This past Friday night I had the pleasure of seeing Mateus Nicolau de Almeida again, and tasting his 2010 wines from bottle – having tasted them from cask and cuba last November. To make the night even better, there was a wonderful meal to bring out another dimension to the wines, and Mateus’s father, João, was my very charming companion at table.
Mateus’s distributor, ewine, hosted the tasting at Deck Foz, a restaurant on the beach – literally – near the Lawn Tennis Clube da Foz. Mateus presented the wines and talked us through his winemaking and the wines.
As always, his wines are superb, just a joy in the mouth. And in 2010, in addition to his Branco and Tinto, he again made a Rosé (first since 2007) – a pure Touriga Nacional, which is wonderfully intense, complex and refreshing and has a very satisfying finish.
And – drum roll – he did commercialise the mystery wine I tasted in November – a pure Tinta Barroca. The very hot dry summer of 2010 must have been a challenge for this thin-skinned variety, but Mateus’s grapes for this wine came from a north facing parcel in Meda at 600 metres of altitude – as cool and protected from the brute force of the sun and heat as it could probably get in the Douro Superior. Tinta Barroca is not known for its acidity, but as Mateus has said before, altitude equals acidity, and this wine is very well balanced. The colour is the most beautiful deep pink-red Burmese ruby, and the flavour is smashing – pure Douro – yes it has flavours of red fruit and a hint of spiciness, but most of all it has a fantastic rich stony earthiness – the perfect expression of the mating of red fruit and schist. You must try this wine.
The dinner was excellent and chef Pedro Matos Gomes is to be congratulated – the food was creative without being silly, beautifully presented and just plain tasted good, as well as complementing the wines very well. With the Muxagat Rosé 2010 we had two canapés, one of salmon, the other, which was out of this world, was a slice of very strong salty presunto wrapped around a prune. The savoury-salt-sweet flavours versus Touriga Nacional balance was fantastic.
At table we started with a Carpaccio do Mar with the Mux Branco 2010. I don’t know what variety of fish was sliced paper thin and smeared with a bit of avocado purée, but it tasted wonderful, and was a great foil to the Branco.
The main course was a millefeuille pastry of smoked partridge with grelos, served with the Mux Tinto 2008. Again, wonderful, and well paired with the Tinto. On the other hand, the Branco was also an interesting combination – and had the body and oomph to balance the strong flavours of the partridge and grelos.
Grelos, by the way, are one of the several varieties of turnip greens popular in Portugal, and this is the first time I have really enjoyed them – they were well cooked, by which I mean they still had colour, flavour and texture, and were very good.
We finished with requeijão – a sort of mild fresh cheese with a texture halfway between cottage cheese and mozzarella – buried under mixed forest fruit (blackberries and currants primarily). This with the Tinta Barroca was divine. Rather extraordinary to have a dry wine with dessert, but yes… it is possible (bit of a mind bender for me after a year and half working with Port).
I will be seeing Mateus and drinking his wines again in the coming week, lucky me.
Two more bits of news: First, the Muxagat wines will shortly be available in England through Berry Brothers and Rudd. Watch their website for availability.
Second, ewine has their website up and running and they offer an on-line shop with some of my favourite wines – in addition to Muxagat, they have Quinta de Gomariz (Vinho Verde), Dona Berta (Douro) and many more top wines from Douro, Dão, Minho and Alentejo.
And if you are not yet familiar with Mateus and these wines, you might want to read about my visits to Monte Xisto, his vineyard in the Douro Superior, the first time in March 2010, and again in November 2010.