WBW #38 Portuguese table wines: Quinta dos Roques Reserva 2003

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%.


RougeAndBlanc said...

Flavor of pepper, chocolate, cinnamon and gasoline all in one?
Now this is a cool beverage!

Catherine Granger said...

Zesty orange rind and fruit compote flavours: you should try it again with a duck a l'orange!

Sonadora said...

Your dinners always look fantastic.

Marcus said...

RAndB: The pepper is more on the nose -- a beguiling aroma if you ask me -- and the gasoline, while on the palate, is more of a texture than a taste. The chocolate and cinnamon flavours are there. Unlike what I'm used to, it's restrained, not rustic, fully integrated with a hidden intensity rather than upfront.

Catherine: I never thought of that! It'd be the perfect complement. I always wonder if I appreciate contrasts more than complements. On the second night, I paired it with a stew that was kind of compote-y and zesty -- but I didn't like it as much.

Sonadora: Thanks for the compliments. This one actually turned out OK but they don't always. I haven't run food photography in a while so it's really nice that you are noticing it. You're making me think I should resurrect Doktor Weingolb Snakshot.

Brooklynguy said...

nicely done Dok - dinner does indeed look great, and your notes on the wine are evocative. so as a ignoramus when it comes to these wines, i must admit that i do not know what grape your wine comes from, but i am quite curious.

Marcus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcus said...

Hi Bguy,

Neither do I!

For a wine done this well, I was interested in sorting out the proportions of indigenous grapes myself. I nearly fell off my chair when I read that this wine of delicacy and nuance was 100% Touriga Nacional.

But then I realized that was mistaking this Roques bottle for their Touriga varietal.

The fact is that I really don't think I drink many varietal wines from Portugal -- maybe a Castelão occasionally because it's widespread (this is the Periquita wine, as the grape also takes that name in southern regions, and is named Trincadeira in Dão and Santarém in Douro.) Another fact is that blend information is often not divulged.

And so I cannot find the exact blend for this wine. The previous vintage is indicated online as a blend of: Touriga Nacional (45%), Alfrocheiro Preto (25%), Jaen (15%), Tinta Roriz (10%) and Tinto Cão (5%). The 2000 bottle was similar too so it gives you a good idea.

The first two -- Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro -- are what I would consider the noble grapes of Portugal. Jaen is sometimes a varietal because for once, here's a non-acid Portuguese wine grape and I guess that sells but seems like the quintessential blending grape to me. Tinta Roriz is Tempranillo (aka Aragónez in southern regions). Tinto Cão I've never heard of -- the Petit Verdot of Portuguese fame?

Brooklynguy said...

Wow - not sure I've ever sampled a wine made from any of those grapes, unless they have different names in France or something...thanks for the info.

grazza said...

mmm, it seems we found many similar characteristics in the wines. Its funny, because I remember when I did the tasting for that wine in the cellar, here, the chef was in the middle of finishing off that years batch of xmas puddings to rest down for next year. The whole cellar stank of booze and rich warm spices. I ended up taking the bottle upstairs to the restaurant to try and get a more accurate description, but still ended up with the xmas pudd. To be honest I wasnt too sure about putting it down, because I thought perhaps my nose was "contaminated" by the aromas from the cellar. I never really got much citrus from the wine, but then Im guessing that the age would probably account for that. Ive managed to sell a few bottles based on the tasting, and now Ive only got five left. I must say that they are still showing quite well, so it was something of a blessing really that Ryan and Gabrielle chose that theme, otherwise the bottles might have languished in our cellars until they were knackered.

Hope that you had a good festive season and didnt overindulge too much on NYE (I certainly did and paid the price on the 1st and much of the 2nd!!)