The versatility of Portugal wine, featuring Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano*.
Evaristo Vinho Regional Lisboa Tinto 2021, 13.5% ABV
RRP €15.95. Stockists: Red Nose Wine, Searsons Wine Merchants, Pinto Wines, Barnhill Stores, Neighbourhood Wines, Bradleys, Hen and Hog, O'Driscolls Off Licence, Myles Creek, Ely Wine Store, Morton’s Ranelagh, Donnybrook Fair, Simply Delicious, Foxrock Ave, Flemings Butchers Kilmacud, The Vintry Rathgar.
Diversity could well be Portugal's watchword, a least in terms of grapes, says Foot Trodden. “Its vineyards teem with native varieties that are rarely seen outside the country. The fashion for ripping them out in favour of Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay never took hold in Portugal..:” And with all those varieties available, blending was more or less inevitable and is well illustrated with this Evaristo.
This comes from Lisboa, formerly Extramadura, a prolific wine region located at the centre of Portugal's Atlantic coast, across the mouth of the neck of the estuary of the Tejo (Tagus, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula) from the more southerly Setubal. “Despite being one of the country's most productive winemaking areas, its name remains relatively obscure in wine terms,” says Wine-Searcher.com.
It has a dark ruby robe. Vibrant aromas of ripe cherries float up from the glass. Cherries and dark berries burst open on the palate where a crisp acidity provides balance. Very ripe and refined tannins make for a plush and lasting finish. Portuguese winemakers often use oak but the talented Diogo Sepúlveda refrained from so doing in order to retain the vibrant fruit flavours,
This easy-drinking wine is bursting with flavour and is Very Highly Recommended. And, by the way, great value.
Like the majority of the country’s reds, this is a blend and the grapes used in this instance are Touriga Nacional (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet.
The cartoon crow on the colourful label is a nod to Saint Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon. Legend has it that a flock of crows escorted the ship that returned his remains to the city and still keeps watch over the cathedral where he is buried to this day.
The Lisbon area is a bit like Chile in that it has a wide range of climate variations. Coastal vineyards situated to the west of the region experience a cooler microclimate and produce grapes with great freshness and aromatics. Vineyards found further inland are more sheltered from these cooling influences and bring a riper aroma profile and body to the blend. Blending the different characteristics and getting the correct results is something in which Diogo is so talented as he demonstrates once again with this dark and rich Lisboa gem.
Azevedo Alvarinho Vinho Verde (DOC) Reserva 2021, 12.5%
RRP €18.95. Stockists: Blackrock Cellar, Baggot Street Wines, McHughs Off Licence - Kilbarrack Road, Michael's Mount Merrion, The Wine Centre, Clontarf Wines, World Wide Wines, Thomas Woodberrys, Hen and Hog, O'Driscolls Off Licence
The vineyards of Azevedo, in north-west Portugal and very close to the Atlantic, date back to the 11th century when they were granted to the Azevedo family by royal decree. A thousand or so years later, this 2021 showcases the best of the Alvarinho which many consider the best Portuguese white grape variety.
Amazing how Albarino (the name of the grape in neighbouring Spain) has taken off in Ireland over the past decade or more but you don’t see that much Alvarinho here. Many wines from Portugal are blends, sometimes with many grapes, and the less experienced customers find it difficult enough. But this one is 100% Alvarinho, surely not more difficult to pronounce than the successful Spanish equivalent.
When Fernando Guedes acquired this historic estate in 1982, he revolutionised the viticulture by planting 35 hectares of cordon-trained vineyards, rather than the traditional high-trained pergolas, and built a modern winery with state-of-the-art facilities for the production of fresh and elegant wines. Today, under winemaker Diogo Sepúlveda, they make an impressive range of wines, all marked by a signature freshness and pure and precise flavour.
This 100% Alvarinho is one of them, even though the 2021 vintage was a tricky one, Diogo was very pleased with the quality. It wasn’t rushed in any way in the winery. After fermentation, it remained in stainless steel tanks for three months, during which time the lees were stirred to add textural complexity to the palate.
Colour is a straw yellow. Aromas are quite intense, zesty. And the refreshing flavours hint of lime, melon and nectarine. Quite a lively acidity brings the flavours, with a touch of salinity, all the way to a balanced and refreshing finalé. Pair with fish tacos (like those served in Cork’s Good Day Deli) and ceviche.
Foot Trodden refers to Minho (the country’s second biggest wine region after the Douro) as “Portugal’s sister region to Galicia”. Here in the Spanish homeland of the ancient Celts, Rias Baixas, also wet and green, is home to the crisp light and refreshing Albarino. Minho is best known to us, and around the world, as the area of Vinho Verde and this bottle is designated with that DOC.
Esporão 2019 Alentejano* (IG), 14% ABV
€14.40 (reduced from 18) O’Donovan’s Off Licence Cork
Esporao is fast becoming something of a favourite around here.
Alentejo is an area in the southeast of Portugal and it is where this organic red wine comes from. Like most Portuguese wines, it is a blend and the grapes used are Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Touriga Franca.
The country has scores of native grape varieties in regular use, the two Tourigas above for instance. The Alicante Bouschet is an important variety in Alentejo. It is one of those grapes where both the skin and the flesh are red, that is to say a teinturier grape. It first saw the light of the vineyard in France in the late 1800s where it was bred as a cross. It does very well in Alentejo where, as reported by Grapes and Wines, one of its best producers is our Esporão.
Anyhow, though Portugal is never boring, enough of the background stuff. Deep ruby is the colour. Ripe fruits, mostly red, waft out in the aromas, with a little spice too along with a herbaceous note. It is quite fresh with a silky texture, that ripe fruit prominent with a touch of spice but superbly balanced right through the persistent finish.
The producers: The Wine is produced solely from grapes grown at Herdade do Esporão, applying organic farming methods. It expresses the typical features of the vintage year, the diversity of the soil where the vines are planted, as well as the character and identity of the selected varieties.
* This is a Portuguese wine region located in the Alentejo region. The entire region is entitled to use the Alentejano IG designation, while some areas are also classified at the higher DOC level under the designation Alentejo DOC. More here from Comissão Vitivinícola Regional Alentejana.