Wines of Portugal Tasting at Cuchillo-2

Earlier this week, I sat down with a group of wine makers, writers, and media to learn about and sample a selection of Portuguese wines, via Wines of Portugal. Wine educator DJ Kearney led the seminar, followed by a lunch pairing.

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Gastown’s Cuchillo was the chosen venue, a relatively new Latin American restaurant specializing in tapas and classic cocktails.

DJ led us on a tasting of 12 wines from several Portuguese growing regions, ranging from the classic Mateus Rosé ($9.99) to a 20-year-old Taylor Fladgate Tawny Port ($69.99) grown in the Douro region.

Portugal’s wine regions are double the size of Sicily’s and at 100,000 hectares, Portugal’s vineyards comprise a total growing area larger than Chile’s.

Portuguese wine makers, known for combining old and new varietals, are masters of wine blending. Other wine regions are quickly following suit. Vast microclimates create a myriad of Portuguese styles for all palates and budgets. We learned that Portugal wins on the value-driven market component of the industry. As well, Portuguese wines are purchased and enjoyed by knowledgable consumers.

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Wines of Portugal’s motto is “Free Yourself From Boredom”. And on that note, we proceeded to sample wines from the Vinho Verde, Douro, Bairrada, Lisboa, Beiras, Dão, and Setúbal growing regions, ranging in price from $9.99 to $69.99.

An intensely cultivated region, Vinho Verde wines are exported to 90 markets (Canada is in the top 10 at #4). The Quinta do Touquinheiras Toucas 2011 ($29.99) and Minho Branco Quinta do Ameal Escolha 2011 ($34.99) are both from this region, the Quinta with a rich, tart flavour fermented and aged in oak. The Minho Branco has a cirtrusy aroma, oaky nose, and chenin-like quality derived from barrel fermenting with low cropping (1/2 ton per hectare).

The Dão Sul Cabriz Encruzado 2009 ($17.97) is a good-value wine, with excellent texture and botanical aromas. It also ages well. Only 5% of the region is planted; 2009 is apparently a good vintage for this type of wine.

One of Europe’s great fortified, dry wines, the Niepoort Dialogo 2011 ($19.94), is a high-altitude wine with floral, soft, and stony qualities all rolled into one. 2011 is its maiden vintage.

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The Bairrada Baga Campolargo 2010 ($32.99) has a beautiful texture, with high acidity. The thin-skinned baga grape is difficult to grow, often done so in clay and limestone-flecked soil, adding structure to this medium-bodied red, my favourite of the reds at this tasting.

Lisbon’s coastal growing region is both large and breezy. The Quinta de Chocapalha Mar da Palha 2009 ($22.00) contains 75% Syrah and 25% Touriga Nacional grapes, the latter giving off at times strongly-perfumed floral aromas, making it a suitable grape to blend. I tasted notes of plum, violet, and ripe fruit in this hearty wine.

Douro Reserva Quinta do Crasto Old Vines 2009 ($43.00) is a complex Douro wine that consistently makes Wine Spectator’s top 100 list for a very structured red with good balance, comparable to a dry port.

Beiras Reserva Caves São João 2000 ($24.99) is aged in oak for 12 months. The hearty blend is 50% Baga, 50% Touriga Nacional. Beiras is home to several DOC (Denominacao de Origem Controlada) titles, among them Bairrada, Beira Interior, and Dão. This wine has plum, sweet fruit, and tobacco notes with a long aftertaste.

Our lunch was paired with a white, a red, and a port wine.

Cuchillo's pan-roasted BC sablefish, asparagus y sea bean causa

I particularly enjoyed the sablefish with asparagus and salty seagrass accompaniments, the asparagus marrying the best with a glass of Jose Maria da Fonseca Albis 2010 ($11.99).

The fig and hazelnut pipian, mole pan jus, and autumn squash croqueta was paired with a 20-year-old Taylor Fladgate Tawny ($69.99), though the pairing was somewhat compromised by my decision to omit the pan-roasted Paradise Valley pork tenderloin.

Cuchillo fig y hazelnut pipian, mole pan jus, autumn squash croqueta

In all, the afternoon tasting was the perfect occasion to chat with fellow wine lovers, learn about and sample a range of Portuguese wines, and discover Chef Stu Irving’s Latin cuisine.


  • Comment by Amber — November 6, 2013 @ 11:12 am

    Wow, what a great looking place. Thanks for the wine info… guess I ought to try a few of these myself!

  • Comment by Ariane Colenbrander — November 6, 2013 @ 11:27 am

    Thanks, Amber. Hadn’t heard about this place either until recently. Lots of nice little dishes on the menu worth trying next time you’re in Gastown 🙂

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