Tuesday, July 28, 2009

ViniPortugal and the European Wine Blogging Conference

On the eve of flying out to the U.S. Wine Blogging Conference in Santa Rosa, I attended an event at Aldea, a restaurant at 17th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, hosted by ViniPortugal. The event was specifically for wine bloggers to come and taste Portuguese wines. They got most of the right people there, and the event was well done. The food was delicious, my favorite being an excellent duck and rice dish. I fully expect there to be a review at StrumErika.com of all of the dishes that were served.

This event was also hosted by CataVino. Ryan and Gabriella Opaz have teamed up with ViniPortugal to bring wine bloggers to the forefront of the minds of wineries and regional wine programs. Really is bloggers are not part of the program by now, then some people need to wake up. Ryan and Gabriella are the organizers of the European Wine Blogging Conference, taking place in Lisbon in October (Full disclosure: this blog post puts me in the drawing to be sponsored by ViniPortugal to attend that event. Winners are announced on September 1st).

This past weekend was my first Wine Blogging Conference, so I do not really know what to expect. My assumption was that this will be wine blogging boot camp, with suggestions of how to be a better blogger, a better wine taster, a better… whatever. It was a lot of fun, I met a lot of great people, and I confirmed a lot of what I thought about the wine industries view of bloggers.

Going back to ViniPortugal, what I liked most about the event at Aldea was that there were a reasonable number of wines. Too often regional wine campaigns are forced into showing a slew of wines to please their winery members. The politics involved are understandable and exhausting. This event showed only fifteen wines, which allowed me to browse them easily, taste all of them, and even go back to the ones I liked most. The format was very informal: There were four or five tables, each with about two to four wines, and a food that was suggested to pair well with the wine. In most cases I think they got the pairing right.

My favorite wine of the evening was the Esporão Red 2006 from Herdade do Esporão. The wine is a blend of Aragonês, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Alicante Bouschet. Of all of those grapes I have seen two before, so this is a learning experience for me. The wine comes from the region of Alentejo, which is a DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada). Alentejo is in southern Portugal and is within the larger wine region of Alentejano. This wine for me was silky and sexy. There was a rich freshness to the blackberries and blueberries that streamed out of this wine. Very yummy!

I look forward to trying more Portuguese wines as well as learning more about the regions. I think Portugal has a lot of potential to grow in the United States. The wine is good, the region has been making wine for a long time, and there is not an abundance of commercial promotion in the U.S. Really one of the only aspects that might hold them back are the wine region names and the names of the grapes. We English speakers are lazy and mainly interested in things we can pronounce. Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay. Much easier to get our lips around than Trincadeira.

For more information on Portuguese wines, visit them at http://www.viniportugal.pt/. For more on the European Bloggers' Conference, visit http://winebloggersconference.org/europe/.
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