Four fresh and affordable wines from the Douro region
John Wilson: Portugal has always relied on its own impressive collection of grape varieties
Portugal produces some of the best, most individual and interesting wines of all. Quality has never been as high, and there is no shortage of young dynamic growers pushing the boundaries.
I will take a wider look at the rest of the country next week, including Dão, home to some of my favourite wines, but this week I concentrate on the Douro, a region that has been receiving favourable reviews over the past few years.
As well as providing grapes for port, the area is now responsible for some very fine white and red table wines, and despite many being produced from vines growing in some of the steepest most inhospitable vineyards, prices are still reasonable in most cases.
The wines I tasted ranged in price from €10 to €40, but all of those featured here cost between €15 to €20 and offer great value for money.
I have written about the wines of Luis Seabra and Dirk Niepoort here before and these wines, available from independents, are among the best of the Douro. Most recently, I tasted two wines from Niepoort, the delicate mineral Redoma 2019 and the wonderful Voyeur, made from a blend of red and white grape varieties.
The Douro Valley, a Unesco world heritage site, has some of the most breath-taking scenery of any wine region, a series of impossibly steep terraced valleys rising almost vertically from the Douro river and its tributaries. While tourism has developed, it is still possible to get lost in this wild beautiful rocky region, a short drive (or train journey) from Porto.
The river is populated with luxury boats that drop in on various wineries and towns for visits and tastings. Despite being in the relatively cool green northern part of Portugal, the Douro can be very hot in summer – more than 40 degrees at times. It is therefore well-suited to the production of rich, full-bodied reds, yet wines made from grapes grown in the higher (and therefore cooler) vineyards, can be refreshing and elegant too.
In general, Portugal has always relied on its own impressive collection of indigenous grape varieties. The best-known, and probably the best, is Touriga Nacional, which features strongly in all of the wines noted here. Originally used to make port in the Douro, it has now spread around the country and is attracting increased interest from abroad, partly due to its ability to withstand heat. Last month the authorities in Bordeaux announced that Touriga Nacional is one of six new grape varieties approved for the region.
O’Briens also has the well-priced Organic Altano 2019, Douro, Symington (€17.17), Tons de Duorum (€15.20) and the S&R Douro (€12.95/€16.68). The two German discounters also offer Douro wines from time to time, often at very keen prices.
Little Odisseia 2018, Jean-Hugues Gros, Douro
Very seductive fresh blackcurrant and dark cherry fruits with hints of spice. Try it with lamb cutlets or a dish of cheesy baked tomato and pasta.
Stockists Mitchell & Son, Dublin 1, Sandycove, and Avoca, Kilmacanogue and Dunboyne, mitchellandson.com; Sheridans Cheesemongers, Dublin 2, Kells, Co Meath, Galway,sheridanscheesemongers.com; SIYPS.com; The Wine Pair, Dublin 8; Red Nose Wine, Clonmel, rednosewine.com; Cass & Co, Dungarvan, cassandco.ie; Cafe Rua, Castlebar, caferua.com; Lettercollum Kitchen Project, Clonakilty,lettercollum.ie.
Pacheca 2019, Douro
A very seductive easy-drinking red full of supple, ripe, dark fruits with a tannin-free finish. Try this with a traybake of chicken with peppers or other Mediterranean vegetables.
Stockists Bradleys Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; Eleven Deli, Greystones, elevendeli.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6, redmonds.ie; Mortons of Galway, mortonsofgalway.ie; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Nellys, Dublin 9, nellysdublin.com; White Gables, Moycullen, whitegables.com; Lamplight, Clifden, thelamplight.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale; Thyme Out, Dalkey,thymeout.ie; Listons, Dublin 2, listonsfoodstore.ie.
Quinta Nova 2018, Douro
This is a very attractive wine with warm and spicy aromas and lively sweet ripe dark fruits kept in check by a streak of acidity. Perfect with grilled or roast pork; a roast shoulder of pork sounds good.
Stockists O’Briens, obrienswine.ie.
Crasto 2018, Douro
A lovely warming meaty rich wine with abundant ripe black fruits and some tannins kicking in on the finish. A rare steak or cheesy vegetarian lasagne would be a nice match. The Crasto Reserva (€36.45) is even better.
Stockists Wines Direct, Mullingar, and Arnott’s, Dublin 1, winesdirect.ie.