20060616

Castelão, Camarate, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz: Palha-Cañas 2004

Or, Watch carefully as a five-grape blend from Portugal devours your rib-eye

Palha-Cañas Estremadura 2004
I heart Portuguese wines and I bristle when people label them as too rough, overly tannic or inelegant. Yet I can't defend this mid-priced Portuguese bottle called Palha-Cañas as it really is quite coarse.

This is an acidic and alcoholic blend. After nearly an hour in a decanter, I conclude that this wine is not the harmonious product that many of my favourite Portuguese red wines are. Not that I'm looking for finesse here -- Portuguese wines often feature a style that is rustic but charming in its own way.

ELUSIVE CHARMS, TIME-CONSUMING PAIRINGS

Palha-Cañas Estremadura 2004 has a heady nose and pours out into your glass in a thick purple stream. Strong figgy fruit does shoulder its way through on the palate. The flavour is so pronounced it is half way to Port wine.

Given time to mellow, this still young but big red makes an acceptable match for a rib-eye steak done in a rich red-wine-and-shallot sauce. Add lots of thyme and tarragon too -- there is no amount of savoury relish that will outdo this Portuguese force.

But in the end, the Palha-Cañas is still astringent after several days and a lengthy decanting. The tannins are still sharp and drying on the finish though aeration does seem to lead to better balance and a bearable finish. Was it worth such a long wait? At just over $15 a bottle, I would say no.

Casa Santos Lima, Quinta da Boavista, Portugal. 14%

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