Wine: Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2010

Country: Portugal
Region: Beiras (though specifically, if not labelled as such, Bairrada)
Grape & ABV: Baga / 13%
Vintage: 2010
Producer: Luis Pato

As I embark on the Cigar Monologues’ first wine review I note, strangely, that I am probably more qualified to review wines than I am cigars…  I work in the industry (owning a ‘hobby’ wine importing company) and have done numerous poncy wine courses.

This is a wine which I recently spotted this in Decanter magazine’s feature on the Bairrada region of Portugal.  Bairrada was historically very important to Portugal’s wine industry.  As a result of this importance, the region was home to Portugal’s first school of viticulture (from 1887).  The producer of this wine, Luis Pato, seemed to be a passionate character, so I had to pick up a bottle – hoping it had as much character as the man who made it.  I picked it up from Corks Out in Chester – which is a delightful little shop, part of a small chain in the areas – when I was visiting the Turmeus tobacconist for a sampling session with Dan (CM‘s occasional guest blogger).

This wine is made from the Baga grape, which is the signature grape of the region.  Whilst potentially high-yielding, it has issues.

Pato Vinhas Velhas 2010

Wines made using the Baga grape can be aggressively tannic as a result of both the grape’s properties and the traditional wine making techniques of the region.  The grape’s have a high skin to pulp ratio due to their size, and ripen very late.  Given the Bairrada region’s climate this can lead to reduced sugar development and relatively acidic wines.  To help counter the cultivar’s vigorous nature, Pato prunes the vines twice to help focus the plant on filling the grapes harvested for the still wine.  This helps reduce acidity and, consequentially, astringency.  The traditional wine making technique of the region is rather rustic, with crushing and fermentation taking place including the stems.  Luis Pato’s techniques are more refined, however, removing stems and treating the product with great care.  As a result he has made a wonderful wine here – there are tannins there, giving excellent structure, but they’re quite soft (not aggressive at all).

Appearance…
Plum-red colour.  Light around the edges – pink, with just a slight brownish hue.

Nose…
This wine had a lovely, rounded, aroma: cedar and tobacco with a little red-berry fruit and warming cinnamon.  There was even a hint of marzipan.

Taste…
Excellent – soft and fruity (given the soft but firm tannins it’s almost like a Pinot Noir on steroids). Feint chocolatey and tobacco notes.

Verdict…
18/20 – An excellent wine!  If you get a chance to try a glass (or a bottle) do not turn down the opportunity.  This is something a little different, combining some of the best characteristics found in other regions.  The soft fruitiness of a Burgundy, with the body of a Bordeaux, and the warmth of a Cotes du Rhone.  Very alluring – and every bit as characterful as Luis Pato himself.

Cost: £19.95
Merchant: Corks Out (Chester)

Humour-dor, Tuesday 14th May

Well, the weather yet again causes a major case of anonymity for the Cigar Monologues!  Thankfully though, whilst the weather has prevented me from sampling too many cigars for review, I have been quite busy with another venture of my own…

I run a small entertainment company – as a ‘professional hobby’ – which organises comedy nights and corporate entertainment.  (For those of a curious nature, please check out the company’s website: www.thecomedycoalition.co.uk ). A couple of months back I had the idea of combining my two passions of cigars and live stand-up.  I dropped the good people at JJ Fox a line, and the ‘Humour-dor’ was conceived! The vision was comedy as it used to be – viewed through a thick fug of smoke.  The night would be a typical cigar party… Everything included! A Hoyo de Monterrey Churchill cigar, as much aged Scotch as you could handle (served by a beautiful lady on the bar), some canapés to keep you going, and two brilliant comedians!

The night was a success! Attendance was a little low, but it was a great experience, and thankfully those in attendance had a good time – which was the whole point of the evening! As ever happens in these situations, the night continued long after we’d left JJ Fox, and after a few drinks and more cigars at the Stafford Hotel, an stumble through Soho and Covent Garden (via another bar and a casino), it was time for a late arrival at the hotel… Thankfully, one with a 24-hour bar… Cue my good friend (and occasional guest on CM), Mr Ward, and his generosity with the bar’s Cognac!

I’ve included a few photos for those who weren’t able to make it, and I hope that if you’re in London or nearby, you’ll keep an eye out for details of the next Humour-dor event in a few months’ time. (If you definitely want to know the details as soon as they are released, drop me a message via the Comedy Coalition website, or the Cigar Monologues Facebook page.

For the record, the whiskies on the night were: BenRiach 16yo, Clynelish ‘Distiller’s Edition’, Dalmore ‘Tweed Dram’, Fettercairn ‘Fior’ (Ltd Edn), and Kilchoman ‘Machir Bay’.

Happy smoking, and I’ll be back with a new review within a few days.

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Boisdale Canary Wharf

Well, I feel that it’s about time that the Cigar Monologues covered some extra territory.  As such, I’ve added a new category: Food and Drink.  Why?  Well, traditionally a cigar has been an excellent finale to a meal, and there are some wonderful drinks that pair well with a good cigar.  However, I won’t be looking at either from a purely cigar point-of-view, I shall assess any reviews or comments primarily on the food or drink alone (though I may comment on possible accompaniments).

First up is a review of the Boisdale Jazz Bar and Restaurant in Canary Wharf.  It is a wonderful new addition to the Boisdale portfolio (which already includes Belgravia and Bishopsgate in central London).  Consisting of two floors overlooking Cabot Square, Boisdale of CW includes a restaurant, a jazz bar, an oyster and caviar bar, two terraces, and a cigar store.  For me, the greatest attractions of this venue are the cigar terrace and the whisky menu – which is believed to be the largest in the world!

Anyway, now for some thoughts from my first visit…

Reserving my table for lunch initially seemed to be a bit of a palava via email, but we got there in the end and the service was very friendly.  Upon my arrival, I was shown to my table by a friendly waiter who quickly attended my need for water (it was rather warm!)  The service very good overall, though it was a little indifferent on occasion.  I ordered some Scotch quails eggs to start.  They arrived in a rather awkward bowl like basket, which made them almost impossible to eat.  However, the effort was well worth it – the sausagemeat was beautifully seasoned with just the right herbs and an ideal amount of pepper.  The quails eggs were virtually perfect – nice, deep yellow, viscous yolks.  The condiment was pleasant, but perhaps a little light on flavour – though this was possibly for the best, allowing the egg and sausagemeat to shine through nicely.

For my main course I ordered a ‘dangerously’ hot burger with a slice of cheese.  I was slightly disappointed by the subdued spice, I was expecting something that was dangerously hot, not slightly spicy (I had been expecting pathia, not tikka masala, levels of spice).  That should not draw attention away from the burger itself though, which was thick, juicy and succulent.  Most importantly it was cooked just how it should be – with a rich, pink centre.  I had ordered a side of chips which were seasoned nicely and had been made from unpeeled potatos – nice rustic touch which looked just right next to a no-nonsense burger!

As a slightly odd observation, I must now comment on the cutlery, which was lovely.  There is nothing I hate more than ultra thin knives and forks – those used at Boisdale (complete with company crest) were ergonomically delightful – thick fiddle handles which sat very well in the hand.  Big thumbs up for helping to make the dining experience that little bit more enjoyable.

Following my meal I was escorted to the cigar terrace, where I enjoyed a lovely, six-year old Rafael Gonzalez Coronas Extra (which I have since reviewed – click here) and a glass of Highland Park 12yo single-malt Scotch.

So then, overall, I felt that Boisdale CW is a great venue (pretty much faultless on what it offers customers).  The service was good and the food enjoyable and tasty.  An evening meal, followed by a cigar, some great Scotch and a jazz show sounds like a perfect way to finish the week…  Boisdale CW is one of the few places that you can really do that without compromising on any of the components.  Well worth a visit – I’ll certainly be back!

For the record:
My starter, main course, diet coke, large bottle of water, cigar and whisky came to £50.

Scores on the Doors:
Value: 7/10
Service: 7/10
Food: 7/10
Overall: 8/10