Tag Archives: douro

Sunday Read: What’s in (and out) in the world’s oldest wine region

Jancis Robinson wrote a love letter to the Douro valley a few days ago, and I can only agree and simply have to repost it.

She opens with the line that some landscapes just get under your skin, and she uses an African safari. Now, I have done safaris in Southern and Eastern Africa, and I couldn’t agree more: the sweeping savannas, the incredibly wide sky, and naturally seeing those animals of childhood dreams in real life…I could watch elephants for days and weeks without getting tired.

Then there are other landscapes that catch me, like the rising mountains of Alaska, straight from the sea, snow capped. It’s insanely breath-taking in its majesty. And then there is the Mosel valley, with its steep vineyards and the rather unimpressive little river snaking through. And then there is the Douro valley in Northern Portugal which I have been fortunate to visit once, and hope to repeat that sometime this year. The vineyards in these ultra steep are terraced, rugged, not like the picturesque Mosel. Here, it is more brute force, and sun burnt land…stunning.

Not to mention the people and the wines, not just Port. Some of my favorite, affordable wines in the world come from this area. Jancis takes us on a tour d’horizon through recent Port developments and regular wines. We all could use a little more Portugal, a little more Douro in our lives.

Happy Sunday!

Jancis Robinson: What’s in (and out) in the world’s oldest wine region

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A couple of “Goes down well” wines

I once had a South African wine, I cannot remember which one, several years ago that I enjoyed quite a bit for its ease of drinking. It was smooth and uncomplicated, just a good quaffable wine. The back label stated as a summary of the usual wine descriptors: “Goes down well!” I absolutely LOVED that term and have adopted it since for fun, easy drinking wines.

I have decided to use that “label” for a couple of wines that we have been drinking over the last weeks and for which I did not take any notes because they were basic wines accompanying food or just had while watching TV. I still thought some of you might be interested in these rather affordable, decent wines which is why I am sharing them here. (Ignore my bad photos, I still have not come up with a way to replace Instagram…)

2008 Quinta da Alorna Vinho Tinto

2008 Quinta da Alorna Vinho Tinto

First up is the 2008 Quinta da Alorna Vinho Tinto, a Portuguese red blend comprised of the grapes Tinta Roriz, Castelao, Syrah and Alicante Boschet (YAY, two more grapes to tick off the Wine Century Club application).The wine is from the Tejo region in Portugal and has an agreeable 13.5% ABV. It was a bit heavy at first, but then opened up to a nicely herbal and soothing red, full bodied and well integrated tannins. Not much primary fruit going on, but just what I’d expect from a Portuguese red. Great for a winter evening. I have yet to be really let down by a Portuguese red. Bought for $11.

2010 Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve

2010 Famille Perrin Cotes du Rhone Reserve

Next up the 2010 Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhône Réserve, a French red blend from the well renown Perrin & Fils winery. A blend crafted from wines all over the region, it has 13.5% ABV and garnered some praise in the wine world for whatever that is worth. According to The Wine Advocate the wine is made with Grenache and Syrah grapes from Perrin estates and contracted wineries. I really enjoyed this wine. It was light and simple without being dull, very fruit forward and accompanied our mushroom ragout with mashed potatoes and goat cheese very well. I can see this work on its own as well. It reminded Nina of summer, what a great compliment for a wine. Bought for $10.

2010 Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone

2010 Louis Bernard Cotes du Rhone

The best value by far was the 2010 Louis Bernard Côtes du Rhône, another French red blend from Southern France. Another big producer, another goes down well wine. It is made with Grenache and Syrah grapes, with Syrah being the dominant grape in the mix. The wine also has 13.5% ABV (if you see a pattern there, you are right: I prefer lower alcohol reds). The wine is very fruit forward, great red berries and currant. On the palate it is nicely smooth, has low tannins and is super user friendly. It might be a bit too sweet, but that really is just a bit for me. Bought for $ 6 (there is currently a manufacturer mail in rebate possible that brings it down to $4 per bottle!).

I hope you find this helpful. Nothing impressive, but rock solid, good everyday wines.

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Trader Joe’s Espiral Vinho Verde – my idea of summer wine

Man, I have made my find of the summer! With heat like we have had those last weeks, there is nothing like a well chilled down white wine. Even better if the people who make it know what heat means. And in vinho verde country, that is Northern Portugal, they sure do…I am even willing to forgo my riesling snobbishness for this.

I first came across vinho verde (literally green wine) through my good friend Nair, who comes from the beautiful town of Porto, and whose father happens to own a winery along the Douro river. Whenever he came to visit, he would bring bottles over bottles of vinho verde and his house red. All bottles unlabeled. He also brought gallons of olive oil that they produce, so Nair also distributed that among us, because she is a great friend! (And we threatened her if she did not give us some…)

Vinho verde is to be drunk young, and it usually is still a bit fizzy. It is dry, but remains fruity, usually lower in alcohol content which makes it easy to enjoy in the heat. Those memories made us pick a bottle from Trader Joe’s display two weeks ago. At $4.49 there is not much one can do wrong we thought. And nothing wrong with it there was!

We have made several runs to TJ’s in the last weeks to stock up because we are constantly running out of it. I think it is just what summer should taste like: In the glass you get a light colored, depending on the bottle more or less fizzy wine. The nose is full of fresh apple and pear and some fresh grass. When you try it, it is a dry wine, but not too dry. The fruitiness is amazing, but the acidity gives you that refreshing race over your tongue. At 9% ABV there is also nothing to worry about.

Simply put: It is delicious. And at that price, it is a steal! So, better pick some up while the heat lasts, and TJ’s supplies do as well…I for one am sure that I will make a couple more runs in the not too distant future….

If you’re not in Trader Joe’s country, go and pick up some other vinho verde. Chances are that it won’t be too expensive, fruity and fresh, and just be the right thing on a hot summer’s day! Just make sure you drink it well, well chilled.

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