This was an exercise in trust for me; I’ve never been a fan of Portuguese table wines, at least nothing other than Vinho Verde, which I like very much. I resolved to take this opportunity to learn a little more about a region I had pretty much written off as producing fruitless bottles of scrape-your-teeth tannic monsters. Many thanks to Catavino‘s Ryan and Gabriella; their Portuguese Table Wine Cheat Sheet was great help to me!
I ended up choosing two wines, both containing the grape Aragones, but each from a different region. Aragones is another name for Tempranillo, star of the Rioja region in Spain. Another Portuguese name for Tempranillo is Tinto Roriz.
Messias Vinho Regional Terras do Sado 2005, $6
Region: Setubal, Portugal
Varietals: 50% Aragones, 50% Castelao Frances
Winery: Caves Messias
Maroon-brick red in color. Pine needles, walnut, black currant/mulberry on the nose. Very menthol at the outset, less once it opens up. Dusty-earthy palate, bit of a sour prune flavor, medium-to-full tannins. Any hint of fruit disappears pretty quickly, leaving a ghost of a cherry pit rolling around in the dust on your tongue. Better with some kalamata olives I had in the fridge. I wouldn’t spend six bucks on this again.
Setubal is a Portuguese region more known for its funny little fortified Muscat wine, named for the region. Messias just started moving into Setubal recently; most of their vineyard land is in Bairrada and Douro. The winery was founded in 1926, and is still family owned. They export about 75% of their wines.
Marques de Borba Alentejo 2005, $12
Region: Alentejo, Portugal
Varietals: Aragones, Trincadeira “and others”
Winery: J. Portugal Ramos
Deep, dark ruby in color. I like this nose better: still dusty, with some heat (this is 14% alcohol) but with some violets, sweet cherry, and rosemary. Wow, though, on the palate this is still a punch in the face — tart cherry, cedar, tar, red currant, and a ninja attack of black tannins. Pleasently long, placid finish; the cherries stick around for the whole show. Interesting – I like this. Also nice with the olives. This wine has a lot of densely packed tastiness for the price. Can’t get enough of that nose!
The Trincadeira should be adding the herbal, floral note to the Marques de Borba, I think. Whatever Ramos did here with the blending, I must say I like it. The Messias should have had its Aragones (Tempranillo) calmed and smoothed by the Castelao Frances, and maybe that why the palate seems so non-existant.
I confess I was expecting a milder, fruitier experience from the Alentejo, but given that it rained so little in 2005, I guess that’s what you get: concentrated, alcoholic wines with more structure than usual. I’m attributing the pruney cast of the Messias to vintage, too.
J. Portugal Ramos seems to be a bit of a super-star in Alentejo, or even Portugal at large. (And isn’t he a handsome devil?) He’s done lots of consulting in Portugal, and has the largest winery in Alentejo. He takes real care with his winemaking; even the grapes for the Marques de Borba, which is his lowest-priced offering, are hand-picked and destemmed before crush.
Thank you, Wine Blogging Wednesday, for once again pushing me out of my safe little pasture of Wines I Know I’ll Like!