Category: Wine Tasting Notes

Portugal’s Ageworthy White Wines and the Cinderella Myth

When most folks think of Portuguese white wine, they think of Vinho Verde, and involuntarily dredge up a tired set of stereotypes:

“This wine is only good up to a year after release. This wine is fizzy and sweet. This wine isn’t serious — it’s just cheap and easy.”

This does a disservice to a country whose wines will dazzle so many serious wine drinkers. Shortest internet quiz ever:

Are you always adding slices of lemon to your drinking water?

If so, you’re not just doing something healthy, you’re predisposed to amazing, undervalued Portuguese white wines. You crave acid and citrus — the very heart and soul of Portuguese whites grown in granite soils.

Two Portuguese regions are dominated by granite: Vinho Verde and the Dão, and each produce stunning whites. And yes, even Vinho Verde makes terroir-driven wines that can age. Vinho Verde is the land of acid surprises, and below are only a few examples of what you can buy without flying to Lisbon for fairly absurd prices. (Click to Read more)

Lisbon’s Magical Blend of Youthfulness and Decay

Portugal’s wines must be the most undervalued in the world. While most of us can’t afford to buy aged wine in its prime, in Portugal, you can. You don’t need a cellar and 10 years’ patience; you just need a cheap flight to Lisbon, some AirBnB research, and an empty suitcase with enough wool socks for your bottles.

While every other wine region is struggling to fool folks into believing their wines are blessed with this generation’s buzzwords — freshness, acidity, unique indigenous grapes, and enough tannins to improve with age — Portugal actually delivers. It’s an irrefutable truth whose meaning sets in via your gums once you’ve tasted through your first dozen Portuguese wines. The wines call for food: they are crafted for them.

Even if the Portuguese have anointed a precious handful of crown jewels priced 200-900€ from the Douro — Barca Velha; Pera Manca; Quinta do Crasto; and of course aged ports — the insane value lies outside of these fleeting icons of national pride. (Click to Read more)

Didier Barral: The Gentle Voice of the Earth

Didier Barral, winemaker and steward of the ecosystem in Faugères.
Didier Barral, winemaker, winegrower, and valiant defender of the ecosystem in the town of Lentheric, in Faugères (Languedoc, France).

Listening to Didier Barral — the most careful and loving steward of nature — speak from among his vines in Lentheric is a religious experience.

But even if it feels religious, and even if Didier is a noted advocate of organic, Fukuoka-influenced hands-off farming, nothing about Didier’s discourse feels preachy. There are no exhortations; no imperatives. His persuasiveness flows from the stunning beauty of his 35 hectares of vines, and from the freshness and purity of his wines. He speaks for himself, and tells his story: one of observation, of trial and error in his vineyards.

At some point in your experience of wine, you grow interested in terroir. Rocks; slopes; drainage; expositions.  Later, like it or not, you become interested in farming. Careful farming enables great wines, and is often the most reliable predictor of a wine’s ability to transmit terroir. 1

Didier is quick to contrast his neighbors’ vines with his own as a starting point to understanding his wines. What follows is my translation from French, with interjected bits of Didier’s English interwoven.

Didier: “Look at the difference in the grass between the neighbor’s vines and my vines. The key to soils is vegetative diversity. And what’s most important (Click to Read more)

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  1. This is not to say all organically-farmed vines go on to make great wines; some taste like a horse’s ass. Skillful, responsible farming simply enables terroir-driven wines to rise from a cellar. []