Sunday, 20 December 2009

Modern tradition - The wines of Quinta do Portal

We told you before about our love for port wine. Christmas is a classic opportunity to enjoy some port, and the Taylor's LBV 2003 we suggested earlier may be a good one to enjoy after Christmas dinner. If you wish to spend some serious money on a bottle of port, the Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny is also a very respectable choice (around 50 OMR at African & Eastern).

While the quality of port is widely recognized, the table wines of the Portuguese Douro Valley are less well known. They deserve better. The wines from this region are beautiful and gaining in quality year after year. Typically, red wines from the Douro are ripe and concentrated with dark fresh fruit, and the whites offer plenty of spice, minerality and (tropical) fruit.

There is only one Douro wine producer available in Oman, which is a pity. Nevertheless, this producer, Quinta do Portal, is interesting enough to give some attention here. It is one of a group of wineries who are at the forefront of the quality explosion of Douro wines in recent years.

Anyone who ever visited the Douro region will appreciate the challenges winemakers face here. The vineyards are extremely steep, as a result of which almost all grapes need to be harvested by hand. The grape varieties are all traditional Portuguese, with names you'll hardly find outside Portugal. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (which is the same as the Spanish Tempranillo) and Touriga Franca are the most popular ones for both port and wine. Yet, there are also many vineyards with old vines, where a mix of many varieties is planted. It is often unknown which varieties are planted there, many of them being obscure and ancient. These traditional grape varieties (and the large amount of old vines) contribute to the unique taste of Douro wines. In the old days the wines could be a bit rustic (especially whites), but thanks to modern vinification techniques they are now fresh and clean, with plenty of potential.

Quinta do Portal produces a large array of both port and table wines. Only a small selection of these is available through OUA. The Quinta do Portal Douro Branco 2007 is a very good example of a good Douro white. It offers lovely spice and licorice notes, as well as ripe pear and some tropical fruit. It will pare nicely with fish dishes, or even some light meat. It is a pity that its red counterpart, Quinta do Portal Douro Tinto 2003, is a couple of years too old. To give this wine the credit it deserves, you should at least be able to try the 2005 (or younger). Both wines are around 10 OMR, which is on the pricy side. At that price, we would recommend to try the white and wait for a newer vintage of the red. Portal also produces a very good rosé wine, but that is sadly not available here.

OUA also offers two ports from Portal: Fine Tawny and Fine Ruby. Both are basic ports, and although they are quite good in their category, we would love to see some of the better ports on the shelves, such as the Reserve Tawny, or the very nice Late Bottled Vintage.

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