The New Portugal

POSTED ON 11/04/2015

Think of a long narrow strip of a wine country running north to south, bordered by an ocean to its west. Chile? Anywhere else? Portugal anyone? Portugal is the dark horse of Europe, often ignored and almost a pariah until its 21st century wine revolution.

A limited number of well-known brands versus a dizzying number of 300-odd tongue-twisting native grape varieties can make it tempting to by-pass. Nor has Portugal been helped by the fact that it’s traditionally a country of blends rather than easily identifiable ‘celeb’ varieties. Having been tongue-tied about its native grapes, Portugal is starting to take pride in their character and to communicate their qualities and what performs best where.

One of Portugal’s best-known wine wines is vinho verde made from the local loureiro, and arinto among others. These Spring-fresh wines can be light in body and refreshingly crisp. Take the lively fresh apple and pear juiciness of the 2013 Quinta da Raza for instance, £8.50 - £9.99, Hennings, Cellarvie, Fareham Wine, Butlers Wine, or the refeshingly crisp, lemon zesty 2014 Quinta das Arcas Tapada de Villar Vinho Verde, £8, Marks & Spencer, with its Granny Smith bite.

It can also be full-bodied and rich in wines such as Anselmo Mendes citrus-zesty and refreshing 2013 Contacto Alvarinho. £12.95 - £15.30, The Wine Society, Prestige Wines, Bottle Apostle. The Douro region too is now producing complex white blends typified by Dirk Niepoort’s elegantly oaked, burgundian-style 2013 Redoma Branco, around £18.75, Butlers Wine, Prestige Wines. Further south, the encruzado , the signature white grape of Dão, makes delicious dry whites such as the aromatic, apple-rich 2013 Quinta dos Roques Encruzado, Dão. £17.20 - £17.50, PM Wine, The Good Wine Shop.

In Bairrada, Filipa Pato uses the bical grape in the intensely flavoured, rich yet mineral 2013 Nossa Calcario, £23.20, Theatre of Wine, while Lisbon shows quality in the mouthwateringly peachy 2012 Quinta do Pinto Vinhas do Lasso Branco, £12.76, Vinoteca.

On the red wine front, the taming of the difficult baga grape has made a big difference in Bairrada with wines such as the beeswax and spicy blackberryish 2012 Casa de Saima Bairrada Tinto, £11.95 - £12.99, Vinoteca, Corks of Cotham, Caviste, The Oxford Wine Co, and Filipa Pato’s fragrant blueberry and blackcurrant-rich old vine Territorio Vivo, Baga, Reserva Especial, £19.80, Bottle Apostle.

Dão’s Quinta da Falorca gets in on the act of blending touriga nacional, alfrocheiro and tinta roriz with a sumptuously perfumed, mulberryish 2009 Reserva Lagar, £16.19 - - £25,75, Exel Wine, Amazon, Hic! Wine Merchants. One of the up-and-coming regions to watch is Lisbon, whose 2011 Manz Pomar do Espirinto, Cheleiros, Lisboa. £15, Oddbins, is a seductive blend of involving syrah, aragonês, touriga naçional and castelão, showing vivid pepper and spice infused dark berry juiciness.

Something for the WeekendSomething for the Weekend

Night In

2014 Exquisite Collection Malbec

You can see why the discounter is expanding at the expense of more established supermarkets when it offers value like Bodega Salentein’s malbec from Argentina’s cool Uco Valley with its violety fragrance spice and succulently spicy dark berry fruitiness. £5.99, Aldi.

Dinner Party

2013 Abbotts & Delaunay Collection, Corbières

Beneath the cinnamon and clove spicy aromatics lies an accomplished Languedoc red whose smooth, ripe, blackberry fruit flavours are infused with notes of garrigue herb, pepper and black olive, while the finish is long and mouthwateringly savoury. £11.99,

Splash Out

2013 Giant Steps Sexton Vineyard Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Victoria

This stylish chardonnay from Phil Sexton is white burgundy-like in its subtle toasty aromas and opulent peachy fruit supported by creamy complexity and fine-tuned, citrus-crisp, dry finish. £22.99 - £23.99, Noel Young, Richard Granger, .

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