Friday, May 18, 2012

Crasto '09 and Vale d. Maria '08

I had the great pleasure of eating two fine meals with superb Duoro wines in Porto with good friend and political communication colleague Rui Novais. Once again I want to record for my many followers the under-recognized greatness of the best Portuguese table wines. I have to write from memory earlier this week but my impression of the first, Quinta do Crasto Reserva 2009, was very much like my old favorite, the Chrysaea 2004. An extraordinary combination of complexity, layers and layers of fruit nuances balanced by soft tannins and acidity that married beautifully with the food. This was at Rui Paula’s restaurant; he is the very chef whose food I loved in the restaurant out in the Douro wine region when I stayed at Quinta do Vallado in 2008. Paula himself came to the table as he had back then, giving friendly advice on wine and food. I later looked up the ’09 Crasto in Wine Advocate and found it was rated 93 points. As I was leaving town I found it selling for a relative bargain 30 Euros at the Duty Free; if only I could have lugged a case back to Berlin! I will search for it in Germany and the US. Not quite as good yet but likely to become its equal or better is the wonderful Douro that went with our meal at the restaurant of the spectacular Hotel Teatro. Fantastic food and the wine was, I think, Quinto do Vale de Maria, I believe the ’08 Tinto. (Didn’t really look carefully at the bottle because the food and wine in glass were so great.) This wine was round but perhaps a little firmer and less open now than the Crasto, with a pronounced spearmint undertone to the blue/black berry fruit that reminded me quite a bit of a great California cabernet. I think in a blind tasting of cabs it could fit right in. Another wine I will search for and procure. If I’m right about the specific bottle it also received 93 points from the Advocate, where Squires says indeed that it won’t come into its own till ’14 or ’15. As much as I love Priorats, these Douro table wines are generally less expensive and equally though distinctly exotic for equivalent quality. I hope to visit both wineries and others in Douro later this year, around harvest time so I can get in some more time as a human crusher (see picture from '08).