Blog: 50 Great Portuguese Wines
Portuguese wines are known around the world to be some of the most wide ranging and diverse tasting varietals produced anywhere, creating distinctive experiences for each drinker. With that in mind, Wines of Portugal headed to the Upper East Side on Thursday night for an unparalleled evening of wine tastings to be hosted at the Harold Pratt House, creatively titled “50 Great Portuguese Wines.” Inside the lavish mansion, guests were treated to a selection of fifty delicious and distinguished vintages hand selected by Master of Sommelier and Master of Wine, Doug Frost all celebrating the different regions of Portuguese wine.
The three hour trip around Portugal’s wine regions began promptly at 6pm as attendees began leaving the freezing cold temperatures outside, for the warm comforting feel of holding a wine glass. Once upstairs, the tastes were divided between two separate rooms with a live singer and guitarist appropriately performing background music during the scurrying of feet toward each purveyor’s table. Each of the representatives were pouring roughly five wines each and guests were challenged to get their ‘wine passport’ stamped after tasting each of ten different grapes that went into each bottle’s production, for an opportunity to win a trip for two to Portugal.
Before we succumbed to our first pour, we paraded around the massive rectangular table dividing the House’s main room, grabbing from a spread of excellent cheeses, vegetables, and quiches perfect for pairing, but also outstanding to taste on their own. Meanwhile the staff on hand walked the room with trays of delicious fare- from truffle mac and cheese bites to tiny slices of mozzarella and basil pizza, which was a nice surprise while we filled up on wines. The staff was also diligent about cleaning up empty glasses eschewed all around the space, leaving the high top tables looking sufficiently clean for guests to stand around while digesting everything in sight.
All that said, this was an infinitely refined event from start to finish despite the fact that the stamping of passports and the casual chatting between wine representatives and patrons tended to create lengthier waits than a typical tasting might indicate. At the core of the event however were some delicious wines, running the gamut from dry to syrupy sweet. Creatively, guests were handed a thoroughly detailed notebook upon arriving, with each page describing one of the fifty numbered wines, leaving plenty of room at the bottom for note taking. If you’re looking for suggestions of terrific wines of the region, make sure to earmark the following paragraph for your archives.
Among our favorite selections of the evening, we sipped up every last droplet of the 2009 Casa Santos Lima “Sousao,” a vibrant red wine with earthy and bright tones, replete with tastes of berries. Unfortunately, despite 10,000 bottles being produced, the rarified wine is solely available in Portugal. On the other hand, the 2008 Quinta de Lemos “Dona Georgina” was a dark coffee and oaky flavored red wine, bold with tannins, but not overwhelming by any means. Our favorite tasting however came from the ‘smooth wood’ (described in the notebook) notes exuded by the 2008 Quinta Do Quetzal “Reserva Tinto,” which combined some heavier hints of fruit and spice into a nice blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicant Bouschet, and Petit Syrah. We also had affinities for the more drinkable wines- like the lighter 2009 Luis Pato “Vinha Pan,” from the Baga grape, and the tasty 2005 Murganheira “Vintage Bruno Espumante,” a sparkling Pinot Noir that was more than quaffable.
Admittedly, the evening of “50 Great Portuguese Wines” has given our palates a new found love and respect for the wines of the region. Far too often we overlook these special varietals when frequenting our wine stores for wines with far flashier labels or with the names of more familiar wine producers. If we learned anything from such a sophisticated tasting event, it’s that these are frankly outstanding wines, not to be ignored. Well, that and you don’t have to drink every single drop of wine every time. There’s a spit bucket for a reason.
- Jane Van Arsdale