was drinking perfectly and had a serious, dark fruit nose with some wood & spice. Smooth in the mouth there was a good balance of fruit, peppery spice and some just-dry tannins at the end – a very interesting wine with a charming rustic side.

This was followed by the Marques da Borba 2008 Reserva from the Alentejo, made by João Portugal Ramos from Trincadeira, Aragonês (Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet and, surprisingly, a little Cabernet Sauvignon. This also had spicy wood on the nose, mixed in with a lot of youthful fruit. It tasted a little astringent; strong tannin and acidity that hadn’t quite melded and needed some more time to mellow. Although it finished strong this was really too young to fully enjoy but, for £10.25, would be worth buying and forgetting about for a couple of years.

The £12.50 Quinta de Sant’Ana 2008 Tinto was then poured, an intriguing wine (78% Touriga Nacional, 17% Merlot, 5% Aragonês) with a meaty, funky nose mixed with some warm spice. This was very balanced compared to the Borba with a delicious spicy attack and obvious but relatively smooth tannins adding to the juicy, savoury components. This was also young, but still very easy to drink.
UK wine writer Jamie Goode has a detailed piece on his Wine Anorak website about the winery which is run by Englishman James Frost and his German wife Ann (whose parents were the original owners).

Back to the Companhia das Quintas for the final red of the night with the Quinta De Pancas 2007 Reserva, weighing in at a hefty £19.50. Although the notes (and I thought the bottle also) said it was 100% Touriga Nacional the producer website suggests a blend of 60% Merlot, 20% Touriga Nacional 20 and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Whatever its composition I was not enamoured of this wine; the nose had a strong meaty aspect but I struggled to detect any fruit, while the taste was very austere with a lean, acidic harshness and rough tannins. As the most expensive wine of the night I would have expected more out of the glass and was happy to get another pour of the earlier Falcoaria before the last wine.

Closing the tasting was a dessert wine in the form of the SIVIPA Moscatel de Setubal ’96, a beautiful amber colour with candied and roasted orange aromas coming out of the glass. The elegant sweet taste also had some of that burnt orange but also a salty, nutty component heading towards a fine Oloroso Sherry. This was a superb way to finish the evening and was universally enjoyed in the room, although many doubted they’d pay the £22.50 being asked for the 500ml bottle – something I can empathise with, especially as I already have one at home I got just over a year ago for what now seems like a bargain price of £18!

The tasting had just over 40 people present, including several fellow NEWTS, giving me a chance to catch up on the gossip as I’d only just returned from Germany and had missed the last monthly meeting. Local journalist and wine expert Helen Savage (who has also previously written about PortoVino for the local paper The Journal) was also there and this was the first time I’ve met her, so it was nice to say hello (although she had to dash off for another engagement before the end).

PortoVino and The Biscuit Factory had laid on an excellent spread of bite sized snacks included with the £15 entry fee (the prawns and chicken were especially tasty) which was much appreciated as I’d come straight from work and had barely managed to wolf down a sandwich before the 18:30 start! The only criticisms were that it was a hot, muggy evening which had people edging towards the only open door in the room for fresh air, and that there wasn’t enough places to put your wine glass or food plate (quite a few present used the nearby exhibit plinths!).

It was an excellent evening and a continues my education about Portuguese wines, a category that is still undervalued compared to the quality in the glass.


PS. PortoVino can also be found on twitter @PortoVinoWines

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