Showing posts with label Portugal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Portugal. Show all posts

Monday, September 4, 2023

Reds from the DÃO and the Douro. Concluding the Portugal mini-series

Concluding the Portugal mini-series (with two from Liberty Wines)

Reds from the DÃO and the Douro

Part V of the Portugal mini-series

The Douro is perhaps the best-known of the Portuguese wine regions, mainly because of its historic connections with Port. While the British were enjoying the fortified sweet wines, the locals were enjoying their own simple table wine, even the infants were drinking wine rather than water, according to the chapter on the Douro in Foot Trodden.

The Douro Valley is a spectacular place and draws all kinds of tourists including of course wine lovers. As you know, much the same grapes are used for Port as for still red wine. 

The Dão is one of the oldest established wine regions of Portugal, located just south of the famous Douro Valley. The mountainous region is home to Touriga Nacional, and only became a DOC in 1990.

The region’s wine industry, for so long shackled by the dictator Salazar’s imposed cooperative system that rewarded quantity over quality, certainly needed the improvement in quality that has taken place in the last 30 years or so.

More on these two regions here in Part II of our mini-series on Portuguese wine.

Quinta Dos Carvalhais Touriga Nacional Dão (DOC) 2019, 13.5% ABV.

RRP €32.95. Stockists: Baggot Street Wines;; The Corkscrew; Martins Off Licence

An outstanding expression of Touriga Nacional

This intense, complex, and elegant Touriga Nacional from the heart of the Dão is a dark ruby colour with slightly lighter tones at the rim. Aromas of black fruit and well-integrated spice from its 12-month oak ageing are followed by vibrant dark fruit and spice on the palate. The wine has great depth, acidity, and smoothness, and the finish is long and persistent.

The Touriga Nacional is a much-loved indigenous variety, but it is rare, in Ireland at least, to see it bottled on its own. Quinta dos Carvalhais is located in the Terras de Azurara sub-region of the Dão, to the southeast of Viseu.

The 105-hectare estate, with 50 hectares under vine, was purchased by Sogrape in 1988. They invested a huge amount into improvements in both the vineyards and the winery – and are credited with spearheading the quality renaissance of wines from the Dão in the early ‘90s.

Following decades of state control and a cooperative monopoly in the region that favoured quantity over quality, they replanted the region’s indigenous grape varieties, such as Touriga Nacional and Encruzado, and saved them from near extinction.

Our wine here may be a single varietal but the art of blending has been utilised. Even the single-varietal wines here are complex blends of different plots on the estate, vinified separately before blending. The Touriga Nacional showcases the signature black fruit and violet characters of this prized indigenous grape alongside a well-integrated spiciness from 12 months in French oak.

The final blend was made to fully express the high quality of the Touriga Nacional, as well as the distinctive character of the Dão region. 

Overall, this is an outstanding expression of Touriga Nacional. It is complex and elegant, with great depth and length, a welcome “guest” at any wine lover's table. It is advisable to serve at a temperature of 16-18 degrees Celsius. It is a "very gastronomic" wine that pairs well with dishes such as octopus à lagareiro, oven-roasted pork, and mushroom risotto.

Very Highly Recommended.


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


Casa Ferreirinha Papa Figos Douro Tinto (DOC) 2021, 13% ABV.

RRP €20.95 Bradleys, McHugh’s Off Licence - Malahide Road/Kilbarrack Road,, Baggot Street Wines, Pinto Wines, Drink Store, The Vintry Rathgar.

A feast for the senses.

The label sums this Douro red pretty succinctly: mid complexity, medium tannins, mid-body, full fruit. It advises serving it at 16 degrees with fish and shellfish, poultry and beef. Pasta with a tomato-based sauce should also be considered. Also quite delicious on its own.

This ruby red wine is a feast for the senses. The nose is bursting with aromas of juicy strawberries, blackberries, and cherries, with hints of violets. On the palate, Papa Figos is smooth and balanced, with velvety tannins and lively acidity. The ripe fruit flavours linger, making it an easy-drinking treat.

It is, like most of the country’s wines, a blend and in this case consists of 30% Tinta Roriz, 30% Tinta Barroca, 25% Touriga Franca, and 15% Touriga Nacional. It may well be from the land of cork but it does come with a screwcap closure. 

By the way, Tinta Roriz is also known as Tempranillo, and it is the most widely planted grape in Portugal. It gives the wine its red fruit flavours, such as cherries and strawberries.

There was no use of oak in the winemaking process and the wine remained in a mixture of stainless steel and concrete vats until bottling and this helped it towards a fresh and fruity profile.

The wine is called 'Papa figos' or 'fig muncher' which is the nickname for the golden oriole (featured on the front label), a migratory bird that passes through the Douro. 

Highly Recommended. Talking about the wine here, not the bird (though it looks beautiful)

The grapes for this blend are sourced from high-altitude vineyards in the Douro Superior region, with around 25% coming from Quinta da Leda (the flagship estate) in the far eastern reaches of the region, close to the border with Spain. Soils are predominantly schist (right)

The Duoro Valley, in brief:

  • The Douro Valley is located in northeastern Portugal, along the Douro River.
  • It is known for its steep slopes and rocky soils, which are well-suited to growing grapes.
  • The region is home to a wide variety of grape varieties.
  • Both red and white wines are produced, as well as Port (for which it is justly famous).
  • The wines of the Douro Valley are known for their complexity, intensity, and longevity.

The valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal. A number of wineries in the region offer tours and tastings. It is also a popular destination for hiking, biking, and river rafting.

Portugal mini-series

Part V (Dão, Douro)

Part IV (Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano).

Part III (Alentejo) 

Part 11 (Douro, Dão, Alentejo and Setubal.)  

Part 1 (Minho) 

Thursday, July 6, 2023

The versatility of Portugal wine, featuring Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano

The versatility of Portugal wine, featuring Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano*.

Part IV (Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano).

Part III (Alentejo) 

Part 11 (Douro, Dão, Alentejo and Setubal.)  

Part 1 (Minho) 

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

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.


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023



Check out my Good Value Wine List here


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.

Highly Recommended

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. 

Highly Recommended.

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.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Drinking through some Portugal wine regions. Douro, Dão, Alentejo and Setubal.

Drinking through some Portugal wine regions. Douro, Dão, Alentejo and Setubal.

Portugal mini-series

Part IV (Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano).

Part III (Alentejo) 

Part 11 (Douro, Dão, Alentejo and Setubal.)  

Part 1 (Minho) 

Foot Trodden (2021), a recent book on Portuguese wine, covers these eight regions: Minho, Douro, Dao, Bairrada, Colares, Ribatejo, Alentejo and Madeira (home of one of the most age-worthy wines). Other regions noted are Algarve, Setubal, Beiras Interior, Tránsmontano, Bucelas, VR Lisbon and Carcavelos. This is part of an occasional focus on Portugal over the next month or two and I’ll try to get my hands on more of the country's wines. Thanks to O'Brien's for their help with this selection. Any tips or help will be most welcome!

Esporão Reserva Alentejo (DO) 2020, 14% ABV, €29.95  O’Briens Wine

Sparsely populated Alentejo, not as well known perhaps as the Douro or Dao, is a well regarded wine region in the east of Portugal and is where this multi grape blend, “typical of the best Alentejo wines”, comes from.  Colour is an intense ruby. Aromas are rich, of black fruit jam with toasty notes. Made with estate grown grapes, it has an intense rich character. Rich and complex with more black fruit, with spice, on the palate, tannins on the lips. Long and persistent finish.

Varieties used in this Esporão are: Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz / Syrah, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira. List may not be precise and may vary from year to year.

It has spent 12 months in American (60%) and French (40%) oak barrels. After bottling, at least another 4 months of aging in the bottle followed. Good match for roast and grilled red meats and stronger cheese. Very Highly Recommended.

Back to the current wine, the first wine made by Esporão in 1985. “A classic obtained exclusively from our organic grapes. The diversity of Herdade do Esporão, together with the different characteristics of the grape varieties, the soils, the maturity of the vines and the character of those who make this wine consistently over the years, results in a rich, intense but always harmonious wine.”

We are used to associating amphorae with wine in the likes of Georgia. These large clay vessels see wine rest on its pulp for long periods. Colour and flavour is enhanced and often the white wines produced are called orange wines. Alentejo is the home of amphorae in Portugal where they have a long history (since Roman times) and are called talha. As it happens Esporão make some wine by this method. See their short video here.

They say: Reflecting the characteristics of vineyards and carefully selected grape varieties, these wines are vinified in old clay amphorae (talhas as we call them in the Alentejo), using ancient local techniques brought to the Alentejo by the Romans. Using an artisanal process, and spurning the use of yeasts, we aim to produce natural wines that are straightforward, authentic and vibrant.

To read more about the history of the Talha in Alentejo (and the story of Portuguese wine in general) read the very informative Foot Trodden.

Setúbal with Península Das Vinhas Vinho Tinto (Vinho Regional Península De Setubal) 2021, 13.5% ABV,  €10.00 (down from €14.45) O’Briens Wine

This dry robust red from Setúbal, with its blue and white striped neck reminding me of a lighthouse, is a blend of a little of Alicante Bouschet and mostly of the local variety Castelão (that the World Wine Atlas says may be described as “warm-climate Pinot Noir”). 

Castelão’s reincarnation in the area in a lighter fresher style has led to it being widely planted in Setúbal where the sandy soils and plentiful sunshine suit it. According to the label, the Alicante Bouschet adds colour, body, black fruit fragrance and a hint of spice to Castelão’s fresher red fruit palate. Castleão is now a major red grape across Portugal's main areas of production, and used in a variety of wine colors, styles and blends.

The aromatics of our Tinto indicate ripe red fruit with a hint of smoke. And that rich fruit, now with a spicy spike, is part of full bodied tannic wine that has character enough to take on a host of dishes though Wine suggest hearty dishes such as Pork and Bean Soup or Mushroom risotto. “Grilled light meals such as grilled chicken thighs would also match well.” So bring it to the BBQ in the months ahead. Highly Recommended.

Made by Casa Ermelinda Freitas, a significant  family-owned established in the area in 1920 and run by successive generations of dynamic women, this is a supple, juicy red which may be enjoyed on its own or with a host of dishes. However, if you are lucky enough to have some Portuguese famous custard tarts at hand then the wine you need is the region’s famous Moscatel de Setúbal.

The Setúbal Peninsula is the Portuguese wine region immediately southeast of Lisbon, crossing the Tagus estuary. The terroir in the area ranges from the sandy coastal plains to the rugged, limestone-rich hills of the Serra Arribida.

I got my first taste of Setubal wines, and an indication of their quality and good value about ten years ago, when Maurice O’Mahony’s Wine Alliance imported quite a few to Ireland. The area has a long history of wine but only recently began making a name for itself abroad. More here 

Casa Ermelinda Freitas Vinhos was founded in 1920  and from the beginning made the quality of its vineyards and wines a top priority. The year of the company’s new beginning in wine making didn’t come 1997, when a red wine “Terras do Pó Tinto”, was the first to be produced and bottled on the premises of the Ermelinda Freitas winery.

Symington Altano Organic Douro (DOC) 2020, 13.5% ABV, €18.45 O’Briens Wine

The Douro is perhaps the best know of the Portuguese wine regions, mainly because if its historic connections with Port. And the Symington family are one of those old (originally) British families that were involved in the trade for no less than 130 years. But now, like quite a few other Port families, they are making more and more still wine.

The British love of Port goes back centuries, at least to the late 17th when it was used as a replacement for claret that the Brits couldn’t get their hands on due to war with France. And they fell in love with the fortified sweet wines.

Meanwhile, the locals were enjoying their own simple table wine, even the infants were drinking wine rather than water, according to the chapter on the Douro in Foot Trodden.

Back then, only the poorer grapes not wanted for Port were used for the local wine but it is a different story nowadays and the quality of Portuguese wines is rising all the time even if consumers don’t have the easy way of knowing the grapes as they do with mono-varietal wines from other countries, say Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand or Malbec from Argentina. But consumers are learning all the time and Portuguese wines are becoming widely appreciated.

The Douro Valley is a spectacular place and draws all kinds of tourists including of course wine lovers. As you know, much the same grapes are used for port as for still red wine. 

The grape varieties for our Altano are Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Cão; it is one hundred percent organic. The advice is to serve it at 14 to 17 degrees centigrade. It is evidently ready for immediate consumption but “has the potential to continue developing favourably up to 6 years”.

Colour of this beautifully balanced organic red wine is a deep garnet. Scents of ripe red fruits are noted. On the palate it is fresh, smoothly intense, a sweet hint of smooth tannins and, with noticeably good acidity, is harmonious all the way through to a long finish. This elegant wine is Very Highly Recommended.

It has been and is a winner for the Symingtons whose expertise clearly shows in this gorgeous organic red.

.“For five generations we have combined our passion for producing premium ports and wines with a deep commitment to the region's land and people. Our family was amongst the pioneers of modern Douro wines. In the 1990s we began producing Douro DOC wines from the same vineyards and indigenous grape varieties that had always made great port. We released the first Altano red in 1999 and we haven't looked back. Today, the Altano range enjoys global distribution and the wines have received widespread recognition for their quality and distinctiveness.”


Fonte do Ouro Tinto Dão (DOC) 2020, 13.5% ABV, €17.25, O'Briens Wine 

Like many Portuguese wines, this is a blend. All three grapes used are popular in the region. The Alfrocheiro adds depth of colour, Touriga Nacional (with its expressive violet scent) is considered to be the country’s finest, while Jaen is the local name for the what the Spanish call Mencía. By the way, Touriga Nacional probably started “life” in the Dão, mostly a granite plateau with the eponymous river running through it.

Importers and distributors O’Brien’s: A delicious red, showcasing the quality of winemaking in the Dão region of Portugal. Aged for 6 months in French oak it is a blend of indigenous grapes: primarily Touriga Nacional. 

Dão is one of the oldest established wine regions of Portugal, located just south of the famous Douro Valley. The mountainous region is home to Touriga Nacional, the principle variety of port wine, and only became a DOC in 1990.

The region’s wine industry, for so long shackled by the dictator Salazar’s imposed cooperative system that rewarded quantity over quality, certainly needed the improvement in quality which has taken place in the last 30 years or so.

Ironically, Salazar himself had vines in the wild and rugged regiona and a string of coops were set up but the emphasis was always on quantity not quality. Even though Salazar departed in 1968 and the Carnation Revolution of six years later finally ended the influence of his policies and those of his like-minded successors, the Däo was in the doldrums until well into the 1990s when EU policy and its monetary help provided the kiss of life and the area began to put its reputation for producing what Jancis Robinson termed “some of the…. most uncharming wines in the world” behind it.

The top Dão wines are now some of the most highly rated in Europe, winning consistent praise on both sides of the Atlantic, says “It is in the north of the country. It takes its name from the Dão river, along which the majority of the region's vineyards are located.” More praise from the World Atlas of Wine saying they are now “..far juicier, friendlier, more elegant wines”.

A government study in 2017 listed no fewer than 230 indigenous varieties in Portugal and, according to the marvellous Foot Trodden, there are many many more yet to be identified. No wonder there are so many blends in the country.

Our blend has a dark ruby colour. Fairly rich aromas of blackberry, dark cherry and plum. There’s a great mix of the fruit flavours on the palate, with a touch of spice, smooth with elegant tannins and a very satisfying and persistent finish. This supple and fresh wine, full of vitality, has spent six months in oak and should be served at 16 to 18 degrees and will go well with red meats. 

Full of Dão character and Very Highly Recommended as is the book Foot Trodden!.

Sociedade Agrícola Boas Quintas, born in 1991, was part of the revival. It all began when Nuno Cancela de Abreu, representative of the 4th generation of a family with farming and winemaking tradition of more than 130 years, decided to devote all of his experience and all of his knowledge in viticulture and oenology, to the service of the project that would allow him to create high quality wines, full of character and personality. See more here.

Boas Quintas also make an excellent Fonte do Ouro white, a blend of Arinto and Encruzado, more details here