Home > Life, Portugal, wine appreciation, wine information > Portuguese Wines: Pleasures Worth Seeking, And Waiting For

Portuguese Wines: Pleasures Worth Seeking, And Waiting For

December 23, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

Once again, I want to start with the question.

What is the most frustrating question you can ask a wine lover?

I get it – we are all different, and so are our sources of frustration. Of course, I get it. And nevertheless, give it a thought, please. If you consider yourself a wine lover (not a collector, not a snob, just someone who really appreciates the glass of that special grape juice) – what is the question you don’t like to hear the most?

Okay, fine, I will go first.

“What is your favorite wine?”

This is the most innocent question one might expect, isn’t it? Once you show your love of wine one way or another, people love to ask that question – ahh, so what is your favorite wine? I literally cringe every time when I hear that question, because it is very hard to explain how such a simple and innocent question can’t get a good, simple answer – and yet I can’t answer that question.

Every time I answer this question, I lie. When I say “I have no preference, I love them all” I lie because I have preferences. Lots and lots of preferences, and yes, I love them all, but then… Yeah. And when I say “I love Spanish Rioja” it is a lie, because I love Rioja from very particular producers, and not just any Rioja. Moreover, depending on the day, food, and company, there will be other wines that I love as much as I love Rioja. See, there is no escape from the lies.

So when I say “I love Portuguese wines” it is one of those statements. Yes, I love Portuguese wines, but not all of them – I have preferences.

Portuguese wines became somewhat of an obsession to me about 15 years ago, but I don’t believe you would easily guess the reason why. It was not just because they were really, really inexpensive at the local Bottle King wine store in New Jersey ($5 per bottle was a pretty normal price, with occasional $4 showing up), but because they were made out of obscure grapes, and I was hunting down the obscure grapes to advance to the next levels of The Wine Century Club. Enjoying the wines was secondary, but spending countless hours with the search engine, trying to figure grape composition, grape synonyms – ohh, what a fun journey it was.

Based on what I just described, I wasn’t ready to claim my love for the Portuguese wines overall. In 2013, I was lucky enough to visit Porto, Portugal for work, and this is where it became literally love from first sight. At the restaurant, I just pointed to the bottle on the list. I had no idea what I’m ordering, but at €14 it didn’t seem like a big risk. The first sip made my eyes pop, and Portugal’s status was instantly elevated to the “oh my god” level. That wine was from Quinta do Cardo, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and a few other varieties – here is the original post.

A few more days into that same trip I had another wine which completely solidified my love for the Portuguese wines – Casa Burmester Reserva Douro – again, pure indulgence. There were lots more wines during that and two other trips to the Douro which made me form the opinion that Touriga Nacional is very similar to Cabernet Sauvignon in its ability to be grandstanding, to create the wine with a perfect flavor profile, perfect ripeness, perfect level of extraction and impeccable, sexiest mouthfeel. If you ever had Kamen Cabernet Sauvignon or Vérité La Joia, you would know what I’m talking about. Yes, I love Portuguese wines.

And one more thing about Portuguese wines. Similar to well-made California Cabernet Sauvignon, well-made Portuguese wines need time. Way too many times I had Portuguese wines which were not ready. I don’t know if analogies with Port are appropriate here (same grapes?), but Vintage Ports can easily age for 50+ years. I never had 50-years old wines from Portugal, but I have first-hand experience with, for example, 24 years old wine which was not ready to drink, not for a minute (you can read about it here).

When I was offered to try two Portuguese wines from the Douro, made by Prats and Symington, I quickly agreed – I told you already that I love Portuguese wines, remember?

I always like to talk first about the producer before discussing the wines. Only a few days ago I wrote at length about a number of Port wines produced by the Symington Family Estates, so this is the part of the story I don’t need to repeat – you can read it here. But understanding the “Prats” was a bit more challenging. The website section for Prats and Symington, or P+S how it is abbreviated provides rather limited information. I was only able to learn that “In 1999 our family formed a partnership to make top Douro wines with the Prats family of Bordeaux”, and that “the first Prats & Symington wine was Chryseia 2000 which received widespread national and international acclaim”. I felt as in my early days of combing Portuguese wine labels and information tidbits for the grape names, so I had to do a bit of research.

I was able to figure that Prats in P+S is actually Bruno Prats, former owner of Château Cos d’Estournel and experienced winemaker, who applied Bordeaux winemaking philosophy, especially around blending, to the production of the P+S wines, which resulted in the wines with the highest critic ratings in the history of Portuguese unfortified wines. This article in the Dinks Business online magazine explains Bruno’s winemaking philosophy very well.

The two wines we are talking about here are 2018 P+S Prazo de Roriz Douro (14.5% ABV, $17, 35% Touriga Franca, 20% Touriga Nacional, 20% Mixed varieties, 15% Tinta Roriz, 10% Tinta Barroca, 6 months in 400L neutral French oak Barrels) and 2019 P+S Post Scriptum de Chryseia Douro Red (14.2%, $27, 56% Touriga Franca, 33% Touriga Nacional, 7% Tinta Roriz, 4% Tinta Barroca).

There are two main vineyards used in the production of these two wines – Quinto de Roriz, one of the oldest and best vineyards in Portugal, already famous for its single-vineyard wines in the 18th century, and Quinta de Pedriz, a newly acquired vineyard in Rio Torta and specifically planted with  Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca grapes.

As these were two sample wines, I also got technical notes for both, which I typically like to glance over. Two items attracted my attention in the notes. First, there was a line there saying “Decanting: Not required”. Second, the “Storage and Serving” section stated ” Ready for immediate consumption”. Leaving decanting aside, “ready for immediate consumption” somehow bothered me.

Prazo de Roriz was actually as promised – from the moment the wine made it into the glass, the wild strawberries on the nose and palate, which I tend to believe are signature flavors of Touriga Nacional, were prominent, and the wine was perfectly extracted, round, concentrated, and overall delicious (Drinkability: 8). It was also “dangerous wine” as I like to call them – once opened, they tend to disappear without second notice.

The first sip of Post Scriptum, made me say “hmmm” and reach for the decanter. Decanter didn’t really help – two hours later, the wine was still ultra-dense and literally devoid of fruit. I don’t give up on the wines easily, so back into the bottle the wine went. Next 4 days, I would pull out a stopper, pour a sip, and put the stopper immediately back. On day number 5, the magic transformation completed – the wine all of a sudden opened with the same wild berries profile, perfect extraction, round and layered, and ready to be admired. (Drinkability: 8+).

Here you are, my friends. Portuguese wines are easy to love – you just need to find the right wines and have a bit of patience. But seriously, the rewards are handsome – these are some of the best wines in the world which you can still afford without an expense account. Happy [wine] hunting!

 

  1. December 24, 2021 at 7:59 am

    My answer? “Whatever is in my glass”…happy Christmas!

  2. December 24, 2021 at 9:56 am

    Thanks for the answer, but this was not the question. The question was “what is the most frustrating question directed at you as a wine lover” – I’m sure whatever is in your glass is not the source of your frustration 🙂
    Merry Christmas!

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: