Saturday, May 16, 2015

Big Finish For a Wild & Wacky Week

It would seem that this bottle will our last stop on this Wild & Wacky Wine Week that I had going. It's been quite the ride with introductions to Jacquère, Grechetto, Drupeggio, Malvasia Bianco, Verdello, Mavrud, Teroldego, Callet and Manto Negro but they say "all good things must come to an end" and tonight's grapes will likely be the last stop on this train for awhile.

And where else would you stop to find some offbeat and intriguing grapes but Portugal? With over 250 different indigenous varieties in its vast array of grapes, Portugal is a helluva place to start if you're looking to join the Wine Century Club.

1917.  2011 Niepoort Diálogo - Douro Branco Snow (Portugal)

When I picked up this bottle, I hadn't realized what a find it was on the new grape front. Notes for the wine, however, says that grape varieties used in making the Branco Snow include Rabigato, Côdega do Larinho, Gouveio, Dona Branca, Viosinho, Bical and others. That bodes well for a hefty score on the Wine Century Club tally as I try to complete my second century of grapes. The only thing with some of these more indigenous varieties is that they're often found by more than one name. So, it takes a bit of workout to make my way through Jancis Robinson, et al's, encyclopedic Wine Grapes and check all the various names against my own list.

I'm tickled to say that I get to add another five new varieties. Out of the six grapes listed, I had previously sipped on and added Gouveio under another of its names, Godello. In my books, five for six isn't so bad though.

There wasn't much to find on the five new grapes but Jancis and friends pointed out a few facts that I've latched on to:

• Rabigato - almost exclusively found in the Douro in northern Portugal and is rarely used to make a varietal wine.  Rabigato is favoured for blending particularly because of propensity for high acid levels.

• Côdega do Larinho - primarily noted for intense aromas of tropical fruit but, opposite to the Rabigato, can be rather low in acidity.

• Dona Branca - or "White Lady" in Portuguese - has, confusingly, been used for a number of distinct varieties in Portugal but there is a genetically distinct grape grown under this name in the northern part of the country where it produces "soft, fruity wines without any great distinction."

• Viosinho - is a relatively rare variety. It is also found almost exclusively in the Douro region; however, unlike some of the other grapes mentioned, Viosinho is well thought of as a quality grape that has good potential for quality wines - even so far as to having been referred to as the Portuguese Sauvignon Blanc. The biggest issues limiting that undeveloped potential is that it the grape is known for low yields and for being susceptible to oxidation.

• Bical - is found perhaps a bit more extensively in Portugal as it is recognized in a number of appellations and is known mostly as an aromatic, early-ripening grape.

Being a blend, I can't really comment on the individuality of the different grapes employed. I don't even know if the characteristics of one grape stood out more than another's, but I presume this should be a case of the whole tasting better than any of the component parts. The winery has prepared a great little tech sheet on the wine and it points out that 25% of the wine sees some aging in French oak and that all of the wine - whether aged in oak or stainless steel - has contact with fine lees (or spent yeast cells). I'm inclined to associate oak and lees to fullness in body and to some longevity in the wine's life but I think this one is better drunk when fresh. We just opened the 2011 vintage - and I see that it's still the current vintage in our government stores - but I wouldn't say that I found much in the way of fruit or acidity on the palate.

On the flip-side, the winery tasting notes talk of a "very long and salty aftertaste." I didn't notice that either but I think I'm just as glad to have missed the salt.

Diálogo sports a whimsical label that, according to an article of Jancis Robinson, is different in every country to which the wine is exported. That's got to take some dedication by the marketing department.

I see that Niepoort produces a red Diálogo as well.  I may need to source some out should I find myself in the throws of another Wild & Wacky Wine Week. In the mean time though, Wine Grapes goes back on the shelf. I celebrate five new grapes for the Wine Century Club (taking me to 193) and I get to put some thought into the final 80 some odd wines I need to reach #2001.

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