How does the road from Coronation Street to Alentejano, Portugal get lost on Selden and 2nd in Detroit?
Listen my children and you shall hear
Of a noontime ride in the wine frontier.
I’m a huge fan of Alentejano, both as a concept and a wine region, so when a chance to interview Richard Mayson came up, I leaped at it. Or rather, I drove toward it—the rendezvous was set for one of Detroit’s trendier hotspots, which is exactly the sort of place you’d want to rep this drab dystopia when somebody from similarly drab Manchester, England comes to town.
The subject of Manchester was where we derailed, however. Mayson, who owns Quinta do Centro in Alentejano, where he makes wine with acclaimed enólogo Rui Reguinga, happens to live in the north of England—specifically in Coronation Street country. For those unfamiliar with this strange little British soap opera, it is not only the longest continually running show of its type in history (55 years), it is also so financially successful that it basically underwrote everything that Granada Television has done since.
And it is insanely addicting: Despite all odds, I have watched nearly every episode since I was a kid.
That’s not something that most Detroiters can claim, nor would they claim if they could—Corrie, as diehards like me call it, seems better suited for bored matronly retirees with a fixation on daily backstreet life in England’s industrial North.
But, Mr. Mayson is not a dowager and he’s not retired; he’s a widely read author and regular contributor to Decanter Magazine, and yet, he’s such a Corriephile that he confessed to actually have had it playing on the hospital room television while a dear relative was dying so as not to miss a show. Thus, we whiled away our wine talking hour sharing deep insights into Tracy Barlow’s character and the death of (spoiler alert) her mother Deirdre.
Sort of pathetic, non?
Fortunately, a delay in the flight upon which he’d intended jet back to Manchester gave us an extra span to yabber. Unfortunately, we still avoided wine-talk, and instead discussed his street light fetish—he has a portfolio of the world’s most fascinating lampposts, now including some from Detroit—and the book he’s writing about Lancashire artist L.S. Lowry.
Greatfully, thanks to the internet, and the honorary degree I hold from Google University, I was able to fill in the wine blanks after the interview.
First, Mayson is married to a Blandy (as in a Madeira Blandy) and has also penned a book on that fine fortified phenomenon from the Portuguese archipelago: It’s called ‘Madeira: The Island And Its Wine’ and as son as it becomes available, I’ll share a review.
But the wines we drank as we discussed the Rover’s Return, Lowry’s ‘matchstick men’ paintings and the homeless person peering in the window at Selden Standard were Mayson’s own: Quinta do Centro; three wines, all blends, reflecting the remarkable terroir of Reguengo on the slopes Serra de São Mamede, which sit a rarified 1600 hundred feet above sea level. The soils are rocky and predominantly granite, and the trio of rock star wines Mayson produces are all named, fittingly—in Portuguese—after rocks.
Duas Pedras ($10) is a co-fermented blend of Touriga nacional (60%) and Syrah with a small quantity of Viognier; the aggressively floral white, according to Mayson, is the ‘salt in the cookie’. “It’s not obvious when it’s there in small quantities, in this case, 2 or 3%. It’s only obvious if it’s missing or it there’s too much.” The wine expresses bright red berry notes (cranberry especially) with an herbal and mineral lift; the palate is full and and shows the richness of Touriga and the spiciness of Syrah.
Pedra Basta ($18), or ‘Enough Stones’, may be the swan song of the series—or it may not be. In any case, like most wines, when it comes to Mayson’s, you can have too much, but you can never have enough. A fabulously aromatic blend of Trincadeira, Arragonez and Alicante bouschet, the wine shows a bouquet of velvety violets and briery raspberries; it opens into a layered medley of fruit and textured mineralit, showing lively acidity and moderate oak that does not overpower a long, spicy finish.
Pedra e Alma ($30) is the flagship wine; Mayson’s reserva. Portuguese for ‘Stone and Soul’, the name is poetry reflecting both foundation and ascendency, which I am sure the winemakers intend the wine to display. And indeed, it does. Made from Trincadeira, Arragonez, Alicante bouschet and Grand noir, aged for 2 years in new French oak, it shows a cassis-like concentration of dark fruits, one of which owns the somewhat elusive comparison to mulberry, which I identify only because of mulberry trees in my yard. There’s elegance behind the complexity, with licorice, Damson plum and a seductive tarriness, all braced by pure and primal acidity born of the vineyard’s elevation.
I asked the lamppost-infatuation, Lowry-beset, Coronation Street-consumed and Madeira-mad Mancunian if he’d named his daughter after one of his multiple obsessions, and he confessed that although his kid’s name is Isabella, his wife—now a Mayson—commonly goes by the sobriquet ‘Blandy’.
And I sheepishly admitted that I have a daughter named Corrie. Hands across the water; heads in BBC.