For centuries, shipments of wine, port, sherry and brandy from Europe were landed on the quayside at Bristol before being taken to one of the many wine merchants (35 were listed in a local trade directory in the 1840s) dotted around the city. The commercial docks are no more, transformed now into a lively riverside area, but the historic links are retained as Bristol is twinned with 2 major wine exporting cities: Bordeaux and Oporto.
And it was entirely appropriate that, when the Oporto twinning association decided to run a wine tasting as one of its regular events, it should choose Averys’ cellars as the location – Averys now being the sole survivor of those 35 merchants still trading in Bristol, following the regrettable closure of Harveys’ base in the city more than a decade ago.
The tasting featured an interesting selection of 3 whites, 3 reds and 2 ports, the wines proving, yet again, how far Portugal has come in terms of wine quality. It was also good to see that the producers are persevering with many of Portugal’s high quality native grape varieties, rather than bowing to the temptation to use better-known varieties that may, initially, be more commercial.
Of the whites we tasted, the opening wine, Portuga Branco (£6.99) made a pleasant, easy-drinking and great value aperitif but, for me, the pick was the Vinho Verde, Howards Folly Alvarinho (£10.99). This, made from the same popular and fashionable grape variety known as Alboriño in Spain, had depth, richness and complexity and would make a perfect accompaniment to a fish dish in a creamy sauce.
Portugal is better known for its reds and the Socalco Tinto (£7.49) from the Douro was a lovely flavoursome mouthful, full of attractive soft red fruits; very drinkable and a bargain at the price.
Perhaps not surprisingly, though, the stars of the evening were a pair of ports. Averys own label 10 year old Tawny (£14.99 for 50cl), from Taylor’s vineyards, had all the delightful mellowness of long ageing in barrel and contrasted well with the more tannic, black fruits and pepper character of Smith Woodhouse’s 1997 Vintage Port (£36) which, although drinking nicely now, clearly will benefit from a few more years in the bottle.
If you would like to join the Bristol-Oporto Association and enjoy interesting and sociable evenings such as this, please leave your name and contact details in the comments section of this blog and I will pass them on to the Secretary.