Portugal is known for the only fortified wine that can be labelled as Port. I’m not a humongous Port fan myself, but I do like it occasionally ounce or two with a truffle in hand. I like to think of Port as a dessert replacement, especially in the cold of winter. It also is a great sweetener that adds a boozy complex flavour when added to salad dressings, fruit compotes, jams/jellies or even drizzled over fresh fruit and topped with whipped cream. My Mother would mention, at this point in the conversation, that she prefers hers over vanilla ice cream.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that Port is not the only wine that Portugal does very well. In the last two summers, Vinho Verde (my favorite is listed here) has gained so much popularity for its crisp taste and drink-ability, that it emptied off the NSLC’s shelves before June, and didn’t return until last February.
I myself prefer red wines, and Portugal also happens to make a red wine from the Dao (pronounced ‘down’) region that I promise is different from just about any red you have tried. I have tasted a few Daos over the years and I always walk away noting their elegance. Even though I have only tasted a few, I find they have perfected the balance of smoothness and complexity; which is a really difficult thing to do. Usually the smoother and rounder the wine, the flatter and one-dimensional they taste.
At first sniff you will notice a lot of oak, the Colheita is aged in both French and American oak for 12 months which usually would make it a little rough and very dry. However once you taste this wine, the oak back you sensed lands softly in the middle ground of the tasting experience, blending softly with a vanilla-raspberry and slightly fennel fruit taste. This wine finishes cleanly with a slight dryness and little aftertaste.
The Quinta dos Carvahais Colheita 2008 I most recently bought was a clearance wine and originally priced in the high-twenties but I got on sale for about $18 which was a great buy for me. The NSLC has it listed on their site and you can click here for more details on where to find it if you are in Nova Scotia.
A lot of red wines recommend beef as a pairing, but this wine was really complementary to soft rich cheeses. Since the wine itself was very soft and mellow (not too acidic or tannic) it actually would have went nice with a lot of Middle Eastern food like grilled breads, yoghurt dips, smokey eggplant dishes, lentil kofte and creamy hummus. It’s a great Spring-time red wine selection, and I hope if you don’t try this one, you at least experiment with a Portuguese red wine soon.