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(Bob Gregg, 8:00 am) (Posted to: Main, Wine)

2007-10-10: WBW #38 - Quinta da Pinheira

Is it already time for Wine Blogging Wednesday? It seems like just yesterday I was writing up our trip to Quebec for the last WBW. I admit it: this one snuck up on me. This month’s challenge was more, er, challenging than the last one - Portuguese table wines! And not just any Portuguese table wines either (as if that wasn’t enough): there are rules! Given my lapse in memory, I wouldn’t have been able to participate at all, if it wasn’t for a terrific local wine haunt.

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Vienna Vintner, saying, “Be sure to drop by this Friday for our 2nd annual Portugese Wine Tasting!” I may not like Vienna as much as Arlington, but I’ll say this - they have some great little wine shops, with some terrific folks in them. I know so little about Portuguese wines that this had to be a gift straight from wine heaven. (If there is a heaven, shouldn’t there be wine?) My visit netted samples of eight different Portugese wines, all across the spectrum, from a Vinho Verde (a 100% varietal Avesso, one of the varietals on the Wine Century Club list, no less) all the way to port. However, port was off-limits for this blogging challenge, and if we’re going to get brownie points, no Vinho Verdes, either. And I do so love brownies.

One of the two bottles I picked up was a 2003 Quinta da Pinheira red. This wine comes from the Borba sub-region of Alentejo, in the south part of Portugal, very close to the Spanish border. The wine itself is a blend, like most Portuguese wines, I’m finding out. In this case, the grapes are Trincadeira, or Trincadeira Preta (40%), Castelão (30%), Aragonès (which is just the local name for the Tempranillo grape) (20%), and Alicante Bouschet (10%). Of those, the one I had not had yet was Alicante Bouschet.

The story behind Alicante Bouschet is that it’s a teinturier - a “tinted” grape, one whose juice is colored. In this case, it’s actually red juice. Take some red grapes from the store and crush them, and you’re likely to get clear-colored juice - the flesh of the grapes is clear, after all. Red wine is usually made by leaving that clear juice in contact with the red skins for a period of time, letting the juice leech the dye from the skins. In the case of teinturiers, the juice itself is already colored - red, pink, whatever, depending on the grapes. Another example is the Saperavi grape from Georgia (also on the WCC list). My understanding is that Alicante Bouschet was used a lot during Prohibition, because it could be added to a bottle to make it look like the juice was far “grapier” than it actually was, due to the color. There is a Virginia winery that grows a varietal Alicante Bouschet (a rarity today), but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

Anyway, back to the wine. When I first opened it and poured, I was struck by the deep garnet red color. It’s also light to medium bodied, with a little whiff of strawberry and a big whiff of dark cherry. My first thought was, “this looks like Pinot in the glass”, and even though it doesn’t smell or taste that way, there are similarities. On the palate it has a velvet-smooth texture that goes down easily, with dominant cherry fruit. The finish has nice black pepper that lingers pleasantly for the longest time. This came off as something with a Pinot body but a Rhone taste, with darker aspects - a combination that appeals to me.

All we had tonight was leftovers (short notice), but in retrospect that worked out okay, because I got to try the wine with a bunch of different foods. Roast chicken: no, too strong. Roast duck: yes, definitely! Mashed potatoes and green beans: er, you make the call. Spiced cajun shrimp: ack, what do you think! But the finisher was some dark chocolate with cocoa nibs, and that matched well. Barbecue ribs or beef stew would do well too.

All in all, both my wife and I liked this. I paid $15, and I would pay that again. Alentejo is now on my “good” list. :-) I’ll be looking for more wines from here in the future. And if you’re looking for Alicante Bouschet for your life list, try this! Thanks to Catavino for putting me up to it. For me, I have that second bottle from Vienna Vintner to look forward to…

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