Monday, January 19, 2009


One of the emerging “new” wine regions for the American market is Portugal. Most everyone is familiar with Port, and sadly, to a lesser extent, Madeira, yet there are an ever-increasing number of terrific red and white Portuguese still wines coming to the U.S. And while I must admit I am still a bit of a novice to the region as well, one of the categories I hope to expand in our store is that of Portuguese wines, so consider this a small primer on the region and its wines.

The major appellations in Portugal are: Vinho Verde, Douro, Dao, Bairrada, Colares, Bucelas, Ribatejo, Setubal, Alentejo, Tras-os-Montes and Beiras.

Douro is the heart of Port wine country, where producers such as Niepoort, Graham, Dow, Warre and others are generating some of the country’s top still wines. Producers such as Quinta do Crasto, Quinta do Vallado and Quinta do Vale Meao are garnering huge acclaim for their reds and wines such as Dow’s Vale do Bomfin ($11.49) offer up exquisite value.

Vinho Verde is more associated with a style than a region, yet the white wines of this area (made from Alvarinho, along with grapes such as Loureiro, Trajadura, Avesso and Pedernao) provide clean, vibrant, petillant wines that are long staples of summer drinking. This region also makes some great, easy-to-drink reds as well.

The Dao lies south of the Douro Valley, and grape varieties such as Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (Northern Portugal’s mutation of Tempranillo) are the reigning grapes of choice.

The Bairrada is dominated by one particular grape variety, Baga, a thick-skinned red varietal that makes fairly tannic wines. The white grape Bical is used primarily for dry whites and sparkling wines.

The Alentejo is one of the up-and-coming wine regions and is turning out rich, full-bodied red wines made from the Aragonez (Southern Portugal’s mutation of Tempranillo), Periquita, and Trincadeira Preta, along with Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The Rothschilds’ own Quinta do Carmo, as well as our new favorite, the Callabriga Alentejo, show superb promise.

Some other Portuguese wines we have in our stores right now are: Callabriga Dao 2005, Prazo do Roriz 2005, Warre’s Altano Red 2005, and Quinta do Portal Reserva 2001. Try one of these next time you’re in, and be on the lookout for more.

1 comment:

jseeds said...

Go Portugal! There are also some outstanding whites from Alentejo - I had a 'Pera Manca' (Branca) last year and it absolutely stunned me with it's weight and complexity - we actually decanted it and it kept improving. It was a total high-end chardonnay-killer for about $25.