The Oenophiliac

Bringing you stories from the world of wine and beer.

Harpers – Mike Matthews on Stevens Garnier’s Portuguese portfolio

Stevens Garnier logoPortuguese wines are good, fact! I’m not entirely sure why I tend to ignore them at trade events.

My eyes were first opened up to the greater possibilities of Portugal‘s wines some years back when I first attended their annual wine show at Lord’s. I was a mere wine store manager at the time, looking to expand my palate’s experience of Portuguese grapes as the company I was working for at the time had, shall we say, a poor representation from Portugal.

Last year an old colleague got in contact with me. He was looking at moving back to the UK from Portugal as the nation’s economy was in a dire state, and still is. He wanted to get back into the UK wine trade, potentially set up his own business offering Portuguese wines and cuisines via his contacts from back home. First he needed a place to stay, so I offered him a room.

As he settled into his new digs he kept banging on at me about Portuguese wines. One afternoon he took it upon himself to send me some info regarding suppliers, wine data etc, and when I say some I mean within 20 minutes my inbox was full. I never asked for any of this but I’m happy to take a look. Now I’m one of these chaps who will take an interest, if I find something interesting. If you start pushing it though I’ll start backing off to the point where I will begin to lose total interest, and I lost interest, that was until a couple of weeks ago when I attended the portfolio tasting of UK supplier, Stevens Garnier.

Over 120 wines from the Stevens Garnier range were made available for tasting including some fine Ports, easy-drinking

Rioja's Bodegas LAN

Rioja’s Bodegas LAN

Riojas from Bodegas LAN, fresh Touraine wines by Domaine Joёl Delauney, some intriguing fare coming across from Brazil’s Vinicola Aurora – Bento Gonçalves, Chile’s Los Boldos, home to one of my favourite Sauvignons from a couple of years ago and, but more importantly, a range of cool Portuguese wines to enlighten the most humblest of palates from right across the peninsula’s board.

The depth and quality of a tasting can usually be established within the first 10 to 15 minutes for me. If I’m not “feeling it” in that time frame, I know I’m going to get bored and will try and head for the door in under two hours, hit me with some top tipples and my attention span will stretch. That is what I found with these Portuguese wines.

Quinta dos Carvalhais – Dão got me off to a good start with their Duque de Viseu Branco and Tinto wines. Retailing for around £8.99 these wines delivered good value for money and quality. The tinto in particularly showed an eclectic balance of mixed berry fruit aromas; red, black, forest, you name it and it was there. The palate focused more on black fruit flavours with a touch of spice and a clean tidy finish. My highlight came through their 2011 Jaen. A light concentration of sweet jammy red fruit on the nose with nice hit of red fruit and spice on the mouth, very easy and elegant – rrp £19.99 and worth every penny!

Alentejo's - Vinha do Monte BrancoHerdade do Peso – Alentejo had me staring longingly out of the window as the sun, that’s right the mystical sun, beat down on the RIBA ofiices. If there was ever a wine ideally suited for the summer season then it was Herdade’s 2011 Vinha do Monte Branco. Coming in with a very reasonable rrp of £8.99 the nose was full of ripe summer goodness, soft pears and lychees while the palate was all about the citrus fruit topped off with a touch of white pepper. Salads, pasta and white meat dishes will never be the same again!

The Douro wasn’t to be ignored with Casa Ferreirinha’s 2011 Papa Figos – rrp £10.99. Get your nose in and sniff, then sniff some more! Hopefully you will find some green, earthy aromas like peas and damp vegetation followed by soft black fruit, cherries and pepper. The fruit dominates the palate culminating in a wine with lovely fresh acidity. Very good!

As all this was going on, effervescent wine writer and IWC co-founder Charles Metcalfe was hosting a masterclass aptly

Charles Metcalfe

Charles Metcalfe

titled Icons of Iberia. The small group of participants were allowed the luxury of tasting wines that have been recognised by the industry as iconic Iberian wines from within their borders, just as the title suggests!

Ten wines, a mixed flight of still and fortified, were generously selected for our amusement from both Spain and Portugal, and where absolutely no expense was spared! The first two wines, Legado 2009 and Casa Ferreirinha Barca Velha 2009 would retail at around £270 and £275 respectively, while the 1920 Porto Ferreira Vintage Port was priceless, looked like mud but tasted great, point of fact here, this baby still had time on its side too, fair to say we were off to a good start! Metcalfe was on hand to share his expansive enthusiastic expertise on all things Iberian, giving a brief history of the founding of Stevens Garnier parent company, Portugal’s Sogrape, to discussing in depth all 10 wines tasted. A highly entertaining session!

Sogrape logo

All in all the tasting was very enjoyable, proof was there to be seen by all as I sipped my way around for longer than my two-hour boredom benchmark. But a lesson to be learnt too! When over enthusiastic people try and push you in a direction to which you are not accustomed to, sometimes, instead of standing firm, it’s best to go with the flow. Portuguese wines aren’t good actually, they are great, fact!

Story by me!

Featured in Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review Online Industry Blog

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2 comments on “Harpers – Mike Matthews on Stevens Garnier’s Portuguese portfolio

  1. You’ve inspired me to pull out the Dao and Douro’s I have been ignoring for too long now in my cellar!
    Thank you.
    Oh! I also have a red blend of indigenous grapes from the Setubal peninsula.
    Can’t wait!


    • Magics Wine Guide and Reviews for Newbies.
      May 17, 2013

      Good man!

      Alentejo wines worth a peak too if you get the chance.

      Next blog piece will be from a Canadian tasting I was at yesterday. Let’s just say…interesting!


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