Potable Portugal: A wine country with endlessly fascinating choices

Portugal offers a large variety of great-value wines with a difference

I am always on the lookout for new wines arriving from Greece and Georgia, and to a lesser extent, Italy and Spain, as these countries all have a treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties still waiting to be discovered. Not all of the wines are great, and I still enjoy the well-known, so-called international varieties, but a variety of varieties satisfies the wine nerd in me.

The other country with the capacity to surprise and thrill the jaded palate is Portugal. With a huge range of unique local grapes, as well as some that it shares with neighbouring Spain, Portugal is endlessly fascinating. In recent years, Portuguese wine, both red and white, has seen a huge improvement, with plenty of new, young winemakers coming through. As a country, it offers some of the best value of all.

Today a look at a few red wines, following on from the Douro last week. As outlined last week, Tourgia Nacional is held up as Portugal’s finest red grape, although Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo in Spain) is the most widely planted. Other popular red varieties include Touriga Franca, Castelão, Trincadeira, Baga, and Jaen (Mencía). But don’t worry too much about the varieties; many of the best Portuguese wines are blends of several of the above.

Parts of the country are warm and sunny, others cool and green, so virtually every style of wine is made, from light, refreshing wines in the north and coastal parts of the country to the richer, more powerful wines of the centre and south. That is a broad generalisation, as altitude and proximity to the sea can have a major influence. Both extremes are capable of producing great white and red wines.

Lisboa (until recently known as Estremadura) is the largest wine-producing region, which produces a huge variety of red and white wines. Alentejo is a vast interior region, with varying climates, but primarily it is hot and dry, and the wines are red and full-bodied.

I have written about the Dão region before. It is one of my go-to regions, producing elegant, medium-bodied wines in all price categories. This article was meant to include wines from other regions, but the three wines featured here from that region all showed very well in my tastings. O’Briens has the Boas Quintas Fonte do Ouro (€16.68), and Aldi offers a Dão as a seasonal special.

O’Briens started the trend with its Porta 6 and Julia Florista ranges, but now most of the multiples seem to have a few easy-drinking, slightly off-dry red and white wines with colourful artist labels. These can make for very good all-purpose wines to drink with a variety of foods, as well as being light enough to sip on their own.

Grandarada Dão 2017, Boasquintas
13%, €14.95

A very well-priced, easy-drinking red wine with attractive, slightly earthy sweet-and-sour plum fruits, and a light, rounded finish. Drink with white meats; roast chicken or chicken thighs baked with peppers and tomatoes.
From MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk, dundalkwines.com; Supervalu, Sutton; Gibney's, Malahide, gibneys.com; Simply Delicious, Dublin 18, simplydelicious.ie; Pembroke Wines in Roly's Bistro, Dublin 4.

A Descoberta Tinto Dão 2017, Casa da Passarella
13.5%, €16.90 

A lovely, lively wine with vibrant, pure ripe dark fruits, a refreshing acidity and light tannins on the finish. Would be good with cold meats, medium cheeses or pork chops.
From Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Green Man Wines, Dublin 6, greenmanwines.ie; Delgany Grocer, Co Wicklow; Martin's Off Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie.

Dom Rafael 2016, Alentejo
14.5%, €19-€20

Rich, mellow, meaty red fruits, with a warm, savoury touch and a spicy finish. Despite the alcohol, it is not a monster. Drink with grilled red meats or a rojões. 
From 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.com; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; Clontarf Wines, D3, clontarfwines.ie; siyps.com; The Wicklow Wine Co, Wicklow, wicklowwineco.ie; Wine Upstairs, Forest Avenue, D4, wineupstairs.ie; McHughs, Dublin 5, mchughs.ie.

Quinta dos Carvalhais Dão Colheita Tinto 2017
13.5%, €21.95

Medium-bodied with savoury dark fruits, damsons and morello cherries with a savoury twist on the finish. This would cut through the richness of a breast of duck or belly of pork.
From Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock, blackrockcellar.com; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny, thewinecentre.ieWineOnline.ie; McHughs, Dublin 5, mchughs.ie

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