My experience with Portuguese wine until a week ago was primarily from my teenage years when a Portuguese family across the street from my parent’s house would make wine every year and would deliver half a dozen jugs of the stuff to our doorstep, at which point my Dad would give the man bushel baskets of tomatoes from our garden.
This exchange was more in the name of neighbourliness than in securing goods of equal value and quality, for even to our untrained palates, the neighbour’s wine was pretty bad. For some reason, I continued to believe that all Portuguese wine was of similar quality and it really wasn’t until I showed up at the Wines of Portugal Trade Tasting at the Fairmont Royal York on June 3rd that I realized I had been missing out.
The event featured wines from 54 wineries, hailing from all regions of Portugal. Some wines are already carried or are soon to be offered at the LCBO, many other wineries were looking for importers. Knowing little about wine and even less about Portugal, I wandered around the room, stopping at most tables and asking the representatives there what they recommended.
It should be noted that my tastes run to the sweet and upon realizing that I was surrounded by some of the best (and in some cases, rare) Ports in the world, my tasting notes are definitely skewed to that usually sweet and heavy wine. But many of the other offerings I tried also impressed. It turns out that Portugal has the oldest appellation system in the world, and over 500 native breeds of grapes that produce some of the world’s best wines. For a wine newbie, that’s pretty overwhelming.
Here are a few I tried that are or will be available at the LCBO.
Of the many ports, my favourites came from Casa Santa Eufêmia, where I tried the 10-year-old tawny port, and the Reserva Especial Branco from 1973. Both had warm notes of caramel, but the Reserva Especial Branco also was heavy with notes of chocolate, like the best caramel chocolate bar, in a glass. Neither are available via the LCBO, but like all wines the LCBO will special order these items for anyone willing to climb the mountain of paperwork. I also tried a flight of Ports from Quinta Nova, including their Ruby Reserve, a 2003 LBV Port and a 2005 Vintage.
Obviously, after tasting only 20 or so wines, I’m no expert on the wines of Portugal, or the various regions. But I’m intrigued enough to start searching out books and websites to learn more about the products, and I’ll certainly be making more of an effort to check out the wines of Portugal the next time I’m strolling the aisles of the LCBO.