Fadó fadó, just after my first year in college, I spent the summer working in a five-star hotel in Southern Germany as a dishwasher. Not the most salubrious of jobs but the chefs made sure I was well fed (I tasted lobster and venison for the first time), and I made great friends with a bunch of Portuguese trainee teachers who were working in the hotel as chamber maids for the summer.
The hotel was mainly staffed by students and trainees it seemed so there was a party every week to wish someone goodbye. It was always the Irish and the Portuguese left at the end of the night, talking, smoking, and drinking until the small hours. The girls had found a shop that sold Portuguese wines so when not drinking the local Rothaus beers it was juicy Portuguese wine that fuelled our parties. I still love the wines, and the affinity between the Irish and the Portuguese is evident on every visit I’ve made. I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about as droves of us go there on holiday every year.
Well if you are missing out on a trip this year I have some excellent Portuguese wines to tide you over until your next visit. I’m not sure any of these wines have appeared here before although I have mentioned Esporão — you would have to given the fame of its winemaker David Baverstock. Baverstock married a local girl and has been instrumental in creating a reputation for the once ignored wines of the Alentejo (south of Lisbon and north of the Algarve) — a great source of easy-drinking reds and fragrant whites at all price ranges.
Baverstock launched a couple of new wines from northern vineyards this year including a Vinho Verde. The Vinho Verde region is between the Douro and the Minho rivers: the latter forms the northern border with Spain/Galicia and the crisp white wines of the region have appeared here often — they are perfect picnic or lunch wine as they are rarely much over 11% abv.
Also here is a new Dâo which tasted more southern and easy drinking in character than most I’ve tried from the region — imported by Solera wines, one of my favourite small importers. Also feature here are two value reds from the Douro, a region that knows its worth so can be expensive — but these wines show there is value there too.
Esporão Bico Amarelo Vinho Verde, Portugal — €12.95
This is brand new to the Esporão range for 2021 and is as classic a Vinho Verde as you could want: Loureiro, Alvarinho and Avesso grapes, and typically light at just 11.5% abv. Crisp pear and apple fruits, zingy and fresh with a pleasing bitter lemon twist on the finish — perfect for with shellfish or on its own.
Adega de Penalva Dão 2017, Portugal — €14.95
Dão is just south of the Douro and home to some of Portugal’s most underrated red and white wines. A blend of 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and 30% Jaen (Mencía) this is made by the Adega co-op and is bright and juicy and packed with cherry fruits, some grippy notes on the mid palate and a fruit driven finish — perfect for picnics, pizza or barbecues.
Quinta de Fafide Douro Reserva, Portugal — €14.95
The Douro river valley is of course Port country but also has probably the most lauded and ageworthy red wines of the whole country. The Douro can also make easy drinking reds for mid-week and this is a solid example — smoky dark fruit aromas with a lively supple and fruit-driven palate, raspberry and loganberry fruits poking through, and a light pepper hint on the finish.
Casa Ferreirinha ‘Esteva’ Douro Tinto, Portugal — €15.99
Casa Ferreirinha makes the iconic Barca Velha red (good enough for José Mourinho to give some to Alex Ferguson) but also makes wines across the spectrum like this tasty juicy red. Mostly from Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) this has bright red currant and strawberry aromas with a touch of rose petals — soft generous fruits on the palate and a peppery spice and smoke note on the finish.
Esporâo Colheita Tinto Organic, Alentejo, Portugal — €16.99
A blend of Touriga Franca and Cabernet Sauvignon, this is a baby brother to the Esporâo Reserva Tinto 2018, featured here, with some of the same fruits but a shorter life span and just a little less finesse. Black cherry and plum aromas with red fruits in the background: juicy and fruit driven with some spice notes on the mid-palate and a ripe fruity finish.
Esporâo Reserva Tinto 2018, Alentejo, Portugal — €25.95
Arguably one of the best wines of the Alentejo this is made of a mix of local grapes and some blow-ins: Trincadeira and Aragonez (Tempranillo) plus some Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet. Blackberry and blueberry aromas with floral notes and a touch of vanilla, integrated silky tannins on the palate but with a bit of grip on the finish: concentrated, full-fruited, and delicious.
Silk’s Gin, 42% ABV, 70cl — €39.95
Silk’s is new from the Boann Distillery in Co. Meath — the name comes from the jockeys' silks that can be seen on race days at Bellewstown racecourse next door. Copper pot distilled with 14 botanicals including the usual juniper, coriander, citrus peel, and angelica, to which is added apple blossom, elderflowers, hawthorn flowers and honey from the distillery’s own hives.
Floral and juniper aromas hit the nose first followed by citrus and apple. Smooth and creamy on the front and mid-palate with honey notes followed by spice, pepper, and a rounded orange peel finish. In an attractive bottle and fairly-priced, this is a solid addition to a crowded market.