The island of Pico is part of the archipelago of nine islands that form the Azores--Açores in Portuguese--that jut out in the Atlantic Ocean, 1280 km from continental Portugal and 3300 km from the farthest eastern point of North America. The Azores are part of Portugal but an autonomous region, and a great majority of the Portuguese living in the US come from there. The archipelago was explored by the Carthaginians and Arabs, but discovered by the Portuguese about 1427. Colonization began in 1439. Agriculture dates from after this period, making Azorean agriculture young from a European point of view.
Of the islands forming the Azores, only three Pico, Graciosa, and Terceira grow vines in quantity. Pico is the most famous for its wine, which up to the Russian revolution, even found its way to the Czar’s table. All of these islands are volcanic in nature and it is precisely this volcanic soil, basaltic and rocky lava, which produces the characteristics of the wine of Pico. Called LAJIDO, rather than Verdelho do Pico, from the grape variety used originally to produce it, which was wiped out by Phylloxera in the late 19th century, this delicious fortified wine is now again being produced by a cooperative of growers in the area of Madalena on Pico’s west side.Now produced from Verdelho, Arinto, and Terrantez, it is grown in “currais,” corrals made of lava rock, at times holding nothing more than 6 or 7 vines trained to grow on the ground. The soil is covered with rocks except where the vine trunk juts out. The currais protect the vines from the terrible damage done by both salt spray and wind.
Recognized as a VLQPRD, Quality Liqueur Wine Produced in a Delimited Region, it must have a minimum of 12 to 14% alcohol before being fortified to 16% and oak aged for a minimum of 4 years. LAJIDO presents itself with an old gold color; a warm, mineral, flinty scent, slightly cinnamon-like with an aromatic, dry, harmonious flavor. Warm and fresh with a dry spicy character and good aromatic follow through, it has mouth watering acidity and a crisp finish set off by an unctuous dry intensity. Lightly cooled, it is a wonderful, soft aperitif. It can be served appropriately with spice cake at dessert or other desserts that are not too sweet. Production: 40,000 liters.
Lajido Do Pico 1994 Out of stock. 500ml
I tasted this wine during the fourth World Gourmet Festival, held at The Regent Hotel in Bangkok, October, 2003. I then went to visit the vineyards and winery, about an hour southwest of Bangkok, in the Chao Praya Delta. Monsoon Valley vineyards themselves are almost as improbable as those on Pico except that here the vineyards are floating. The vines are anchored in clay soil on mounds surrounded by water.
The vines are trained up on pergolas, so the fruit hangs down and is picked by workers standing under it. Varieties grown are malaga blanc, also known as dabouki, pok dum, said to be “Black Queen,”and black muscat. Laurent Metge-Toppin, a French enologist, is in charge of production in a spanking clean winery, making bright, fresh, fruity, dry Thai wines to go with Thai food.
As with viticulture in subtropical countries, the vines are made to go dormant by defoliation and are then pruned, achieving five harvests in two years. Jancis Robinson, in a recent column called these wines “new latitude wines” since they come from under 18 degrees north of the equator, well under the latitude bands of 30 and 50 normally considered suitable for viticulture. Increasing interest in wine in countries like Thailand, and examples like Monsoon Valley wines, prove that ingenuity will make wine happen even in improbable places.Monsoon Valley wines are good. They are meant to be drunk with Thai cooking. In a recent tasting in Sacramento, Monsoon Valley Red and Rosé went perfectly with a Thai-Vietnamese menu at Mai Pham’s Lemon Grass Restaurant. A great surprise was the combination of Monsoon Valley White with the dessert of sweet mangoes with sticky rice and coconut sauce, complementing the sweet, fruity flavors by not being sweet.
MONSOON VALLEY 2003
RED Out of stock.
ROSÉ Out of stock.
WHITE Out of stock.
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