We've had organized comparisons of Portuguese red wines twice before (the last version in March 2015), but this time we chose to focus on a single appellation, that of the Douro.
Results were relatively tightly clustered, with few points separating our most enjoyed wines. At the top of the podium was an outstanding value at only $14, followed by a moderately priced bottle from Prats & Symington at $27. Two of the bottles received no points, not because they were bad wines, but because they appeared unevolved and primary at this stage.
Matt summed up by saying that these were not what he expected, and that he thought they would be more like Spanish wines. He also noted that they were more sophisticated than he thought they'd be. Andy enjoyed the diversity of these bottles, and made him more curious about Portugal. Ali was the least impressed, finding a rubber tire note throughout, but was "not super off-putting."
Chelsea was on hand for numbering the bags, as well as the reveal.
Thanks to Ali for the photography (that's a first).
First Place: Alma Grande Reserva 2017 (Douro). Made from 34% Touriga Nacional, 33% Touriga Franca, and 33% Tinta Roriz, this offered a rather manly, complex nose of smoldering campfire, metal shavings, barbecued meat, body musk, lint trap, and a note of fruit under the surface. Diana found "leaf litter" scents. Fruit on the attack, then turning savory, like licorice, coffee, inner tube, barbecue smoke, cola, and beef blood. Dark and tannic, with a strong mid-palate that grabs onto your mouth, then offering a salty quality. Ali noted some bubble gum on the finish, suggesting "Bazooka Joe." Andy, Kristin, and Diana's favorite of the night, for a total of 29 points. Ali's bottle. About $14.
Second Place: Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia 2019 (Douro). Tasters found scents of petroleum, tar, brown sugar, molasses, bicycle tube, asphalt, ash tray, and li hing mui. Andy thought that it "smells like a drag race." In the mouth there were notes of licorice, coffee, dark fruit, charcoal, and wood, the molasses and bitter chocolate on the finish. Mysterious, brooding, and tannic. David's favorite. 20 points. Andy's bottle. About $27.
Third Place: Vale D. Maria Rufo 2018 (Douro). Notions of slightly burnt chocolate chip cookies on the nose, plus cranberries, Christmas tree, mushrooms, pine resin, cinnamon, and wet leaves. Autumnal, with a slight hint of decay. Funky, but not in a bad way. Richer in the mouth, with nutmeg on the attack, then flavors of milk chocolate, blackberries, dark cherries, cocoa powder, marmalade, and squid ink. Tannic, with a hint of spice and toasted oak on the finish. Harmonious, well-balanced, and integrated. Matt's favorite. 18 points. Diana's bottle. About $13.
Gateway (Douro). Oddly, the vintage was not indicated on either the front or back label of this wine. Showed umami-rich scents of garden compost, cheese rind, dirt, anise, and dried fig. Diana found "shellfish in a salt marsh." The palate featured flavors of cherry cola, coffee berry, and li hing mui. Relatively soft. Andy noted that this was "a fun first sip", but tasters felt that it trailed off toward the finish. Ali's favorite wine. 17 points. Matt's bottle. About $13.
Xisto Ilimitado 2020 (Douro). Vibrant, electric in color, looking very youthful. David noted that this "smells purple", with tasters finding a perfumed nose of plums, Jolly Rancher, baby powder, thyme, street dust, dried leaves, and beach roses. Floral, but also saline, and doesn't smell very evolved or integrated. Matt found a "low note of fruit that lands with a thud." Youthful and grapey in the mouth, like flavors of golden raisin, orange peel, wild cherries, twigs, and pomelo. Lots of acidity and tannin. Grabs on and doesn't let go, this was a little abrasive, and a little metallic. Rather bland on the finish. No points. Kristin's bottle. About $27.
D. Graša Reserva 2019 (Douro). Made from Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, and Sousão. Aromas reminiscent of public swimming pool (and a little bit of pee), artificial flavoring, mint, ammonia, Smarties candies, lollipops, and a little bit of gym locker. Youthful and grapey. Rather one-dimensional. That artificial note continues on the palate, plus caramel, black tea, licorice, and cranberry juice. Diana was reminded of "Goddard Park in the 90's." Not bad, but kind of lacking. Kristin found that she was "struggling to talk about it." No points. David's bottle. About $20.