Fortified Portugal Tastings — 31 July 2014

I had already sifted my way through much of the tasting room upstairs and been reminded, yet again, of the consistent excellence in value from Portugal. I tasted reds, whites and, of course, fortified… each and every time I asked the price I was rewarded with a number far less than I had in my head. But it was the articulation of the wine that really grabbed my attention and made me want need to write about them.

Our Masterclass selection. Photo: © Kristof Gillese

Our Masterclass selection. Photo: ©2014 Kristof Gillese

I had been fortunate enough to be invited to the early Masterclass hosted by wine luminary Treve Ring *( ). I was sitting with some of Canada’s foremost authorities on wine and as I scanned the room I noted that they were all fixed solidly on Treve. For here was a speaker who, though she professed no knowledge of the Portuguese language, offered us an unbridled passion for the diversity, complexity and genuineness of Portuguese wines.

“Some make wines while others make history.”

A bold statement to open a lecture/tasting with, but one that was soon earned: Vinhas Velhas, Vinho Verde, Moscatel, Simão da Aguieira Tinto, Vale do Bomfim Tinto and Quinta do Crasto Tinto. The names meant little to me but what was in the glass spoke in a manner that transcended language. They were clean, fresh and articulate, telling us the audience of their homeland and the way that sunlight would bathe the canyon walls or strong breezes would push steadily from the surging coast. Only six wines but they displayed such a vastness in differing style and composition that we all felt a genuine kinship with Treve as she waxed poetic about her time with these people.

I simply don’t have the space to recite all of my notes from that Masterful Class but, for those interested, all of my notes are on my Twitter account at @AStudentofWine.

Chef Dino's brilliant work. Photo: ©2014 Kristof Gillese

Chef Dino’s brilliant work. Photo: ©2014 Kristof Gillese

And then we were whisked up to the rooftop patio, sheltered from the impending downpour by layers of tenting that kept the rain out (for the most part) but allowed for a glow of warm, natural light. We glided between tables thronged with ardent admirers, thrusting out our glasses for a dram of terroir whenever the crowd parted long enough to shout a quick hello to the winemaker behind the table. No matter how tired they may have been, smiles were our only response to the plethora of questions hurled at them in something other then their mother tongue. They smiled, genuinely, asking us to repeat ourselves if the clamor had grown too overpowering again and then they launched themselves with carefree abandon into explanations of their soil, their traditions and their techniques for coaxing the truest representation from their vines.

There was an Antonio Lopez Ribeiro: just bottled a month ago and tasting like fine Morgon/Fleurie for under $20 CAD *(BC prices are listed here, when applicable). Many thanks to Torben Rolfsen ( ) for that steal of a deal!
There was a stunning Aragonez/Syrah blend to pair w/Chef Dino’s ( ) pork & kale dish! The exquisitely tender pork was cooked confit style in duck fat and fresh herbs gently for hours, then cold pressed, sliced and warmed with the steamed new potatoes and fresh, local kale underneath – only the most spartan of seasonings to enhance the natural beauty. The wine? Perky red currant/young raspberry acid with a light peppery finish and a touch of wild herbs. Gentle tannin. Superb value for $13 in BC and a perfect pairing with the Portuguese comfort food.

The unicorn, the Dalva Colheita Golden White Porto 1963. Photo: ©2014 Kristof Gillese

The unicorn, the Dalva Colheita Golden White Porto 1963. Photo: ©2014 Kristof Gillese

And then, like a siren luring a seafarer, I saw the white port. Yes my friends, I said white port. A 1963 Colheita white port. Part unicorn, part Picasso; I was truly unsure that what I was seeing was real and yet it was so beautiful. I asked the export manager from Dalva if I could taste that first, so intrigued was I that I set aside the normal courtesy of tasting through some of the portfolio before sampling their prized 50 year port.

Divine. A velvety rich bouquet of nougat/honey and orange blossoms, stunningly vivid and refreshing acid. 93 superlative points of concentration, balance and structure… by far the most exemplary white port I had ever tasted. And so I asked my new friend from C. da Silva ( ) how, why this was possible? I have been told for years that white port is an anomaly at best and poor substitute for “real” port at worst. But this, this was magic! It was explained to me that misinformation about white port wasn’t limited just to North America but was far more widespread then that. But, but the company had a family at its head with vision. That vision was focused on making the truest expression of white port possible and, after more then 60 years, they were still on that quest.

Interview with Nuno Vale

Nuno Vale, Marketing Director of Wines of Portugal. Photo: Wines of Portugal

Nuno Vale, Marketing Director, Wines of Portugal. Photo: Wines of Portugal

I invite you to listen to the interview for yourself and then, the next time you’re at the wine-shop, consider the wines of Portugal… now you know some of the reasons so many sommeliers love to put them on their wine-lists. But more than that – you also know why we respect vini Portugal.

Click to Listen!

And with my new-found revelation tucked away, I was racing down halls, through a cafe, up and down stairs with Mr Nuno Vale. We needed to find a quiet place to talk this out because I had questions! And we sat under a patio umbrella while the rain sang a merry song in time with the beat of Brahms and his piano cadence and we talked and we smiled and I felt like I had found a kindred spirit in this man from so far away who spoke with such passion and conviction.

Caption: genuine wine=genuine smiles

My thanks to colleagues at Townhall Brands ( for their part in coordinating of this interview for me, and this brilliant event for Vancouver. Of course, my most sincere thanks again to vini Portugal and to the Portuguese producers who traveled so far to share their stories, their culture and their wine with us.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:

on Twitter @AStudentofWine

on Facebook @

About Author


Kristof Gillese: trained chef, certified wine steward, journalist and proud father. In these articles it is the human story that takes priority: to tell the tale of common people accomplishing uncommon goals. In the world of wine these tales are prolific. It has been Chef Kristofs privilege to have worked with luminaries such as Pierre-Henry Gagey of Maison Jadot, Nik Weis of St Urbans-Hof, Ray Signorello of Signorello Estates and Ezra Cipes of Summerhill Pyramid Winery; leaders in the industry. With almost 3 decades of experience working with the synergy between food and wine, Chef Kristof is proud to share the stories of these amazing stewards of the land. These articles are written with a profound reverence for the family aspect to winery culture as, to this writers understanding, nothing has ever had a more far-reaching effect than the love and devotion for a parent to a child. All great wineries are built by parents for their children and it is because of this that Chef Kristof writes.
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