Archive for ‘Portugal’

September 29, 2021

Quinta do Noval Silval Vintage Port, 2007

From the cellar: Here’s a bottle that got shoved to the back in the cellar.  We pulled it out almost by accident.  The Wine Spectator had given it 90 points and recommended it be drunk by 2016.

Based solely on that professional intel we anticipated it to be fully past, an accident waiting to be uncorked.  But the reverse was of course true and the rewards myriad; take that WS.  If Puff was a metaphor for childhood imagination then this port is a metaphor for adult reality.  It sang on the palate, to extend a lazy construction.

Online you will see, ad nauseum, “open and accessible” but in fact it was a little cryptic, and it crept up on you.  It was no open book.

But, as with all things magical, the thing about port is you never drink it at the start.  (Well, except for white port, and perhaps except for the French French who, you know, do Pineau des Charentes before a salad.)  As a rule, you never just drink port, as a person, as a person enjoying a drink; or maybe some people do, some very unusual people.  Sherry?  Yes.  Sherry, yes, yes, yes.  Port? No.  No, no, no.  If you go all out, an aperitif, white and red wine over dinner, then some port, you are toast.  So port is just something hard to reckon with.  Is it delicious?  Absolutely.  Is it necessary?  No, it goes beyond the “know your limit drink within it” mantra when, hic, you go beyond the limit.

I had this issue with a 1963 Rivesaltes.  It was unusual but lovely, fifty years old, and of course we opened it at a 50th, after the champagne, after the wine.  I mean it was the cheese course, we were well stuck in: Pull out the stretcher, wheel me off on a backboard.  And yet, if we’d opened it up at the start, if we’d only opened up the Rivesaltes, it sort of wouldn’t have made sense.  How can you watch the Wimbledon final without witnessing the path to glory?

I’m not sure anyone noticed how special this bottle was, that it was in fact 14 years old, lovingly cared for all this time in the crawl space wine cellar.  But it was a gorgeous sipper all the same.  Golden raisins, stewed prunes, the sweet liquor of canned cherries.  A long, long, lasting finish.  Matte black.

Price: On sale at BC Liquor in March, 2012 for $56, regularly priced $75. 

Market Liquidity: Karston Warholm takes home gold, we drink it in.

February 3, 2021

Carm Reserva Douro (Red Blend), 2016

Intriguing, unusual blends make us wonder how the experts deduce quality.  This offbeat red (a mix of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Rorix and, wait for it, 5% Tinta Francisca.  Say what?) has the mellow, floral aromas of a Merlot crossed with some chewy, Nebbiolo-ish edges, woodsy, earthy.  Not a chance in heaven, on a blind taste, we would have had a clue what the grapes were.

It drank easy, again like Merlot, but had a rough-hewn finish with a bit of punch.  A little research turned up the note it rated in Wine Spectator’s Top 100, 2016, although we had no idea on purchase.  Was it rated based on comparables or novelty?  That’s key, don’t you think?  Was there six Touriga/Tinta blends, back to back, and this was best?  Or did someone just say “hey, this is a tasty bottle”? We don’t understand wine: That’s why we blog about it.

As for a buy, again, I’m going to say no.  The price point was too dear.  But the bottle went down easy, very easy.

Price: $42, if you must, at Everything Wine; a few bucks less at BC Liquor, and recently on sale for an extremely reasonable “just over $30” but good luck in finding any: Thank you BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: Novel but not momentous.

November 1, 2018

Evel Real Companhia Velha, Douro, 2014

Wine Spectator put it in their top 100 in 2016 and, thus, the bottle comes with a neck ribbon.  Somehow it wasn’t 89 points but 90 points and this is where we loathe the pointsters.  Yes, it’s good value, there is as the critics say juicy acidity, it’s warming on the tongue in that way red blends (masterfully crafted) can be, and this (dominated by Touriga Franca) has a lovely although not hugely memorable classic Portuguese style.  I would be hard pressed to remember it in a blind test a week after the fact though.


Price: Low 20s at private wine stores.


Market Liquidity: Good value but not great value.

July 19, 2018

Quinta do Vale Meandro, 2015

A “worth it” blend from the Douro.


The proverbial round, full and meaty red without the weight of round, full and meaty reds.  What they call juicy acidity in the trades, and when it hits the palate it teases and entices on that acidity.  The flavour profile is a bowlful of orchard fruits.  Then, a piquant, peppery finish.  Enormously appealing, a bouquet of lavender and light vanilla on the nose.  No weighty powerhouse, we couldn’t sense the tannins identified by the Wine Advocate nor did we find it dry and serious, in fact it has a rather playful, fruity element to the blend the way a fine cru Beaujolais might.  We could easily take up house with the plum and cherry and licorice.


Price: $37 at Kitsilano Wine Cellars, a little out of our wheelhouse, but incomparably more likeable than BC reds at $10 more.


Market Liquidity: Splurge.  It’s worth it.

June 15, 2018

The Rare Wine Co. Historic Series Madeira, Charleston Sercial, Special Reserve

An ode to those who make a profound difference.


If you know who Kermit Lynch is you’re most likely not reading this blog, but if you are reading this blog and you know who KL is you are, like me, a disgruntled fan, having no access to how he’s contributed to reshaping wine consumption in North America and almost single-handedly helping wine drinkers rethink what good wine is.  But not in BC.  Sigh.


To a lesser extent, the Rare Wine Company is really “the Kermit Lynch companion” and, founded by Mannie Berk nearly three decades ago, does for wine what the socialized Canadian system is unable, ill-equipped and totally not structured to do: Bring to prominence wines threatened with extinction and offer wine lovers a glimpse beyond the Wine Advocate’s blessing.


Enter the Charleston Sercial.


This Madeira, this dry, evocative and overwhelmingly captivating wine, which I had the good fortune to drink (by the glass!) in New York this spring, was simply beyond sensational.  I saw it on the menu at a pokey wine bar in Hell’s Kitchen and ordered a glass and then, if I’d stroked out, keeled over, and never been revived, it would have been in a state of Nirvana.


Far be it from me to wax on about how brilliant this wine is.  And it is brilliant.  Uber.  Super.  Mega.  Here’s a cut and paste from the merchant’s web site:


This is the driest wine in the series and a wine that has been served throughout meals in America for nearly 300 years. Chef Mario Batali won over 1000+ guests at the 2009 New York Wine Experience by boldly pairing Charleston Sercial with a wild boar dish of Wolfgang Puck’s creation.

Just two weeks later, in the Wall Street Journal, Alice Feiring picked the same Madeira as a wine of choice for chestnut soup, noting that it “is like a salted caramel without its sugar.”

But Mario and Alice were not the first to discover Charleston Sercial’s charms. In 2005, Grant Achatz, whom many believe is America’s most inventive chef, attracted national press for his cutting-edge pairings of Charleston Sercial with dishes at Alinea in Chicago.

Josh Raynolds, International Wine Cellar 92 rating

Wow.  And Wow.  And Wow.


Price: Online at $50 USD a bottle.


Market Liquidity: If only it was even on the market in Canada.

January 24, 2017

Conceito Douro Superior, 2013


I found it very hard to wrap my mind around this.  It was an intriguing if perhaps confounding white, with peaks like the butterscotch of Chardonnay but some valleys with the coarse citrus bite of a mediocre Sauvignon Blanc, and, in the middle, an earthiness reminiscent of Hunter Valley Sem.  All the complexity left me somewhat baffled, as if it had an identity but was in denial or masquerading as something else.


The professionals are gaga over this bottle.   95 points said the sticker at BCL.  “Impressive, powerful, rich, dense.”  I guess it is all those things.  So is a heavyweight champ.  So is El Chapo.  So is, it seems, half the politicians on the planet.  That doesn’t make the words explain what the wine’s identity is.  And, for us, we were left at sea.  Was it brilliant or parody?  Mark Squires in the WA wrote that it seemed a little unevolved.  That, I think, is extremely precise.


Price: Friggin’ expensive.  Like a whole lot of money.  I refuse to fess up.


Market Liquidity: When you see Amadeus on the stage you have to believe the actor playing Salieri, believe him when he’s old, believe him when he’s young, believe the transformation is plausible, and if you don’t, if you’re unsure, then the whole enterprise fails.


January 19, 2017

Quinta do Convento Douro, 2008


A classic Portuguese blend (Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional).  And, get this: Not the 2013 sitting on the shelves in Saskatoon but the 08.  For (just) under $30.  I read online someone called this “all structure and no fruit” and loaded with tannins.  Well not the bottle I scored.  It was weighty, but deeply considered, with layers of dark fruit and very woodsy, menthol and a little bit of char, but at 13.5% drank a dream, as in light tannins and velvety smooth.  Biodynamic to boot.  Score.


Price: $29 before taxes at Kitsilano Wine Cellars.


Market Liquidity: A savoury red with an outstanding finish.

October 15, 2016

Quinta do Cardo Reserva, 2011


What we said last year, which you can read here, I would echo again (i.e., the 2011 v. 2010)  but basically, a) not spectacular although interesting and exceptionally drinkable and b) very, very, very good value. (Meaning we still have a few in the cellar to plow through.)


Price: Low 20s depending on where you can source it.


Market Liquidity: The “Robert Parker” gold seal is off-putting, but the wine isn’t.

November 8, 2015

Quinta do Cardo Reserva, 2010

The tannins are striking. There is a floral, velvety bouquet, and a deeply impressive (Robert Parker type) fruity finish. But like a smooth take-off that undergoes brief turbulence, the tannins are a bit of a shock to the system. A high scorer with the pointsters it nevertheless seems well-intentioned without perfect balance. For those with patience (and cellars to boot) probably a very good investment.

Quinta do Cardo Reserva, 2010

An interesting area of Portugal, grown in purportedly the highest vineyards of the land which create a natural blustery protection from pests and result in an organic red of wonderful character. The 20 months in new oak do no disservice; it’s light on the wood, vanilla and aromatics that in California can overpower and while reminiscent of Cab Sauv has it’s own woodsy character which is interesting (if not immediately lovable).


Very likable overall, and up to snuff with red meat. With time and air, deep cherry and dry herbaceous woodsy flavours. But Portugal is still something of a mystery when it comes to wine, producing uneven bottles of both stunning depth alongside (dare I say it?) Periquita style plonk.  If this sits amongst their highest honours, it might be better to just stick with Espana next door.

Quinta do Cardo Reserva plaudits

Price: Extremely good value at $19 USD.


Market Liquidity: Potential. But not perfection.


Interesting Blog Non-Sequitur: Our very first review of Touriga Nacional!

November 22, 2013

Churchill’s Estates Meio Queijo Tinto Douro Red

055At the Wells in Hampstead on a Sunday for a roast lamb lunch we went out on a limb and got the Douro red.  It’s true some of the most interesting wines are coming out of Portugal right now, but in my limited experience I have had more misses than hits.  As for this blend from Churchill (one of the last independents), it was all hit.  A thick and succulent red, first and foremost leather, deep musky earthy overtones and a light oak vanilla on the finish, but not heavy, and although it was a perfect foil to red meat it didn’t drink like a Cab Sauv or Shiraz.  It was both enticing on the nose and palate.  Try to find it…


Price: $24 pounds in a restaurant


Market Liquidity: Like three cherries on the slots.