Blog: 50 Great Portuguese Wines 2014
With passports in hand, we made our way around to each of Portugal‘s wine regions on Thursday night. Fortunately, we didn’t have to do any real traveling- these were actually tasting passports. And the wine regions? Well, they were housed inside of the New York Public Library on 42nd Street for a three hour wine tasting extravaganza celebrating “50 Great Portuguese Wines.” Hand picked by Joshua Greene, the editor and publisher of Wine & Spirits for over two decades, each of the country’s distinctive regions were admirably represented, with a slew of delicious hors d’oeuvres for pairing to boot.
With live music playing in the background, guests grabbed their empty wine glasses and headed toward the tasting tables which were appropriately arranged around the room progressively from dry whites to sweet dessert reds. It doesn’t take an expert wine drinker to tell you that Portugal produces some pretty fantastic wines and many of the red and white blends being poured on this night were no exception. Part of the fun of the annual “50 Great Portuguese Wines” event is having your taste passport stamped at each of the ten wine regions (creatively dubbed “Challenge Your Senses“) for the opportunity to win a festive Wines of Portugal gift basket- but at the same time it gives attendees the opportunity to learn a bit more about each area’s growing habits for grapes and how they differ from one another, which is often too easily ignored as you’re eying your next pour of vino.
In a change of pace from last year’s event, this setting was far more conducive to the crowd of hundreds on hand set for tasting as there was hardly much waiting to taste any of the wines on one’s wish list. The space was well lit and wide open, giving guests ample room to chat To his credit, Joshua Greene selected some truly exceptional wines for the event. After sampling more than 100 different varietals from Portugal, he parsed them down to the chosen 50. Before we began though, we made sure to grab our fill on the small bites being passed around- bite sized shrimp tacos, mozzarella and tomato quiches, and mini crab cakes- as well as helping ourselves to the communal tables in the center of the room, with selections of different cheeses, breads, crackers and vegetables for the taking.
Each of the fifty wines were thoroughly outlined in a thick catalog handed out at the front entrance- a book that would prove pivotal in remembering some of the evening’s standouts to our subjective palates. Our taste buds perked up at the first sip of the 2011 “Quinta De S. Jose Touriga Nacional,” a bottle of red from the Douro region. While the wine’s name might be a bit difficult to remember, the stainless steel tank fermented and oak barrel aging yield an outstanding rich and fruit filled red blend. Priced at an average of just $18, it’s a versatile wine to be savored on its own or paired with dark chocolates or hearty red meats. Just a few steps away, we enjoyed Niepoort Vinhos‘ 2010 “Batuta” a red blend of multiple grapes and offers a definitively smoky finish, pairing brilliantly with the remaining cheeses that we plucked from the shared table. Other highlights to add to your must-try list include the crisp 2012 “Alvarinho” (Vinho Verde), the rich tasting 2011 “Terrenus” (Alentejo), and the beautiful 2012 “Domingos Soares Franco Coleccao Privada Moscatel Roxo Rose” (Peninsula de Setubal), which was the lone rose being served at the event and was deliciously spicy.
As 9pm and the evening’s conclusion drew nearer, we made sure to grab a few repeat pours of port- specifically “Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny Port“- aged 44 years with tastes of citrus and apricot. The old fashioned looking bottle, which retails at roughly $250, poured a wonderfully syrupy port that was perfectly sweet and concluded our three hour evening in style. While we chose a select few, the wines offered at “50 Great Portuguese Wines” were both distinctive and delicious- some better than others, but each was notable in its own way- and gave us the chance to sample the best of each region. Our next stop meanwhile, is at the Portugal section of our local wine shop. Hopefully our pronunciation improves from last night.