Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wines of Alentejo

There are times when I hate living in Washington, DC area.. morning rush hour, motorcade processions, etc. But then DC redeems itself with its magnificent events, like the Wines of Alentejo tasting at the Ambassador to Portugal's residence. Where else would I have this kind of access to an Ambassador, let alone be invited to his residence?! His Excellency Joao De Vallera welcomed us into his home and gave us a warm greeting at the start of the evening.

When most people think of wine and Portugal, they immediately think of Port. But the Alentejo region is quickly becoming recognizable in the international markets. Portugal already knew the value of these wines as 1 in every 2 bottles of wine sold in Portugal comes from Alentejo. The hot sun makes the grapes ripen much more easily, giving a much fruity smooth flavor. While Alentejo is mainly known throughout Portugal for inexpensive everyday wines, they also make some amazing, elegant, sophisticated high quality red wines...they come from the DOC of Alentejo. There are 8 DOC level Alentejo wines - Portalegre, Borba, Evora, Redondo, Reguengos, Granja-Amareleja, Moura, and Vidigueira. Most DOC wines are made from a blend of local grape varieties, Trincadeira, Aragonez (also known as Tempranillo), Castelao, and Alicante Bouschet.

But not only was this a wine tasting, but a gastronomic experience! They truly wanted us to know how well the wines of Alentejo paired with the foods of Alentejo. Young (and hot) chef Jose Avillez, whose restaurant Tavares in Lisbon has a Michelin star, prepared the food to pair with the wines. And he had quite a feat ahead of him! Most of his authentic Portuguese foods and spices were unable to make it past customs, so Chef Avillez had to create a Portuguese meal from foods he found at Whole Foods Market! Rui Falcao, Portuguese wine critic and Jay Youmans, MW of Washington, DC walked us through the region on Alentejo and its wines.2009 Paulo Laureano
Grape: Antao Vaz
Pairing: Sauteed scallops, mushrooms, pineapple and aromatic herbs
Very reminiscent of a viognier or tropical fruit chardonnay, this wine had bright, crisp flavors of pineapple and citrus fruit rind. A nice hint of spice was found on the finish.

2008 Pera Manca
Grapes: Antao Vaz, Arinto
Pairing: Bacalhau a Bras (Codfish in Bras's Way)
Full-bodied with an oaky texture, the acidity paired up nicely with the salty codfish. Green apple and citrus fruit aromas make this a wine I would love to have a bottle of to enjoy at home.

2008 Adega Cooperativa de Borba Reserva
Grapes: Trincadeira, Aragones, Castelao, Alicante Bouschet
Pairing: Stuffed Tomatoes with Alheira (Sausage) and Sprouts
Aromas of strawberry and dark cherry made provided a great backbone for this wine and the tobacco notes added a bit of complexity. Its strong acidity made this pairing melt in my mouth! And what a finish!

2006 Herdade Perdigao Reserva
Grapes: Trincadeira, Aragones, Cabernet Sauvignon
Pairing: Stuffed Tomatoes with Alheira (Sausage) and Sprouts
Deep color with a nice full body. Dark fruit flavors blend with spicy chocolate and tobacco to provide great structure and a long finish

2007 Herdade do Esporao
Grape: Alicante Bouschet
Pairing: Lamb with Chickpea Puree
Alicante Bouschet is such an aromatic grape. Aromas of dark berry, stone fruit, coffee, and vanilla hit my nose with just a quick sniff. On the palate was a rustic spicy flavor. And a hint of cherry licorice...who would've known that would pair so well with lamb!

2007 Herdade Sao Miguel Riserva
Grapes: Alicante Bouschet, Aragones, Cabernet Sauvignon
Pairing: Lamb with Chickpea Puree
Deep and dark colored in the glass, a bouquet of plum, vanilla, and coffee. An excellent match with the lamb as the spice and mocha flavors played very well together

2007 Marques de Borba Reserva
Grapes: Trincadeira, Aragones, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon
Pairing: Prime Rib with Quail Egg & Vegetables
Notes of jammy red fruit and spices. Very elegant, this wine will get even better if left to age for a few years

2008 Herdade dos Grous Riserva
Grapes: Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Miuda, Touriga Nacional
Pairing: Prime Rib with Quail Egg & Vegetables
Another deep dark colored wine, perfect for pairing with the proteins in the prime rib. Hints of toast and spices, possibly from wood aging, and rich flavors of plum.

2007 Marias da Malhadinha
Grapes: Aragones, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon
Pairing: White Bean Stew with Pork
Dark fruits and toasted aromas where present at first sniff, 2nd sniff revealed almonds and tobacco notes. The flavor was rich and elegant with strong minerality leading to a long finish.

2005 dona Maria Reserva
Grapes: Alicante Bouschet, Petit Verdot, Syrah
Pairing: White Bean Stew with Pork
Meaty, spicy aromas lead into flavors of cherry and raspberry. A very well balanced wine with silky tannins and a persistent finish. The fruit in the wine paired well with the salt from the pork.

2007 Herdade do Mouchao Tonel #3-4
Grapes: Trincadeira, Aragones, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon
Pairing: Stewed Beef with Marrow
This wine is almost purple in the glass! Little fruit on the nose, mostly eucalyptus and mint. But with heavy tannins on the palate tasted and flavors of dried red fruit, great match with beef. I asked for a little bit more in my pour since this wine retails for about $120.

2005 Quinta do Mouro Rotulo Dourado
Grapes: Alicante Bouschet, Aragones, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon
Pairing: Stewed Beef with Marrow
Earthy with hints of mushroom and oak on the palate but very closed on the nose.

This was an amazing experience! We didn't just have the opportunity to taste some amazing wines from Alentejo, but they were expertly prepared and paired with authentic Portuguese cuisine! And if you didn't notice, my wine notes became shorter as my stomach got fuller! I thought they were going to have to roll me out of the Ambassador's house. The Alentejo region of Portugal is definitely up and coming in the US and one to look out for when looking for an easy drinking, affordable wine to pair well with your meal.

No comments:

Post a Comment