Tue 23 Feb 2010
Heated up some leftover turkey and hominy chili with chipotles last night and casting around for a bottle of wine to open, I came across the Prazo de Roriz 2007 from the Douro Valley in Portugal. While it may be an exaggeration to say that table wines will be the saving of the Douro, it’s true that Vintage Porto, while highly lauded in every quarter, is a specialized product, and even more accessible and less expensive renditions, like Late Bottled Vintage and Reserve Portos, are misunderstood and unappreciated in the wider sphere. When producers in the Douro began making table wines from traditional port grapes about 20 years ago, a revolution in style, marketing and revenue was born; many of these producers are offering splendid red wines now, some of which, inevitably, dwell at the more prestigious rungs of the fiduciary ladder. Everyone aspires to greatness, though plenty of cheaper, more readily drinkable products are on hand.
One of these is the Prazo de Roriz 2007. The wine is made at Quinta de Roriz, an estate that dates back to the mid 18th Century and that occupies a stunning vista of steep hillsides along one of the most picturesque stretches of the Douro River. (I was in the Douro last September.) The breakdown of grapes in the wines is touriga nacional (40%), touriga franca (25%), tinta barocca (21%), tinta roriz (12%) and tinto cão (2%). The wine aged seven months in French oak.
Now if the chili had been slightly hotter — it contains two tablespoons of chili powder, a diced jalapeño and two minced chipotles in adobo sauce — the wine would not have worked, but its robust structure and big creamy aromas and flavors of macerated and spiced black currants, black cherries and plums made a fine match. Contributing to this wine’s engaging personality are touches of leather, moss and earth, an element of dried red and black currants, all sustained by vibrant acidity, and an edge of granite-like minerality that penetrates from the finish forward, where you start to feel a little wood and woody spice. Also try with hamburgers and steaks, braised short ribs and barbecue brisket or a hearty beef stew. Drink now through 2012. Very Good+. About $16 or $17.
Imported by Premium Port Wines, San Francisco. A review sample.
Just for the hell of it, I opened a bottle of beer to try with the chili. This was the Dogfish Head Raison d’Étre, brewed with “Belgian beer sugars, green raisins and a sense of purpose” by the well-known, eccentric craft brewery in Milton, Delaware. I’m here to tell you that this brew could certainly give one a purpose in life, though it’s not a deep, dark, thudding model; it is, in fact, surprisingly thoughtful. The color is medium ruddy amber. The nose is clean, fresh and appealing, though with an autumnal tinge of damp earth and mushrooms. It’s quite dry initially, with thrilling balance between fruitiness, acidity and bitterness. There’s baking spice, something a little gingery with a touch of root beer, followed by a hint of raisiny sweetness and the cleansing astringency of peach stone. Quite a beer — I’m sipping from a glass now, as I write these words — and one that achieves its effects largely through a layering of nuance rather than hitting you over the head. About $2.75 at a local store.