I had the pleasure the other night of attending a dinner at the Portuguese embassy residence, hosted by Ambassador João de Vallera in honor of Joshua Greene, founder and editor of Wine & Spirits magazine. Josh was being presented with the Order of Merit – Agricultural Knight, presumably because his magazine has given considerable favorable coverage to Portuguese wines. In fact, Ambassador de Vallera credited all wine writers for contributing to the success of Portuguese wines. He said Portuguese wine imports to the United States grew 14% last year despite – or perhaps because of – the economy.
I don’t claim any credit for that, but I can understand it. Portuguese wines offer tremendous value. The wines we enjoyed at the embassy were (mostly) quite pricey, for Portugal is pushing the envelope on price as well as quality for its table wines. And Portuguese winemakers are not immune to the conceit that afflicts winemakers everywhere – that they should make big, oaky, alcoholic wines that adhere to some international ideal rather than producing individualistic expressions of national terroir and grape varieties.
That said, Greene, who chose the wines, did start the evening with a stunning bargain – a crisp, refreshing and intriguing vinho verde from northern Portugal produced by Aveleda. It retails for about $9.
Ambassador de Vallera commented on the wine as he presented the Order of Merit, a beautiful medal on a green and white ribbon.
“It is not on purpose that I confer a decoration that is green to a gentleman called Greene on Saint Patrick’s Day, while drinking vinho verde,” he said.
Congratulations, Sir Josh!