Sunday, 8 November 2009

Vinoble Wine Tasting in Lisbon

You may have gathered from my last post that I spent a long weekend in Lisbon, for 2009's European Wine Bloggers' Conference. I'm not a wine blogger, nor have I done many posts on wine. I write about what I know, and as I don't know a lot about wine, I've never been very confident in writing about it. I am aiming to change this and this weekend was a step in the right direction.

On the first night, we remarked on the irony that we drank absolutely no wine whatsoever. After a few Super Bocks down by the water we gorged ourselves with roasted chicken, and then hit the ginjinha bars - little holes in the wall selling little plastic cupfuls of brandy, drank on the streets. The bottles were packed full of cherries and we got a couple of cherries in our cups at one or two places. The brandy ranged from tasting like cough syrup at worst, to a lovely fruity liquer at best. The soaked cherries were potent. We wobbled back to our hostel.

Nursing a slightly fuggy head the next day, we made our way to the rather plush Grand VIP Lisboa, where the conference was being held, and where we were to stay for the rest of our trip. On the first evening, we faced two formal tastings; one with Vinoble and the next with the Douro Boys. We were to taste a mammoth 26 wines. I was nervous. Tweets flew around warning us to spit the wine, or we'd never make it through. I've never spat wine out.

We entered the room and were faced with tables and tables of Riedel glasses set up in a crescent shape around each seat. A friend remarked that there must be at least £10,000's worth of glasses in the room. It was a nightmarish situation; there isn't usually an evening that goes by that I don't knock a wine glass. These would go down like very expensive dominoes.

We kicked off with a Vinoble's tasting of dessert wines. To start, an almond flavoured, caramelised Gran Barquero Amontillado was surprisingly dry for a sweet wine. Lustau Solera Reserva Amontillado Escuadrilla followed swiftly. Aged in American oak casks, it smelled a bit vegetal and salty. The nutty flavour wasn't immediate and was more of an aftertaste. I found it tasted better on the second sip.

One of my favourites of the evening was Apostol Palo Cortado VORS. It had a rich caramel flavour, and smelled nutty and of toast and buttery. It had a sharp finish that livened you up some, like a smack round the face. I was enjoying this tasting. Quevedo Colheita 1994 was a dark rich red colour, and was dark soft fruits on the nose. It was very sweet, coating the mouth with syrup.
The Moscatel Roxo 1999, above, was another favourite of mine. It was a beautiful light amber colour, and having been aged for 8 years in old oak barrels previously used for whiskey, I expected it to have a more oaky flavour. Instead, it was flowers, herbs and grass. It had just a hint of sweetness and had a light, tea-flavoured finish.

The Justino Henriques Colheita Fine Rich 1995, saw a return to nuttiness. It was a deep, dark brown and quite dry. A rather stark contrast to the wine we'd tried previously. The penultimate wine, Sandeman Vintage 2007 was the only in the tasting that I disliked. It was peppery, spicy and of cloves, with an earthy hint of soil. I'd heard murmurings that it was too young.

The final wine we tried was a Pedro Ximénes Gran Orden. It was the colour of iodine, and stained a yellowish tinge to the glass. It smelled of molasses, figs, and reminded me of Christmas. It tasted intensely of toasted raisins, and I didn't get a lot past that.

After this, we breaked for a glass of beer, apparently a good palate cleanser. I was cheered by my first foray into a formal tasting; no glasses were broken by my hand, and as I looked back at my notes they sounded coherent. I hope you think so too.


Aventuras Albertina said...

What a delightful way to describe the EWBC. I followed it even though I couldn't go, but after reading your blog I feel like I was there.
Albertina Torres

winesleuth said...

Excellent first effort! Now if you could just start waxing lyrical about how the aromas "transported you back to those halcyon days of your mispent youth in the fields of blah,blah,blah (please don't!)

Also, (if you saw my tweet)forgot, we didn't have the Madeira until the NEXT nite. oh, well, it's still my favourite! Glad you foodies made it to Lisbon, hopefully next year there'll be a bit of food and wine matching.

Unknown said...

I find it so hard writing about wine as well without sounding like a w*nker (although I have no such qualms when writing about food for some reason!) well done on pulling it off, and of surviving the night breakage free.

Manuel said...

great couple of posts.......ah the bloggers life is an arduous one eh.....heh

Wine Splodge said...

You're spot on with Pedro Ximenes, it's liquified Yuletide.
I've always wondered who actually drinks sherry? Apparently the UK guzzles an incredible 6 million gallons of it annually. That's a serious habit, yet I've never seen anyone order it in a bar or restaurant. There must be some seriously sherry guzzling going on behind closed doors.

gastrogeek said...

Pedro Ximenes is my favourite tipple ever. Love your descriptions, fab post

Helen said...

Well done! I'm just writing my post now - the fear shall be conquered! PX is also a personal fave of mine. Are we all drinking it on our lonesomes?!

Anonymous said...

it isn't easy to write about wine but it seems that you managed to do it perfectly! Great post!

Vicky Wine said...

Waw! Funny and interesting post - Loving it! I didn't think of the price of the glasses for one seconde... I'm glad cause it would have made me really nervous!

I've also written on the tasting - funny to see the diffences of impressions!

Boo said...

Interesting read Lizzie.

I feel like a right prat attempting to write about wine, but I know very little whereas you are obviously learning a great deal. I'd definitely like to write more about it too, it's pretty daunting though.

The conference sounds like it was great fun!

Hollow Legs said...

Albertina - thanks, glad to hear it!

Wine Sleuth - thanks! I'm not sure i'll be waxing lyrical anytime in the near future. Food and wine matching would be great.

GC - thanks, the glasses made me very nervous indeed.

Manuel - Yes, woe is the life of a blogger ;) It was good fun.

Wine Splodge - that figure is staggering - I wonder who does drink it?! I imagine a lot of the drinking must happen at Christmas...

Gastrogeek - thank you kindly :)

Helen - hard, innit! I am proud to say that I have never drunk sherry on my tod...

Mathilde - high praise indeed! Thanks

Vicky Wine - it's great to see different views, that's the great thing about wine really - there's no right or wrong answer.

Boo - I think it's just about drinking as much wine as possible (ahem). the conference was a lot of fun indeed.

Wild Boar said...

Sounds like a great experience to try 26 different wines! Sounds like you did yourself proud.

Jo said...

This was so well written it made me want to print it out for tasting notes! More please...

S said...

'was like a smack round the face' made me laugh so much. i love the way you have described the wines.

Anonymous said...

What a great resource!