Portugal - revolution in red

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"Grandola, vila morena, terra da fraternidade, o povo é quem mais ordena ...". Somehow the famous song of Portugal's Zeca Afonso, which had opened the revolution of April, 25 in 1974, would not get out of my head any more since the owner of one Portuguese estate had told me, during dinner, that the revolution had "destroyed everything", to a point that she couldn't get decent workers any more for her vineyards and cellar. After having completed the tasting of 250 reds, this opinion seemed even more strange and weird to me: How the hell could these awful labourers have created such extraordinary and remarkable wines?

It had taken a long time to get organised this comprehensive tasting. For about 15 years we had trying hard, regularly not even getting an answer to our sollicitations addressed to the Portuguese marketing body. Only the recent changes in the direction of ViniPortugal and a new agency in Germany seemed to have opened the door to ViniPortugal's Tasting Room on Lisbons famous Praça do Comércio for us, where a perfectly organised three-day-tasting awaited me.


In Casa do Vinho on Lisbons famous Praça do Comércio everybody can taste wines from all Portuguese regions free of charge. (photos: E. Supp)

The result of my work was indeed impressive: Four wines (three from Douro an one Alentejano) made it into our category of "dream wines" and even behind these the quality was amazing. As for the regional averages Douro and Dão leaded the pack with Alentejo, Lisboa and Tejo following not far behind. Especially the 2010 vintage from Douro showed impressive, compact style with lots of dark berries and spices in the nose and generally silky and smoth tannins on the palate which did not show any aggressivity. The 2009 vintage often was not as clear in its aromas, showed some banana and even some reduction, and the tannins seemed slightly more drying, even if some individual wines were of superb quality. In the Dão region both vintages, 2009 and 2010 showed more even quality but the absolute highlights were missing here. Anyhow, some of the best wines of the tasting were produced in 2008, a vintage which fared less well in the average rating.

Oporto was for centuries the centre of the portuguese wine industry. Even today some of the best reds of the country come from the Douro valley. But more and more the other regions like Alentejo, Lisboa or Dão are coming out with excellent wines as well. (photo: E. Supp)

Thus, it is not the quality which is missing in Portugal - at least not as far as the last 10, 15 years are concerned. If these wines continue not to be very well known on many markets, especially in Germany, then this is probably due to the deficient collective marketing of the past - individual exceptions like Dirk Niepoort set aside -, and to the fact that Portugal has not yet succeeded in building itself a coherent brand image for its still wines unlike the one it has boasted for centuries for its Porto and Madeira.

The fact that the best varieties to be used in the red wines can be found in many of the top regions should be a good reason for marketing first of all the "Portugal" brand instead of focusing too much on rather unknown regions and appellations. This even more, if you consider that some of the appellation names seem pretty confusing to consumers outside the country. Is it really reasonable that one has a DOC Alentejo and one VR (Vinho Regional) Alentejano? And does it make sense having renamed the old Ribatejo appellations DoTejo (DOC) and Tejo (VR)?.

Anyhow: if the carnation revolution took place in 1974, the revolution of Portugal's wine industry only started 10, 15 years ago. And there is still a lot to do.

NB: You can find more photos from Portugal on our Google+-Account "Grandola, vila morena ...".

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Our complete tastings (comments in German)
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*****Quinta do Mouro - Miguel António de Orduña Viegas Louro (Estremoz) - Alentejano VR 2008
*****Adriano Ramos Pinto, S.A. (Vila Nova De Gaia) - Douro DOC Duas Quintas 2009
*****Mário Jorge Eugénio Monteiro Cardoso, Lda. (Vila Nova De Foz Cõa) - Douro DOC Quinta da Sequeira 2008 Grande Reserva
*****Quinta dos Avigados, Lda. (Sta Marta de Penaguião) - Douro DOC Grande Reserva 2008
***** +António Saramago, Lda. (a) - Alentejano Dúvida 2008
*****Monte dos Cabaços, Lda. (Estremoz) - Alentejano VR 2005 Reserva
*****Real Companhia Velha (Vila Nova De Gaia) - Douro DOC Vinhas Velhas da Quinta das Carvalhas 2010
*****Vale Dona Maria - Lemos & Van Zeller, Lda. (Pinhão) - Douro DOC CV - Curriculom Vitae 2010
*****C. Da Silva, S. A. (Vila Nova De Gaia) - Douro DOC Dalva 2009 Grande Reserva
*****Quinta do Vale Meão - F. Olazabal & Filhos, Lda (Vila Nova De Foz Cõa) - Douro DOC 2009
*****Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Pinhão) - Douro DOC Reserva 2009
*****Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Pinhão) - Douro DOC Grande Reserva clássico 2009
*****Sobredos, Lda. (Godim - Peso da Régua) - Douro DOC Aneto 2009 Grande Reserva
*****Companhia das Quintas - SAQRC (a) - Douro Quinta da Fronteira 2009 Grande Escolha
*****Encosta do Sobral, S. A. (Lisboa) - Tejo VR 2010
*****Parras Vinhos, Lda. (Maiorga Alcobaça) - Lisboa VR Quinta do Gradil Tinta Roriz - Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
*****Santo Isidro de Pegões, Crl (Pegões Velhos) - Setúbal Adega de Pegoes Alicante Bouschet 2010
*****Tahora (Serpa) - Alentejano VR Medeiros 2009
*****Quinta do Quetzal (Vidigueira) - Alentejo DOC Quinta do Quetzal 2008 Reserva
*****Unicer Vinhos, S. A. (S. Mamede de Infesta) - Alentejano VR Planura 2008
*****Quinta da Cartuxa - Fundação E. de Almeida (Évora) - Alentejo DOC Cartuxa Tinto Reserva 2008
*****Fita Preta, Lda. (a) - Alentejano VR Preta 2008
*****Real Companhia Velha (Vila Nova De Gaia) - Douro DOC Quinta de Ventozelo 2010 Grande Reserva
*****Quinta das Bandeiras, Lda. (Pinhão) - Douro DOC Passagem 2009
*****Jorge M. Nobre Moreira (Provesende ) - Douro DOC Poeira 2009
*****Wine & Soul, Lda. (Pinhão) - Douro DOC Pintas Character 2009
*****Jorge Rosas, Lda. - Quinta da Touriga (Vila Nova De Foz Cõa) - Douro DOC Quinta da Touriga-Chã 2009
*****Jorge Rosas, Lda. - Quinta da Touriga (Vila Nova De Foz Cõa) - Douro DOC Quinta da Touriga-Chã Touriga Nacional 2009
*****Douro Family Estates (a) - Douro DOC Quinta dos Poços 2009 Grande Reserva
*****Sogevinus Fine Wines (Vila Nova De Gaia) - Douro DOC Kopke Vinhas Velhas 2008
*****Quinta dos Avigados, Lda. (Sta Marta de Penaguião) - Douro DOC Vinha do Além Tanha 2008 Grande Reserva
*****Adriano Ramos Pinto, S.A. (Vila Nova De Gaia) - Douro DOC Duas Quintas Reserva Especial 2007
*****Paço de Santar, S. A. - Dão Sul (Carregal do Sal) - Dão DOC Paço do Cunhas de Santar Nature 2010 Reserva
*****Quinta de Lemos (Viseu) - Dão DOC Touriga Nacional 2008
*****Quinta do Escudial, Lda. (Seia) - Dão DOC Vinhas Velhas 2008 Reserva
*****Enoport United Wines (Rio Maior) - DoTejo DOC Quinta S. João Batista Touriga nacional - Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
*****Vidigal Wines, S. A. (Cortes) - Lisboa VR Alicante Bouschet 3 Autores 2007
*****Quinta de Catralvos (Azeitão) - Setúbal Malo Platinum 2009 Reserva

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