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QUINTA DA AVELEDA

Producers of Charamba and the famous Casal Garcia Vinho Verde

 

CHARAMBA Reserva Douro Valley Red  SALE PRICED $7.49  
You probably thought Charamba was some sort of Latin dance.  Nope.   It's a reasonably-priced, modest red wine from Portugal. 
Coming from the Douro Valley, this is made of some of the same principal varieties as Port.   We've had Charamba wine in the shop for a number of years and it is a surprisingly nice, slightly rustic red.   There's a spiciness to this which recalls some Southern Rhone reds.  The grape varieties for this include Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz.   Matured for less than a year in wood.  
The 2015 is the current vintage.  It's a medium-bodied, mildly spicy red.  Much like its predecessors, this is a great little wine at a most affordable price.
Unlike the bottling we have had for many years, this is their "Reserve" level red.  It is different from the bare-bones, basic Charamba.



Here's an inexpensive, everyday red wine with some soul!   We get calls for this from all over the countryside.  These were even more prevalent when the San Francisco Chronicle printed an article on "Bargain-Priced" wines in late 2006.   

W. Blake Gray wrote a dozen years ago...The current exchange rate has caused a mild increase in its price...and the wine we currently have is a reserve bottling.
Aveleda Charamba Douro ($4.79) This is the best under-$5 bottle I've had this year. It's made by Aveleda, a large Portuguese company best known for Vinho Verde. Weimax wine buyer Weisl says it's a store favorite, and no wonder, with its flavors of cherry, berry, earth and spice. Consider buying this one by the case.
 

So the current Charamba is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz.  

The juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks at controlled temps.  Once the fermentation is finish, the wine is racked into small oak barrels where it spends about a year developing and smoothing out the tannins.  It's not especially tannic, though.

There's a little bit of a woodsy note, one of the main differences between the Reserva and the no-longer-available regular bottling.

It's still a remarkable value, as eight bucks doesn't buy much in California wine (for example).

Put this on the dinner table with red meats or cheeses...heck, even a pizza can be a good accompaniment..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CASAL GARCIA VINHO VERDE

Casal Garcia is one of Portugal's most popular wines.  It's quite simple and uncomplicated, so it's not a wine which will appeal to fans of California Chardonnay.

The brand has been around since 1939 and it's found on most wine lists all over the Portuguese countryside.  

Best consumed immediately (cellaring this is a bit like aging a carton of milk), the wine is dry, relatively low in alcohol and bottled with a bit of residual CO2.  It's not overtly fizzy, but there's a subtle "buzz" on the palate.  The grape varieties in this little wine are Trajadura, Loureiro, Arinto and Azal.

We enjoyed a bottle at a fancy seafood palace and the wine was thoroughly delightful with the prawns, percebes (barnacles...if you're on the Iberian Peninsula, don't miss these delectable treats!) and shrimp.

 

 

A RosÚ was launched recently and this is a delightfully fresh basket of strawberries that's fairly dry, low alcohol, bright and crisp.

It's not a complex wine...it's not intended to be a grand vin, but merely delicious.

Currently in stock:
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Branco (white) $6.99
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde RosÚ $6.99


 

 

 

 

QUINTA DA AVELEDA

A bit more spiffy in terms of intensity and quality is the "Quinta da Aveleda" bottling of Vinho Verde.

This is made of Alvarinho (30%) and Loureiro (70%).  It's nice and dry and, of course, light.  You'll detect that faintly fizzy quality to this fresh bottling...
This is not the most complex white wine you'll put on the table, but it's one of the most satisfying.  No oak, low alcohol and high acidity make for a crisp, snappy little white wine.

The 2017 is in stock presently...Well-priced, too.  Some customers have told us they think this is the best little dry white in the shop in its price category...

And you'll see it in some other shops in the Bay Area at the same price.  But we offer a 10% or 15% discount if you're buying this as part of a 12 bottle case.






 

Currently in stock:  2017 QUINTA DA AVELEDA $8.99






The Aveleda property is remarkable...there's a small wine shop and tasting room.  They maintain a remarkable garden which makes for a delightful stroll, should you find yourself in Porto (it's about a 30 minute drive).


 
 
 


"Here's looking at you, kid!"

 
 

Portu-Geese.

 

I checked...no Vinho Verde in the fountain.

 
 
 
A sign pointing to the tasting rooms...


If the weather is nice, you can sit on the balcony and enjoy the view...and a sip of wine.


 

 





 
QUINTA DO BACALHďA
This brand is but one label of many produced under the proprietorship of one of the most wealthy man on the planet.  His story is an extraordinary one...

JosÚ Manuel Rodrigues Berardo was born in Madeira and, as a kid, worked at the Madeira Wine Company, his first introduction to the world of wine.  He was an ambitious, hard-working fellow and ventured to South Africa in search of his fortune.  And did he ever hit the jackpot!


His South African adventure began as he was a field worker on vegetable farms.   This led to his selling produce to mining company kitchens and this led to his buying abandoned mines in hopes of extracting gold.  His hunches proved correct and remarkably lucrative and today this fellow is insanely wealthy.  


Visit the Quinta do Bacalh˘a winery a half-hour's drive (if there's not road construction and heavy traffic) and you arrive at a gated, security guarded entrance.  This is not so much to protect the vinous "gold" made at this winery, but to look after the impressive art works displayed on the grounds and in the cellar.

 

 

 
 
 
We had heard there was a garden and impressive display of Portuguese tiles at this estate, but we had no idea of the enormity of the collection or of Mr. Berardo's active role in the art world (especially in Portugal).  Nor did we know of his enological interests in Canada and Australia.  Or the depth of his holdings in the Portuguese wine industry...

Berardo, in addition to the numerous wines made by his Bacalh˘a estate, owns the Caves Alianca brand, has recently bought the Rothschild's share of Quinta do Carmo (to become the sole proprietor of that estate), owns 33% of Sogrape (the humungous firm which makes Mateus Rose and other notable wines), 50% of a Canadian wine company called Colio and he's the majority stockholder in an Australian wine company called Cumulus.  And I didn't mention he owns a significant percentage of the prestigious Madeira winery called Henriques and Henriques.  We suspect Donald Trump or Bill Gates might appear impoverished in comparison to "Joe" Berardo.

In addition to the impressive showplace-of-a-cellar and bottling facility, there's a very curious "garage" cellar where they mature the famous Moscatel called Set˙bal.


This is a "cellar" where Mother Nature "controls" the temperature.  It can be quite cool in the winter and hotter-than-hell in the summer.  We were told these conditions contribute to the particular character of their various Moscatel wines.
We tasted three different bottlings of Set˙bal Muscats and the wines were excellent from the entry-level bottling to the deluxe, rare "Roxo" wine.


Berardo was born on the 4th of July and he's a fan of the American president, Abraham Lincoln.


These olive trees, relatively recently transplanted here, are said to be well more than a thousand years old...maybe two-thousand.


Ana Isabel LeitŃo offers a taste of Moscatel, amongst others.

Quinta do Bacalh˘a's famous red wine comes from mature vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The wine sees extended skin contact following its fermentation as they're trying to obtain every last nuance from the grapes.  The wine then goes in oak, half the barrels being brand new.  After a year or so in wood, the wine is bottled and left to mature in the cellar...

The 2013 has recently arrived through a new, local importer.  This is a deep, dark colored wine and it has intense red and black fruit aromas and a wonderfully woodsy bouquet.  It's still a bit clumsy and we found decanting or aerating the wine for an hour is extremely beneficial.  The wine is complete on the palate, showing nice fruit and wood with modest tannins.  It can probably be held for another few years, but drinking it tonight with red meats or game is ideal, too.

There's a dynamite bottle of white...it's a sort of Portugal-Meets-Bordeaux wine.  Semillon is the base and part of the Semillon portion is fermented in oak.  In keeping with the Bordeaux theme, the wine is 25% Sauvignon Blanc.  But wait!  There's more.  To give it a unique flair, the Iberian grape, Alvarinho, comprises 25% of the blend.  What's remarkable is, if you're familiar with each of these three grapes, you can actually detect all of them playing their own tune in this little symphony. 
Don't be scared off by the notation of wood.  Oak is barely detectable in this medium-bodied dry white.  


Currently in stock:   2013 Quinta do Bacalh˘a Red $27.99
2010 Quinta do Bacalh˘a White Sold Out
 





 

 

JP AzeitŃo RED

Here's a simple, inexpensive and brilliantly-made little dry red from south of Lisbon.
The appellation is "Vinho Tinto Regional Peninsula de Set˙bal."

The wine comes from the grand Bacalh˘a winery and though they make a lot of more pricey wines, this one is hard to beat for value.

It's a blend featuring Syrah with CastelŃo and Aragonez.  They employ a fairly short maceration so as to not pick up much tannin.
Each variety is harvested individually according to the maturity of the grapes.

It's a terrific red for six bucks and it's not a wine made at the direction of a marketing department which demands inky color and some residual sugar to make it appealing to people who don't drink wine.

 
Currently in stock:  2016 JP AZEIT├O RED  SALE $5.99

 

 

 




QUINTA VALE D. MARIA

Though this is a rather new wine and few people have heard of the estate, most fans of Portuguese wines know the name of Cristiano Van Zeller.  That's who's behind this producer of table wine and Ports.

For one thing, it turns out he's virtually everyone's cousin in Portugal!
We spent a couple of weeks touring around the various wine regions of Portugal and it seemed like everywhere we went, someone told us they had a cousin named Van Zeller from the Douro.

Van Zeller's family owned and operated the Quinta do Noval port house before selling it in 1994 to an insurance investment group.

Ellen & Cristiano Van Zeller
 
This property has been in Cristiano's wife's family for about 200 years.  It was rented or leased by the Symington family, who had it as the home base for their Smith Woodhouse brand of Port.  Since 1996 the Quinta Vale D. Maria has been operated by Van Zeller.
 


It's a 43 hectare estate with 20 hectares of 60 to 80 year old vines.  The other 23 hectares range from 5 to 30 years of age.


The cellars are small and well-maintained.
Joana Pinhao does a lot of the cellar work.

 
Sandra Tavares da Silva is the head of the enology crew at this property.  She and her husband also make some top wines in the Douro and her parents own a wonderful property in the Estremadura region, just north of Lisbon.
 


We especially like the 2012 vintage of the Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro red. Part of the wine was fermented in stone lagares and part in stainless steel tanks.  The wine comes from 60 to 70 year old vines and spent roughly 20 months in oak, a high percentage being brand new.  It's a medium-full bodied red, comparable to top Napa Cabernets or upper level Rioja.  

The wine labeled CV is a killer!
It comes from seriously old vineyards which are north-facing!  (Most northern hemisphere vineyards face the south to get afternoon sun...more sun, period!).
About half of the wine is trodden in lagares and fermented in those "swimming pools."  The other half goes into stainless steel tanks.
The wine is remarkable and on par with top Bordeaux or Napa Cabs and flashy, modern Spanish wines.
They call it CV, as in Curriculum Vitae, the wine being sort of a rÚsumÚ  for both Cristiano and winemaker Sandra Tavares.
We view this as a bit of a benchmark for Douro Valley red table wines and it's upper-echelon by any measure.

We found the Port here to be quite good, as well.

***
 
Currently in stock:  
2012 QUINTA D. VALE MARIA Douro Red $49.99
2012 CV (list $100)  SALE $89.99


 

CHRYSEIA
We are certain most people looking for Portuguese wines are hoping to find something inexpensive and drinkable.

For many people, the idea of spending more than ten bucks on a bottle of wine is crazy.  

So, if you are one of those people, please scroll down the page to some of the other wines featured here, because this is definitely not for you!

The Symington family owns tremendous properties in Portugal's Douro Valley, producing a great range of prestigious Port wines.  Graham's, Dow's and Warre's are their leading labels, amongst others.  

Some years ago (decades ago, actually) we stopped in to pay them a visit and were graciously invited to stay for lunch.  I recall them serving a pork chop alongside a carafe of "house" wine, a table wine made for their own enjoyment but nothing terribly fancy.  The wine tasted good, but was certainly simple.  The Douro was known solely for Port wines.  Table wines, dry reds, were pretty much non-existent.

I wondered why they didn't consider, given the warm climate of the Douro, making something more interesting or noble.  

Years later, they embarked on a collaborative effort with Bruno Prats, the former owner of a top Medoc property, ChÔteau Cos d'Estournel in St. EstŔphe.

They have really come up with something exceptional, the wine being called Chryseia.  "Douro" is Portuguese for "golden" and "chryseia" is Greek for golden, which is what your credit card needs to be if you're going to buy this wine.  

The first vintage of this wine was uniquely Portuguese, though you'd find a fair contribution from French oak barrels on the nose and palate.   The fruit character, though, is exceptional.  Touriga Nacional is the main grape, augmented with Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo elsewhere) and Tinta Co.  

They substantially increased the price of Chryseia, lending some measure of credibility to its "goldenness." We've tasted this off and on over the years...some vintages are quite good and others make you think how they can ask a premium price for a wine which, to our tastes, doesn't merit its price.

They make a second wine called Post Scriptum, P&S  (Prats and Symington).

It's usually been a rather nice bottle.  We tasted the 2013 Post Scriptum alongside the current vintage of Chryseia and, frankly, the P-S bottling was more attractive, not to mention (but we will anyway) it's less than half the price.

It's 59% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca and the rest split evenly between Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca.  It's less than 14% alcohol, too, which is remarkable and shows some Old World winemaking sensibilities.  The fermentation was done with the idea of producing a wine with less tannin and earlier drinkability.  Add in 14 months of aging in some sort of French oak puncheons and you've got a really nice bottle of wine.




Currently in stock:  2009 CHRYSEIA   Sold Out
2013 POST SCRIPTUM  (List $27)  Sold Out



 

QUINTA DA LEDA
This is a wine now made under the Sogrape umbrella from the Casa Ferreirinha.  It's a Douro Valley wine and is produced from fruit grown in the "Douro Superior" region.  

Their most famous wine has been "Barca Velha," the "Penfolds Grange Hermitage" of Portugal, if you will.  Whatever major league wine you compare it to, (Vega Sicilia of Spain, BV Private Reserves of Napa from the late 1950s or 1960s, top Bordeaux, etc.), it's expensive.  I put a bottle on my dinner table along with the less costly Quinta da Leda and we found the Leda wine to be quite good and the scarcity tax was less.

We had a few bottles of the 2011 in stock.  The wine usually a blend of Touriga Nacional with Touriga Franca as the base and then there's a small percentage of Tina Roriz.  The wine spends about a year and a half in French oak, with 50% of the wood being brand new.


Though it's 7 years of age, this is still a rather young wine.  It's a magnificent red, cedary, woodsy and complete, with moderate tannins suggesting it can be held for 5-20 more years.  


Currently in stock:  2011 Quinta da Leda  SALE $74.99



 

 

 

 

 



VALE DO BOMFIM
Since the price of a bottle of wine has climbed to dizzying heights all over the planet, it's little wonder we are now seeing hugely expensive wines coming from various regions of Portugal.

Though the Douro is firstly famous for its Port wines, the region is certainly capable of producing world class red wines.  Some are hugely expensive and some are actually priced within the realm of reason.  We have noticed, of course, that the price does not always correlate to the quality of a wine.

Many of the really expensive bottlings seem to carry a scarcity tax or a the costs of a marketing campaign.  We have trouble pouring those "features" into a wine glass.

The Symington family makes quite a range of wines, owning extensive acreage in the Douro.

Their Dow bottling of table wine from the 2015 vintage, the seventh or eighth year this is offered commercially, I think.  It's a blend of 40% Touriga Franca, 25% Touriga Nacional and the rest is a field blend of mixed-plantings from two vineyard sites, so it's a bit of a mystery.  Well, they're not exactly a mystery, but in the old days, growers would plant a few of these and a few of those, having a 'field blend' of numerous varieties.  Some of this wine comes from older vineyards and so it's a mystery.  
What's not a mystery is the quality of the wine.  It is good.

The wine does have a bit of tannin, so pairing it with red meat actually softens one's impression of the wine.  If you can decant it an hour, or so, before dinner, that's all the better.  
Currently in stock:  VALE DO BOMFIM 2015 DOURO $10.99
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
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By the way...we also have Sagres Beer from Portugal, as well as some brandies and liqueurs.

 

 

 

 

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