It’s Euro Time
So what did we have in the Quarter Finals?
Portugal Vs Czech Republic
Although I believe that any place that grows wine grape for wine making purposes will have someone who can make decent wine (or even more) Czech is not a real contender amongst traditional european wine producing countries. On the other hand Czech beer is world famous. The Czech Republic is the No. 1 beer drinking nation on the planet, with an annual consummation of 156 liters per capita. Beer also counts on “our” blog so there you go… Most Czech beers are lagers, brewed naturally from hand-picked hops. Czechs like their beer cellar temperature. The best known Czech beer is the original Pils beer, Pilsner Urquell, brewed in the town of Plzen and exported worldwide. Many Czechs also drink another Plzen brew, Gambrinus, or Bernard from Eastern Bohemia. They are good at it since beer making in Bohemia is recorded as early as 859 A.D. (a long enough time to practice)
Wine in Portugal dates back to ancient Roman times, sometime from 70 to 270 AD this fact does not surprise you I’m sure! In fact wine culture was exported, through the Roman Empire to all of Western and Middle-Europe by the Roman (Jupiter & Bacchus bless their souls, or were they the Greeks with Zeus and Dionysus, we’ll find out soon!).
There are 8 wine regions in Portugal : they span from south to the north: Alentejo, Terras do Sado, Estremadura, Ribatejo, Bairrada, Dao, Douro and Minho. All have roots in Roman times. Portuguese wine have made a quantum leap in quality in the last 10 years and still improving especially in the north: Dao and Douru. A worthy earn of ticket to the semifinals and a rightful contender to reach the finals with still a high hurdle on the way.
Without a doubt, a winner of the: Best newcomer, to the dry wine Big League.
As long as dessert fortified wines PORT (of all types) it is at the Top of the League for several hundred years now.
Portugal wins 1:0, Portugal and Portuguese wine go through to semi finals.
Germany Vs Greece
Well you have probably guessed by now that wine in Germany dates back to Ancient Roman times, to sometime from 70 to 270 AD… Germany is a northern country it stretches between 47º- 55 º N, so although German wine regions are to be found on the same degree of latitude as Newfoundland the climate is influenced by the Gulf Stream and allows certain grape varieties to grow and mature (especially now with global warming and all).
There are around 13 German wine growing regions. The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, and Rheingau, produce the best wines, mostly white wine varieties (75%), but also produces some very good reds – usually from the Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) variety
The Mosel-Saar-Ruwer region comprises the valley of the River Mosel from where it joins the Rhine and its two small tributaries the Saar and the Ruwer. The Mosel River winds past steep, slaty slopes covered with some of Germany’s most famous vineyards. The best wines, come from the mineral-rich, slate slopes, and are made from Riesling grown on the steep, southern-facing slopes, The Rheingau, produces some of the finest German wines. mostly Riesling that develops to perfection, producing noble, elegant wines.
The origins of wine-making in Greece go back 6,500 years some 4000 years before Roman Empire influence (Zeus and Dionysus) win by a large margin. There are archeological confirmations to the fact that Greece is home to the second oldest known grape wine remnants discovered in the world (the oldest is the “kitchen” in Hajji Firuz Tepe Iran). Greek civilization and their worship of Dionysus, the god of wine, spread Dionysian cults throughout the Mediterranean areas during the period of 1600 BC to the year 1. Ancient Greeks introduced the vines Vitis vinifera and made wine in their numerous colonies from Italy to southern France & Spain.
Some of the best known, recorded wines for their quality come from mediteranian Islands like Crete, Lesbos, Rhodes, Santorini and Thasos. These Aegean Islands form one of the more interesting wine regions of Greece to date. Other regions are Peloponnese, Ionian Islands, Macedonian & Central Greece.
There are some Very impressive winemakers in Greece without enough international exposure or recognition.
Germany wins 4 – 2…and goes through to the semifinals.
Spain Vs. France
Archeologists suggest that the Celts first cultivated the grape vine, Vitis vinifera, pre-dates Greek and Roman cultural influences, But the greatest influence on the wine history of Gaul came with the founding of Massalia in the 6th century BC by Greek immigrants from Phocae in Asia Minor. This continued till eventually the area became a Roman province first known as Provincia and later Gallia Narbonensis. After that there was no looking back and wine industry developed to the heights we came to appreciate in the 20th century.
There are numerous wine regions of wines in France. (I guess) I will mention the two regions that “sum up” all the magic of the French wines:
Burgundy: All the complexity and nuances of “terroir” in one of France’s most prestigious wine regions. From the Côte d’Or with the most noble and various expressions of 2 grape varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Bliss on the palate and nose.
Bordeaux: The most renowned wine regions of the world. It produces the region’s traditional wine from a blend of grape varieties mainly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. With famous subregions as Pomerol, St-Emilion, Graves, St-Estèphe, Pauillac, Margaux & Sauternes. Sublime!
the great diversity of native grape varieties over 600 grape varieties are planted throughout Spain points to a very early viticulture start. There is Archaeological evidence of grape remains to sometime between 4000 and 3000 BC, when grapes were first cultivated for the purpose of wine making. This is long before the Phoenicians wine-growing culture established the trading post of Cádiz around 1100 BC. Later Carthaginians introduced new wine techniques & advances to Iberia and only later served the Roman Empire need for wine of different style and character.
With almost 60 regions and sub-regions Rioja, Navara, Priorat &Ribera del Duero and are the most established.
Although Spanish wine and wine industry is amongst the oldest in Europe, and nowadays well known for their unique character and regarded with great esteem, still, in my mind, on the wine field Spain “looses” to France this is of course derived from a personal view of taste and style attraction. Football wise the quality over the football field is in favor of Spain.
The Spaniards beat France 2:0 and go through to the semifinals.
Italy Vs England.
It wasn’t until the Greek colonization of the south of Italy, that wine-making flourished. Viticulture was introduced into Sicily and southern Italy by the Mycenaean Greeks during the Roman defeat of the Carthaginians (True masters of wine-making) in the 2nd century BC that Italian wine production began to further flourish. Large-scale plantations sprang up in many coastal areas and spread to such an extent that, in 92 AD, Emperor Domitian was forced to destroy a great number of vineyards in order to free up fertile land for food production.
With 20 wine regions that are spread evenly throughout the Land and numerous sub regions of particular nature within each region Italian wine especially in Piemonte in the nothe west and Toscana in the center make Italy into a substantial winemaking country and along with Spain and France the most established Old World Pillars of wine making tradition.
The grape varieties that set Italy apart from all other European countries
Garganega – The main White grape variety for wines labeled Soave, this makes a crisp, dry white wine from Veneto region.
Trebbiano – This is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy. It is grown throughout the country, with a special focus on the wines from Abruzzo and from Lazio, including Frascati.
Nebbiolo is chiefly grown in Piedmont. Considered he most noble of Italy’s red varieties.
Sangiovese – The pride and essence of Toscana. Sangiovese is the main variety in Chianti (Classico), Rosso di Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, Montefalco Rosso, and many others. And the backbone in many of the acclaimed “Super-Tuscans” Italy’s claim to fame!
Barbera – The most widely grown red wine grape of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy,
The wine world as we know it today owes a lot to a country that is too northern to be a wine producing country. Yet the way we look at wines in all respects is due to the the English attitude to wine and continental wines in particular. The English are directly responsible for the quality of the wines of Bordeaux, Champagne, Porto, Madeira, Jerez to name but a few due to their need to quench their thirst…
It all started in 1152 when the marriage between Eleanor of Aquitaine and the future King Henry II of England brought a large portion of southwest France under English rule. When Henry’s son John inherited the English crown, he bestowed many privileges upon Bordeaux merchants giving the exemption from export tax, making Bordeaux wine the cheapest wine in the London market and gained immense popularity among the English, who call it claret (clear). For over the next 300 years much of Gascony, in particular Bordeaux, benefited by the close commercial ties with the English allowing this area to grow in prominence among all French wines. After the end of the Hundred Years War, these lands reverted back to French rule with a lasting imprint of English influence. The collapse of the Bordeaux ties to their largest customer; England, was a blow to both nations. The English soon established ties with Portugal but kept longing for French Claret.
The Aristocracy of Bordeaux kept “loose” commercial contacts with the English Aristocracy. In 1649, Lord Arnaud III de Pontac became owner of Haut-Brion, and the wine’s growing popularity began in earnest. The first records of Haut-Brion wine found in the wine cellar ledger of the English king Charles II. During the years 1660 and 1661, 169 bottles of the “wine of Hobriono” were served at the king’s court. Samuel Pepys wrote in The Diarist, having tasted the wine at Royal Oak Tavern on April 10, 1663, to have “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with”
In 1666, after “The Great Fire”, the heir to Château Haut–Brion François-Auguste, opened a tavern in London called “L’Enseigne de Pontac”, or the “Sign of Pontac’s Head” which was according to André Simon, London’s first fashionable eating-house. Jonathan Swift “found the wine dear at seven shillings a flagon”. A 17th century period WINE BAR!!!
The Institute of Masters of Wine and WSET are located in London (more than 60% of around 250 worldwide MW are English!!! , The most prestigious wine Auction Houses Sotheby’s and Christies are in London. Without a doubt England is a center of wine knowledge and import with unparralel importance to world wine without being a wine producing country.
Having “patriotic roots” in England, I obviously supported “Her Majesty’s” team. They started well but played shamefully and deserved to loose.
Italy 0 – 0 England, Italy deservedly won 4–2 on penalties and proceeded to the Semifinals.
PORTUGAL Vs SPAIN
The Iberian Peninsula Hosts a mini battle this time for the ticket to GLORY and a place at the EURO 2012 FINALS, the “Grand Finale”
This is indeed Guerra de guerrillas “War of little wars” on the football pitch. They stand and fight as equals! But the skill or luck of penalty shootout solution (unfair but Just), finally “defeats” the Portuguese.
Spain wins 4:2 on penalties and proceeded to the finals.
Here’s how it happened:
Spain starts with a Vega Sicilia Unico 1991 on the Field – The Gran Reserva wine produced only on good vintage years. It is a signature wine of Vega Sicilia and is usually released around 10 years or even more after the vintage. Made from the oldest vines in the Ribera del Duero, the wine is mostly Tempranillo ( 80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon ( 20%). In an average vintage,
Portugal tries with a 1937 Barros Port than uses 1994 Warres Vintage Port as a substitute in Overtime against this time a La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 Cosecha 1987 On pouring the wine, one immediately notices its brilliant, ruby red colour and its aromatic nose. This wine is in fact so aromatic that it is its dominant feature. In the mouth, the first impression is of roundness and creaminess, then notes of spice and vanilla come through, leading to a warm, enveloping flavour, with a most elegant and distinguished finish. It is a full and lively wine; well-structured and young for its age with a broad and abiding palate which is confirmed by a smooth and long-lasting after taste. It will continue to develop over the coming years with a long life ahead of it. (from:http://www.riojalta.com/datos/vinos/pdf_doc_en29/I%20904%2087.pdf)
ITALY Vs GERMANY
The Italians are all in the vineyard Happy towards a good harvest there is joy in their play (I did not expect). They prune and tend to the grapes knowing the razzmatazz of the harvest will be proceeded with a great wine…
The Germans come on to the pitch serene and with apprehension- fear or anxiety over what may happen, they change their game style that brought them to this occasion and fall down the trap they dug themselves.
The Italians bring Sassicaia 2004 The best Sassicaia of the last 10 years… And score 2 goals! The rest is history which can be told in 2022 when I open the last bottle. At the moment it has Deep Purple ruby color. With intense aromas of ripe black forest fruits, a touch of minty nepitella and earthy mushrooms, rich and velvety with long finish on the palate with high tones of cassis, cloves, dark chocolate and coffee. With a very good balance, between fresh fruit and Tannins. A keeper. They bring on Cepparello 1990 as a substitute and seal the match.
The Germans bring the right wines to give a good fight but at the wrong temperature which spoils the quality of tasting and sends them back to the vineyard to tend to next year’s harvest with new hopes for a better vintage.
Italy wins 2:1 and proceeds to the Finals
And that’s Euro 2012 for you with some wines on the way.
The Euro 2012 Finals are on Sunday ITALY Vs SPAIN let us see what wines the teams bring and wait for the tournaments outcome.
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This is our first visit to Portugal, though my love of Port (the wine), always allured me to this lovely country it is only now the opportunity of a short visit came about…
The Romans arrived here a long time before me, around the 2nd Century A.D., conquering the Celtic inhabitants and establishing cities like Conimbrigia Setúbal, Aveiro, Obidos and Lamego to name but a few. The Romans brought wine and vines with them, and are responsible for introducing some eastern Mediterranean grape Varieties such as Muscatel Graudo, to the Iberian Peninsula. Its distinctive aroma is quite easy to recognize being one of the few grapes whose wine smells like the fresh grapes, plus scents of young raisins, lemons, tropical fruits, lime and citrus bloom. It has good, fresh acidity. Elsewhere in the world, it is known as Muscat of Alexandria, mainly used for sweet, fortified wines, most famous of which is Moscatel de Setúbal with its firm aromas of acacia blossom.
It is mid April and the fields are flowering with some wild flowers (it hardly rained this year in the Cima Corgo region, but this is an arid piece of land in European standards, still the vines are used to water shortage and hardship, and the vintners, as always complain about the weather…
We are leaving ancient Conimrigia, the largest Roman settlement in Portugal. Driving due north and entered through the “gate” to the Northern wine regions of Portugal, via Lamego the small town with the monumental baroque Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios.
Next stop Pinhão in the Cima Corgo, one of the three sub regions that form the Duoro wine region. Cima Corgo – Located further upstream from the Baixo Corgo in the west, centered on the town of Pinhão (municipality of Alijó). The rainfall is about 600 mm a year. We’re heading towards the centre of the meticulously terraced Duoro Valley, enjoying the magnificent view of this spectacle: The oldest legally defined (AOC), wine-producing region of the world!
As a local saying goes, “God created the Earth and man created the Douro”, with its dramatic landscapes on the steep banks of the river created over centuries of human cultivation, made up of carefully terraced vineyards of the home of port wine. the Douro Valley is breathtaking with its hills covered with terraces of vines falling down steeply all the way to the river banks. The Douro River originates in Spain and flows west in the north of Portugal until it reaches the ocean in the town of Porto.
Today we enjoy the view and some wine and Port from various producers, and a good rest in The splendid C S VINTAGE HOUSE HOTEL, on the river bank in Pinhão, tomorrow we are invited to a visit at Quinta de Nápoles Just outside the town of Pinhão. It is one of Niepoort’s acquisitions of own vineyards, with wineries adjacent to them.
We cross the river to the north bank. The winery building designed by Austrian architect Andreas Burghardt, is camouflaged in the terraced hillside. Grapes travel a short ride from the vineyards to the reception area, which is the “roof” of the winery, and from there brought down the four floors of the building. Everything is there from the clusters stage start to the finished wine stage in the basement. It seems to fulfill Dirk Niepoort’s wine making philosophy. It enables a close watch on quality control of the wine, on the wine drop level, rather than the bulk Juice that starts in the “lagares”. (A lagare is the traditional container made of granite or cement where grapes are foot pressed for juice extraction).
As our hosts Gabriela Santos and Carlos Raposo emphasized, that owning Quintas and vineyards in the Douro was an important step in the continuation of the port wine tradition and the first step for the creation of Niepoort table/dry wines. Niepoort is now at the top of Douro winemaking, I guess this is because he originates from the love of excellent wine in general, placing him amongst the leaders of the new generation of quality winemakers who combine the best of both the world, that of 350 years old local tradition with a desire to produce world class wines. Some of which we will taste shortly from the barrels and from the bottled past vintages.
Till today Niepoort, was in my mind, the winery that produces the best Colheita Ports and as it turned out it produces serious and sophisticated dry red and white table wines.
I will not bore you with the laborious job of barrel tasting we did in the barrel cellars, some of which were absolutely surprising to me as a novice to those Portuguese grape Varieties for whites: Rabigato, Codega do Larinho, Arinto, Gouveio and Viosinho, for reds: Tinta Amarela, Touriga Franca and Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, and several others. The region’s geology of mica slate and schist’s soils of the region, the usually harsh climate and the fact that most wines are made from old age vines 60-100 years old and that all wines are blends.
Here is where the secret lies, and the Art shows. Lead by the winemaker at Quinta do Nápoles Luis Seabra. The aim is for blended wines which sum up to much more than their separate parts, and it works!
Food is prepared with love and attention by the Quinta’s cook Maria José da Fonseca Mansilha. Who cooks and serves and over sees the lunch country style fare meticulously presented as you can see. With us set to the table Paulo Dinis Barreto the owner of EnoMania wine Distributor from the Isle of Madeira and his friend .
We start with Redoma Branco 2010 here you find an intense mineral flinty character, combined with the a touch of grapefruit bitter flavor with a sweet finish and added aroma of citrus blossom. A bit of smoky oak aroma, that does not mask the aromatic elements of the wine. A good crisp start
We move on to the more complex Coche 2010 a great wine with substantial character, Coche shows intense red grapefruit aroma with a touch of fresia floral notes with multiple layers of flinty mineral touch. A very long multilayered finish on the palate. A wonderful wine!
Than the reds come pouring in
First, the Vertente 2009. It has deep and cloudy purple color. Red and black fruit aromas, a touch of green pepper with mineral finish. Good balance, and elegant but powerful fruit with great freshness. The tannins are firm but not obtrusive. Will keep for another 5-6 years and even improve as the tannins round up.
Than came the Charme 2009 although quite Dark in color, the first thing that comes to mind when you sniff in the earthy mushroomy aroma is Bourgogne and it may well be what was on the blenders mind as the wine evolved. Even after 14 months in the barrels not every barrel is chosen to be bottled as Charme. There is an aim here and if not reached the wine will be used in other blends. The Charme 2009 is rich and elegant, with dark cherry, plums compote aromas, deep wet earth, mushrooms and a touch of truffles aroma engulfs the palate, the wine is totally hedonistic aimed at the pursuit of pleasure in the same manner a good Époisses de Bourgogne is. The finish is long with extremely good balance; tannins are well integrated and appear soft but will keep the wine for at least another 10 years. This was my favorite wine of our lunch/tasting.
But the most characteristic of the region in my mind is the Redoma Tinto 2009 Dark in color Mainly ripe black fruit aromas, with plenty of dark plums, a strong aroma of mint and thyme and of wet forest leaves. Flint stone touch and good tannic touch turning velvety well balanced with good acidity and fruitiness. The wine is very expressive almost extrovert, and rich, with very long and persistent finish. A wine true to its origin and Paulo’s favorite of the reds.
And to sum it all up, we had 2 Wonderful Ports
The Neipoort Vintage Port 2009 (Paulo’s preference for dessert).
The color is deep ruby blood red, and the aroma is all about sensuality, with freshly ground mixed sweet spices of cinnamon stick with cloves and English pepper with green cardamom. On the palate, amazing presence of huge tannins and high concentration of ripe re and black forest berries, very powerful but elegant, which is so well balanced that it seems it may keep forever (almost). I would buy a case to keep for my grandchildren and the generation to follow.
And the Neipoort 2001 Colheita (my choice for dessert).
Colheita’s are tawny Ports matured in wood for at least 7 years but most are taken even further before bottling. In Neipoort the grapes were trodden (by feet) in cast cement lagares and later the port is matured in small old oak casks. Colheita Ports are Tawny Ports from a single vintage year.
Wonderful brick reddish brown colour. It remindes the mysterious aromas of the spices street in an oriental souk. Scents of dried fruits, black shriveled grapes with burnet tea leaves, coffee and tobacco all with flavour of dried prunes and Figs in sweet liquor it has a long finish of soft and oily honeyed alcohol. A sip of that and with your eyes closed you can almost see shehrazad dancing in the palace of the Sultan. (Imagine what you see when you drink the 1900 or the 1970 Colheita! Alas we did not have that chance on the day. Maybe on our next visit)
We had the Ports with the amazing cheeses and Marias Orange cake.
And had to excuse ourselves we still had 2 hours drive to Porto and a fair amount of alcohol in our blood. Vilanova de Gaia looked a far reach But tomorrow we have a plane to catch to London where for ages these wines headed across the ocean and the English channel to it’s destination on the London Docks.
We parted our wonderful hosts sorry we were not staying in the region for at least another day with the magic taste of the Ports still lingering on our palates.
Adeus Porto hasta pronto.
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