Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Get your mouth ready for Covela Escolha Branco

"I don't like white wine." How many times have I heard this from my wine class students or regular folks when discussing vinous preferences?  What I always want to retort is, "You probably don't like Chardonnay." It's that old reliable, widely planted, flourish-in-so-many places grape that's made into the white wine Americans know best.

Because of this attitude, I love when I find a game-changing white.  At a recent David Bowler portfolio tasting in New York City, I had an eye-opening, palate-wowing, nose-pleasing wine that got me excited.

It was a tip from my Portuguese Facebook friend, Vitor Mendes, that led me to the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan. I zipped out of my day job, crossed the Hudson, and hustled over to 18th street. "Where is this tasting?" After a confusing few minutes trying to resurrect the FB conversation with Vitor on my phone, I remembered: he told me 19th Street! Time was wasting. I took the stairs at a fast clip and reached check in at 4:58 p.m.  "The tasting is closed."  In my early blogging years, I would have slunk away.  But I was a veteran: "I just want to see Covela."  It was a legitimate request, and the gatekeepers acquiesced. I grabbed a glass and ran to the table where I met the energetic and charming managing partner of the winery, Tony Smith.

When Tony poured the 2012 Escolha Branco, he explained that it had been revolutionary when it was first made because it  combined native Portuguese with foreign grapes. The blend includes Avesso, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Gewurztraminer.  As I lowered my nose to the glass, I was seduced by strong aromas of white flowers and lychees.  I was not entirely sold, however. I've had many wines that promised worlds on the nose and disappointed on the palate. But as soon as the wine touched my tongue, I knew this was not one of those wines. I immediately sensed a crisp acidity.  Thank God, as Viognier itself can go flabby, as I saw far too often in Virginia during WBC. The Portuguese grapes gave this blend a shot of acid, the aromatic varieties added beautiful fruit and flowers, and the Chardonnay gave it heft. This unlikely combination of varieties formed a harmonious, unique Portuguese wine from the historic Quinta de Covela estate in the Douro Valley.

Wine geeks might enjoy analyzing Escolha Branco, which Tony called "iconoclastic" for the winery, but that would miss the point - that this is a wine for unabashed enjoyment.