Any wine geek worth their salt loves a good barrel room. Ok, going on trip after trip wandering round looking at rows of neatly packed new barrels can get a bit tiresome after a while, but it’s the smell of the place and knowledge that all that lovely liquid is ageing away beautifully under the oak. And at Quinta Do Noval they’ve got one of the more impressive ones around.
Port producers are pretty terrified of turning into the next Sherry. The harsh truth of that is that Sherry producers, rather infamously, let their drinkers die on them. A new generation of drinkers doesn’t know what proper Fino sherry is, let alone how to drink it properly. So they’re having to invent new ways to get the younger crowd drinking it. The best way so far? Cocktails! And the fine boys and girls whose job it is to market port round the world are right there with them.
Wine making is full of old school traditions. Some are now on their way out as practicality, time, and – let’s be fair – hygiene have all had their say. But one tradition that remains in the production of some Port wines is grape treading. I’ve always wanted to have a go, and a couple of weeks back up at Quinta Do Noval I got the chance. It was fantastic.
One of the first things you’re told when you’re sat in your lecture room at WSET (wine exam board) HQ, eagerly waiting to tackle Port, is that most people in the UK drink it wrong. I’m not saying that they miss their mouth and tip it down their shirts, or that they stand on their heads and try and drink it backwards. It’s more that bad habits have crept into how lots of Brits drink Port. And as a Port lover myself, it’s that glorious mix of funny and annoying to watch it happen.
Once you start really getting into wine, it’s not enough to just head down to the shops, buy a bottle, and get stuck in. You need to be there, you need to wander round the vineyard and soak it all up. Couple of reasons really, one is that you get to drink the wine with the locals, eating the local food, doing your best to feel like part of the furniture. The other is that vineyards are invariably beautiful places. One wine region is chalked up on most people’s lists as the number one “need to visit”, and lucky little me got to go there a couple of weeks back…the Douro valley in Portugal.
Without question, sweet wines are the most under rated and under drunk in the world of wine. Ok, I get the fact that the cheap and nasty ones are cheap and nasty, and they’ve maybe put quite a few people off in the past. But in the UK these days we’re lucky to have a huge range of top drawer sweet wines and fortified wines from all the way across the world. Be a shame to miss out this Christmas!
Some events you get invited to and you think “yeah this is going to be pretty good!” Unfortunately you go into some of them with that attitude and they disappoint. Luckily for me, and everyone who attended, Sandeman’s 225th birthday party’s London leg was not one of them. I thought it’d be great, and it was!
It’s funny to talk about last week without mentioning what happened in Paris. But I feel I have to. Until a few days have passed, I’m not sure I could write anything about it without saying something that I might want to retract at some point. So for now, I’ll just say that I hope you all can spare thoughts over the next few days for the victims, their families, and the French nation. In the mean time, we’ve got to get on with our lives, and in my case that’s talking about wine, however insignificant that might sound.
On the recent trip out for this wedding in Mallorca, the wife and I picked up a bottle of Mateus Rosé at the market. That’s right, Mateus Rosé. The infamous wine that kept middle classes in the 60s and 70s plastered! It’s got a shocking reputation these days, but I’d never tried it. And there it was on the shelf for €5!
In recent months there’s been a huge push by Portuguese wines into the mainstream in UK wine market. I guess for years it’d been the place where Port comes from, oh and maybe a bit of Mateus Rosé on the side. Well luckily for us wine-o’s Portugal has really stepped up through the gears of late, and none more so than the Douro Valley.