ARTICLE & PHOTOS BY BLAIR CURTIS © JULY 2010

“The wine world is here” was this year’s tag line for the 32nd annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, and coming right on the heels of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games which took place here recently, this year’s wine fest was packed with enthusiasts from all over the globe.

We have one of the oldest and largest wine festivals held in the world and it has gained international acclaim for the quality of the wines presented and events offered to compliment the annual wine theme chosen for the festival. There were nearly 25,000 consumers and trade members attending, (97% of all available tickets were sold) along with 1,700 wines from nearly 200 wineries.

The special events offered are great, held at local restaurant venues around the city and private clubs as well. The Festival’s Executive Director, Harry Hertscheg knows how to throw a party and Vancouver takes notice and comes to support the arts through the wine auction held to benefit the Playhouse. There is also a well stocked wine shop within the confines of the festival which offers a multitude of wines presented during the weeklong event.

At this year’s festival, I attended the trade tasting sessions with Roy Hersh who has supported our wine festival every year since he first started coming to Vancouver in 1997. Therefore, our focus was obviously on Portuguese wines with an emphasis on Douro wine and Ports, both of which I am quite familiar with and enjoy very much. Due to the ongoing Icelandic volcano eruptions at the time, interruptions to flight schedules either delayed or cancelled the majority of the Portuguese contingent from getting here, although a few went far out of their way and eventually made it here. Below, you will find just about all of the Douro wines and Ports that were available for us to taste. It should be noted that there are usually more Portuguese wines, but this year’s theme was the wines of New Zealand and Argentina.

2007 Passadouro, Douro (red): 18 months in French oak, about $44 CDN, hand-picked and foot-trodden, slightly lightweight on the nose, hard tannin, a bit closed, slightly bitter finish...is this perhaps overextracted? There is big fruit in the mouth, but the alcohol sticks out a bit too. Good, but not great – 86 points.

2007 Passadouro Reserva, Douro (red): 80% new French oak and 20% used French oak, about $89 CDN, there were 500 cases produced, compared to the regular red this has a much more floral nose and more class overall. Nice and round in the mouth, not as hot or extracted...miles ahead of the vin ordinaire from this producer. This wine shows great fruit, black currant, long finish, and very fine high-quality tannin is present – 90+ points.

2005 Passadouro LBV Port: 3400 bottles (< 300 cases), about $48 CDN, sweet and soft, a round wine with not too much structure, a little hot...the spirit shows just a bit, medium finish, bit of cherry cough drop on this, nice acid level and integration, tannin is not too perceptible, this wine sort of sneaks up on you and leaves you with a nice impression – 89 points.

2007 Pintas Character, Douro (red): about $65 CDN [sampled two different bottles of this wine – one open 16 hours and one open 0.5 hours]. The 16 hour sample showed some band-aid on the nose, fine tannins, but a bit reserved on fruit on the palate. The 0.5 hour bottle had a slightly “cleaner” nose, it was tighter and somewhat closed with some roasted red fruits showing. A bit of stemminess. This seems almost Rhone-like in its profile – 87 points.

2007 Pintas, Douro (red): this is the flagship wine, about $120 CDN [sampled two different bottles of this wine – one open 20 hours and one open 0.5 hours]. The 20 hour sample has almost no nose. On the palate, the tannins have firmly clamped this wine down. The quality is evident but this glass of wine is extremely difficult to judge. The 0.5 hour bottle showed much better. The nose was out in full force – quite a lovely and classy nose, both floral and fruity. Later the nose showed some toasted pine nuts and Havana cigar. A really intriguing nose. The palate was much clearer and stronger than the older sample. The wine shows great structure and acids. Black cherries, a bit of bitter cocoa. It has a zing and a lift to it. A very cool and distinctive wine – 92+ points.

2007 Pintas Vintage Port: [sampled two different bottles of this wine – one open 21 hours and one just opened]. The 21 hour sample displayed very sweet black fruit, a violet nose, the spirit was a little out of joint but not too bad. This Port lacks something that keeps it from being special. Also don’t know if this has the skeleton to make old bones? The freshly opened sample had the same nose as the older sample. The body of the wine feels a bit bigger, but overall the palate impression and flavours are quite close to the older sample. Good – 88 points• 2008 Passadouro, Douro (white): this wine has crisp acids, starfruit and green apples. A “crunchy” wine. Bit of slate. Nice minerals. A fresh wine with fairly light body but good flavours – 87 points.

2005 Passadouro Vintage Port: shows huge crushed black fruit, excellent even sweetness with great body and super-fine tannin. Really excellent balance supported by nice acids. This has a lot of potential, indeed – 92 points.

2004 Quinta da Veiga da Casa da Capela, Casa das Mouras Reserva, Douro (red): about $32 CDN, 1800 cases produced, from a parcel quite near Quinta do Crasto’s Maria Teresa, intense dried fruit nose (sort of Amarone-like), the palate is even better – beautiful and refined with excellent complexity, a lot of earth and mineral content, unique and special, from 25 year-old vines, new American oak is used but it is specially chosen with an extra-fine grain, this has the best nose of all the Portugese red non-fortified wines tasted today, great balance, quite outstanding wine – 94 points.

2006 Azul Portugal Bairrada (red): perfumed nose, spicy, very lightweight, watery in the midpalate, a bit of bitterness on the finish, an undistinguished soft quaffer – 83 points.

2006 Azul Portugal Palmela (red): sweet fruit nose, again a bit thin/watery on the palate, quite quaffable with a short finish, but pretty fruit and likely would fare quite well as a luncheon or picnic wine – 85 points.

NV Croft Pink Port: like a rock-a-berry cooler but with more booze, fun wine but not a fine wine by any stretch – 83 points.

NV Taylor First Estate Reserve Port: [first bottle was corked]. Second bottle had quite a pure nose, intense candied sweetness, a little simple and a bit hot, not bad at all for what it is – 84 points.

NV Crofts 10 Year Tawny Port: burnt caramel nose, on the palate features candied pecans, the spirit is pretty well-integrated, nice acids, medium weight in the mouth...a good job – 89 points.

NV Taylor 20 Year Tawny Port: wilder nose than the Croft 10 y.o., interesting tuch of volatility, hint of old wood flavour, cinnamon and cherry pie, high-toned with good acid lift, a wine that keeps pumping and keeps changing in the glass, very Taylor and very interesting – 92 points.

2007 Altano (Organic), Douro (red): sweet ripe fruit, gentle structure, nice mouthfeel, red currants, plums, medium finish, not bad at all – 89 points.

2007 Altano Reserva, Douro (red): more reserved than the other Altano wine, less on the nose and less effusive fruit, but has a blacker fruit character as well as some licorice. Perhaps a bit more potential than its stablemate? Very good – 90 points.

NV Warre’s Otima 20 Year Tawny: cool rancio nose, crème caramel, nice acid, very good but not outstanding – 88+ points.

1999 Quinta do Roriz Vintage Port: initially served too cold, but as it warms the nose comes out. Nice wine. Good fruit but this is not at the level of a great Port – 88+ points.

1997 Quinta do Crasto Reserva, Douro (red): when just opened showed some bottle funk and intense earthiness, as the wine sits, this cleans up a bit. Really nice pure fruit on the palate, red plums, black pepper. Fun wine – 91 points.

2007 Quinta do Vale Meao (red): nose of deep-toned perfume, grows as it progresses through the mouth to the explosive and long finish. Rich blackberry compote. Yummy wine – 93+ points.

Next year the theme for the wine festival is Fortified Wine from around the world. It should make for an excellent time here in Vancouver and I would like to have the chance to meet more of you from the FOR THE LOVE OF PORT gang. Please come up this way and explore our great city and take part in the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. It is held for a worthy cause to promote the arts and I believe you would really have a great time!

Roy’s Note: This month’s Guest Corner contribution was written by Blair Curtis who is a serious wine collector and consumer in Vancouver, Canada and has previously written articles on Port for FTLOP. He visits Seattle on a regular basis and has taken part in many Port events in both Canada and America over the past decade. Blair also has a penchant for Douro wines, which seem to be abundantly popular in the Vancouver, BC area and widely imported there. A lawyer by day, he is also a member of the Vancouver chapter of the Commanderie de Bordeaux and in October of this year will also be inducted into La Confrerie des Chavaliers du Tastevin (for very fortunate Burgundy enthusiasts). I am very pleased to have Blair contributing his work here again.