14 January 2011

Português Quatro

These wines from Value Vines, LLC were interesting for a couple of reasons. First off, I got to add five new entries to my life list, all with names sounding more like the crew of a 15th century sailing vessel than grapes. This takes me up to 164, and while I'm not obsessing over reaching 200, I really don't want to ever have to go back through my notes and count again. Also, some of these grapes have multiple names within Portugal, or have a Spanish name that's more commonly known here in the US. For instance, the Castelão grape I list below is also known as Santarem, Castelhao Frances, Periquita, and Castela, while the Aragonez is better known to us as Tempranillo. (I only provide alternate names when there is a well-known alternative, since I have no desire to list the over 50 different names for Grenache.)

The second reason for interest here is that these wines come from the Alentejo region that encompasses most of the southern third of Portugual. Alentejo is pretty big, but only home to 6% of the population. What else is going on there? Corks! Portugal produces about half of the corks used worldwide and most of those come from Alentejo. Regardless of your opinion of the enclosure debate, it's worth noting that a lot of the wine you've consumed in your life came in contact with a chunk of bark from this region.

2009 Finisterra Vinho Tinto
$7, 13.5% abv.
Blend of Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelão, and Trincadeira.
Ripe and fruity, with a big red cherry aroma. Cherry flavors follow through on the palate, with medium tannins and a long finish. This one will stand up to pretty hearty flavors, so go for the BBQ and grilled beef.

2009 Finisterra Vinho Branco
$7, 13% abv.
Blend of Antão Vaz, Síria, Rabo de Ovelha and Perrum.
Big fruity aroma, with peach, apricot, melon, and a touch of honey. It has a good fruit forward flavor with dominant ripe peach flavors, but low acidity and a round mouthfeel. Smooth finish. I'd suggest pairing it with something more acidic, like ceviche, where the contrast will be interesting.

Quick etymology: Finisterra means end of the earth, or more properly, land's end, the farthest you can go in one direction while still being on land, usually an eastern/western/northern/southern tip of a country or continent. A similar term is used to describe a beer I love from eastern Canada, La Fin du Monde, even though French has a synonym much closer to the Portuguese, finistère. The next two wines are from Alente, which takes it's name from the Alentejo region, whose name means "Beyond the Tagus River", referring to the natural fluvial border.

2007 Alente Vinho Tinto
$10, 13% abv.
65% Trincadeira, 35% Aragonez (Tempranillo)
Light structure with aromas of plum and blackberry. Mellow, low tannins, and a smooth finish. Very easy drinking wine, and a real delight for the price. You don't want to overwhelm this one, so think pork or veal.

2009 Alente Vinho Branco
$10, 13.5% abv.
60% Antão Vaz, 40% Arinto
Like the other Alente wine, this is an extremely light white wine. Touch of melon and apricot on the top, but faint. And in comparison to the other white wine above, this one has a decent boost of acidity that helps with the overall balance. As such, I think it would be great with all sorts of shellfish dishes, particularly mussels and clams.

Note: These wines were received as samples.


winepredator said...

I enjoyed the Alente red tonight with lamb and found it had plenty of body and cut through the rich meat nicely! At first when I opened it, I wasn't sure, but it didn't take long for it to reveal itself--and then I found lots of red fruit like raspberry and cranberry. I agree that it's a great wine for $10 and look forward to finding more wines from Portugal in the US!

(Are you going to the 2011 WIne Bloggers Conference in Virginia?)

Benito said...

Wine Predator,

Not going to the conference, but I hope everyone has a great time. There's a lot of great Portuguese bargains out there, but local availability varies wildly.