Monday, 12 March 2012

Discover Portugal - Wine tasting with Simon Woods at the West London Wine School

I don't really know much about Portuguese wine.  I know we drank a lot of it on a holiday in Lisbon once and I can usually pick out a decent bottle of port from a wine shop, but Portuguese has never been my go-to choice when buying wine in the UK (although this might be partly due to there not being that many options), so when I saw this tasting advertised I couldn't resist.  The West London Wine School upon arrival is quite frankly weird.  It's located in the Big Yellow Storage Company in Fulham, the porter lets you in, and you go down in the lift to the basement, but upon stepping out of the lift you are greeted by a tasting room (picture taken from their website);

You soon forget the strangeness of the location, and we were greeted with a warm welcome from head tutor Jimmy Smith, who - once we were all settled - introduced our tutor for the evening Simon Woods.  I wasn't familiar with Simon before this event, but it turns out he's well known in the wine world having written a number of books on the subject and coordinated the International Wine Challenge in the past. He was voted International Online Wine Columnist of the Year 2010 for his blog Drinking Outside the Box. As a presenter he's very likeable, animated and inspiring, and should I see any more tastings hosted by Simon in the future I'll definitely be signing up. I enjoyed the impromptu art class at the start of the evening, which involved us all producing maps of portugal by performing a series of tears on an A4 piece of paper - making up for the fact that someone had obviously forgotten to print out some copies. 

We tasted 9 Portuguese wines, and I'm not going to bore you with full tasting notes, but here are a few comments;
  • Quinta de la Rosa 'Po Poeira' Blanco, Douro, 2008; oaky (but not too much), oily, Riesling-like flavour, nutty/toasty, a fresh aftertaste.
  • Casa de Mouraz, Dao, Branco, 2008 (from an area where red wines usually dominate); despite its age really fresh tasting, light, grassy and acidic.
  • Periquita Reserva, VR (Vinho Regional), Peninsula de Setubal, 2008; strong hints of vanilla on the nose and the palate, less fruit on the palate than the scent would have you believe, well-rounded, easy-drinking and mellow. Sam didn't enjoy this one as much as I did - I thought it went really well with the strong manchego which was served with it.
  • Quinta da Falorca T-Nac, Dao, Tinto, 2007; unoaked, slow burn on the aftertaste - a food wine, acidic, went very well with the salami, and would stand up to fatty meats well.
  • Alvaro Castro, Dao, Tinto, 2007; deep, rich and mildly oaky, vanilla hints and less acidic than the previous wine, with a more well-rounded flavour.
  • Quinta do Coa, Douro, Tinto, 2007; mild on the nose but made up for this in taste, this had a port-like flavour to it, and was fantastic with the cheese.
  • Passadouro, Douro, Reserva, 2007; warming, fruity, spicy and tannic, not as full a flavour as expected, with slight acidity.
  • Azamour Petit Verdot, VR, Alentejano, 2005; we both voted this one our favourite of the evening - a deep rich fruit flavour, peppery and intense.
  • Bacalhoa, Moscatel de Setubal, Colheita, 2004; on the nose you just get sugar and alcohol, but on tasting there are rich deep caramel notes, tannic but mellow and bizarrely refreshing - apparently chocolate friendly, which we'll have to try out as we've had a 2002 bottle of this languishing on our wine rack since a trip to Lisbon 4 or 5 years ago!
Overall it was a really good selection. At first glance of the list I was a little disappointed at the absence of a white Vinho Verde - one of my wines of choice; always light, fruity and refreshing, with a slight sparkle on the tongue, and there was also the notable absence of a Port.  But it was actually great to try some wines which I would have been unlikely to have had a chance to taste otherwise, a lot of which are only available to purchase via online wine importers. I was also absolutely thrilled to see a Petit Verdot on the list, and which turned out to be my favourite of the night.

Simon recommended Vini Portugal for finding stockists of Portuguese wine in the UK - it's a shame UK supermarkets don't seem to stock that much of it.  Overall a great couple of hours slurping, and it was great to try something new.  I'm sure I'll be back for future events.