My new profile holds a place close to my heart. When I visited Spain on vacation one year ago, I happened to be one of those travellers who was stranded by the erupting Icelandic Volcano. Instead of wallowing in frustration, my partner and I decided to take an impromptu trip to Oporto in Portugal. Thank God we did, as Portugal ended up as one the favourite stops I’ve made in Europe.
Port is, of course, Portugual’s dominant wine export, though stagnant sales have prompted the top houses to look to dry wines to increase sales. Word of increasing interest in the dry wines has reached North American shores but access to the actual wines remains spotty. Additionally, there isn’t much critical attention on the most interesting wines being made. Part of this is a marketing problem with some of Portugal’s wineries who have poor branding and make far too many wines. However, part of it has to do with critics writing off an entire country after tasting only a few wines or, simply, minimal attention given how many other wines struggle for attention these days. Of course, our proximity to the U.S. and Australia has helped make those wines amongst the top selling in the Province next to perennial France (cache really does work sometimes). But the Portuguese wine scene is, perhaps, one of the most exciting in the world right now and it is damn time that someone pay attention to these wines.
Add to that that most wines in Portugal are made with indigenous grapes and have a character unlike anywhere else, that prices are disturbingly low for the quality, and that most of the better producers are only going to improve, then you have a recipe for a truly exciting wine hot spot.
Bordeaux Meets Douro
Chryseia is one of Portugal’s star names, which means, of course, that no one here has heard of it. A joint venture between the Symmington Family (one of Oporto’s great names, with holdings including Dow’s, Graham’s, and Quinta do Vesuvio) and Bruno Prats of Cos d’Estournel, this winery was established to make a premium red blend from grapes grown in the Douro Valley. While grapes for the first vintages came from Symmington’s port holdings, the duo have since purchased vineyards in the Rio Torto Valley solely for the purpose of making Chryseia’s two dry reds: the eponymous wine and this, the second wine Post Scriptum.
I should note that holdings in Portugal can be confusing to follow as acquisitions and mergers abound. Symmington now sources most of its grapes for dry reds from the vineyards previously owned by Quinta do Roriz (owned by Van Zeller). The name and vineyards have, since 2009, switched over to the Symmingtons – though given our ridiculous laws and delays in shipping the wines in this market are quite a bit older. Thus, the Post Scriptum I am reviewing today represents only the 3rd vintage of this wine, made from totally different vineyards than if you bought it today – i.e. the vineyards now exclusively used for Chryseia. Nonetheless, it represents the style that Chryseia is going for and is an excellent representation of changes in the Portuguese dry wine industry as a whole.
Elegance and Expression
This is serious wine, and totally unexpected. The nose evokes classic Bordeaux – that’s right, this is not a big alcoholic, fruity, heavily extracted red. Rather it has near cool climate expressivity with blackcurrant, blackberry, graphite and stoney mineral. The weight of this wine is shocking. I expected something huge and dense but this is medium bodied and elegant as hell. The fruit is moderate (likely exacerbated by the 7 years bottle age), but the secondary characteristics here are impressive: stone, pencil lead and chalky tannins. The finish seems to lack a little stuffing and I think this wine is on its downward curve now, but this is very good, honest wine, that is shockingly elegant for such a hot climate. No one would peg it as Portuguese in a blind.
And keep in mind that this is only the third vintage of the second wine from this estate. I will certainly be seeking the big boy whenever I get the chance. I feel effusive beginning this spotlight with this wine. I was expecting to be surprised, given my experiences in Portugal last year, but to be this shocked with the first wine was just darn cool and is something that doesn’t happen too often. So here’s to being open minded. 40% Touriga Franca, 40% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz.
$40 at Liberty Wine Merchants