With the decline of the dollar against the Euro, it's becoming more difficult to find bargain wines from across the Atlantic. One of the solutions to this problem is to try lesser known wines from less popular growing areas.
One of these less popular areas is Portugal. Very highly regarded for the sweet, fortified wines of Port, the country's dry wines are not popular purchases in most parts of the United States.
You are not likely to see many bottles labeled with international grape varieties (such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), but rather indigenous grapes that do well in the specific climates in Portugal.
Overall, tasters were pleasantly surprised by these wines, finding good complexity, and except for a couple, a lack of funky/dirty wine flavors. Also unusual was the perception that many of the aromas of these wines did not match the flavors.
Thanks to Katie, Addy, and Sally for being excellent guest tasters.
Sally's outstanding, nuanced homemade limoncello was a big hit.
First Place: Quinta do Crasto Reserva Old Vines 2003 (Douro). Starting off with vegetal aromas, along with gorgonzola cheese, meat, bacon, body odor, barbecue chicken, and honey-mustard pretzels. Balanced and pleasurable, having caramel, flowers, and blueberry flavors. Ali described "artificial mint flavors". Kristin's and Ali's favorite of the tasting, and everyone gave this at least a few points. Received 24 points. David's bottle. About $30.
Second Place (tie): Callabriga 2003 (Douro). Tasters noted roasted espresso beans, buttered popcorn, cream, wet earth, vegetables, pickled beets, plastic, lavender, and roasted marshmallow scents. Ali sensed "motor oil", and Sally said it "smels like when you walk into a house, and there's something baking". Smooth in texture, creamy, with no sharp edges. Sally's favorite. Received 20 points. Sally's bottle. About $15.
Second Place (tie): Esporao Reserva 2001 (Alentejo). Looking thicker than many of the others, and having scents of wild berries, prunes, and ground spices. Katie was reminded of "museums", while Ali found "old cigar box". Thicker in texture, with vanilla, licorice, cherry, and cough syrup flavors. Shows richness. Sally described it as "bold". Katie and David's favorite. Received 20 points. Addy's bottle. About $16.
Third Place: Quinta do Carmo Dom Martinho 2002 (Alentejano). Earthy, with aromas like cola, dark cherries, and flowers. Addy noted that it "smells like dirt, but nice dirt". Ali described it as "autumnal", while Addy noted "a Hawaiian flower lei". A little hot, with notes of grapefruit. Tart finish, with green bell peppers and apples. Addy's favorite. Received 8 points. Katie's bottle. About $13.
Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita 2004 (Terras do Sado). Tasters found aromas of tomato skin, daffodils, candied apples, and jasmine tea. Addy noted "jock strap". Salty, sour and thin. David hated it, calling it "offensive", and Addy said that "it leaves you with a bad aftertaste". No points. Ali's bottle. About $10.
Quinta do Quatro Ventos 2005 (Douro). Smelling of tomatoes, peppermint, eucalyptus, medicine, and metal. Sally was reminded of "aromatherapy". Ali said that it "tasted dead", and David described it as "flat". Very tart finish, with flavors of iodine and balsamic vinegar. No points. Kristin's bottle. About $20.