By now the first paycheck of the new year should be in but there are no scary prices below for the simple reason that I am focusing on Southern and Central Portugal this week, arguably two of the best value wine regions in the world.
The Alentejo is probably the most over-looked part of Portugal given that it has the Algarve to the south and Lisbon to the north and no large coastal towns to excite the tourist.
It does have some fine resorts however, almost all of which make their own wine so don’t overlook it as a holiday destination.
The old Roman and Medieval town of Évora is worth a visit if you find yourself near and there is good food to be had throughout the region if you stick with the classics.
Presunto (jamon) is excellent, bacalao fish cakes are delicious and watch out for the excellent Évora cheese and pungent almost liquid raw milk Queijo Serpa which is so soft that you need to eat it with a spoon.
Exploring the wines here will require a few new grape varieties to learn — fragrant dry whites from Arinto, Antão Vaz and Roupeiro and fleshy fruity reds from Trincadeira, Aragonez (Tempranillo) and red-fleshed Alicante-Bouschet to name just a few.
There are some higher end producers (see names below) but also lots of value wines from the same houses.
Lisboa (previously known as Estramadura) also uses the same grapes plus a few others such as Fernão Pires and Castelão.
The weather is more variable here thanks to the Atlantic influence compared to the very warm and dry Alentejo.
The Lisboa wines on the Irish market are more value- focused and you will find good pickings between €9 and €12 (eg, JJ O’Driscolls).
Seeing as we are talking Portugal keep an eye in your local Aldi for bargain ports left over from Christmas. Aldi’s 40 year old Maynards Tawny and others have been reduced to bargain prices.
Lidl meanwhile have some very good Sauternes this week including Chateau Coutet 2012 at €45 (an off year but Coutet is always good) and Chateau Filhot 2010 at €30.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Esporão Pé Tinto, Alentejo, Portugal — €9.95
Stockists: 1601 Kinsale, Joyces Athenry, Wine Centre Kilkenny, Vintry, Grape & Grain, Independents
Esporão are one of Portugal’s best producers founded by winemaker (Australia-born) David Baverstock.
This is a blend of local grapes including Castelão and Trincadeira with supple plum fruits and a bright juicy palate that would work well with Tuesday pizza or Sunday roast.
Portuga, Lisboa, Portugal — €9.95
Stockists: Independents, Vintry, No. 21 Group, Baggot St. Wines
A blend of Arinto, Fernão Pires and Vital this is a perfect pick-me-up wine to get you through the last days of January.
Fresh citrus and lemon zest aromas with underlying sweet apple and pear, clean and zingy on the palate. Try with Thai food, Mussels or as an aperitif.
Branco 2015, Alentejo, Portugal — €14.95
Stockists: LaTouche Greystones, Fresh, Greenman Wines Terenure
Antão Vaz is a grape to watch out for and is a speciality of the Alentejo and Lisboa regions — peachy and ripe stone-fruit aromas balanced with fresh acidity.
This has some extra citrus and floral notes and is a delight.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Pegos Claros Reserva, Palmela, Portugal — €16.95
Stockists: Greenman Wines, Carrry-Out, Costcutter, O’Briens, D6 Wines, Avoca, Fresh, Mitchells.
Grown on sandy soil and foot-tread this is made from the Castelão grape (sometimes called Periquita) with bright cherry and pomegranate aromas, plum and black cherry flavours with good intensity.
Some stockists above just have entry level Pegos Claros which is excellent, costing €13-14.95.
Monte de Peceguina 2015, Alentejo, Portugal — €21.95
Stockists: Carry-Out, Costcutter, O’Briens, Green Man Wines, O’Donovans, Deveneys
This is the new vintage of Peceguina from Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, a full-fruited wine that packs a lovely punch of bright red and black fruits — blackberry, blackcurrant and cherry.
A blend of Aragonez (Tempranillo) and other local varieties plus some Syrah and a good wine for a warming winter stew or even roast chicken.
Palha Canas 2011, Lisboa, Portugal — €16.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Vintry Rathgar, Independents.
A blend of most of Portugal’s best known grapes — Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz and others.
This has a few years bottle age and it shows in the fine mature fruits, sweet plum with hints of spice, warming and satisfying.
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