Publicado a 10-05-2012 14:31 por Wladimir
Portugal has been snubbed by the supermarkets, but there are big, feisty wines there waiting to be discovered.
The idea that there might be a meritocracy in the wine world breaks down when you consider Portugal. The country produces a fantastically diverse range of wines, from light, thirst-quenching vinho verde to complex and unusual reds and mateus rosé (stop sniggering at the back). It offers value to those looking for an everyday drink and interest for the nerds. So the problem with Portuguese wines is…?
“Selling them,” say supermarket buyers (off the record).
A recent story uncovered by the writer Robert Joseph on his blog (thejosephreport.blogspot.co.uk) underlines the point. “No one is indispensable,” he wrote, explaining that Portugal was “facing a removal from the scene – or at least from the shelves of Majestic”.
What had happened was this: confronted with the loss of cash to subsidise promotions when the marketing body for Portuguese wine decided its money would be better spent elsewhere, Majestic asked its suppliers for compensation. Anyone who didn’t fancy paying was out. Or, to put it in Majestic’s terms, had “the option to withdraw [their] listing”. And anyone hoping to put a new Portuguese wine on Majestic’s shelves could think again: without the marketing bung, “new listings” had apparently become “an extremely tenuous proposition”. The message seemed to be that Majestic felt Portugal needed it more than it needed Portugal.
The disappearance of the entire country didn’t happen because most wine producers agreed to cough up and, a Majestic spokesman said, “I don’t think they would have pulled out.”
But it’s hard to imagine this happening to any other mainstream wine-producing country. Portugal does better in independent shops, where customers perhaps have more recherché tastes and a greater interest in ferreting out wines made from grapes they’ve never heard of in places they can’t pronounce.
And it has some brilliant champions. These include the infectious good humour of critic Charles Metcalfe whose book, The Wine and Food Lover’s Guide to Portugal, co-authored with his wife, Kathryn McWhirter, is a must-buy for anyone planning to gorge their way around this part of the Iberian Peninsula. And the specialist importer Raymond Reynolds Ltd, an indefatigable truffler-outer of intriguing and good-quality wines, whose team has done much to put delicious bottles from Portugal on restaurant tables and in smaller shops.
But it still hasn’t captured the hearts and minds of ordinary wine drinkers. What I like about Portuguese wines is their individuality. It’s hot enough there to make big wines that are ripe and feisty. But the country has never succumbed wholesale to the lollipop style of winemaking. Most of the reds still have a bit of dirt in them; they grunt rather than simper; have acidity, kick, tannin, a hint of wilderness rather than the careful styling and corporate features of an Algarve golf course.
Perhaps we just need to know a bit more about it, in which case let’s begin here with five starter things to know about Portuguese wine…
1. Vinho verde might well be Portugal’s most recognised region for non-fortified wine. It’s wedged up in the north-west of the country and its thirst-quenching white wines are best drunk young. They’re usually made from a blend that may include loureiro, trajadura and arinto as well as alvarinho grapes – which over the border in Galicia is better known as albariño. Vinho verde can be light to the point of insipid but if you want to try one with flavour, cook some prawns and crack open a bottle of Tapada de Villar Vinho Verde 2011 Portugal (11%, M & S, £6.99). It’s gently pétillant – tiny, occasional bubbles break gently on the tongue – and deliciously peachy, like water infused with peach stones and mixed with white wine.
2. Mateus rosé is sometimes drunk by those who work in the wine trade, although you usually have to get them drunk before they admit to swallowing the lightly sparkling rosé famously favoured by Saddam Hussein. The wine still comes in the gloriously tactile, rounded bottle but it’s not as sweet as it once was. Drunk alone it has a slight edge of raspberry-flavoured boiled sweets, but it goes brilliantly with curry. Not home-cooked posh curry; curry from a supermarket box. And yes, I have tried it, and yes, I enjoyed it. Mateus Rosé NV Portugal (11%, Tesco, £4.48).
3. The Alentejo in the southern half of Portugal is a hot-spot for newer, interesting producers. Try wines made by Aussie David Baverstock at Esporão (Eshporão) or the Cortes de Cima, listed right.
4. The schist slopes in the Douro — port-producing country, to the east of Oporto – are so steep and so intransigent they had to be dynamited to make terraces on which grapes could be grown. These days the area is also important for its unfortified reds, also made with port grapes.
5. The names of Portuguese grapes are well worth translating. Rabo de ovelha means ewe’s tail. Or you could have a bottle of borrado das moscas (a synonym for the grape bical) – fly droppings.
And that’s just for starters – happy explorin
Wladimir a 10-05-2012 14:37:35:
Forgot to mention. Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/wine/9246075/Portugal-the-land-that-the-wine-buyers-forgot.html By Victoria Moore
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