Spotlight on Mark Squires & Portuguese Wine
Appointed as the Portugal wine reviewer for The Wine Advocate in 2006, Mark Squires is coming up on 11 years of covering this wine region. Squires recalls that he had been interested in Portugal’s wines long before he officially started reviewing them.
His interest and pursuit of wine dates back to the mid-1990s, “when I had my own website…what would now be called a blog.” Squires says he eventually gave up on the idea at the time because he wasn’t sure there was enough interest, and he was also still working full-time as a lawyer. “I didn’t really have the ability to start taking off and going to Portugal all the time.”
Luckily—for all of us—things have changed a lot since the mid-1990s. Just looking at Portugal, Squires now has over 6,000 wine reviews logged in The Wine Advocate’s archives and has been featured in several Portuguese wine magazines. Most recently, he was featured in the July issue of Revista de Vinhos—A Essência do Vinho, which roughly translates to Wine Magazine—The Essence of Wine. You can watch a short video of the interview here. (Just select English subtitles in settings.)
In anticipation of his Portugal reports that will be published in the upcoming August Issue of The Wine Advocate, we’ve turned the spotlight on Mark Squires here as well to get his views and insight on the current state of Portuguese wine.
Exciting Times in the World of Port
Squires says that, among Port producers, he is seeing some reflections on old traditions—like the declaration system. “I'm not a fan of the declaration system at all, but add modern technology and it should be possible to see Vintage Port declared more often—or even every year (which Noval has come pretty close to doing of late).” This move, Squires believes, would be good for both consumers and producers. “It would make Vintage Port a part of regular life.”
There is also a trend toward drinking Vintage Port “younger and younger,” he says. And, here, he is more of a traditionalist. “I love the flavors that complex, mature Vintage Ports deliver. I enjoy, but am not quite as intrigued by, the sweet, primary fruit of youth. Still, without question, the wines are simply more approachable these days. You don't have to wait forever anymore.” The 2015s—the subject of the Port report in the upcoming August Issue—just might be good examples of that, he adds.
Change is on the Horizon: Regions to Watch
Squires says Portugual has mostly had a reputation for red wines, “but—unfairly—not so much for whites.” The exception here is Vinho Verde. Although this may have been the case in the past, it isn’t true now, he says, as there are a lot of fine whites, too.
As for Vinho Verde, Squires opines that the reputation for quality has never matched the fame. “I think that is beginning to change,” he adds. “More artisanal producers are coming on line. I discussed this in some detail last year (August 2016: Young Guns), spotlighting some interesting young or lesser-known producers.”
In the category of “other bight things to watch,” Squires calls attention to the development of the cooler climate sub-region of Portalegre in Alentejo. “This is a very different concept of Alentejo,” he says. “I also expect the Lisboa and Setúbal regions to continue developing. There is a lot to like, but plenty of room to grow. I think they both have a lot of potential.”
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