January 27, 2020

A special bottle, secured from our friends at Adegas Beira Mar in Azenhas do Mar, before we travelled back to the U.S. last summer. The 1955 Colares Chitas, a Ramisco aged for nearly 65 years–just like S would be on his January 2020 birthday. He shepherded the bottle carefully from Portugal to the UK, and then on to Virginia last fall. We’d tucked it into a wine cooler, hoping to keep it safe. Well–that put it into the line of fine, and it was opened accidentally by an unknowing family member on September 10–a little in advance of the expected birthday party.

What to do but enjoy it anyway? The wine’s color showed some age, a deep garnet with a rust-colored limn. Aromas of blackberry bramble washed with the ocean wafted up from the glass with a little coaxing, plus clove and loureiro (bay leaf). The wine’s delicate body still had some structure, like a light blackberry tincture with black-tea tannins. It held its even tenor through to the finish, which fell away gently, leaving salinity on the tongue. The bottle itself showed no sediment, and a bit later after opening, wet hay aromas completed the impressions. A work of art, of history, of our little DOC and the power of the Ramisco grape to take what the ocean winds bring and make something magical and resistant and graceful in its seventh decade.

Vintage & Producer: 1955 Adegas Beira Mar/Colares Chitas

From: DOC Colares

Style: Elegant, age-worthy red

Variety: Ramisco

Price: €65 at the adega

January 6, 2020

Aveleda still apparates to me like Avalon, perhaps–the place from which I likely had the most wine from Portugal outside of Porto before moving there, and the refreshing white that went so well with the healthy cuisine I favored while last living in Colorado. Now that I know so much more about the DOC Vinho Verde, I shied away from their wines while I was living in Portugal, but now that I’m stateside, they seem unavoidable. And why avoid them, when they are consistently reasonably priced and generally well made?

Having the 2016 blend of the 70% Loureiro and 30% Alvarinho made it interesting, but this typically young-drinking wine had lost none of its staying power even at this moderate age. Crisp citrus aromas and lots of lemon peel on the palate; little to no effervescence but still a bit of strident acidity. We just had it with a spicy and soy-laden pork stir fry, and it held its own once again.

Vintage & Producer: 2016 Quinta da Aveleda

From: DOC Vinho Verde

Style: Crisp, acidic white

Varieties: Loureiro and Alvarinho

Price: about $10 retail

January 13, 2020

When we moved to what is technically western Maryland–though it’s far from the reaches of Cumberland or even Hancock–we figured that we might find one wine merchant in our moderately sized town that would purvey us wines outside of the normal 4-distributor MD liquor system. Well, we stumbled upon one, just a few miles from Vivenda da Vista Paz, as it were. And he’d bought a cellar from someone and within it were a couple of gems that we scored. The first, the Xisto from Quinta do Crasto–the first vintage of the Roquette e Cazes project.

Not sure what we’d find, we were elated when, upon opening, the bottle continued to unfold, with moderate tannins and a rich mouthfeel. Blackberry liquor with tar aromas, then blackberry jam on the palate. It still held its own after the second day. We had it with a special birthday dinner of corned beef hash, rich potatoes and eggs–perhaps not the most traditional pairing, but a great one nevertheless.

Vintage & Producer: 2003 Quinta do Crasto

From: DOC Douro

Style: Rich, fruity, tannic red

Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca

Price: $45 in a MD wine store

January 20, 2020

We had the pleasure of getting to know Cortes de Cima from Alentejo as a producer during our time in Portugal–having sampled many of their well-made and well-priced–and easy to find in the supermercados–wines along the way. So, imagine our delight when the wine shop in our neighborhood had a bottle of their vinho tinto from 2005 as part of a cellar they’d purchased. The owner had no idea how to price the wine–he’d bought the cellar for other marquée names within it–so he took my word for it when I called it a $10-13 wine in the normal course of things. To have it with us over here was worth a bit more, as we found.

The VR Alentejano red blend is made from Aragonez and Syrah grapes, which balance each other beautifully. In this case, the age lent the wine a nice garnet color, with a moderate mouthfeel and lively tannins. Moreno cherries and a bit of leather played on the nose, with warm ginjinha liqueur and saddle leather on the palate. We enjoyed it with a spicy turkey and chorizo soup and rich cheese.

Vintage & Producer: 2005 Cortes de Cima

From: VR Alentejano

Style: Rich, fruity red

Varieties: Aragonez and Syrah

Price: $13 from the local wine shop

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