Welcome back to Expat in Lisbon! Today we are going to talk about one of my personal passions: Wine. Many visitors to Portugal try the wine here and come away pleasantly surprised. Portuguese wines are for the most part surprisingly high in quality and drinkability. They are often much cheaper than wine from other, more renown regions such as Bordeaux. However, for those looking primarily for quality and not price, does Portuguese wine have the complexity and caché to compete against wine from France? How does Portuguese wine (from the Douro region) stack up against wine from Bordeaux? Read on and find out.
First up in the tasting is Grands Vins des Chateaux – Chateau Lorient 2011. This wine is from the Bordeaux Supérieur, Saint-Loubès region. Chateau Lorient is a blend of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Pressac.
I was warned that this wine needed 15-20 minutes at least to “open-up” in wine tasting parlance. My theory is that the wine needs to interact with the air in order for the aromas and flavors to fully ripen before tasting. Wine connoisseurs don’t swish and swirl their wine just to be ostentatious! We paired this wine with roasted lamb with rosemary and mild and sharp cheeses.
Tasting notes: Right up front you are struck with the complexity of the wine. The predominance of Merlot gives it fruity flavors in the top notes, and strikingly, an aroma of fresh lychees. This fruitiness is backed up by the full-bodied depth of Cabernet Sauvignon, which also adds some blackberry notes. The Pressac offers a final touch of balance to the overall taste and a longer finish. On the nose one finds the aroma of toasted almonds and a slight hit of pepper. My personal recommendation is to taste it first after 20 minutes out of the bottle, and then let it decant for another 30 minutes to evolve before sipping another glass (if you can wait that long).
So, how does our Portuguese wine from the Douro Region compare to the Chateau Lorient from Bordeaux?
Up next is one of my personal favorites, Monte Cascas Colheita from D.O.C. Douro, Portugal. This particular vintage is 2009. It features an intriguing blend of 50% Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Franc, 20% Tinta Barroca, 10% Sousão. We paired this wine with a Portuguese favorite, Naco na Pedra, or “giant slab of raw meat you cook yourself on a sizzling hot stone”. You get the idea.
Tasting Notes: What strikes one immediately about this wine is the color. It is a dark purplish ruby red. At first sip the wine presents a wide variety of flavors, most notably plum, blackberries, and sea salt. On the nose you may find orange peel and black pepper.
This wine has a distinctly “summery” quality about it. You can really picture basking in the sun on a hot day in Portugal with a glass of this wine in your hand. The finish is smooth but not so long, making you want to take another sip. In fact, I find that this is a quality that most Portuguese wines have: drinkability. They are a fine balance between complexity and drinkability.
So, what’s the verdict? Well wine tasting is of course, mostly subjective and completely open to personal tastes and desires. Both of the wines presented here are excellent. However, they do cater to different tastes and needs.
The Chateau Lorient is spectacularly complex and needs to be paired with a meal of strongly flavored meats and cheeses. This is a wine for special occasions and grand dinners. This is a wine for people looking primarily for quality, exclusivity, and complexity.
The Monte Cascas Colheita is more relaxed, more accessible, and very drinkable. It’s a wine for summer days and picnics, paired with some light cheeses and meats, or enjoyed by itself.
Like all things, it comes down to the palate of the taster. I highly recommend both wines and encourage you to try them for yourself.
As always, Lisboa Espera Por Ti.