Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Vinha do Monte, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal

The cartoon to the left is simply titled "Suicide Alentejano (style)"... any winemaker or farmer will instantly see the humor.

     I am not a farmer, but am really only one generation removed, and whilst I can see the humor - I can also see the poignancy. What a struggle for that man, I think, and what passion. For what else, really, could motivate someone to work so diligently for what appears to be a "more then trying" situation? What else other then passion?

     I don't think I've ever heard anyone claim the Portuguese lacked for passion. Common sense? That may or may not be a different matter, which is also inferred from the cartoon. But then, what winemaker ever really followed sense above passion? What farmer? Common sense tells us that slaving all year to one's land is a risky endeavour at best; pests, natural disasters, drought, flood... so many things to get between the farmer and his crop. The farmer may even do everything right, in the right year, with the right weather - and it doesn't work the way he wanted it to. Just because.

     Common sense would tell me not to invest so much of myself in that endeavour.

     But farming, in any of its forms, really is about passion I believe, and that belief is re-affirmed every time I hear a winemaker speak of why he/she is in this craft: "To know that someone, somewhere, is sharing a bottle of my wine with friends or family, and smiling". Of course, I'm using my own words, but the meaning is there.

     Vinha do Monte, Vinho regional Alentejano comes from one of the largest areas of Portugal... it encompasses about 1/3 of the country though less then 8% of the population, and dwindling. It is a rural place, and having been born on the edge of rural - I understand why people  have left: people leave to find jobs. The sad part then, is many of the jobs that are there never get filled when the one person who does it for the town or county retires. And then a skill becomes forgotten. Cork production is an incredibly vital part of Alentejo's economy, and cork is harvested manually.

     Yes, by hand, and that will most likely never change. Did you know that one cork tree can produce enough bark in a harvest to create over 4000 corks? Pretty cool stuff. That was before I found out that they actually still make the axes for harvest in Alentejo as well. Makes sense-  who would know better what they need?

      The region spreads from the hills bordering Spain to the NorthEast down to the ocean... it is a vast sprawl of rolling hills with little rainfall. Summer reaches daytime highs of 40C or higher, and winters are generally mild. All in all, a wonderful place to grow crops of any kind, and wine drinkers the world over are taking notice.

2008 Vinha do Monte
Vinho Regional Alentejano, by Herdade do Peso
(a Vinho Regional is Portugal's version of the Country Wine classification)
12.5% ABV, $14   **Very Good Value**
traditional Alentejo white vine varieties -Roupeiro, Antão Vaz and Arinto
  • visual:     clean; pale yellow straw core with slight watery rim
  • nose:     clean; moderate+ intense youthful aromas of exotic fruit (pineapple, candied banana, ripe melon), wild grasses, gravelly/flinty minerality
  • palate:     clean; dry, moderate+to full (lemon and lime) acids, moderate body, moderate+ alcohol, moderately intense youthful flavors of flinty minerality, wild grasses, lemon and lime zest, slight exotic fruit undertones. Moderately well balanced, moderate structure and a quick finish.
  • conclusion:   This is a very refreshing wine, made as they say, to whet one's whistle. As an appero or a drink before the meal I think this would excel with its bright and lively acidity. Drink it now, as it will not improve with age and I don't imagine it has much more life. Enjoy 2011-2012.
  • PAIRINGS:   An excellent match for white fish and light cream sauces, Spanish ham crisps topped with goats cheese, also steamed green vegetables!

Sogrape Vinhos (the parent company) has just been distinguished by the well-known American magazine, Wine Enthusiast, with the trophy for “European Producer of the Year”. Congratulations! I look forward to sampling more of your portfolio if this is the quality one can expect for under $15!

CIN-CIN~!!!   SLAINTE~!!!   CHEERS~!!!

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