Why, oh why, are we not all drinking Portuguese wines in copious quantities. The price is right, they taste delicious, everything – from lightly effervescent Vinho Verde to sparkling, white, red and fortified wines – is available, and the quality is there.
With any luck, the recent Wines of Portugal tasting in Vancouver will change all that very soon and interested wineries will find local importers willing to bring in more of their wares.
I spent a considerable amount of time at the Rocim table talking with Ricardo Botelho Lopes, Export Manager for the estate purchased in 2000 by a company called Movicortes.
About 70 ha are planted at Herdade do Rocim with everything from the red fruited Alicante Bouschet, to Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Aragonês (aka Tempranillo) as well as whites Antão Vaz, Arinto and Alvarinho.
This is, perhaps, the unique thing about Portuguese wines and the one that makes them so special – the indigenous grapes. Having developed in virtual isolation on the west coast of Europe for decades and decades, untouched by so many of the fads that came and went through the rest of the wine world, Portugal has finally realized that their distinct lack of international varietals, those ubiquitous and pedestrian Sauvignon Blancs, Chardonnays, Cabernets and Merlots, spells delight in jaded markets where discerning drinkers yearn for unique and interesting options.
Bring it on! The reds started with a juicy onion skin coloured Rosé and the fresh and fruity entry-level Mariana (Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeiro and Aragonês). This was followed by the Herdade Do Rocim Vinho Tinto (Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Aragonês and Alicante Bouschet), the tannic but fruity 100% Touriga Nacional Rocim, and the Reserva Rocim that had spent 8 months in French oak.
The pièce de résistance however was the Olho do Mocho Reserva, 2011. A blend of Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional with Petit Verdot for extra tannin, colour and perfume, it is a deep tone of teeth-staining ruby.
The nose shows complex blackberry and boysenberry with purple flowers, serious herb and minerals. The palate is dry with dusty and ripe tannins. There is an amount of grip that can lend the wine 3-5 more years of time. Flavours mimic the nose with ripe plum, more violets, garrigue, anise seed and a little leather.
To earn the Reserva label in Portugal, a wine must spend at least 3 years ageing in cask and bottle and at least one of those years must be in cask. This wine was aged in French oak barrels for 16 months and an additional 6 months in bottle prior to release.
A WSET Very Good wine I’m looking forward to being able to buy in BC soon.