The Battle of the Portuguese Sagrados

Several years ago after attending Port Wine Day in Porto, Portugal I had a fantastic lunch with the owner of Quinta do Sagrado José Marie Calem in an outdoor restaurant overlooking the Douro River. It was a warm September day and we really dug into some incredible seafood in the old section of Porto. Afterwards I was invited to his house for a private tasting of Sagrado wines which were superlative some of them field blends meaning all different grapes are growing in the same field so you get a blended wine not really knowing the percentage of any varietal. Unfortunately the wines I was fortunate to taste have not made it to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).

What we do receive is a wine simply called Sagrado. I bought several of the 2013’s thinking they were very good wines but they needed ageing. So I picked up in a recent LCBO Vintages release a 2016 vintage and decided to compare it to the 2013.

The 2013 has a murky colour that might indicate it is on the decline while the 2016 has a clear garnet colour.

The 2013 has a nose predominately of lush blackberry and is full of ripe raspberries. The 2016 has a lighter aroma of blackberry, red cherries and hazelnut wafer cookies.

On the palate the 2013 is smooth with not much tannin left in it but enough to continue improving over the next three years. The flavours are light if not delicate with cassis, red cherries with a moderately long finish. I breathe a sigh of relief as its murkiness does not indicate an overaged wine at least in this case and it is free of any malodorous quality. Red wine with fish is often a no no but having had the cod dish Bachalau in Portugal it has always been served to me with red wine and is works well. If you wanted with meat a Douro duck casserole would be a good match. I think the 2013 was $12.95.

The 2016 is actually less tannic that the 2013 which is a bit strange as older wines tend to have their tannins softened by age. The fruit in the 2016 on the palate is very tight fisted and cloistered and, in my view, needs 3-5 years to develop. Quite frankly there is not much character on the palate! This was the same with the 2013 when I purchased it.

These Sagrados share a common characteristic that ageing is required. The 2013 is near its peak and its murky colour is a bit of a concern but has not affected its quality. Both were crushed by foot in shallow granite lagares. This manual process is a fading tradition in the Douro as mechanization has been introduced to Portugal that eliminates the need for foot treading. Both were fermented using indigenous yeast. Both are made from Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Tinta Amarela. The 2013 label mentions 6 months ageing in French oak but the 2016 label does not mention ageing in oak. Both have been rated 91 by the Wine Enthusiast. Both have a 13.5% alcohol percentage.

Closing thoughts this Sagrado label almost speaks of a bygone era where wines were bottled to age which is an antithesis to so may wines of today where consumers want immediate accessibility. The 2013 is reaching its prime and the 2016 you may find lacking in character unless you want to lay it down for a few years. It is selling for $16.95.

It is somewhat unfair to rate the 2016 as it is clearly not a cart home from the store and pop it open therefore not what we might call a supermarket wine. These are lush and in you face wines. The Sagrados are wines from another era.

The 2013 and 2016 are not competing in some 1970 “Battle of the Bands” However if you pressed me for a rating I would give the 2013 a 93 and the 2016 an 89. Age for wines can be a blessing and sometimes a curse for human beings!

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food and drink, travel, and lifestyle issues. He is one of the few non-national writers to be certified as a wine specialist by the Society of Wine Educators, in Washington, DC. Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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