Last weekend I had the fortune of visiting my good friend Sam who is now living in Lisbon. The trip from Porto to Lisbon is very easy (3 1/2 hours by bus) and affordable too (15 euros one way!) I am happy to know that I have a friend there and glad to have had the opportunity to finally visit a city that's been on my mind for quite some time now.
In my bag I brought, one change of clothes, my laptop, my notebook, the lonely planet's guide to Portugal, and 3 bottles of vinho verde that I wanted to try with Sam. One thing I left behind was my tasting glass, although I did consider bringing it, I figured I could probably find something decent in Lisbon. Boy was I wrong. Feel free to laugh at the size of the glasses we ended up using for our tasting. Sure you can drink wine out of anything, but you can't properly taste wine out of just anything and certainly the bigger the glass, the better. Anyhow, we did our best with the tasting and once that was done, did a number on the bottles despite the small glasses.
Vinho verde number 1:
The fun part about doing wine tastings with friends is that you get to conceal what you know about the wine (i.e. how much it costs) and hear a totally unbiased opinion about each one. This is especially nice when comparing less expensive wines to more expensive wines.
Tamacana is your typical vinho verde. Light, spritzy, metalic, acidic, it is very easy to drink and according to Sam, was the best of the three... he ended up finishing the bottle that night.
Vinho verde number 2:
O tal vinho da Lixa
Both Sam and I agreed that though this one carried the spritz that we like in a vinho verde, it was quite metallic and didn't have the balance of citrus that would have made it more palatable. Certainly not our favorite; the bottle went back in the fridge.
Vinho verde number 3:
Quinta de Gomariz
I bought this one at the recommendation of the wine shop owner when I asked for a high quality vinho verde. My idea was to have something to compare my 1.75 euro bottle to (the Tamacana); sometimes it's hard to tell how good or bad something is without a reference.
This wine has won several awards which are proudly displayed on the bottle. I also give it a gold. (Though the Tamacana still comes in at a close second place.)
The aroma is flowery and fruity. I smell distinct notes of melon.
For a vinho verde it seems full to me, but still light and smooth compared to any other white. And, as I hoped, it's got the spritz!
For Sam, the Quinta de Gomariz was too fruity and he preferred to stick with vinho verde number 1. For me, it was perfect... and bottle for bottle we went.
On Tuesday night I enjoyed a dinner at O Caçula, a restaurant that had caught my eye a few days back. To go with my heaping plate of ratatouille and polenta a la parmesana, I orded a... vinho verde. Duh. Thank goodness it was a new one!
Campo da Vinha certainly met all my expectations of a good vinho verde. Effervescent, acidic, fresh, light - look at those bubbles go! A vinho verde like this is not to be confused with a champagne-style sparkling wine. Just a little fizzy - a nice spritz.
I was under the impression that this fizz was an important characteristic of vinho verdes. Turns out more and more producers are making vinho verdes that have no fizz at all! I have to admit, that's kind of a disappointment to me, but I've made it my goal to dive right in and try the gamut.
Today in the wine shop I discovered that this might be more interesting and varied than I thought. I had seen rosé vinho verdes but today I discovered that a few producers make a tinto (red) variety of vinho verde! I'll put that on the to-do list, try to find a good one and maybe include it in my next tasting.
The "verde" (green) in vinho verde therefore, probably does not refer to the light green tinge in the white varieties of the wine, as I've heard discussed, but rather to the age of the wine - always bottled young... or "green" and usually consumed within the year.
Today I slipped into this swanky (and empty) dinner place to get out of the rain and do some work - while I'm here I might as well have a glass of vinho verde.
In these situations I can't be too choosy and I expected to drink whatever they wanted to give me and not have much to write about. I was thrilled to see that I recognized the bottle from the wine shops back home but had not yet tried it. So here we go!
Vihno verde (pronounced veenyoo verde... rhymes with haired) is usually inexpensive, even in the states, and is easy to drink on its own or enjoyed with a meal. It's been a favorite of mine since my time frequenting A Casa Portuguesa in Barcelona and I always love trying a new vinho verde.
Tonight I'm drinking Quinta da Aveleda, a wine you can probably find in any wine shop anywhere in the world but one that's new to me. It's not letting me down. The color is so light it could be mistaken for water. But don't worry, it's not. The aroma is so fresh and so clean... overwhelmingly lemon and jasmine! In the mouth it is light but quite acidic (I've always been a fan of lemons) and has a persistent finish. Like many vinho verdes it has metallic notes, is young, and crisp. Great for a summer day... or a rainy St. Valentine's in Porto :)
HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!!
ps. Porto is crazy. Every place I've been for wine tasting in the past three days has given me at least one free glass of something to try. These people are lovely and quickly raising my expectations.
Thanks to last night's tastings at Vinología, I was able to choose a style of port I was familiar with when I went to Kopke today. I chose to have a semi sweet white port since that was the style I preferred last night.
A success! This Kopke Fine White Port is well balanced between tang (acidity), sweet, and spice (alcohol). Just divine. The best part is, Kopke gives an assortment of chocolates to be enjoyed alongside each glass of port.
White ports are traditionally, and almost exclusively, young ports that are produced from white grapes. Interesting since this is not always the case for many white dinner wines. There are a variety of aging periods and ranges of sweetness in white ports. Typically the aging period is around 3 years... Kopke will soon stretch this norm with their newest, not yet released product.
Kopke was founded in 1638 by a German guy - named Kopke. Since then the company has switched hands a few times and is now owned by the Sogevinus group. Generally I enjoy smaller family owned producers, but on this side of the river it's all about big production and that's not going to stop me from enjoying a glass or two. It's also a great place to learn about the history and production. As I mentioned, white ports are traditionally young, aged for around 3 years or so, and are served chilled as an apéritif (to drink before the meal). Kopke is first to come out with a product that challenges this tradition: a 10 year White Port.
The color difference is incredible, but don't be fooled, it is made completely from white grapes. This bomb of a drink tastes more like brandy than sweet wine to me and my waitress gives me a middle ground just to compare.
Here I've got the new Kopke 10 year White Port, the Branco Lima (their sweetest white currently for sale), and my semi sweet fine white... I think I'll stick with the semi sweets.
If you're like me and enjoy tasting a few varieties of wine next to one another, thereby easing the ability to compare and contrast, then this is the place to come! Vinología offers tastings of 3 or 6 varieties of port (yes only port!) and there are so many to choose from!
Did you know that there's such a thing as white port??? I did not.
It's great! Well, at least I found one that I love.
To start, I chose a variety of whites to try: an extra dry, a half dry, and a sweet.
Here's what I found:
#1. Extra Dry White Porto Portal
Color: pale straw
In mouth: dry and fruity but not very well balanced.
#2. CJ Casal dos Jordoes White Port Half Dry
Nose: also flowery... rose? I can't think of that many flowers.
In mouth: This is my fav! I love it. It's super well balanced and very easy to drink. I asked the waiter about it and he said that it was the only organic producer they have!
#3. Porto Fine White Quita Santa Eufemia
Color: Darker brown straw
In mouth: dried pineapple, honey, marmalade, and spicy? to be honest, I have a hard time distinguishing aromas and tastes in these sweeter ports with higher alcohol content. They pack a punch, and for me it's hard to get past that.
This is definitely a fun new find though and I'll look forward to tasting more!
Now, as I've become quite friendly with the two waiters in the past half hour or so, I am given another glass to try. This one: not a port - a Muscatel do Douro. I love it! Quita das Lamelas (photo below). The french guy from Bordeaux (I'm guessing the owner) asks me what I smell... I have no clue. Roses and Lichee, he says. Who knew! Very bizarre but very true and so wonderful. Highly recommended.
Next... I was so enthusiastic about the organic semi sweet white port that the waiter brought me the Red 10 year Port by the same producers... just to try ;)
I'm a fan of this one too... and can't help getting all "Boulder" and loving it just because it's organic... notes of cinnamon remind me of home and would be great with a big piece of apple pie... hey America!
Last night a friend and I went to a restaurant on the river. A very nice place but probably a bit overpriced. I asked the waiter for a glass of dry white wine from the Douro that I wouldn't be able to find easily in any Pingo Doce (Porto's grocery store chain), something different and interesting. He brought me Fagote Reserva 2009.
Color: deep yellow, almost orange!
Nose: apricots and tropical fruits, including banana and pineapple
In Mouth: Full bodied - oily, syrupy... this isn't sounding appetizing (but it was good!) Well balanced and fruity - and if you like fruity full bodied wines, this is a great choice.
It was great for sipping alone. As for pairing, it would be good with a fatty fish - something that holds up to the body and fruity flavor of the wine.
Malvasia Fina - aromatic white used all over Portugal including in white port
Rabigato - the white version of this grape is considered better quality than the red version, the name means 'sheep's tail'.
Viosinho - grown in the Douro, also used in white ports
Aged 6 months in stainless steel.
3.50 per glass :)
Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep, and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved.
First taste of port wine in the city of it's origin! Great reason for a nightcap.
Port is a fortified wine: sweet and best enjoyed as a dessert wine, it is made by blending red grape juice with brandy and then aging the mix! There are so many varieties of port; I started with what I was offered!
Offley's Tawny Port.
Tawny Port, as opposed to Ruby, Aged Tawny, Late-bottled vintage, and Vintage, is made from average-quality grapes and aged for two to seven years in wood casks. The color is a deep red or mahogany, it is balanced with sweetness and soft tannins, and is the perfect way to enjoy the company of a new Portuguese speaking friend.
Touriga Nacional - considered to be one of the best grapes in Portugal! One of the principal grapes grown in the Douro Valley for port wines.
Tinta Roriz - in Spain, known as Tempranillo!
Touriga Francesca - over 20% of all plantings in the Douro are Touriga Francesca.
Tonight I am in Porto. (Yes, this quote is in Spanish because I just got here and don't know any catchy Portuguese sayings yet.) I'll be here for another 4 months and while I'm here I plan on taking advantage of the incredible access to wine - tonight's choice: vinho verde for 1 euro a glass. Granted it was on tap at the bar (this I have never seen), but it was good.
The idea here - in this blog - is that anything goes.
Leave notes on a new discovery, could be the cheapest, or the cloudiest, the most surprising, or the best value; it's all opinion and this is a place for those of us who like to obsess over these things to do so.