Tasting at home - part III

Quinta do Pinto Grande Escolha 2014

Portugal is nothing if not proud of its viticultural history and wine-making traditions. The same may be said of its many and varied grape varieties, which though still struggling to hit the mainstream, have developed something of a cult following among certain consumers. Improvements in the quality of Vinho Verde together with fantastic expressions of varietals such as Arinto, Alvarinho and Gouveio (to name but three) have ensured that Portugal has been recognised as a serious white wine producer. Foreign grapes have failed to acquire a significant foothold here. It may seem odd, therefore, to stumble across an interesting twist on a typical white Rhône, but that’s exactly what we find with our next wine.

The Alenquer region in Lisboa produces top wines of enviable quality. Quinta do Pinto is the name of a wine project established at a property called Quinta do Anjo. The property has around 63 hectares planted with both indigenous and international grape varieties. Though the native vines take precedence there are sufficient plots of Viognier, Chardonnay and Marsanne to produce this rather tantalising Rhône blend. Good exposure to sunlight on south-facing slopes, clay-limestone soils, coupled with carefully temperature-controlled fermentation with a dash of oak, not-to-mention a lovely mouthfeel delivered by 9 months resting on fine lees, finishes off an excellent wine – a real treat.

Tasting note:
Intense nose of tropical and stone fruit characters with a touch of brioche and spice. The palate is ripe and textural with mango, peach and apricot, and honey and almond notes leading to a full and long finish with freshly balanced acidity.

Clos du Val Zinfandel 2018

The USA is established as one of the top makers (and consumers!) of wine. Nobody else drinks more of the stuff and only France, Spain and Italy can best it in terms of quantity. But the wine industry started as less of an American dream, more of a nightmare. The early colonists could not fathom it. They noticed with glee how native grapes (though an acquired taste) grew with abandon. Surely this would prove a Garden of Eden for their own European varietals. They couldn’t have got it more wrong. Crop after crop failed. Vines withered and died, falling victim to an invisible, yet deadly assassin but what was to blame? The culprit turned out the be phylloxera, the louse stage of which feeds on the vulnerable root stock of European vines. American roots were immune, something which saved the wine industry of the ‘Old World’ when the pest found its way across the Atlantic. It was only by grafting European vines onto American root stock that wine makers managed to stop the bug’s vicious rampage.

As mentioned, North America boasted its own collection of grape varieties long before the arrival of the Founding Fathers. However, many of these can best be described as feral with few capable of producing wines for commercial consumption. This, however, is of little consequence. The success of Pinot Noir is well known. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay have also made homes here. The same too can be said of Zinfandel, which was claimed by the Yanks until the end of the 20th Century when scientific research forced them to concede it was identical to Primitivo found in Southern Italy, which in turn has its origins in Croatia. Not wanting to give up on a good fight, however, the dispute has since turned to how it made the journey across the pond. Did it come from Italy itself, or did US Zinfandel make an express trip from Eastern Europe… the debate rages on!

Founded in 1972, Clos du Val is beyond doubt famed throughout Napa Valley. This classic Zin is fermented in stainless steel to preserve fruit flavours and then aged 15 months in oak. The result is one of the best expressions of this much argued-over variety that you will ever find. Enjoy!

Tasting note:
Deep garnet, the nose is a generous mix of stewed black fruits, warm toasted spices, dried fig and prune. The palate has fresher fruit with characters of blackberry and plum which are complemented by vanilla, pepper and clove spice. The fine grain tannins give nice structure making this feel like a serious Zin.

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