Frozen Lakes

 I am in north Michigan with our mid-west importer Nuria Garrote of VinoVi & Co. Nuria is Catalan, specialises in distinctive single estate Spanish wines and we represent her first venture into Portugal. I feel privileged to be here and today is the first day of bright, spring sunshine after what has clearly been a long, hard winter. The lake-shores are still frozen and there are little piles of dirty snow, the vestige I am told of a total of 17 feet that had fallen over the winter months. We attend two very different spring wine fairs aimed at the local trade. The first near Harbor Springs gives me a measure of the rather unsophisticated market. There are those who have not heard of Portuguese wines let alone the Alentejo or Portalegre. One lady sums up her market succintly: ‘we are a gas station party store’. At the end of the day quite a few people are rather worse for wear and we pack up feeling rather despondant – was this really worth the flight from New York and the five hour drive from Detroit?

The next day we are at at the Trattoria Stella in Traverse City. It is readily apparent that this is a totally different market with a much more discerning client base and strong seasonal sales based on the amount of second homes owned by people in the south of the state. This was a much more successful day with some good feedback on our wines although it seemed that the immediacy of Duas Pedras appealed more than the structure and depth of either Pedra Basta or Pedra e Alma. I take the opportunity to examine a few restaurant wine lists and find them nearly all divided into varietal listings: Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon etc. How on earth does a Portuguese field blend find its way on to such a dogmatic market?

Scoring

19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)

17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)

15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)

13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)

10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)

8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)

Below 8 Faulty