There was some tough weather and some brutal traffic out there, but 7 of us made it through to Portugalia in East Cambridge to dine on their delicious fare and drink some interesting and tasty Spanish (and Portuguese) wines in their back room recently. None of the wines were tasted blind and all were tasted with a range of Portuguese specialties.
Sparkling and white wines:
2009 Raventós i Blanc Cava de Nit. This is a pale pink color and smells of chalk, minerals, pink citrus and fresh herbs on a bright, clean and zesty frame. In the mouth, it has an absolutely popping clean quality to it, displaying tons of vibrant energy and an undeniable palate-cleansing freshness as it foams up and fills the mouth with taut, tangy and driven citrus and mineral flavors. It’s a tight and zippy style that has solid appeal.
2010 Xarmant Arabako Txakolina. This is another wine that makes you sit up and blink, with its super-bright and tangy aromas of melon, kiwi, lemon and gravelly mineral aromas popping out of the glass. It’s pretty much frizzante in style on the palate, with intense citrus zestiness and a tart acidity that’s almost too much to take. The acidity is certainly fresh and clean, but the wine is young and doesn’t have a lot of other facets to it just now.
2009 Domaine de la Pépière (Marc Ollivier) Muscadet de Sèvre-et-Maine Clisson. This French interloper, on the other hand, has a lot of interesting facets to it, both aromatically and on the palate. To begin, the nose is delightful, with quietly enticing aromas of white flowers, lime zest, oyster shells, melon and white pepper that are quite pretty and stylishly elegant. In the mouth, it has a bit more body to it than I was expecting, with a nice glycerin smoothness and grippy cohesive quality all the way through. The flavors of chalk, shells, lemon ball candy and limestone minerality have a certain sense of restrained richness but the wine is never heavy or ponderous. I like this a lot.
2010 Bodegas Protos Verdejo Rueda. This wine presents aromas of white peaches, apples, pears, slate, light smoke and little hints of diesel fuel that lead to a palate that’s a bit sour-tinged and dry despite delivering a fairly big blast of fruit flavor. Melon, apple and citrus flavors come together a bit more cohesively after a night in the fridge, making this a pleasant enough but not especially exciting offering.
1989 R. López de Heredia Rioja Blanco Reserva Viña Tondonia. This wine, conversely, got a lot of us excited by its showing. It offers up a fascinating set of full-bodied aromas to consider, including scents of peach pit, copper kettle, orange peel, orange blossom, toasted walnut and a bit of rancio overtone. It pumps out a lot of characterful flavor on the palate, carried along by a waxy texture and a resiny acidity that lends the wine a unique quality that just seems to work well in conjunction with the mango, peach pit, browned apple, caramel and funky earth flavors. There’s great flow, length and intrigue to this wine that makes it a pleasure to keep coming back to.
1994 Bodegas Reyes Ribera del Duero Teofilo Reyes Tinto Cosecha. There’s a lot going on with this rather enjoyable wine. The delightful nose displays airy top notes of red flower petals, soft spices, dusty baked earth and classy cocoa powder to go along with deeper bottom aromas of roasted cherries, figs, metal shavings and creosote. All the while, there’s also a persistent and intriguing streak of eucalyptus and mint sprig running all the way through it to pull everything together perfectly. In the mouth, it’s decidedly soft and gentle in personality, showing some advanced age but also lovely layered flavors of dried cherries, iron, dusty earth and peppermint powder that are not particularly deep but still have plenty of flavor impact. Light but persistent tannins keep the structure alive but otherwise this is generally mellow and totally open for very nice drinking just now. I’d be drinking these up now, though, to be sure.
1995 Bodegas y Viñedos Alión Ribera del Duero. With this wine, one experiences an immediate and giving blast of enjoyably exotic and complex aromas of gardenia flower, balsa wood, allspice, raspberry, black cherry, scorched earth and tobacco leaf when lifting the glass up to the nose. In the mouth, it’s really giving and delicious, as well. It feels fresh and forceful, but is drinking really nicely at the moment with its classy and cool flavor profile of black cherries, red currants, fine earth and an interesting streak of salinity flowing along effortlessly and with some quiet power. I like it a lot, particularly since this bottle showed much more like the one I really loved back in 2008 than the more rigid and dark-toned bottle some of us shared in late 2011.
1996 Abadia Retuerta Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León Cuvée El Campanario. This wine smells big, rich and smoky—with aromas of dark chocolate, black plum, peat moss, cigar wrapper, leather and pumice stone that are definitely full-blown but perhaps a bit muddled at times. In the mouth, it’s less earthy than the previous pair of wines, with more of a pure black-fruited personality that turns up the volume on flavors of black currant, blackberries and graphite. It feels masculinely-structured, a bit sticky-textured, dark-toned and savory-tinged to me, and seems like it needs a bit more time to find a more inviting window in which to drink it.
1998 R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Tondonia. This was badly CORKED, robbing us of a mini-vertical with the 2001 that I think would have been interesting.
2001 R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Tondonia. This wine has a fine savory-tinged nose of red flowers, dried cherries, tar oil, toasted herbs and dried sweat aromas, with a gentle balsamic note in the background. It’s pretty darned lively on the palate, with a lot of sour cherry and bursting mixed berry fruit, with some chalk, earth and salty characteristics keeping it grounded. It has a nice fresh finish and ought to have no problem aging well.
2004 Bodegas y Viñedos Maurodos Toro Viña San Román. This wine is pretty dark and opaque in appearance, and features a nose that’s flush with aromas of black raspberries, black licorice, chestnuts, sweet creosote and exotic spices galore. In the mouth, it’s thoroughly modern in style, with a polished, smooth, sweet and sexy quality to it. It’s youthful, but delivers loads of hedonistic and very ripe cherry and raspberry fruit riding atop sweet oak and vanilla notes. It’s extremely giving and luscious, but it’s not to everyone at the table’s tastes. Personally, I find it a little young and overly exuberant right now, but I love the smooth and creamy fruit stuffing and am looking forward to trying it again in perhaps 4-5 years.
2007 Quinta de la Rosa Douro Passagem The Crossing. This is a dark and earthy wine full of funky tobacco juice, pine tree, raw meat, iodine and new shoe leather sorts of aromas that are interesting but a bit raw and rustic. In the mouth, it’s more monotone in nature, with youthfully-sticky flavors of black fruit, smoke and dirt that are supported by the most obvious tannins of the night. I guess it’s solid enough, but there’s not a whole lot to make it particularly interesting to me.
Sweet Spanish wines:
2004 Jorge Ordoñez & Co. Málaga No. 1 Selección Especial. This flight was not planned at all—two of us just happened to bring along the same wine from different vintages. This vintage is much darker in color, looking slightly orange in tone. It’s much more caramelly and nutty in its aromatics, with some lovely orange peel and pretty floral components in the background. In the mouth, it is definitely sweeter, thicker and more unctuously sticky than the 2008, with caramel and nutty elements that pair nicely with the lilting orange and rose hip bits that are hanging around. I think it’s languid, easy and a lot of fun to drink.
2008 Jorge Ordoñez & Co. Málaga No. 1 Selección Especial. There’s a pale yellow-green color to this vintage, which is the first sign of just how different this wine is showing relative to the 2004. It presents light and airy aromas of green melon, pea tendrils, honeysuckle and herbal tea that have a distinctively summery perfume about them. It certainly smells more like a traditional muscat, and I’d have to say that profile continues onto the palate, where it’s pure, light and gently sweet in its flavors of light honey, melon, white currant, peach and kiwi. It’s just pretty as hell, with a ton of floral inner mouth perfume that’s really likeable.
1982 H.M. Borges Vintage Porto. I did not get a chance to try this, but the word around the table was that it was a fair bit past its peak and not really worth trying anyway.
1990 Graham Vintage Porto Malvedos Centenary. This wine has a very nice nose that feels lifted and expansive in its aromas of red flowers, plums, raspberries, limestone and earth. I like the layered complexity a good deal. In the mouth, it’s full of warm red berry and sweet cherry fruit to go along with bright spirit notes and some roasted nut flavors. It’s a warm and tangy style that’s fun to drink.
1994 Graham Vintage Porto. This was served from a 375ml bottle. It’s richer and darker on the nose than the 1990, with perhaps a bit more obvious dark spirit notes to it. But in the mouth, this is just really sublimely good stuff all around. It’s a complete Port, loaded with melted chocolate, baked cherry, dark raspberry, baked plum and gorgeous spice flavors that are full and rich and lusciously sweet. The texture is seamless and the concentrated finish is long and utterly luxuriant. The balance is effortless and it just feels like a wine you could drink long into the night.
2005 Quinta de la Rosa Porto Late Bottled Vintage. Also from a 375ml bottle, this had a tough act to follow, and it showed. The aromas kind of zing the nostrils a fair bit with an alcoholic burn ahead of rich purple fruit, dark earth and brownie batter scents. On the palate, there’s some acetone and raw alcohol poking out around the core of boysenberry and blueberry fruit that’s rich and tannic and rather primary. It’s just a rough ride all around at this time.