I must confess, I hadn’t ever tried / a wine from Portugal unfortified 01/04/11
Portugal is one of those countries that nobody’s quite sure exists. Some say that it’s in Spain, or next to Spain; others that it fled to Brazil in a strategic bid to buy time; and still others that it sank beneath the sea many thousands of years ago, never again to be uncovered. But setting that particular ontological question aside, there is definitely such a thing as Portugese wine, and today I’m going to be talking about that.
When I mention “a wine…unfortified” in my title, I may sound like a pretentious 16th century jackoff, but really I just mean a wine exactly like all the others I’ve reviewed: one that nobody’s poured extra booze into. Fortified wines, a category including port, sherry and some lesser-known concoctions, are wines to which additional liquor has been added at some point (during fermentation for port, after for sherry). Portugal is famous for its port, in much the same way that sherry hails from the Queen’s Republic of Sherryland.
But you know me: I always have to be different. So I picked myself up the nicest, cheapest bottle of non-port from Portugal that I could find: the 2008 Herdade do Peso Vinha do Monte, from Sogrape Vinhos ($9). This is a blend of five red grapes: Alfrocheiro Preto, Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Syrah, and Trincadeira. Syrah (also known as Shiraz) is widely grown in France, Australia, the US, Chile and elsewhere. Aragonez (also known as Tempranillo) is a prominent Spanish varietal. The other three are regional Portugese specialties.
In the glass the wine poured dark red with just a hint of purple, and gave off aromas of chocolate, red plum, a hint of raspberry, and some woody spice that one writeup identifies as menthol (oak influence combined with excess alcohol would be my guess). Light- to medium- bodied and fruity on the palate with flavors of strawberry and plum, the wine had a dry finish with notes of licorice, and relatively heavy alcohol that seemed – quite strangely – to grow more and more pronounced as I drank.
I award the 2008 Herdade do Peso Vinha do Monte thumbs up: it gets points for having some well-defined aromas, but it needs some work in the balance department.