As much I appreciate fine Port, I have never been to the region where it is produced. I have been only in Lisbon at work on my daytime job. But on those visits to Lisbon, I broke away from the “arranged” events often enough to discover that Portuguese table wines are far more versatile than Mateus and greenish-white sparklers. But once back home in Heidelberg and Strasbourg, I could not find any of the pleasing table wines I so enjoyed in Lisbon. Nor could I find them in south-central Indiana.
So when I happened upon a 2009 Grao Vasco in a local retail store, I put it immediately in my cart, paid my nine dollars, and rushed home with it. The young man who sold it to me said I should imagine what it’s like if a Burgundy blended with a Beaujolais, and I would “have it.” That wasn’t bad metaphor if not exactly on target. But that blend of Jaen, Tinto-Roriz, and Touriga-Nacional (the base for classic Port) made a delicious and refreshing taste-change for a roast chicken spiced with rosemary.
Ruby red, elegant, and silky, it took me back to an otherwise drab hotel dining room and a splendid leg of lamb in a Lisbon hotel dining room. The Jaen is a grape seen almost no where else but it should as it softens tannins and soothes excessive acidity. The other two national grapes do to Grao Vasco what Grenache and Mourvedre do for the Rhone Valley — impart fruit, light body, and lingering finish.
I haven’t seen it in Hoosier markets but I have in Cincinnati, so you can find it in the Ohio Valley. Now, let’s seek out some Fado musicians and pretend we’re on the Iberian Peninsula.