Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday #38: Portuguese Wine

It's that time again: Wine Blogging Wednesday. Today, bloggers all over the world will be telling us what they tasted when they uncorked bottles of Portuguese table wines. Ryan and Gabriella at Catavino cooked up the theme for WBW #38, and asked us to look for Portuguese wines that were not the fortified port wines most of us associate with the region. Portugal makes beautiful table wines, too, and they challenged us to look beyond the popular Douro region, and beyond the familiar Mateus and vinhho verde to look for something new and different to taste our palate.

I succeeded in steering clear of the Mateus, and the vinho verde, but I did end up with a pick from the Douro. It turned out to be oddly challenging to find a Portuguese wine in LA, and the best selections were often in chain shops, like Beverages & More. But I did find a bottle--a white, no less--at a local store and it impressed me enough to wonder why more merchants don't stock wines from this region. If they are anything like this one, they are good, affordable food wines. My pick for WBW #38 was the 2005 Adriano Ramos Pinto, a white wine made by an old wine house that specialized in port founded in 1880 by the man whose full name is on this wine: Adriano Ramos Pinto. ($10.99, Mission Wines; available from other merchants for between $10 and $13).

The wine is blended from three varieties of grape: Viozinho (60%), a low-yielding white variety used in white port; another low-yielding white variety, Rabigato (30%); and Arinto (10%), a white variety that brings acidity to the mix and is used in making vinho verde. I've never tasted anything made with any of these grapes, so I wasn't sure what I was in for. Turns out that this white blend resembled an aromatic, bone-dry riesling or a medium-bodied, barely oaked sauvignon blanc. There were soft aromas of grapefruit, citrus pith, and a whiff of petrol when you first opened it--just like a riesling. These appealing smells led into the flavor palate, where clean grapefruit and mineral notes met up at the back of your throat with a whiff more petrol. At 12.5% alc/vol. it was a very pleasant food wine, all the more so because it was very lightly oaked. The wine was aged for only six months, with 80% of the juice spending its time in steel vats, and 20% of the juice spending its time in new French oak. Given its low price, and its interesting mix of aromatics and dry flavors, I thought this wine represented very good QPR.

This wine would be an excellent pairing with not-terribly-spicy Indian or Asian food, richer fish dishes, light chickendishes, and salads. We had it with Indian-spiced Bombay Sliders, mini chicken burgers with lots of aromatic spices and herbs in them. These were popped onto dinner rolls, topped with some curried mayonnaise, and some sliced veggies. We had oven-fries made with sweet potatoes along side. The wine really went well with this range of flavors and ingredients, and would have been a particularly good option for those who don't like the sweet impression that rieslings (even dry rieslings) give.

While finding the wine was a challenge, I'm glad I did locate a Portuguese table wine--and a white, no less. I'm going to keep looking for wines from this region, and try to learn some more about the grape varieties. This wine was a real surprise, and I think I'm missing a lot of interesting wine. Thanks to Ryan and Gabriella for the great theme, and as always thanks to Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours for dreaming the event up more than three years ago. I'll post the link to the roundup when it is available, as well as a link to November's theme.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great write up. I've never had those grape varietals either but a wine between a barely oaked SB and a dry Riesling sounds right up my alley. I managed to find some Portuguese table wines in the small shop I went to but the selection was very meager. I hope Portuguese table wines start to get more attention.

Andrew said...

I actually find the red table wines more interesting than the whites. Not that I'm saying there isnt anythign of interest to discover but the red blends hold a huge amount of complexity and interesting flavours. Plus all those obscure grape varieties!

A WBW theme to return to soon I feel.

Dr. Debs said...

Erika, if the one thing WBW #38 does is get more Portuguese wines in the stores, I'll be very happy. Andrew, I like the reds--I just couldn't find one. And this white was a surprise for a riesling/SB lover like me.