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valtortoI’m fascinated by the capacity of wine to evoke ideas and images. It is not true of every wine, but some have sufficient personality and character to send the mind traveling across worlds and through time.  Happily,these wines are not necessarily the most expensive.

This red blend from Portugal’s Douro river valley is a perfect evocation of that region. Characterized by steep, rugged hillsides, with poor, rocky soil, infernally hot and dry as a bone in summer, growing and harvesting grapes in the Douro defies gravity and common sense notions of what is humanly possible.  Although many of the large port houses own sculpted, terraced vineyards that ease the difficulties of harvest, many small vineyard plots and steep slopes still survive. Weise and Krohn are a small, but established port house. I have no idea whether their grapes are sourced from growers using traditional methods or not, but this wine is a metaphor for that hardscrabble existence endured by centuries of growers trying to eke out a living growing grapes.

Powerful and sturdy yet sinewy and lean, it opens with the deepest, darkest blackberry notes, set off by baked earth, coffee, and hints of tarragon. There is an intriguing caramel note that rewards some careful sniffing. On the palate, intense dark fruit, tar and bitter herbs give way to coarse, dry tannins and robust acidity. Despite all that savory intensity it feels lively not weighty and manages to be rustic yet well-balanced, tough but pleasing.

It doesn’t have the classical character of fine wine. It is what it is—a wine with personality.

This is a blend of the standard port varietals—Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, and Tinto Cao—which make interesting, savory red wines. In fact, if you want bargains I would buy Portuguese wines right now. They are usually under $15 and almost always rewarding.

 

Score: 89

Price: $12

Alc: 14%