The Venue: The Secret Location YVR
Monday was fun. While my husband toiled at his desk, elbows deep in paperwork (sorry, Dave!), I had the privilege of pretending to know how to drink wine (as opposed to guzzling it, which is what I think I normally just do).
It was a good thing I had some pretty great company to listen to my amateur questions and answer them humbly. Eight fabulous wines, paired with six incredible dishes, in a fabulously decorated dining room called the Secret Location—now that’s a good Monday.
At about the same time I began realizing that I probably shouldn’t drink all of the wine and perhaps should pour some into the buckets that were made available to us (which I eventually began doing, but only because I had an hour’s drive ahead of me), I, along with about 30 others, began a two-hour master class into the world of Portuguese wines.
And I learned stuff!
Wines of Portugal
The landscape of Portuguese wines has changed over the last 20 years. Although the industry is still steeped heavily in tradition (every home has a small vineyard—it’s part of Portuguese culture), it’s in the middle of modernizing.
20 years ago, only 22% of Portuguese wines were exported, and now that number has climbed to 46%. Presently in 11 markets around the globe, the United States is the industry’s biggest importer, with France coming in second, and Canada currently ranking fourth.
There are 10 major Portuguese varieties on the market today, including (but obviously not limited to) Alvarinho, Fernao Pires, and Encruzado. The most planted grape in Portugal? Tinta Roriz.
As I mentioned above, there were eight different wines to pair with six outstanding dishes created by the chefs at the Secret Location. As a near-Vegetarian, my menu was different from the majority of attendees’ (no bison short ribs for me!), but equally as tasty and visually appealing.
So let’s get to it: these were the wines I was forced (ha) to drink:
Casal Garcia Branco – Vinho Verde
This was a four-ounce greeting glass, and although I’ve honestly never found whites as appealing as reds, I loved this particular choice: crisp, light, and no aftertaste. At about $10.99 a bottle (yes—you read that correctly), this beautiful wine will definitely be purchased by this pleasantly surprised girl.
Presenting lime notes and a clear appearance, this wine is representative of the Minho Region.
Mateus Rosé Original – Rosé
This wine was a familiar one—it’s my father-in-law’s absolute favourite. Although I’ve always found it too light for me, and I still feel that way, it paired lovely with the aperitif—a beautiful salad made with braised red cabbage, squash, endive, and more.
The chilled, “slightly sparkling” wine has a slightly fizzy finish, and sells for about $16.99 at the liquor store.
Vale Do Bomfim – Douro Red & Periquita Reserva – Vinho Regional Red
The appetizer that paired with these two wines was a visual treat: handmade gnocchi with a parmesan crust and edible flowers.
The Vale Do Bomfim was one I had actually tried before, and it’s a gorgeous red. (I highly recommend!) It’s ruby red with the aroma of fresh fruit, flowers, and spices. This red retails at about $17.49.
The second wine—the Periquita Reserva—is soft and balanced with a medium-long finish. Retailing around $15.79, this wine would pair excellently with duck and truffle.
Duas Quintas – Douro Red Crasto & Quanta Do Crasto – Douro Red
Although the food that paired with these next two wines was to die for, I want to focus on the drink. The two wines listed above (the fifth and sixth of the afternoon) were incredible, full-bodied, deep, beautiful selections.
The Duas Quintas 2012 is a bright garnet colour, and both elegant and silky on the palate. Retailing at about $15.79, this is a total find if you want to impress dinner guests. It pairs well with red meat and strong flavours.
Also pairing well with red meat, the Quanta Do Crasto consists of berry aromas and floral notes. At 14% alcohol, the $17.49 bottle delivers some major bang for your buck.
Pedra Cancela Selecao de Enologo – Dao Red
This heavy and delicious wine was paired with a dish the chef called ‘Peaches and Cream,’ which consisted of a gluten-free waffle, braised peach slices, a corn cream, a sweet popcorn, and edible flowers. With an intense ripe plum aroma and hints of cocoa, this absolutely gorgeous wine retails for about $17.99.
Again, YUM. Did I mention the wine was delicious?
Sandeman Porto Ruby – Port Wine
Lastly, of course, was a port. And obviously, it was paired with cheese. Amazing cheese. Although port itself has never been my favourite (I find it too strong, and something to sip, which I’ve already explained isn’t exactly my forté), it was the perfect flavour to compliment a heavy blue cheese.
Extremely rich and aged for at least 2-5 years prior to being filtered and cold-stabilised, this port retails at just under $20 a bottle.
And that was that!
So all in all, I learned a lot about wine (both in general and Portuguese), ate a lot of amazing food, and had kept great company for about three hours in downtown Vancouver. (One Water Street, to be exact—the heart of Gastown.)
So next time you peruse the liquor store looking for that perfect bottle, check out the wines of Portugal—you won’t be sorry.