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Delhi Wine Club
Portuguese Wines for Patient Palates

Posted: Monday, 06 May 2013 11:05

Portuguese Wines for Patient Palates

May 06: The spate of tastings by the foreign wine groups continues with the Sicilian, Argentine, Spanish and New Zealand groups followed by a convivial tasting organised by the Portuguese Ambassador H.E. Jorge Oliveira at his new residence in South West Delhi, with the CEO of an export company presenting 9 wines from producers in Vinho Verde, Alentejo ,the famous Douro Valley and a Port wine, writes Subhash Arora

Click For Large ViewJosé Carlos (pronounced as yo-zay Carl-oosh in Portuguese) Costa, CEO of Joopy WWB and his colleague Alex Cardoso, the Commercial Director were in Delhi to showcase 9 wines from 5 wineries from Vinho Verde, Alentejo and reds from Douro with a Port to end the evening. I had met Carlos in Lisbon last August and impressed by his enthusiasm for India and the burning desire to export wines from their portfolio, I had suggested to him to get in touch with Ambassador Jorge Oliveira who is not only very fond of wines but is passionate about promoting Portuguese wines in India.

Never to say no to any producer desirous of exporting Portuguese wines to India, Ambassador Oliveira and his wife Maria had put in lots of efforts to invite the guests and open his house and heart to around 50 guests. An earlier scheduled tasting did not materialize due to some customs clearance issues. This tasting last Friday was also after a postponement of 3 days due to unavoidable circumstances. It turned out to be a boon since the weather turned cooler and the lawn of his farmhouse dotted with infinite small blue bulbs with soft light, turned out to be a perfect setting for a romantic and convivial wine tasting evening.

Carlos was patient and passionate communicator about his wines-3 whites and 5 reds, followed by a Port wine. He talked about the basics of storage to service temperatures, the climate of different regions and the beauty of Douro as only an appassionato can. An unabashedly supporter and connoisseur of Portuguese wines, he conceded that wines from Portugal were not simple and direct. They needed to connect with the drinker after a few sips to show off their complex character.

His point was quiet valid. Portuguese wines are unique, partly as they use totally indigenous grapes. The first white wine Regueiro was relatively simple, fruity and crisp wine from Quinta do Regueiro in Vinho Verde, one of the exotic regions of Portugal, known for their delicious, juicy white wines. The complexity of these wines depends on the quality and percentage of the Alvarinho (known as Albariño across the border in Spain) grape which constitutes 80% in this blend-the balance being yet another indigenous variety, Trajadura. Although the price could be an issue- and Alex took pains to explain that Alvarinho was an expensive grape and many producers used less quantity in the blend to reduce cost of production and yet keep it a DOC wine according to the rules, but the quality would suffer. I tend to agree with him as a consumer.

This wine was followed by two whites from Alentejo- well made wines that would require Indian palate to adjust to the flavours for a while. The second white from Pontval (pronounced Pontual) white wine was a bit more complex, but less acidic and had an oily texture-great for the grilled chicken snack being served along with chicken chaat on a coin sized paratha during the evening.

Desigval Tinto was a simple red wine made in stainless steel tank using Alicante-Bouschet (the only red grape that has red flesh inside, Carlos explained), Aragonês, Cabernet Sauvignon,Trincadeira in the blend was quite a juicy wine with soft tannins. It would still require a bit of evolution for the palates to adjust.

The same was true for the other reds in the evening- the Douro red Reserva Donzel being the best of all the reds (Vinho Verde got my stamp of approval as practically speaking, the best white wine). Carlos also took a lot of pain explaining about different kinds of Ports. Unfortunately, the Indians understand little about Port besides the ghastly Goan Port which is nevertheless the favourit tipple for a large number in this country. It is doubtful that the real Port would find connoisseurs in large numbers for the next decade at least.

The snacks served during the tasting evening were delicious. Crafted from the Menu of Chutney, the Indian Restaurant at the Metropolitan Hotel, the dishes had quite a fusion in their style of preparation. I hate to admit but I helped myself to generous portions of ‘dal gol gappas’ before and during the tasting. Thanks to the bread basket and the chicken chaat on paratha, cleaning the palate was not a problem. What was unfortunately true was that wines were generally warm, especially the reds. Like a person running temperature, they lost an opportunity to show off their best.

Click For Large ViewOne thing that foxed me during the evening was the lack of importers and sommeliers and in general, the hospitality industry guests. Was it due to the change of date or maybe it was meant to be more of a consumer tasting? But without the adequate presence of the two categories, it would be difficult for the wines to move ahead. But one needs rest assured that with the incumbent Ambassador, there will be no effort spared to help the wine producers in Portugal find a share of the small pie that the imported wines enjoy today.

For details of wines, visit the website or write to their Commercial Director, Alexandre Cardoso

Subhash Arora


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