Thinking about my love for Portugal, I realized that it is all thanks to the lovely lady in the photo, Aileen Robbins of the Dunn Robbins Group. I first met Aileen when I moved back to New York after having lived in Italy for many years. She was and is always a pleasure to see and chat with. Aileen I believe studied to be an opera singer and she adds touches of song to her speech at various points in a conversation. I have had the pleasure of working with Aileen on a number of projects through the years and pitching others. Among those highlights was a project on Madeira and a fantastic trip to the Tejo in 2013 that sparked my interest in Portugal. I had been twice before but never to a wine region or more preciously never on a wine trip. Thanks to Aileen, indirectly this last time, I have now been on two wine trips. A consummate professional and a pleasure to be around, Aileen has opened a new world to me and for that, I am very grateful.
Portuguese wine fact #1: Alicante Bouchet grows in the Alentejo: “Despite not being an indigenous Portuguese grape variety, Alicante Bouschet is so deep-rooted in Alentejo collective patrimony that it is often assumed to be Portuguese. In fact it is a displaced variety, the result of conjoining the French varieties Petit Bouschet and Grenache. It is one of the world’s very few colouring grapes, able to provide concentrated, deeply coloured wines, a feature that has earned it the nickname “Writing Ink,” according to the website Vinhos do Alentejo.
I was very excited about the Portuguese tasting yesterday in New York City. It’s been an intense wine week for me with great trips to Boston where I saw some new and old friends. Yesterday it was Portugal. I feel very lucky to live in a city where you can be tasting fantastic wines from Italy one day and Portuguese ones the next. While all of America seems poised to have their day in the sun with a host of different tastings, nowhere is this more prevalent than in New York City. Sometimes it is frustrating because you can’t get to all the tastings you might want to or because people don’t show up when you are the host but at the end of the day, I just think we are all lucky to be here.
This week’s wine of the week is from Villa Brunesca, a winey located in the Veneto. It was full bodied as one might expect from a Chardonnay with great textured aromas and flavors of apple and thyme. The wine spends six months of its lees and goes through partial malolactic fermentation according to their website which would account for that creamy mouthfeel.
I had this wine on Sunday while sailing on the Hudson on a pretty windy day. It was exhilarating. The family that owns this winery began working on this land in 1954. Gaetano “Bepi” Mason started the business which his sons and daughter are continuing today. They have 70 hectares, 45 planted to vines and the remaining 25 home to 15 hectares of woods and an amazing villa dating to 1645. The soils are a combination of limestone, sand and clay with a good quantity of calcareous matter helps to create grapes that then produce elegant wines. The climate here is mitigated both by the nearby mountains and the sea. This wine is brought in by Tradizione Imports.
On my recent trip to Portugal I was able to taste a wide array of still wines and fortified wines or ports which I had expected. The plethora of grape varieties and diversity of style, however, I did not. I also had no idea that there was another grape variety that we would sample in a couple of different versions – Moscatel.
José António Guedes from Quinta Das Lamelas had one that I enjoyed in the sweeter version with 150-200 g/l of residual sugar. While quite sweet I didn’t find it cloying.
Casa de Quinta das Laranjeiras was founded in 1836. They have about 22 hectares in the Douro Valley which are planted with the traditional local grape varieties. They are well-known for their white ports, made from Moscatel Galego, Fernao Pires, Malvasia Fina e Gouveio. We tried a number of them that I really enjoyed. A nice balance of acidity and alcohol as well as sweetness, salinity and fruity and floral aromas. I found them complex and satisfying.
One of the amazing parts of our visit to the Douro was seeing all of the family homes that had their own churches. This family had an impressive one across the street from their home which looked to be quite old. They also still have lagares that are used to foot tread grapes.
Really looking forward to tonight, tomorrow and Thursday’s events with the Consorzio of Lugana. The grape variety that they use in their wines is called Turbiana. It is closely related to Trebbiano di Soave but not to Verdicchio as was previously thought. It’s a great, mineral, fresh and elegant wine. I can’t wait to drink some and introduce Lugana to friends that don’t know the region. If I am not seeing you later, tomorrow or Thursday in Philadelphia, you still have a chance to try these great wines at the Simply Italian events next week in New York and Los Angeles.
I think you’ll come to love Lugana as I have.