Earlier this year I had the opportunity to write about The Douro Boys. This is a group of winemakers from five quintas (the Portuguese term for wine estate) that have put their energy together to make wine drinkers more aware of the variety of wine coming out of their UNESCO-recognized region.
“Together, they’re putting the wine-drinking world on notice about the excellent unfortified, dry wines of Portugal and the Douro Valley in particular.”
Unfortified wines are, essentially, the wines we know as wine – while fortified wines are what we know as Port. Wine enthusiasts are aware of the value, diversity and tastes of unfortified wines from Portugal, but not everyone has enjoyed their share, or at least has had a lot of it. But times are changing and wines coming out of Portugal suit all manner of tastes from all manner of growing environments.
And speaking of growing environments, Portugal is a stunning expression of the balance between man and nature in a tricky act creativity and ingenuity. The patchwork stitch of Vino Verde – the scaling terraces of the Douro – the rolling hills and river banks of Tejo … just like any other wine producing country in the world, Portugal is deeply dimensional in terms of natural and man made influences.
What seems to be clear is that after a single visit, people fall in love with the Portuguese experiences and part of that appeal is the rich and varied plurality that is available. There is authentic variety. Wines from Portugal start at around $10 and even high-quality, age-worthy wines have an attractive price. They are food-friendly and are grown in some of the most beautiful settings with welcoming people. If the words feel jumbled in your brain or mouth, that is understandable – not all of us (including me) speak Portuguese. Try this handy pronunciation guide if you get lost.
If you haven’t sampled all that Portuguese wine has to offer, apply your current tastes to find a new expression:
If you like light and refreshing white wines:
Try Vinho Verde; the fresh green landscape is reflected in the white wine glass with a spritzy, high-acid, sometimes aromatic tickle.
If you like light-bodied reds:
Try Vinho Verde. Yes, it is true – this green region produces around 40% red wine, with a fresh and low-alcohol jazz that is great with charcuterie.
If you like your red wine dry, fruity and full of body:
Try Alentejo’s red blends made with indigenous and international grapes including Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you like hefty bold reds:
Try Douro’s old vine field blends, where grape varieties grow together. Also consider the Bairrada wines, which hold the highest designation in Portuguese wine classification, Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC).
If you like Port wine:
Keep drinking Port wine. There are Tawny, Ruby and even White Ports, cultivated in their homeland, made by the most-skilled producers worldwide.
If you like sparkling wine:
Get your hands on some bottles from Távora-Varosa where the Malvasia Fina grown in the cooler climate presents a balanced, high-acidity bubbly.
If you like rich whites:
Try Trás-os-Montes, Alentejo and Duoro made from a blend of white varietals.
If you like rosé:
Try rosado from Vinho Verde with a berry-acid quench.
Wine Pairing Weekend
This weekend our wine writing group shares ideas for Portuguese wine, food and travel. Join us for a chat at 10am central on Twitter on September 9th with the hashtag #WinePW.
Here’s what the team has planned:
From Camilla Mann of Culinary Adventures with Camilla: “Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato with a Vinho Verde”
From Lori Budd of Dracaena Wine: “Portugal’s Political History Effects Its Culinary and Wine Culture”
From David Crowley of Cooking Chat: “Best Portuguese Kale Soup”
From Nicole Ruiz Hudson of Somm’s Table: “Cooking to the Wine: Passagem Douro Reserva with Spiced Wine Braised Octopus”
From Lauren Walsh of The Swirling Dervish: “Talego – A Taste of Portugal in Paris.”
From Wendy Klik of A Day on the Farm: “Rustic and Red”
And from Sue and Gwen at Wine Predator are our hosts this month.