Our LBV tasting group Summer Guest Series continues this week, featuring Bruno Almeida.
Bruno’s talents are many! He is an NYC CMS (The Court of Master Sommeliers), Somm Live “Wine Talks” Host, Wine Writer, Wine & Spirits Educator, Portuguese Wine Advocate Contributor, and drummer. You can find him on Instagram @sommation_live and at www.somm360.com. I am lucky to be able to call Bruno a colleague, confidant and friend.
Bruno’s story is unique as he originally left Portugal to pursue music. He was born in Lisbon, as the proud son of a Mozambican mother and a Sao Tome father. Much like his parents, Bruno began working in the arts and evolved his talent as a drummer. He also worked in Portugal’s Post Office to support himself financially. As his success as a musician grew, so did his frustration with the lack of support of the arts from the Portuguese government. In an effort to make ends meet, Bruno decided to move to NYC in 2002. He came to New York with a Pop/Rock band and all the intentions of making it in the music industry, but like so many, fell into hospitality. However, I can tell you firsthand this was meant to be for Bruno. I have seen him in action and he is a natural. In 2008, he found his passion and shifted to being Sommelier & Wine Educator. The art of wine has been his focus ever since.
Bruno supports his home country of Portugal by promoting the country’s growing wine regions. Despite its size, Portugal is the fourth largest grape-producing country. Though climate change is a constant threat, Portugal is adapting well and becoming a global leader in winemaking—documenting the weather patterns, extreme heat and lack of rainfall. The data is telling us that the PH level in grapes and sugars are rising but the acid content is decreasing.
I’d like to share one of my favorite early memories of tasting Portuguese still wine. I was driving by a lovely wine shop in Tarrytown on the way home one night and came across this great value red from Portugal for $9.00 or so. The description sounded delicious—featuring dark berries and soft textures. I was in. I don’t recall the name, but I believe it was from the Dão region. It was delicious with dark fruit and velvet, but it went down too easy. Just juicy. Juicy and had virtually no acidity, so it had no balance. This was my takeaway, but I am sure this is a struggle when dealing with increasing temperatures. Testing the 250 native grape varieties for maintaining acidity is now a part of the modern-day winemaking books, as opposed to traditional methods of the past.
Bruno has an effortless way of guiding you through the difficult-to-understand grape varieties, the art of blending, and the regions of Portugal—as well as the geography. Bruno showed up wearing a map of Portugal T-shirt. (I want one.) These are the wine growing regions: Transmontano, Douro, Dão, Beira Interior, Alentejo, Algarve, Madeira, Setúbal, Tejo, Lisboa, Beira Atlântico, Vinho Verde. The most widely recognized region is the Douro where the majority of Port is produced, followed by Madeira, putting fortified wines in the forefront of wine production. But let's not forget Vinho Verde in the north and Alentejo in the south leaving winemakers plenty of range to produce still white and red wines as well as sparkling wines.
I am very partial to the Portuguese culture because one of my best friends is from Portugal. Let’s call him Daniel. I met Daniel working in a restaurant in 1995, and I have spent years hearing his stories. After 26 years of friendship, I feel like I have a certain perspective. My friend fled Portugal to NYC because he was oppressed there when he came out as a gay man in the 80’s. He told me the story many times of how he had to write a formal letter to the Portuguese authorities, explaining why he wanted to leave and asking for permission to do so. He wasn’t approved the first time but kept trying. This was a huge turning point in his life. The reason he had to leave his home was officially in writing. He just wanted to be himself. Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1982, and LGBTQ rights in Portugal have improved substantially in the 2000s and 2010s and are now among the best in the world. Portugal now has a wide range of anti-discrimination laws and is one of the few countries to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. In fact, it’s in their constitution. There is a wave of progression in Portugal’s society, culture, and wine-growing regions. I feel better knowing my best friend will retire there—back to a land that has changed. A place that he can be proud to call home.
Wines From Our Tasting:
Anta De Cima, ‘Talha De Argilla’ Alentejo, Portugal 2017:
This wine is a blend of white grapes Alvarinho, Verdelho & Viosinho which have all been hand-harvested and destemmed. They are fermented in 140-liter clay amphoras with native yeasts where the wine is aged for 4 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. This winery is located in the cooler area of northern Alentejo, acquired by Paulo Tenreiro in the 1990s who was studying soil management and crop production as an agronomist—so it fell into place. Seven hectares of vine, sheep, pigs, and cork oak and native clay soils all add to the biodiversity. The small size production makes it cost-prohibitive to get organic certification but if you live with the land in respect of nature and growth, the intention rings loud and clear.
The wines have two different expressions. One is called ‘Argilla’ which means clay and the higher-end wine is called ‘Talha de Argilla’ which means clay amphora. The Talhas are the traditional vessels to this region. Not all winemakers choose to continue this tradition from Roman times, but here, several cuvees are still made this way.
The color of this wine was medium gold with a slight cloudy hue. On the nose was peach skin, apricot, and spice, with a slight nutty oxidative aroma. On the palate I was getting some of that fruit with a dry nutty finish, with low acidity. This was a very fun wine to explore. I was able to try it after being open for 24 hours and the texture was unique. I would decant this wine in the future to enjoy with whole roasted fish, octopus, or Mediterranean salad.
Da Cruz e Teles-COZs c2 Baga Lisboa, Portugal 2017:
This is a partnership between two top winemakers from Portugal. Tiago Teles of Gilda and RAIZ and Antonio Marques-da-Cruiz from Quinta da Serradinha decided to work together in 2015 as a result of the untimely death of fellow vigneron, Jose Mendonca. The men decided to ask the late Mendonca family if they could tend these vines in Figueira da Foz. This vineyard was perfectly situated just 5 miles from the Atlantic and had a mix of 50-year-old vines with some younger vines—red and white co-planted in a mix of clay and limestone soils that had been farmed organically. Here you will find a nice balance of ripeness and minerality. This wine is made from 50-year-old Baga grapes that are destemmed and fermented in 1000L dornas (large plastic barrels) and then aged in old Burgundy barrels for 15 months. The wine had a bright brick color and was slightly cloudy. On the nose, I first got plum, cedar, collard greens, pine, and on day two that mellowed out a bit—letting some fresh fruit notes come through like sour cherry and tobacco with more apparent earthy granite elements. I would say, this was very gripping with tannins for a wine with only 12.5% alcohol. On day two, I thought the wine offered an underlying elegance.
There is so much to learn with these wines from Portugal and about a once oppressive country that is continuing efforts to make it a better place to live and thrive. This is a huge lesson coming from a small country.
If you would like to buy these two wines please contact Shiraz Noor at Acker Wines. LBV Social Club members get a discount through our partnership!
Claire Paparazzo is an LBV Social Club member who also leads some of the Club's wine tastings. This is her reflection on the tasting that took place on June 9th, 2021. Find her on Instagram at @clairepaparazzo and @wineifyouwantto.
First photo by Justin Walker
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