Portugal can be divided into two parts by drawing a line horizontally across the country about one-third of the way down from the top. The top third is where most of the twenty six premier DOC vineyards are and the bottom two-thirds is where a few of the DOC vineyards reside along with the rest of the Portuguese production. The top third is terroir-driven while the bottom two-thirds is economy driven. The top third is old world but with new talent and investment capital while the lower part is largely new world in style, again with talent and investment money. The top third is what you expect from Europe, the bottom two-thirds is surprising and exciting.
We have had two Portuguese tastings here in recent weeks with a total of nine wines tasted. I thought they were all exceptional. As I did my research for these paragraphs I learned that, with the exception of the Dao (April 21st blog), none of the wines we tasted was from a DOC vineyard! All were from the bottom part which I think may be Portugal's Languedoc, the non-pedigreed southern region of France where most of the country's wine production originates. I had errantly assumed that because the grapes were old and unfamiliar to me, they must be DOC wines. This again points up just how different Portugal is from California, as we said in the first installment of this series.
Last night we tasted the 2009 Quinta Do Crasta Douro Reserva, a big robust value at a fifty dollar retail. Douro is a DOC region of production in northeastern Portugal. Crasta sold well here last night so we will re-order it for next Thursday along with a couple of other Douros in the $20-30 range. We will also write about Douro here to coincide with the arrival of the new wines.
Next Friday evening Henry Leung, long time NYC restauranteur and "the man who solved the Chinese puzzle" in the Wine Spectator magazine, will taste out several wines from the Hemispheres portfolio. Please join us for Henry's always educational presentation.