Quality wines, plus memories of delivering the Christmas cheer
The weather in the Algarve has been hot, but no more than usual for this time of the year. We have even had a few showers, which is very unusual for summer. However, there is no denying we are running short of water. That is going to be the big problem for life this far south.
The property market is still rising. I have never seen the motorway here so busy, so tourism is clearly booming, and there is another week to go before we get the French piling in as well.
But I’m sure you aren’t really interested in the weather, but would prefer me to talk about the wine.
It so happens that I have been drinking another vinho verde wine with my lunch. Hugh Johnson, in his book The World Atlas of Wine, says that these wines are some of the best in Portugal. Of course, he was talking about the wine-scape fifty years ago, but there are a few of these rather well-made wines still around.
The average green wine is made to drink very young. It is meant to be refreshing like a beer. It is bottled early which means its fermentation carries on in the bottle, and when you pull the cork, or more often, unscrew the cap, and pour the wine, it releases a good few bubbles, which tends to increase the refreshing element of the wine, which, after all, is what it’s all about. This is not a wine to savour, but one to refresh.
But… let’s slow down. I did say that fifty years ago this was an important wine area. Now we tend to think of it as where the cheap, low alcohol, characterless wines come from. And I have to admit I pay €2.99 for a 9% alcohol wine that is basically bland, but refreshing. It goes well with my sparse lunch, and I dont get overly weighed down by an attack of the afternoon effects of too much alcohol ingested in the middle of the day.
But… as Hugh Johnson says, there are some rather fine wines from this northern bucolic outpost.
Let’s have a look at what I had for lunch. Well, not literally, I have no intention of… no, let’s not go there.
This is what I had to drink with a rather rich tasting snack.
This is what it says on the label.
“The alvarinho grape gives body and weight to a wine of great harmony and complexity. The loureiro confers a floral and aromatic herb expression. The tradajura grape complements with notes of tree fruit, including apple and pear.”
Okay, hands up those who have ever heard of any of these grape varieties. Alvarinho, loureiro, tradajura.
Even I, who have been wandering around this part of the world most of my life have only heard of the first on that list.
I am not a wine expert. I was first introduced to wines in my late teens when I worked delivering the Christmas cheer for McMullens, brewers in Hertford. The shed (sorry, the warehouse) from where we delivery guys operated, is no longer there. Presumably the company sold the site, for there is now a ghastly building which is a block of flats there, where once upon a time we Xmas drivers were told in no uncertain terms to smarten ourselves up, get a move on, and catch up with the deliveries. This tirade against Geoffrey and myself was interrupted by a terrible crash.
The guy who was supposed to show us how the experts did it had just reversed through a low brick wall and backed his van into the river Beane. Geoffrey and I had hysterics for fully fifteen minutes, and poor Mr Franklyn could get no sense out of us, and marched off to the shop screaming abuse at everything he could think of.
Happy days! **
But I digress.
In fact I have completely forgotten what I was talking about.
Okay. Back in gear.
Herewith my own notes on this particular wine.
First, the essentials. It costs (in Portugal) €8.40, which is rather expensive for a vinho verde, but this is from the top end. It does not share very many characteristics with my cheapo wine. This is a well crafted (note the change of tone — well crafted, not just boringly well made). This wine has class. It is smooth, is pleasant in the mouth, has a classically unified taste, and will go well with most foods that require a white wine as a suitable accompaniment.
I suppose at this point I have to say nobody is paying me for this critique, but it would be nice if they were. I’m going to buy another bottle and try it with one of my normal white wine dishes. I dont think I am going to be disappointed.
That’s all. I just thought you might like to know.
** This incident, and loads more are recounted in my book Who Wants to be an Adult?. Let me know if you want a copy and I’ll upload it onto Amazon and make it available FREE for the first few days.