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Bairrada Meets Beijing: The Portuguese Head East

If Spain is often referred to as the Old World country in which an oenological revolution has most visibly occurred in recent memory, then surely Portugal is directly or indirectly part of that picture? And wouldn’t it be better to champion what Portugal itself has achieved? Fortunately, Charles Metcalfe and Kathryn McWhirterare spreading the word, as are wineries and various sites utilizing wine ‘social media’, not least Catavino.

Portugal, like Spain, joined the EU in 1986, which brought much needed funding to modernize winemaking, improve co-ops and stimulate the activities of smaller wineries. If Portugal has been known traditionally for Port and, more recently, the table wines of the Douro, now wine consumers (and educators!) are required to get to grips with an especially wide array of developing Portuguese regions and indigenous grape varieties.

Personally, I love the challenge, even if I have not quite perfected the art of tongue-swallowing required to pronounce ‘Estremadura’ or even ‘Aragonez’ clearly. But if my palate is open to Portuguese wines – and, with practice, their pronunciations – how did Portugal fare at the first major Beijing tasting to represent the wines of this diverse and stimulating country?

ViniPortugal in conjunction with Brigite Lucio, a Beijing veteran, now based in Lisbon with her Chinese husband Liu Handong – the couple behind China-Portugal consulting business chYnamics – gathered together some 15 wine-producing companies to show their wares, following an introductory trade seminar.

Funnily enough, at Dragon Phoenix we had also been hosting Jorge Nunes, winemaker for  The Symington Family Estates – on a visit with importer Torres China – who kindly gave our WSET students and some invited guests a Port Master Class at local wine club Les Millésimes two days previous: both Graham’s Reserve Tawny and Mr Nunes himself also proving a hit with a predominantly female audience at China Agricultural University (CAU) in a separate lecture that same day.

Despite the title ‘Annual Grand Tasting’, this was the inaugural event for what I sincerely hope will become a regular fixture in the Beijing tasting calendar.

Attracting some 180-200 trade visitors, this was an especially good turn-out for Beijing, not only on a busy Monday afternoon but also given the lack of knowledge surrounding Portugal in mainland China (at least the Mandarin for ‘Portugal’, putao ya, meaning ‘grape teeth’, is suggestive of wine, however).

I did not get around as many stands as I would have liked, but here are the wines I tasted (click on links for full tasting notes on Adegga). A list of the wineries on show follows.

What were the star wines? From what I tasted, the developing 2004 Cortes de Cima Reserva, VR Alentejano, the young but very impressive 2007 Douro Reserva, Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Douro and the extremely young, but instantly likeable 2007 Graham’s Vintage Port, Douro.

Check out my other tasting notes below!


Edward Ragg

Other Wines I Tasted Included:

Cortes de Cima, Alentejo

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo

Graham’s (The Symington Family Estates)

Wineries/companies exhibiting included:

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