Wines from one of the most underrated regions in Europe: Portugal

Leslie Williams selects some tasty Portuguese wines

This week I am focusing on Portugal, one of the most underrated wine regions in Europe and one that you should focus on for value and flavour. With our criminally high wine taxes (the highest in the EU) importers are increasingly looking to Portugal to cover their wines in the €16 and under bracket.

There was a time when a wine from Portugal would be covered with a wax top and be a dried out dusty old thing, but that hasn’t been the case for a few decades. As with Spain, Portugal invested heavily in its wine industry once it joined the EU and these days the wines are clean and bright and packed with fruit. You will have to learn some new grape varieties as less than 10% of the wines here are made with international varieties.

The Douro is the best known region and, thanks to a few centuries of perfecting grapes for port, it has most of the oldest vineyards. The best port houses usually have a wine or two in their portfolio and many are excellent — watch for the wines of Quinta do Noval and Niepoort in particular.

Grapes in the Douro are numerous but the best are probably touriga nacional, tinta roriz (tempranillo) and tinta francesa but there are a few dozen others I have no room to mention. Because of the restrictions on who can make port, the younger generation of wine makers here have begun to question the practice of simply selling all their grapes to big port shippers, so expect to see lots of new interesting wines from here.

North of the Douro is Vinho Verde which was a common site on Irish wine shelves in the ’80s and early ’90s. The wines these days are still good value but are cleaner and fresher but often have that beguiling spritz. Watch for fragrant ripe alvarhino here too (the Portuguese name for albariño).

In the centre is Bairrada and Dao which are often a little more rustic but can be excellent from the right producer. Further south is Alentejo and Lisboa and both reds and whites are worth seeking out (often under €10) — watch for white grapes such as arinto, antão vaz and roupeiro and for reds watch for aragonez (tempranillo), alfrocheiro, trincadeira and castelão.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Poças, Coroa d’Ouro, Douro, Portugal (2014) — €10

Retail outlets: The Grape Vine Glasnevin, The Drink Store Manor St, Martin’s Fairview

Poças (note the soft ‘c’) are an underrated but excellent Port house now imported by Comans and this is their inexpensive red wine from the Douro. Fruity and fresh with touches of tobacco and spice, round and ripe so would work well at 10-12C for a warm day.

Colossal Reserva, Lisboa, Portugal — €14.99

Stockists: Ardkeen Stores, Vintry, Redmonds, Martins, McGuinness Dundalk, Independents

Lisboa, around Lisbon, has similar grapes and styles to the wines of Alentejo — the region is always excellent value. A blend of tourga nacional, syrah, tinta roriz and alicante bouschet, this is full flavoured, fruity and solid with lingering soft tobacco and violet tinged dark fruits.

Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde DOC 2015 — €12.99

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls Ballinlough, Vanilla Grape, Independents The Vinho Verde region is just over the border from Galicia in Norhern Portugal with similar grapes — Alvarinho, Loureiro (used here) etc. Citrus, floral and tropical touches, balanced and fruity with a subtle but noticeable spritz on the palate that adds extra zing and freshness.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Crasto Branco 2016, Douro, Portugal — €15.70

Stockists: Wines Direct Mullingar and Arnotts Dublin, winesdirect.ie

Quinta do Crasto Port has appeared here before but they also make good table wine. A blend of Rabigato, Viosinho and Gouveio — not grapes you will likely find outside the Douro, never mind Portugal. Aromas of lime tinged with tropical fruits and stones, fresh and crisp on the palate and a dry tautly fruity finish.

Duque de Viseu, Dão, Portugal — €15.99

Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Vanilla Grape, Independents.

A mix of grapes but touriga nacional (55%) and tinta roriz make up the bulk. Aromas of spice and violet tinged smoke mixed with dark and red fruits — this is full, dense and structured but with pleasing crunchy red fruits on the middle and finish. Best kept for steak or meaty dishes and is pretty typical of the wines of the region.

Herdade dos Grous, Alentejo, Portugal — €18.95-19.95

Stockists: Greenman Wine, La Touche Greystones, Donnybrook Fair, Mitchell & Son

Herdade dos Grous is one of a number of luxury estates in Alentejo that include rooms, spa treatments and horse riding etc. The wines are precise and focused and very well made — this is complex and full flavoured with integrated oak and sweet ripe fruits balanced by acidity and texture.



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