Quinta do Vale Meao Meandro Red 2011

Today’s spectacular train journey along the Linha do Douro has deposited me in the pretty town of Pinhão, Portugal. I’m in the heart of Douro wine country, surrounded by terraced vineyards that defy common sense and Quintas whose names shout loudly from brightly whitewashed walls along the river banks. I went to a local restaurant tonight, one that I can recommend highly (the Restaurant bar veladouro), and drank entirely on the recommendation of the house. Why aren’t Portuguese table wines better known? I’ve had several beautiful wines in my two days in the country so far, and I’m quite confident there will be more to come.

Just bottled in June of this year, this is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sousão, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão. The aroma shows notes that span a range from determinedly odd to almost familiar. Hessian, tart dark berries, sea spray, sap and a subtle sprinkling of fruit cake spice. It’s already busy for such a young wine, although its notes do stand apart from one another somewhat. Still, the overall impression is one of complexity, subtlety and and balance, with juicier berry notes sneaking in over time.

In the mouth, medium bodied with a fine tannin structure and mid-palate that is waiting to relax and please. For now, acid keeps things in good check, such that the experience of this wine remains somewhat linear. There’s a lot of savoury complexity through the after palate. including a contribution from oak that tastes rather raw for now. It’s clearly a young wine, but its components are achingly good in a restrained, modest way. The best is yet to come here.

I enjoyed this bottle of wine with a traditional Portuguese meal of salted cod gratin. An unlikely, but sympathetic, pairing.

Quinta do Vale Meao
Price: €20 (wine list)
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail

Stanton & Killeen Vintage Port 2001

A tasting earlier this year at the Stanton & Killeen cellar door was notable for a lineup of quite spectacular vintage ports (and for the relative lack of excitement generated by its muscats and tokays, usually the highlight of any Rutherglen cellar door). These wines are interesting in part through their mixing of Portuguese grape varieties with Shiraz, traditionally used in Australian VP styles, and Durif, a variety strongly associated with the Rutherglen. What’s pleasing is how achieved the resultant wines can be.

A light yet piercing, complex aroma showing grilled nuts, dried fruits, old wood, and a streak of banana-skin freshness that I’m probably describing badly but which strikes me as distinctive and attractive. In short, there’s plenty going on, yet there’s a mellow, relaxed vibe to the whole that suggests settled confidence and encourages contemplative consumption.

The palate is again both light and powerful. The wine’s essentially savoury character established by the aroma carries through here, with few stylistic concessions to the Shiraz component. Indeed, this is very far from a typical Shiraz VP, a style I happen to love but which typically shows much richer, fuller fruit flavours than are present here. So, the key to enjoying this is to observe more delicate flavour components and savour the transparency that comes with lighter wines. Deliciously savoury fruits, peel, nuts, nougat. A well-balanced line that maintains strength right through the rather long finish.

I had this with some plum pudding on the big day, and it was somewhat overwhelmed. It’s much better tonight on its own, a light yet utterly indulgent dessert.

Stanton & Killeen
Price: $A28
Closure: Cork
Source: Retail