Portuguese wine producers make a sales push
By John Schreiner
February 9, 2009
Currently, British Columbia’s Liquor Distribution Branch has 122 Portugal wines on its list. If the current push by the Portuguese producers succeeds, there soon will be more.
There is certainly room for more. Two-thirds of those wines are either Port wines or Madeira. As delicious as those wines are, I can’t imagine that the Port market is so robust that Portugal’s growing table wine industry should be represented by only 42 wines.
The first recent marketing shot was last year when a small delegation of Vinho Verde producers hosted a Vancouver tasting, presumably as part of a national tour. Vinho Verde is the so-called green wine of Portugal- wines that are crisp, usually light, often with a refreshing acidic edge. Almost never expensive, these are excellent wines with seafood. Adventuresome diners have also discovered that Vinho Verde pairs well with East Indian curries.
At this time, there are four listed in the LCB. Three are priced around $11 but spend the extra few dollars for Quinta do Ameal’s Vinho Verde Loureiro 2005 ($17). It is a little fuller on the palate and tastes of melons.
This was among a number of Portuguese wines tasted at a recent winemaker dinner in Vancouver. The winemaker was an engaging young man, Diogo de Bragança Campilho who has packed a couple careers already into his 28 years.
When he was 14, he took up bullfighting and did it for 11 years until he got tired to breaking his bones. One should hasten to add that the Portuguese practise a comparatively humane form of the sport: unlike the Spanish, they do not kill the bulls.
Presumably when he was healing one or other of his broken bones, Diogo found time to get his winemaking degree at a university in Douro and to make a couple of vintages in Australia. He is now the winemaker and marketing director with a large Portuguese producer. His years in Australia gave him an easy fluency in English, making him the perfect person to handle overseas tasting events for Portugal.
The fact that Diogo has worked in Australia underlines the changing style of Portuguese table wines. The red table wines tend to be more full-bodied and concentrated that was once the case; more New World, in other words.
The Portuguese also are trying to educate the world about the many appellations (29) in this comparatively small nation. The better quality wines will be those with appellation names on their labels. If wines are made with blends from more than one region, they show up merely as table wines (although some of the multi-region blends almost certainly are great discoveries at modest prices).
The dozen wines in Diogo’s tasting ranged in price all the way to $80. One of the best values was a $17 red, Aliança Quinta da Garrida 2005, a deliciously drinkable blend of four grapes, all with unpronounceable names (a problem for Portuguese wines in our varietal-crazy market).
The red with the highest score on my sheet (90 points) was Quinta do Vale Maria 2005, a Douro table with an astonishing 41 grapes in the blend. Rich with flavours of plums and vanilla, it costs $50 a bottle and is worth every penny.
The Portuguese are keeping up the push. In February 23 a group of 30 Portuguese winemakers, who are doing a national tour, are hosting a massive trade tasting at Vancouver’s Four Seasons hotel.
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