We discovered some most interesting wines at the Mondrian Hotel recently. It was a seminar on the wines of the Alentejo region of Portugal conducted by Evan Goldstein of Full Circle Wine Solutions .
Our instructor began with a slide presentation that pointed out the 4000 year wine history of the region beginning with an early people named Tarlessians, followed by Phoenicians and then the centuries of Roman influence. The Moors were then in the country when wine making lagged but had recovered in the 16th and 17 centuries.
There are nine regions of vineyards and winemaking in Portugal which is actually the size of the State of Maine. Despite this relatively small land mass Portugal ranks ninth in the world in vineyard acreage and fourth in Europe.
This seminar emphasized the wines of Alentejo and our tasting included eleven wines, one sparkling rose, two white wines and nine red wines. Evan explained how the vineyards and wines of Alentejo still use the local varietals in their wines and often traditional procedures in the making of the wines. While Portugal has been known for centuries for its Port wines actually only 34 per cent of the wine made each year is Port with the still table wines dominating production.
We were very interested in learning more about the local grape varietals which for the white wines included Arinto, Anteo Vaz and Roupeiro Most of the red wines we tasted were made from one or more of the local varietals. These included Manterido, Trincadeira, Aragonez, and Tuta Miuda. Also included in most of the blends we tasted included well known varietals like Petit Verdot and Alicente Bourschet. We noted that every wine we tasted was between 14 and 14.5 per cent alcohol. P>We gave high marks to a white wine made by Luis Duarte called Rubrica Branco. It included two local grapes, Verdelho and Antao Vaz as well as Vognier. Luis Duarte has twice been name winemaker of the year.
Evan pointed out that in Alentejo the winemakers still use some local winemaking processes. As an example all the wines are fermented in large hand made clay pots. Each of these pots has individual characteristics that do effect the fermenting grapes according to the winemakers, adding to distinct flavors in the finished product.
One of the wines which received the most points on our score card was Procura Tinto made by Susana Esteban who was recently named on of the country's winemaker of the year. It was a blend of two of the local grapes, Trincadeira and Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet. It was from the subzone of Portalegre. Another wine we particularly liked was a Tinto by Granja Amaraleja from that subzone. It was 100 per cent Moreto, another local varietal.
For a wine to qualify as DOC/P Alentejo it must include 75 per cent of local varietals. The red wines we tasted ranged in vintage from 2011 to 2015 and had much time in both oak barrels and bottle.
Besides its wines Alentejo has become a major tourist attraction, especially by other Europeans, and is considered the 'new Tuscany' as the number one wine region to visit.
A selection of Portugal meats and cheeses were served and accompanied the tasting of the wines.
The two hour seminar proved to be an outstanding learning experience about the table wines of Portugal.
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