Tasting Portuguese Gems

Highlights from ProWein - Touring the Duoro


In the coming weeks I’ll be writing up my experiences at ProWein 2014, the great Wine and Spirits show held in Dusseldorf Germany each year. This trade show, and it is just that, exclusive to the trade and that rule is strictly enforced, is one of the great experiences wine professional can indulge in each year. This year’s edition of the fair was spread out over 8 halls, though that will change in 2015 as ProWein continues to grow. Each hall has a theme, of sorts. Some are dedicated to specific countries, like Italy and Austria for example, while others have a blend of new or old world regions that may not have the volume to fill their own halls.

Such was the case with the wines of Portugal, what may seem as a bit of an odd way to kick off reporting on a wine show in Germany, but in truth it is perfectly illustrative of ProWein.  ou see ProWein is an international fair, and being exclusive to the trade means that the crowds are well behaved, in general, and kept to a moderately busy level. That allows participants time and space with producers that other event often lack. I had a long list of wineries, regions, and countries that i wanted to focus on at proWein. Sadly  I was not able to hit them all, though in my final two hours or so at the event I did manage to swing by Portugal’s space at the event and was fortunate to be able to taste through the portfolios of several producers.

As you may know I am a big fan of Portuguese wines. I find them to be generally old world in style, in part due to the winemaking, but also due to the indigenous varieties used throughout Portugal. Varieties that seem to be fairly resistant to spoofilation. The results tend to be wine that are fairly fruity, but not candied, even if they do show some roasted notes with a certain frequency, resulting of course from Portugal’s rather torrid summers. In addition to fruit though, the wines display subtlety and complexity. Floral and spice notes that are inherent in some of the varieties used, as well as soil tones brought forth from the vineyards themselves. They are fascinating wines and generally pretty fun to taste, and in many cases great values. Sometimes stunningly so. 
Today’s line-up is made of of known players, so to a certain extent they offer less values than some smaller or undiscovered producers from Portugal, but at the same time this is to  large extent the cream of the crop. If you’re looking for top quality Portuguese wines across the board this is where you should begin. Of course some producers are not listed here, but many of them were included on my trip to Portugal last year, so in the interest of variety, and keeping in mind that I had just over two hours to spend on Portuguese wines, I opted to visit the following wineries. 
The wines were, as expected, interesting and delicious. While ProWein is a fabulous place to taste a large variety of wine, it is not the best place to taste wines critically, if for no other reason that you will end up tasting dozens of wines a day for three days. palate fatigue may set in. You definitely need to recalibrate occasionally since so many wines on offer are top level wines; it’s easy to become a bit jaded unless you remain vigilant. I hope the notes that follow illustrate a certain vigilance on my part. They are certainly not definitive but do give one a good idea of what is coming out of Portugal these days. Once known almost exclusively for dessert wines and inexpensive table wines, Portugal has taken its rightful place at the table of fine wine producers with their unique portfolio of distinctive, terroir driven, and uniquely flavored wines that every winelover should try. You might not find all the wines to your liking, but as is the case nearly everywhere that wine is produced today, there is such a broad set of styles being produced, that it is only a matter of time before you do. And when you do, you will be duly impressed!
So now on to the wines. Decidedly Douro skewed, this region so famous for the production of port has both the vineyards and the additional resources available to have made the transition to producing premium tables wines swift and seamless. It’s not the only region in Portugal worthy of attention, but because the port houses wield influence and have distribution channels already in place, it’s a great place to start. the wines are  generally available in diverse markets, that not all bottlings reach every market. As I mentioned already these may nt the value leaders in portugal but if you want to know what portuguese table wine has become in the 21st century this is where you should begin! 

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