A Portuguese Spring with Molly & Olé Imports

April 13, 2018 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Crystal City Wine Shop
220 20th St S
Arlington, VA 22202

Tonight we have Molly, our regular visiting Iberian expert, representing some new wines from Olé Imports. Instead of writing a ton about them, I’ll just let Robert Parker have his say:

“When Olé Imports began in 1999, there were only three wines in their portfolio, and one of the two founders, Patrick Mata (the other founder being Alberto Orte), was not even old enough to consume alcohol! A great success story, this tiny boutique company searches out, as they put it, “unique terroir-driven wines of extraordinary value.” Often such sayings are hyperbole, but not in the case of Olé Imports.

Aside from the wine quality, one of the most admirable aspects of Olé Imports is their attitude concerning social responsibility. Readers are encouraged to check their web site, www.oleimports.com, to see the number of charities with which they are heavily involved, including some of my favorites such as the Wounded Warrior Project.

These wines are among my favorites from this motivated company. While none of their wines are household names, readers should seek them out as they represent sensational values from viticultural regions throughout Spain.”

ole imports

The Wines:

  • Vera Vinho Verde Branco: A little known fact about Portuguese winemaking history is that in the 50’s and 60’s, the Portuguese government, under pressure from the wine industry, resisted the arrival of Coca-Cola and soft drinks. Vinho Verdes, with their light alcohol and slight carbonation, were the soft-drink du jour, the drink people could have for lunch or when meeting with a friend. The Vinho Verde DOC is in northwest Portugal, just north of the warm Douro River Valley. It is rainy, mountainous and intensely green. The Basto sub-region where Vera is located is primarily granite soil, planted inland with vines that are between 10 and 35 years old. Vera Vinho Verde is 100% estate fruit (60% Arinto, 30% Azal, 10% Loureiro), estate bottled, low RS, and very light carbonation. Clean, lively flavors of lime, ripe pink and yellow grapefruit. This is a versatile wine that is perfect for sipping on the patio, to pair with a salad, or to have with heartier fair like fried fish or sharp cheese. (Vegan wine. 4,000 cases produced.)
  • Sao Joao Rose Bruto: Albano, José, and Manuel Costa founded their winery in 1920, naming it after S. Joao, the patron saint of Bairrada. Initially, they set out to make Port wines, wanting to cash in on the boom in demand for Port. A 1930 ruling prohibited the bottling of Port wines outside of the Vila Nova de Gaia area – where the port shippers still conduct business today- and Caves S. Joao turned to the production of still wines from the Bairrada and Dāo regions. Later, realizing Bairrada’s potential for producing world-class white and sparkling wines, they hired the French winemaker Gaston Mainousson to spearhead Bairrada’s establishment as the preeminent region for sparkling wines in Portugal. The singular terroir of Bairrada makes for world-class sparkling wine. The vineyards are planted the 20km from the ocean, battered by the northern Atlantic winds for which the area is well known. Méthode traditionelle gives this wine a soft, silky texture, combined with the floral tones and bright fruit of its indigenous varietals. A blend of 40% Baga, 40% Touriga Nacional, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, they all lend something special to the wine: Touriga Nacional gives intense rose petal aromas; Baga a bright red fruit character; and Cabernet lends depth and herbal notes. Racy acidity cuts a beam through the middle, making for a food-friendly sparkler. A terrific aperitif but also makes a lovely complement to shellfish, fried seafood, and spicier options. (2,500 cases produced.)
  • Aplanta Red Wine Blend: Alentejo, in the south of Portugal, is one of the more arid growing areas in Western Europe. The Mourao sub-region has no highways or airports, and its people were determined to continue a rustic, agrarian existence until the the finalization of the Alqueva Dam in 2004. A huge and controversial project, the “Barragem de Alqueva” is today the biggest artificial lake in Europe, and is a reservoir and irrigation source for a large area of the Alentejo. When the reservoir was planned the government faced a difficult decision. The old village of Aldeia da Luz (Village of Light) was below the proposed water-line of the planned reservoir, but the benefits that the project would bring were such that the village could not be spared. Would they relocate people to the nearest town? Perhaps disperse the 300-odd residents around the local villages? After consultation with the villagers the authorities undertook what is considered to be a unique resettlement plan: they rebuilt Luz a couple of kilometres away on higher ground. This relocation included planting both a 200 hectare olive grove and a 83 hectare vineyard that today belong to and are farmed by the 74 permanent denizens of the village. It is from this community vineyard that the fruit (70% Aragonez, 30% Alicante Bouschet) for Aplanta comes, showcasing the lush, warm flavors and easy-going style of Alentejo reds. Aplanta is a grilling wine that goes with everything from burgers to steaks! (3,300 cases produced.)
  • A Touriga Vai Nua: “O Rei vai nua!” “The king goes naked!” Antonio Maçanita, as he is wont to do, makes wine with a wink and a nod to tradition, and manages to create something that is both classic and completely new. A Touriga Vai Nua, or The Touriga Goes Naked, is one of these very wines. Taking the warmth and ripeness of the Alentejo and using it to great effect in this fresh yet lush expression of Portugal’s king of grapes, Touriga Naçional, exemplifies what makes Antonio’s winemaking so special. Like all of the wines from Fita Preta, this is unapologetically of and from the terroir of the Alentejo- warm, lush, ripe fruit. But by doing a partial carbonic maceration, whole cluster fermentation, and a mere 3 month elevage in stainless steel, he manages to create an expression of 100% Touriga that is fresh, light on its feet, and extremely versatile – both classic and new all at once. This, as he says, is “Touriga as only winemakers have tasted it,” before it sees any wood or further adulteration. An unmitigated look at terroir and varietal. Pairs with everything from lighter charcuterie to roasted meats! (Sustainably grown vines. Bottled unfined and unfiltered. 830 cases produced.)
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