WHAT: Although Port dominates wine sales from Portugal, it is no longer the only wine people talk about. Red and white dinner wines have gained major recognition around the world because they are so good.
The Vale do Bomfim is one of the better values from the Douro region, with fresh, complex flavors at a bargain price.
The wine is a deep purple red in the glass, with pleasant aromas of flowers, berries and spice. On the palate you notice plums, spice, black cherry and raspberry. This dry wine has good acidity, which makes it perfect for matching food, and a long finish. It is an intense wine with concentrated flavors.
The grapes come from the winery’s centuries-old Quinta do Bomfim and Quinta da Senhora da Ribeira vineyards. The blend changes every year. For the 2012 vintage it is 50 percent Tinta barroca, 20 percent Touriga Franca, 10 percent Touriga Nacional, 10 percent Tinta roriz and 10 percent other varieties. These same grapes show up in Port, but in a much different style.
The grapes are crushed and fermented in small stainless-steel vats and aged for nine months in French oak barrels.
The Val do Bomfim is named after Quinta do Bomfim, which is where the Dow House has its headquarters.
The wine is delicious right now, but can be aged for another year or two.
The Symington family, which produces this wine, owns several vineyards in the picturesque Douro Valley in northern Portugal. The pictures I’ve seen of the area are beautiful, with terraced vineyards leading down to the Douro River. The region, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is on my bucket list of places I would love to visit.
Just this year the family opened a tasting room and cellar tour at the Quinta do Bomfim. It looks stunning.
WINERY: The Symington family has been in the Port business for five generations beginning with Andrew James Symington, who arrived in Portugal in 1882. He married a Portuguese woman whose family was in the Port business dating back to the 17th century.
Symington was an independent Port shipper and earned the respect of farmers in the Douro Valley and Port producers. In 1905, he became a partner in Warre & Co., the oldest British Port house in Portugal. He became sole owner in 1908 and later acquired shares in another Port producer that operated under the Dow’s name.
Three of his sons followed him into the company and then his grandsons. To insure a supply of grapes, the family bought vineyards. Eventually they became the owners of Warre, Dow’s and Graham’s, and about 220 acres of vineyards.
The Symingtons were part of the Portuguese expansion into non-Port wines, offering their first DOC wines in 2000. The first release of the Vale do Bomfim was in 2004.
Port continues to be a big part of the business. In 2009, Wine Spectator, the industry bible, scored Dow’s 2007 Vintage Port a perfect 100 points and last year the magazine picked Dow’s 2011 Vintage Port the wine of the year.
GOES WITH: We enjoyed this beautiful wine with homemade chili. The combination of the spices in the meaty chili and the fruity, zesty wine was perfect. The fruit in the wine calmed the spices and the chili really brought out the complexity in the wine.
You might not think of chili as a summertime food, but I think it’s even better in the hot weather than it is during the cooler months. This is essentially the same chili that won The Chronicle chili cookoff two years in a row. It has ground beef, bacon, Italian sausage, onions, green pepper, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, beef broth, garlic, chili powder, cumin, red pepper, bay leaves, celery seed, paprika, oregano, green chilies and kidney beans. A chili with all these flavors needs a big wine to match, and the Vale do Bomfim met the test.
The wine also will go well with thick homemade hamburgers, grilled ribs, grilled chicken, pizza or hard cheeses. This is a good wine for summer drinking, especially with all kinds of meat cooked on the grill.