Wine of the Week – A Corking Wine From Portugal

How often to you get a bottle of wine which has a plastic “cork”, a screw top or a glass stopper now days? The producers do this to give their wine the best opportunity to be un-spoilt. A wine that is “corked” can have a negative effect on the consumer’s experience. If the wine is heavily corked, it is quite obvious to smell before you taste it, so you can discard that particular experience because of a fault in the cork. However, if you have a slightly corked wine, you may not be able to smell it. If you have not had the same wine before you will be left with slightly less pleasant experience when having the wine. Because of this, you may not decide to buy that particular wine again. Even if just 1 or 2 percent of a producers wine is affected by the cork taint, then that is potentially hundreds of consumers that may not have the true experience when sampling the wine. Despite this being a small amount compared to the tens or hundreds of thousands bottles produced, in a very competitive industry, every consumer matters.

So why would any wine producer use cork rather than the new methods of sealing the bottle? Well I ask you, when you get a wine and discover a plastic or glass stopper, do you feel slightly disappointed? I personally don’t, however many people do. Therefore it is a fine balance between impressing the consumer with the way they feel the wine should be sealed and the quality of the wine. It is a delicate balance. And although I do not mind if a wine has a screw top, glass stopper or plastic cork, I do enjoy the smell of a cork from a newly opened bottle, however if the contents of the bottle isn’t enjoyable, then the smell of cork is pretty irrelevant.

Herdade dos Grous - Alentejo PortugalFor as long as there is demand for cork, there will continue to be cork production. This is a good thing for one of my favorite wine producing countries. Portugal exports over 50% of the world’s demand for cork. They make around 300,000 tones of cork per year, and when you think how light cork is, that is a lot!

So this week’s Wine of the Week is from Portugal’s Alentejo region, where most of the cork production takes place. The Herdade dos Grous 2007 Vinho Regional Alentejano is an excellent wine from this region. A blend of Aragones, Syrah (Shiraz) Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional grapes this wine is rich but not overpowering. At around €15, it is also great value. Because of the balance in the wine, it matches many meals, however I recently had this with a simple steak with potato, spinach and garlic purée. Although a meaty Shiraz would match the steak equally well, the delicate flavor of the purée would be lost. Whatever you decided to eat with this wine, I encourage you to have a variety of flavors, as this will enhance the different characters in the wine.

The neighboring winery to Herdade dos Grous is Herdade da Maladinha Nova. They share the wine making talents of Luis Duarte, who is one of the best wine makers in Portugal. This part of the Alentejo is well worth a visit if you are in the area.

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