Exploring Portugal's Manz Wines with our friends at Slate Wine Bar in Washington, DC

Slate Wine Bar in Glover Park, DC is quickly becoming one of my favorite places. In March, I attended their German Wine Dinner. In April, Meghan and I participated in their Rosé Sommelier Tasting. In May, I went to the Portuguese Wine Dinner. The atmosphere is always warm and welcoming, and I have not been disappointed in the wine or the food.
The Portuguese Wine Dinner featured wines from Manz Winery near the Atlantic coast outside of Lisbon, and food pairings from Danny Lledó, Slate’s Chef and Sommelier. Danny is of Portuguese descent, so he truly cooked from the heart for this dinner. (Add a visit to the Wine:Thirty Flight guide to Lisbon).

Manz is a small, boutique winery in Portugal, named for its owner André Manz. It’s located in Chelerios, in the Lisboa wine region. The winery is about six miles from the ocean. They export to 18 different countries but don’t plan to expand in order to preserve the quality of their product. To quote their representative, Raul Silva, Manz believes “good wine is marked by wanting to open a second bottle.” They aim for minerality and freshness in all their wines, especially in their Jampal grape varietal.

Further Reading: Two-day guide to stunning beauty and charm of Lisbon, Portugal, Western Europe's oldest city
When Manz first acquired the land, he discovered about 200 forgotten white grape strains that not even the locals could identify. After doing more research, they discovered the grape was Jampal, a Portuguese varietal almost extinct in the country. Despite advice to the contrary, Manz decided to produce the grape and ultimately make wine from it. Currently, they are the only winery in Portugal producing 100% Jampal wines.

First Course: 2014 Dona Fátima (100% Jampal) paired with Charred Octopus Salad

When making the 100% Jampal monovarietal (that's a wine made from only one variety of grape), Manz purposefully aims for a wine without a strong nose to avoid overpowering the flavors of the wine itself. Their aim is to keep the wine delicate and to keep you coming back for more. This wine fit that aim perfectly. The nose was indeed delicate, with a slight hint of minerality and a faint hint of floral aromas. It’s light and crisp but not over dry. We found it to be most similar to an unoaked Chardonnay, but I enjoyed it much more than I do most Chards. Paired with the octopus, the wine became creamy with hints of lavender and honeysuckle.
In May, Dave McIntyre of The Washington Post rated Manz’s Jampal three stars (excellent) and noted its great value ($26).

Second Course: 2014 Pomar de Espírito Santo paired with Cod À Brás Deconstructed

This wine -- a blend of 50% Touriga Nacional, 30% Aragonês (Tempranillo), and 20% Castelão -- is André Manz’s favorite. He personally makes this blend and drinks it every day. It’s a versatile, light red that pairs well with everything from lasagna to fish. No surprise that Aragonês is the grape known as "Tempranillo" in Spain, for the nose evoked classic Tempranillo notes that we love. It was slightly spiced with hints of pepper and cherry on the nose. This is slightly dry red with hints of strawberry jam. Tasted with the cod, it became rich and smooth. The strawberry jam stood out along with dried cherry and a hint of smoke.

Third Course: Contador de Estórias paired with Suckling Pig À Barirrada

This is a bolder red blend of 60% Syrah, 30% Touriga Nacional, and 10% Petit Verdot grown in Lisboa's Península de Setúbal region that needs to be paired with food. It’s aged for one year in French and American Oak. The wine has a rich and complex nose of warm leather, plums, ripe cherry, and hints of cloves and spice. The color is dark and bold. Tasting the wine, it tasted of plum and cherry on the front and was dry in the back. The suckling pig mellowed the wine and amped up the flavors of plum while bringing out leather and cherry on the palate.
I didn’t take notes on the fourth course, as the Ruby Port served was not from Manz. The representative from the winery did make sure we understood the history of Ports and that true Ports must be made in the Duoro Region of Portugal. Danny paired this port with his Anise Drunken Pears, which was a recipe his mom made for him as a child.

Further reading: What to do, and not do, when visiting Porto, Portugal's great wine city on the Douro River
As always, this was a lovely evening at Slate. Keep your eye out for an upcoming wine dinner or enjoy the delicious food and wine any time. The Jampal is on the menu, and I highly recommend trying out this unique wine!