Since 2000 BC, people have been making wine from the abundant indigenous grapes in Portugal– second only to Italy with almost 300 grapes being made into wine today. Surprisingly few people are familiar with the grapes, the region, or the wine… beyond Port, a fortified beverage originating in northern Portugal that traveled well.
Why? Well, for many years all of the wine made in Portugal was enjoyed by the Portuguese or people visiting Portugal!
Now it’s time for a change– time to get to know the wines of Portugal!
I’ve been investigating and tasting wines from Portugal, starting in 2009 when I traveled there on a press trip with Jo Diaz and hosted by Enoforum Wines to visit the Alentejo.
when I fell in love with the culture, the cuisine, the cobbles, the castles, the coastline and more.
A route of the Camino passes through Portugal and I’ve long fantasized about traveling along it; recently i regretted passing up round trip tickets for $350 from SFO to Paris that on TAP — the Portuguese airline — would have included a five night layover there. Even yesterday I was looking at flights that would include another visit to Portugal.
These days we are more likely to travel by glass than by air…
Fortunately, I’ve had several opportunities to sip from a glass with Portuguese wine. In a series of posts please join me this August and September on an excursion into the wines of Portugal:
- from a range of wines from north to south in this post
- to the white wines of vinho verde coming up Saturday Aug. 8 paired with tuna and fresh tomato orzo
- to the WASP certified white and red wines of Alentejo; Portugal is a leader in facing climate change as well
- to three expressions of the red vibrant Alicante Bouschet from the Alentejo
- to three dessert wines from the island of Madeira
- to three dessert wines from the northern Douro — white, red and tawny Port
- and more
Inspired by my visit to Portugal, by Sue’s research, and by the marvelous shellfish available locally!
- raw oysters
- cured meat and spanish cheeses
- milho freito — fried cornmeal with kale
- a variation on Portuguese clams and pork
- Portuguese rice with tomatoes
- zucchini brownies
While most people think Vinho Verde when they think of Portuguese whites, we have two from the Alentejo which is east and south and far from the coast!
- From Alentejo–
2017 Rocim “Mariana” Vinho Branco, Alentejo
ABV 12.5%; SRP
60% Antao Vaz, 30 Arinto, 10% Albarino
I could drink this all day! What a yummy wine.
Color: Bright lemon yellow
Nose: Florals, citrus flower, lemon, grass, very expressive
Palate: Lemon, tangy, minerals, smooth rich finish, round mouthfeel, bright acidity, nice sipping wine, citrus pith on the finish.
Pairing: I wanted calamari with this wine right off the bat. Both the oyster and the milo frites bring out richness in wine but then the acidity in the wine cuts the richness. The Milho Frito brings out nice fruit in the wine, and the wine cuts through the oil in the food. With a platter of Spanish cheeses you would be happy, great with the Manchego. Brie is a bit too sticky with the wine. We loved it with the rosemary manchego. Olives bring out such sweet fruit in the wine. Plenty of body and bang to go with the main meal.
2018 Fitapreta Antonio Macanita, Alentejo
13% ABV; SRP
Blend of hand harvested grapes from 30-50 year old vines grown on granitic soils: Roupeiro, Rabo de Ovlha, Antao Vaz, Tamarez, Alicante Branco, Arinto.
Color: Bright yellow, golden, buttercup
Nose: Honeysuckle, petrol, grass
Palate: Very dry citrus and minerals, apricot, peach
Pairing: Like many white wines, great with oysters. It loved the Milho Frito appetizer; the sweetness of the corn and the bitterness of the kale bring out a fruity richness in the wine. The wine really blossoms with food. Yummy with the Manchego, oh so good! The blend has enough complexity for the main meal.
When it comes to red wines, port is most famous but Portugal produces plenty of dry red wines from Douro in the north to Tejo near the central coast to Alentejo in the central east near Spain and from Algarve in the south all with a focus on their really interesting indigenous grapes.
- From the Douro in the north
2016 Dow “Vale Do Bomfim,” Douro
ABV 13.5%; SRP $13
This blend of 40% Touriga Franca, 40%Touriga Nacional, 20% Field Blend comes from one of the more well known name in Port.
Nose: Fruit forward, plum, violet, iris, forest floor, a bit of alcohol,
Palate: Dry, fruit, spicy peppercorn finish, clean, slate, grippy tannins, fresh mint,
Pairing: Fun pairing would be a steak with peppercorns. Great wine to bring to a BBQ. I did not care for this wine with cured meat. With the Milho frito it was fantastic. Great with blue cheese, and Manchego. Amazing value.
- From Tejo in the center northwest
2015 Rabisco – Vinho Tinto – Reserva –
ABV 13.5%; SRP $13
This blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Touriga Nacional provides the familiar with the less well known grape. Twistoff cap for easy access! Great wine for a BBQ or other gathering with food.
Color: Garnet, not very deeply hughed,
Nose: Pepper, cherry, cloves, cardamon, baking spices
Palate: While it is an inexpensive wine, super fruit forward on the nose and on the palate, we think this wine would benefit from a few more years of time in the cellar! Bright tart cherry, spicy finish, pepper, baking spices, dry chalky tannins, dry cocoa powder, this wine yearns for food.
Pairing: Loves the salty Manchego, Spicy chorizo brings out the spice and fruit in the wine. Great with the pork shellfish dish, the richness of the mussels and the marinated pork. The Portuguese Tomato Rice compliments the wine nicely.
- From the Alentejo in the center south east
2018 Herdade Dos Grous
ABV 13.5%; SRP $45
This masterful wine blends Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah aged in French oak for nine months.
In this article:
“The times for using the old French school books on traditional viticulture are, with all respect, over,” says Luís Duarte, brand manager and main winemaker at Herdade dos Grous. “We must seriously update our vineyard design and management model according to the specific challenges of each region under a climate change framework,” from clonal selection to biodiversity.
Color: Medium to light density
Nose: Cherry and baking spices, a bit of sulphur
Palate: Cherry, tart cherry, very dry, but balanced from the fruit. Black pepper on the finish. Makes us salivate; bring on the food!
Sue: I want to taste this in 10 years.
Gwendolyn: We shoulda Coravin’d this one and come back to it in a few years!
Pairing: The pork brings out a richness in the wine that wasn’t present without the meal. Fabulous with the olives, and the manchego cheeses. Fantastic with with the capacola. Pairing wise, this wine was the most challenging wine of all the wines on the table– the most complex and intense. Salty meat and fish is great with the wine.
- From the Algarve in the south
2017 Monte da Casteleja “Abeluiz” Alfrocheiro Algarve
ABV 14%: SRP 15 Euros?
purchased in Paris
This certified organic wine is made from Alfrocheiro, an unusual grape well worth seeking out. When we were in Paris for the Festival of Vines in October 2019 after competing in the World Wine Tasting Championship, we stopped first at the Wines of Portugal booth where I found this wine, purchased it, and hauled it all over Paris that night, then back to California. But I have to admit I thought it was a wine I tasted in 2009 in a guided event led by Charles Metcalf– Aphros Vinhao, a red wine from Vinho Verde! Now I need to find that wine!
I’m still glad I found this one. A testimony to Abel Luiz, the grandfather of Guillame from whom he inherited the farm– and enterprising spirit– the wine was aged briefly in wood. The bottle was sealed in turquoise wax.
Color: Super dense, garnet, very jewel toned, mauve rim, nice legs
Nose: roses, carnation, heady, perfume, plum, raspberry, mint, eucalyptus
Palate: A burst of fruit and pepper, baking spice, chalky tannins, red and black pepper, very peppery, bold in all of its essences, blueberry, cassis,
Pairing: With the pork and the tomato rice it was amazing, loves the richness of the mussel and chorizo. Cured meats are also wonderful with the wine removing the chalky texture.
- From the Douro–
Dow’s – 20 year old –
ABV 20%; SRP $65
Color: Very translucent, coppery raspberry, bronze,
Nose: Sue, “I don’t know exactly what that smell is, but I love it” musk, fruit, vanilla, prune, menthol,
Palate: Herbs and fruit, sweet fruit, prunes, eucaplyptus, walnut, caramel, candied walnuts, vanilla
Pairing: Couldn’t wait to dive into the zucchini brownies. We found this to be a really fantastic pairing. The pairing elevates both the brownie and the wine. The savory earthiness of the brownies brings out a caramel richness in the brownies. What a great recipe to use up some of that extra zucchini in the garden. This is not a traditional brownie, it is a bit lighter, but rich in flavor. It just worked.
NOTE: Please ignore any typos, missing info and other flaws–I broke my wrist in two places last week, and injured two fingers on my other hand! I’ll try to fix ASAP.