Even though the attempted sabering of Cava didn't go quite as planned, I was prepared (Boy Scout, what can I say) with a backup. The bottle you see above has become one of my go-to party wines, as it possesses several of the qualities that I look for in a bottle that I intend on taking to a social gathering: high-quality, inexpensive, large-format, palate-friendly and unfamiliar.
I've been a fan of the unfortified wines of Portugal for some time now, and this was one of the first Portuguese reds I ever had. Produced by SoGrape, the Grao Vasco Dao is a favorite of mine when I am shopping for bottles under ten dollars. The 1.5L retails for just 14.99 at Total Wine, and the 750 mL clocks in at a modest 7.99.
While everyone knows Port, what a lot of folks don't know is that there are some exciting things happening in still wine production in Portugal. Prior to the financial meltdown, back when the investment capital was flowing, Portugal was being forced by the hand of the market and the regulations of the EU to step up its game. While Port has traditionally been an export product, most of the non fortified wine was consumed locally. Much of what was exported was of mediocre quality. Well, no more.
I am always surprised that my Old World customers, many of whom are very savvy and educated and moneyed and travelled, are surprised when I lead them to the Portugal section of my store. It seems to be the undiscovered gem of the European wine world; a lot of people who are comfortable with a suggestion from Ribiera del Duero or a Rioja raise an eyebrow when I recommend a wine from Portugal. But the ones who do leave with a bottle usually come back for another.
While the Douro has the upper hand in reputation, the wines of the Dao, I believe, compete quite well on value. This little gem is composed of three local varieties: Touriga Nacional (one of the varieties used in Port), Tinta Roriz (synonymous with Tempranillo) and Jaen. I always describe it as "a blend of three grapes you've never heard of before." It pours into the glass a nice ruby red, has medium body and a nose of dried cherry. With a light acidity, low tannins and red fruit notes on the palate, this is a wine that can appeal to a wide range of people. It's great for parties because it can pair well with a wide variety of lighter meats and cheeses (and Nate and Kris ALWAYS lay out an incredible spread), or does really well on its own. And it always gets people talking. "where is this from? I've never heard of that grape. I didn't know they made wine in Portugal," etc, etc.
A fun, approachable, and most importantly AFFORDABLE party wine, perfect for your friends of less-than-discerning (read snobbish) palates and approachable for those with more refined tastes, I can't recommend this enough.
All I can say is: for the love of God, Kris and Nate, please, please, PLEASE get a waiter's key. Your interesting , modernistic, fashionable, over-technically complicated corkscrew is a pain in my rectum. Just buy a damn waiter's key already. :)
Thanks for the great party.