Thirty of us sat down to Sunday lunch at the elegant main room of the Harrogate Masonic Hall. We ate fish and drank Portuguese whites
Portuguese white wines are getting better and better. Vinho Verde seems to have reinvented itself. The acidic, characterless wines of the past are gone and Alvarinho from Melgaco and Laureiro from the Lima Valley are now floral, fruit laden beauties. Anselmo Mendes, Soalheiro and the port producer Dirk Niepoort are leading the way. Little known indigenous white grapes of the Douro like Siria, Viosinho and Rabigato are taking the wine world by storm. It is not surprising that the Harrogate Medical Wine Society chose the new breed of Portuguese whites as the theme for their August tasting. The fish cuisine of the young and talented Masonic Hall chef Adam Vear turned the tasting in to a delightful summer lunch.
We started with White Port & Tonic. Since our recent visit to the Douro, interest in this summer long drink has soared. Peter poured a generous measure of Dow’s Fine Dry White Port in to a tall glass with plenty of ice, added a slice of lemon and two crushed mint leaves and topped it up with tonic. We sipped with undisguised pleasure, ate olives, chatted and mingled.
Four whites were drunk with a smoked salmon, prawn and cream cheese roulade.
- Soalheiro Alvarinho 2012 is a new-style Vinho Verde made by the Cerdeira brothers Luis and Joao in Melgaco near the Galician border. They are widely regarded as the most serious grower of alvarinho in Portugal. The wine is floral, crisp and light and makes a delightful summer drink
- Anselmo Mendes needs no introduction. His “Muros Antigos” 2014 is a blend of 20% Alvarinho, 40% Laureiro & 40% Avesso aged four months on fine lees. It is bursting with flavour. Anselmo characteristically under-charges his excellent wines making them real bargains
- Quinta da Espiga 2014 – a white blend of mostly indigenous grape varieties, predominantly fernão pires, arinto and moscatel, with some sauvignon.
- Docil Laureiro 2014 is Dirk Niepoort’s take on Vinho Verde.The Laureiro for this comes from the Lima Valley. “Melgaco is fine for alvarinho but the best laureiro comes from Lima” Dirk told me when I met him in Portugal last June
- Soalheiro’s Primeiras Vinhas 2012 from the Minho
- Dirk Niepoorts Douro white Redoma Branco 2013
- Adega de Pegoes Seleccionada 2014 from Setubal – a blend of four grapes (three local, plus a splash of chardonnay)
Strawberry and passion fruit pavlova followed. Graham’s Twenty Year Old Tawny accompanied the Serra de Estrella – the soft, sheep’s milk cheese from the mountains of northern Portugal. It is not easily found in the UK but I was lucky to spot two half-kilo cheeses at La Fromagerie in Highbury last week. We scooped them out with a spoon and savoured the creamy, salty mess with the port.
- “Thank you, Bernard, for an excellent lunch. I was very impressed by the wines, and the food was very good.” – Jane Trewhella, Otley
- “The tasting lunch yesterday was excellent. We throughly enjoyed ourselves as did the rest of our party. All the wines were of a very high standard.
Tasting 1: the wine that got the most votes the number 2 Muros Antigos Anselmo Mendes Minho
Tasting 2: the wine that got the most votes was number 1 the Primeiras 2012 Soalheiro, Minho. The White port, mint and tonic on arrival was very well received. The wines served with the meal were really good. Once again a splendid event. Thank You for all the time and effort you put in to make these occasions so special. Best regards.” – Carol and Peter Murphy, Ackworth, 3 August
- “We greatly enjoyed the lunch and felt the food and wines worked so well together.” – Dr. Stephen Cameron, Pick Hill
- “Thank you once again for organising a superb summer tasting lunch . The Dow’s White Port & Tonic, expertly served by Peter, was a new experience, so much nicer than Pimms and a must to repeat. The wines complimented the excellent food with the Soalheiro Alvanho, Docile, Dirk Nieport and the RedomaBranco being our favoured choices. The Grahams Tawny and taste of Portuguese Cheese completed the Portuguese experience wonderfully. How we would have liked to join you on your visit to Portugal. May be next time. Thank you. – Pat & John (Shore), Harrogate
- “I loved the Portuguese wine event today. I’d love to join the society and would be particularly interested in the Lebanon tour next year.”
– Dr. Abdullah Kraam, Wakefield