More of a Portuguese bent will be happening over the next few months as we just booked a trip to that deliciously weird country in September.
For two days during that trip, we'll be in the Douro and staying at the winery which made today's wine offering.
Excited is a mild term for our feelings about the trip.
While the wine missed the mark with the pairing, for $20, it's all Portugal, giving a glimpse into what makes Portuguese reds so gosh darn tasty.
Food: Duck leg stew with a sort of tapas spread
Well done duck legs stewed in prunes, Sicilian green olives, onions, leeks, carrots, tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, salt and pepper with a picada sauce of garlic, parsley and nuts added later. It's a Catalan recipe from the inland region of Ampurdan taken again from the New Spanish Table cookbook.
The result was a sort of duck stew with a complexity of flavor I've never experienced. Deep earthiness with all the ingredients coming through at different times without becoming muddled or weighty. Wasn't coma-inducing or thick though. Almost bright and light. Looked like gravy, tasted like the best gravy I've ever had but didn't weight down the meal like gravy tends to do with flavors jumping everywhere. With delicious duck leg that nicely fell right off the bone, it was a true joy. Can't compare it to anything because I've never had anything like it. Just buy the book.
We'll be having it again.
Various accompaniments forming a sort of tapas spread included thinly-sliced linguiça, manchego cheese marinated in olive oil and rosemary, marcona almonds, medjool dates and baguette and butter.
A great meal not made better by the wine.
Wine: 2007 Quinta do Vallado Douro ($20 - Binny's)
Grape: Touriga Franca (30%), Touriga Nacional (25%), Tinta Roriz (20%),
Sousão (5%) and Vinhas Velhas (20%)
Region: Douro Valley
Vintage: 96 A cool, wet spring and summer cut yields by 20 percent, but ideal harvest weather delivered optimal ripeness
The estate "basic" tinto blend from Vallado (the reserva will be forthcoming). Opened 30 minutes before drinking (probably should have been longer). Dark red in the glass. Grilled plums on the nose. More plum dominated on the palate with some dark dried cherry and plenty of Asian spice. The flavors were straight-forward and entirely representative of what you get from a good Portuguese wine. Some nice heat with this one and a good backbone.
It performs better than most any other $20 Portuguese red blend we've had, including the wine press's favorite children, Quinta do Crasto and Vale Meão Meandro. But with Portuguese reds, a huge jump in quality happens from $20 to $40-50. In the latter range, you get something so ridiculously good, it's probably become our favorite style of wine on par with Heredia in its deliciousness.
If you haven't had Portuguese red, the Quinta do Vallado Tinto is a good place to start just to see if you dig the style. A grittiness mixes with a dark plummy creaminess vacillating back and forth dominates with some grilled meat notes and slightly less prominent Asian spice than you get from better, more expensive and expressive reds from the Douro. But it's worth every dollar in the $20 price tag. Maybe not more, but certainly worth the dollars paid.
I've never been particularly thrilled by lower-end Portuguese reds (good enough was about the best I could ever say) but I'd give my left leg for much of the higher end stuff. This one broke that mold and successfully landed right in the middle of all that.
Pairing: 80 Didn't work but I don't know what the heck would go with this food
The wine turned a bit gritty, flat and boring with most of the food, particularly the duck leg. With the linguiça, it reached the realm of mildly interesting but that was about it.
We were stumped completely by what in the world would have paired with the gravy-like goodness of the duck leg stew. Maybe a Rhône? Priorat? Other than that, not much would have had a chance, I think.
Solid wine, great by itself but bad pairing. Didn't matter, though. We're goin' to Portugal!