Since 2009, the Top 50 Portuguese Wines has been a favorite on Catavino, and we’re always excited to announce when the new list arrives. Annually, Wines of Portugal chooses a UK journalist such as Jamie Goode, Sarah Ahmed and Tom Cannavan to select a series of wines that have enticed and tantalized their palates. However, as Portuguese wine varies dramatically in style, grape and terroir, it’s never an easy task to choose 50 out of hundreds upon hundreds that are equally deserving of recognition, as you’ll quickly understand from Julia Harding’s interview below.
Julia Harding is a Master of Wine, the guru editor behind the Jancis Robinson website and a regular editor and contributor of several books including, The Oxford Companion to Wine.
Thank you Julia for taking the time to answer our questions and we look forward to everyone’s take on her list below!
Your just embarked on a 1 year journey to discover your top 50 Portuguese wines! Considering that you had a chance to learn a lot about Portuguese wines in the process, what was your experience with the wines of Portugal previously? What did you hope to discover?
Although I had tasted quite a lot of Portuguese wines in the UK, my visits to Portugal had been mostly to the Douro. I have been fortunate to do some tastings there with Dirk Niepoort and Alvaro Castro that have exposed me to Baga and to old Dão wines. At the 2008 wines of Portugal tasting in the Uk in 2008, I focused on white wines, so I had high expectations of central Portugal (mainly Bairrada and Dão) and knew that I would find wines that had the acidity and structure to age well. What I was looking for from all regions was wines that were a pleasure to drink, not just to taste, wines with freshness and a distinctive Portuguese character and wines that are food friendly. I was not looking for overoaked, overextracted wines that were tiring to drink.
How much time did you spend this year in Portugal?
I did a whirlwind, 9-day, sleep-derprived tour of the country that took in all regions apart from the Algarve and Vinho Verde (the last two excluded purely for practical reasons), visiting a few producers in each regaion, just to try to get a feel for the land and the climate and the people. On top of that, I spend 5 long weekends in Porto or Lisboa devoted to big regional tastings. Everyone was invited to submit wines for these tastings. I would obviously have perferred to visit more producers on the ground but this was just not practical as I was doing all this in my ‘spare’ time, ie on top of my full-time work for Jancis Robinson.
Looking at the past top 50 lists especially’s Tom’s list from this year, what are your thoughts on the selected wines, and their potential for Portugals reputation?
To be quite honest, I deliberately avoided looking back at previous top 50s as I did not want to be influenced in my own choice – I did not want to exclude a wine I loved just because it had been selected one or several times before. (Though I did taste Tom’s selection and loved the theme of freshness that ran through them.) I think the top 50 as an idea is a very good one to introduce consumsers to the quality and character of the best of Portugal’s wines, compared with the lowest common demoninator that is all too often the offering in UK supermarkets or in tourist-oriented restaurants in Portugal.
How did it all turn out? What are your impressions of PT wines today? What are the wines that most surprised? What failed to deliver, if anything?
It was a huge amount of work and one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. I tasted about 1,200 wines over 9 months, some of those twice or three times. I was particularly thrilled to find so many great whites and so many great wines made from indigenous varieties. (My first selection criterion was that wines had to be made from Portuguese varieties, wih the exceptions of Tinta Roriiz, aka Temrpranillo, and Alicante Bouschet, which is so much more successful in Portugal than in its French homeland). The only time I was disappointed was when I came across wines that were over-oaked or over-extracted. This happened more often in the Alentejo and the Douro.
I’d sum up my selection as ‘water from the rock’ (a ref to Moses striking a rock to provide water for the pached Israelites). I find Portugal to be a country of extremes – in terms of landscape and climate, rock and heat, and yet her most talented winegrowers can produce from even the harshest conditions liquid to refresh. I did taste some very good wines that included international varieties in a blend but I was most excited by those made from indigenous varieties that could not have come from anywhere but Portugal. Such diversity allied to quality that still leaves a lot to discover. I ony hope that some of these most Portuguese of Portuguese wines will become more widely available around the world.
Below, we have put together a list of all the chosen wines and linked to the wineries whenever possible. Sadly, even now in 2012, there are wineries that do not take the time to have an online presence. We hope that in 2013 this is not the case anymore!
Thanks again to Julia, and Wines of Portugal!
Until next year,
Gabriella and Ryan
Portuguese Red Wines
- Valle Pradinhos, Porta Velha 2009 Trás-os-Montes
- Quinta Lagoalva de Cima, Grande Escolha Alfrocheiro 2008 Vinho Regional Tejo
- Campolargo, Alvarelhão 2011 Bairrada
- Quinta dos Barreiros, Gravato Vinhas Velhas 2008 Beira Interior
- Filipa Pato, Calcário Tinto 2010 Bairrada
- Luis Pato, Quinta da Ribeirinha Pé Franco 2011 Vinho Regional Beiras
- Dulcineia dos Santos Ferreira, Sidónio de Sousa Garrafeira 2005 Bairrada
- Quinta do Escudial, Vinhas Velhas 2007 Dão
- Quinta das Maias, Jaen 2008 Dão
- Casa da Passarela, Vinhas Velhas 2008 Dão
- Julia Kemper, Tinto 2009 Dão
- Quinta do Mouro, Touriga Nacional 2006 Vinho Regional Alentejano
- Esporão, TN Touriga Nacional 2008 Vinho Regional Alentejano
- Sonho Lusitano, Pedra e Alma 2009 Vinho Regional Alentejano
- Niepoort, Robustus 2007 Douro
- Symington Family Estates, Altano Quinta do Ataíde Reserva Touriga Nacional 2008 Douro
- Quinta de Chocapalha, CH Touriga Nacional 2008 Vinho Regional Lisboa
- Quinta do Noval 2008 Douro
- Ramos Pinto, Duas Quintas Reserva 2009 Douro
- Quinta do Crasto, Reserva Vinhas Velhas 2009 Douro
- Quinta da Gaivosa, Abandonado 2009 Douro
- Poeira 2009 Douro
- Wine & Soul, Quinta da Manoella VV 2009 Douro
- Quinta do Vale Meão 2009 Douro
- Quinta do Vallado Sousão 2009 Douro
- Quinta da Palmirinha Vinhão 2010 Vinho Verde
- Casca Wines, Monte Cascas Ramisco 2009 Colares
Portuguese Sparkling Wines
- Quinta das Bageiras, Grande Reserve Bruto Natural 2003 Bairrada
Portugese White Wines
- Biomanz, Dona Fátima Jampal 2011 Vinho Regional Lisboa
- Casal Figueira, António 2011 Vinho Regional Lisboa
- Filipa Pato, FP 2011 Vinho Regional Beiras
- Vinho Regional Beiras Dominó, Monte das Pratas Branco 2010 Vinho Regional Alentejano
- Rui Reguinga, Terrenus 2010 Vinho Regional Alentejano
- Fitapreta, Palpite Reserva 2009 Vinho Regional Alentejano
- Quinta do Quetzal, Reserva Antão Vaz 2009 Alentejo
- Quinta das Maias Malvasia Fina 2011 Dão
- Quinta de Saes, Reserva Encruzado 2010 Dão
- Quinta da Pellada, Primus 2009 Dão
- Vales de Ambrães Avesso 2011 Vinho Verde
- Adega de Monção, 2011 Vinho Verde
- Quinta de Soalheiro, Primeiras Vinhas Alvarinho 2010 Vinho Verde
- Afros, Loureiro 2009 Vinho Verde
- Quinta de La Rosa, Branco 2010 Douro
- Niepoort, Coche 2010 Douro
- Wine & Soul, Guru 2008 Douro
- Van Zellers, VZ 2010 Douro
Portuguese Fortified Wines
- Herdade do Mouchão, Mouchão Licoroso Alicante Bouschet 2006 Alentejo R 17.50 2011-19
- Casa Agrícola Horácio Simões, Excellent Moscatel Roxo NV Moscatel de Setúbal
- Jose Maria da Fonseca, Alambre 20 Year Old Moscatel NV Moscatel de Setúbal
- Adriano Tiago, Tiagos Moscatel Superior 1993 Moscatel de Setúbal
Explore Previous UK Journalist Top 50 Lists: