Wines of Portugal - London tasting
It’s not by chance – and shouldn’t come as a surprise – that both our March Recommendations’ ‘Value Choices’ carry a Portuguese passport. A white and a red that stood out in the hundreds of wines we tasted last month both for their distinctiveness and price-adjusted quality.
This balance has made the interest of British consumers and retailers in Lusitanian wines sore in the past couple of years. Portuguese DO wines’ exports to the UK were up 33.7% in value and 34% up in volume, meaning that the UK market (6th largest for Portuguese wines) is increasing its understanding of the country, of its indigenous grape varieties and of its rightful place a bit upper on the shelves.
Portugal’s competitive advantage indeed sits at a solid mid-range with consistently good wines based on indigenous varieties from the incredible diversity of terroirs the small Iberian country covers. The potential to better position its premium wines is yet to be tapped and this will never come as an easy task: if consumer awareness (and willingness to spend) has increased, it is very much tied to a value-for-money compromise and the country still lacks a consistent effort of education and soft-branding for its multiple varieties, regions and winemaking traditions.
Wines of Portugal’s Tasting in London on February 20th perfectly embodied this reality. We were sorry not to see some household names producing some of the best Portuguese nectars (think Paulo Laureano, father and daughter Luis & Filipa Pato, the Symington family, just to name a few). The event also conspicuously leaves out an exciting new wave of smaller producers that are innovating, reviving traditions and doing extensive research on local lost varieties (for examples see the line up of Simplesmente Vinho).
But the event was certainly worth the trip: there were highlights not to be missed!
We also got to catch up with some producers whose wines will be poured at our Champagne & Sparkling Wines Festival!
One of our compulsory and, as always, long stops was specialist importer Raymond Reynolds’ tables. We are still dwelling on the outstanding range from Quinta do Soalheiro with its multiple expressions of Alvarinho. A true masterclass on the uniqueness and character of Portugal’s northernmost regions of Monção and Melgaço. Also courtesy of RReynolds, it’s always a pleasure to confirm Dirk Niepoort’s skill and sense of adventure: his ever expanding range goes well beyond the Douro and now includes multiple experiments and collaborations in Bairrada, Dão and Alentejo.
Another of the events recurring treats is catching up with Carlos Campolargo to taste his new releases. His bigger-than-life personality translates into big wines with a lot of character, great ageing potential and amazing varietal expression. His traditional method sparklings in particular attract both a local and international cult following. Have them with Bairrada’s local suckling pig and you’ve got a match made in heaven.
(While we won’t have said food specialty we’re lucky to have one of Campolargo’s sparkling wines poured at our Champagne & Sparkling Wines Festival)
Campolargo is represented in the UK by Casa Leal, as is Vadio, the personal project of Luis Patrão, now the enologist at Herdade dos Coelheiros after thirteen fruitful years at Herdade do Esporão as David Bavertsock’s right-hand man. Vadio is, quite literally, a labour of love nurtured by Luis alongside his wife and father. They tend to three small old vineyards in Bairrada, under organic viticulture and solely by hand. The result are elegant and textural wines with a unique vibrancy and minerality that is fully expressive of the limestone soils. Luis makes two traditional method Vadio Sparkling with distinct acidity and, again, one of them will be showcased at our Champagne & Sparkling Wines Festival! !
— posted by Ines Salpico