Portuguese wines in India have a tough time being taken seriously. Mention Portugal and you immediately think of port, but there is much more to the wines of Portugal than Port. And if it’s port, we invariably associate it with the port wine from Goa, which is not a good comparison, notes Reva K Singh. Pictured: Left to right, Kavita Singh, Dora Martins and Maria De Oliveira
So the Ambassador of Portugal in India, Jorge Roza De Oliveira, who arrived in this country determined to change our mindset regarding the wines of his country has an uphill task. Still, he is a determined man and has gone about doing his homework well by researching the Indian market.
The Wine Tasting I attended at his residence last month was precise, professional, to the point and relaxed. It was well-attended with a mix of people from the hospitality trade, some importers, a few interested wine consumers and a wine writer or two.
We were given handouts of information that were useful. The wines were served by waiters and paired with carefully chosen snacks keeping the style and weight of the wine in mind as well as the Indian palate. We started with neutral cheese and crackers and progressed gradually from slightly spiced shrimp rissoles and chicken croquettes to very spicy mutton tikkas and back again to bread with melted cheese that paired beautifully with the Quinta da Alorna Late Harvest made from 100% Fernao Pires grapes.
This last wine which crowned the evening with a nice flourish was preceded by two whites. Quinta da Alorna Branco (White) 2009 was a blend of Arinto and Fernao Pires local varietals that most Indian wine drinkers would not recognize. It was light and pleasant, with fresh citrus on the nose as well as the palate. My personal preference, however, was for the Marquesa de Alorna Branco 2009 which had a satisfying complexity with hints of vanilla from the time spent in French oak barrels. It was a harmonious blend of grape varietals only known to the winemaker.
The three reds were all from 2008 and had similar names to the whites – Quinta da Alorna Tinto (Red) 2008 produced from Tinta Roriz, Syrah, Castelao and Alicante Bouschet grapes, Quinta da Alorna Reserve 2008 (Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes) and Marquesa de Alorna. Here too the Marquesa was the more complex wine with strong ripe fruit and oak aromas, a wine produced only in the best years and eminently age-worthy.
Marquesa de Alorna Tinto 2008 and Marquesa de Alorna Branco 2009 were two “novelties” introduced by Quinta da Alorna in which the grape varieties are not disclosed. Why not? Because the winemaker, Martta Reis Simões does not want us to come with any preconceptions about the wine. “These wines are to taste and then evaluate.” How ever that may be, they certainly passed muster that evening.
We did not spit the wine out unless we wanted to, but we mingled, tasted snacked and discussed what we drank. Each round began with an introduction by the wine producer about the grapes, the wine-making and the standing of the wine in the international arena.
Located in the heart of Portugal, near Santarém, the Quinta da Alorna was established in 1723, by Dom Pedro de Almeida, the first Marques de Alorna, who gave his name to the property following the conquest of Fort Alorna in India.
I hope Dora finds an importer and there are many more opportunities to enjoy the wines of Portugal.
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