Note on the terminology of WBW 38. "Table wine," in its broadest and most international sense, is wine of average alcoholic strength rather than those strengthened by the addition of alcohol, like fortified wines. But throughout most of the EU, "table wine" is a category of wine that has no official classification. For these wines, a vintage and a designation (like the Dão D.O.C. designation from Portugal that we see below) are not included in the labeling information. Furthermore, in Portugal, "table wine" might be construed as an "IPR" or Indicação de Proveniencia Regulamentada, which is a designation secondary to the top-tier D.O.C. system. WBW 38 is clearly focused on Portuguese wine other than Port wine or, in other words, those specified by the international definition of table wines -- simply the wines you'd find at the dinner table, and in that sense it is "table wine." Nevertheless, on these web pages, table wine is regularly used to indicate the EU/French definition. On these pages, WBW 38 wines would not be referred to instead as "table wine," and SAQ.com suggests that they be called "meal wine" which is a suitable name because Portuguese wines are fantastic for pairing with food.
Big ups to Ryan and Gabriella at Catavino for organizing a Portuguese WBW. It definitely seems about time. These two bloggers are doing some serious justice to these wine regions by hosting a ton of great resources on their site and by inspiring winos everywhere to get out and taste the indigenous grapes of Portugal. Their web pages are very much worth checking out. They allowed me to get my hands on a definitive list of Denominations of Origin or Denominações de Origem -- the 25 wine designations that Portuguese wine carry as a seal of quality.
I didn't realize that there were that many D.O.C. designations in Portugal. While I am no stranger to wines that reach beyond the Douro -- the Ribatejo, the Alentejo, the Estremadura, Vinho Verde, Palmela and Dão -- it now appears obvious to me that the first country I would visit for its wine regions would be Portugal, hands down. I look forward to reading more WBW 38 entries on these wines of Portugal, that at their best are both tenacious and lovely.
My entry to this month's theme is a bottle I've been meaning to try for a long time. I wrote a bit about why I've been wanting to taste it here. See the notes below for what it actually tasted like. Overall I was surprised, no doubt because I don't recall ever opening a Portuguese wine at this pricepoint. ($30 is definitely what I would call the upper register of the range of my value wines, though a wine bargain can surely come with any price tag attached to it -- it just depends on what's inside.)
Quinta do Roques Reserva Dão 2003
Eyes: This looks like one of those unwieldy and heavy glass bottles -- yup, it is. I keep staring the bottle down but still note that the wine is not as darkly pigmented as I would expect. Somewhat mellowed red hues and no bright purplish tinge I was expecting. A silky smooth consistency.
Nose: Yum... This is typical. A spice box with notes of cooked bell pepper. When Portuguese wines carry Loire Cab Franc aromas, I know I'm in for something good. Some diesel comes through too. Over time, the nose on this wine gets warmer, more embracing yet complex. Subtle and not at all intense. This is some absolutely elegant nose perfume.
Mouth: Zesty orange rind and fruit compote flavours up front. Some characteristic attributes are present -- chocolate, cinnamon and gasoline -- and arranged in elegant proportions. Animal too? This is Portuguese elegance. Softly moves through to a nice middle and a lovely finish. Luscious medium body is unique and interesting, but somehow makes the length seem shorter. Acidity is a little less than lively, but present, which offers this wine a tremendous arc built around a reliable (but thoroughly integrated) tannic grip.
Stomach: Don't deny the stomach -- this is table wine or meal wine or whatever you want to call it, so bring on the bouffe. All of my tasting notes came alongside a simple dinner, pictured in this post. Without food, this wine was coming off unnecessarily vegetal and cold, strangely lacking intensity. Food makes it less austere and adds an attractive element of synergy.
With food of all types -- salty, savoury, bitter and sweet -- Quinta do Roques Reserva Dão 2003 makes your dining experience so much more than the sum of its parts. Try it with the sweetness of Grelot potatoes sliced and then boiled in chicken stock, served with a sprinkling of pickled olives and the saltiness they provide. Or have it with the mild flavours of pork cutlets broiled with thyme and lavender served on a savoury bed of caramelized onion with rosemary. Even the pungent and slightly bitter arugula salad tossed with dry-cooked mushrooms for added richness is heightened by a red wine like this.
Mangualde, Portugal. 13.5%.