5 Wines of Portugal

Exceptional wines at great values

 


With all the recent focus on things like Chardonnay and white Rhône blends, it's easy to overlook the fact that not every region or variety is so widespread to warrant two weeks of intense inspection. By that same token, there can be a propensity to over do the focus on those wines that have big followings at the expense of the little guys. Not to call Portugal a little guy, but wine wise they sort of are.

That doesn't mean that Portuguese wines aren't worth checking out. As I've said before, they can be exceptional and because they are not hugely popular, they can also be great values. Today let's swing through Portugal and pick out some wines to get any budding oenophile excited about discovering Portugal’s great vinous treasures.

Photo courtesy willia4 via Flickr/CC

Douro

The Douro is home to Portugal's most famous wine, the dessert wine known fittingly enough as Port. What people don't always realize is that there is a thriving table wine industry in the Douro as well. Using the same grapes that form the basis of Port, mainly Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, many wineries produce exciting, character-filled reds that are rich, muscular and spicy. These are some of the most exciting wines in Portugal, filled with a uniquely Portuguese flavor!

Two to try

Porca de Murca

Quinta do Vale Meao Meandro
 

Vinho Verde

For popularity, no other Portuguese table wine can match Vinho verde. This is the name of the wine as well as the region. Contrary to what we tend to find on shelves here in the U.S., Vinho Verde is produced in red, white, and even rosé iterations. The success of Vinho Verde stems as much from the wine's price - it is awfully affordable - as its character: light, refreshing and with a hint of fizz.

Vinho Verde is so affordable because it is produced from less ripe grapes, resulting in unmatched freshness and modest alcohol levels, perfect for summer sipping.

Two to try:

Casal Garcia

Quinta da Aveleda

Photo courtesy @rgs via Flickr/CC
 

Palmela

Talk about under-recognized regions. With a name as familiar as Palmela, it's a bit surprising that this region has not become more well known in the states. This region is home to one of the world's great dessert wines, and no it's not Port. I'm talking about their reds wines at the moment. Palmela is a region with a rich assortment of indigenous vines, which generally produce a nice, medium-bodied and red-fruited style of wine. The Castelao grape is one of the stars of the region, though you are as likely to find a little Cabernet here as other important reds such as Alfrocheiro and Trincadeira.

Two to try:

Dona Ermelinda Palmela

Bacalhoa Vinhos Garrafeira Palmela
 

Setubal

Since we are down in Palmela on the Atlantic Coast of Portugal, it is fitting that we look at Palmela's neighbor: Setubal. This is the land of fortified muscat wines, and they can be fabulous. Muscatel de Setubal, as the wines are known, are wood-aged Muscats that are capable of aging well though they do show classic orange, apricot and floral notes from release. It is a rather unique style of wine and one dominated by a single producer: Jose Maria da Fonseca, who is credited with developing this style of wine. It's a rare treat and a great and, until recently, very affordable choice for a celebratory wine, especially if you were born in a global craptastic vintage like 1965!

Two to Try

JM da Fonseca Moscatel de Setubal

Bacalhoa Moscatel de Setubal
 

Dao

My final stop today is in the Dao, centered in Portugal's north and just south of the Douro. With such close proximity to the center of Port production, it's no surprise to find Touriga nacional here. What may be surprising, and certainly contributes to the character of the wines, is the prominence that Tinta Roriz has here. That's Tempranillo when it's planted cross the border! The Tinta tends to lighten up the character of the Dao wines, proving to be the perfect foil for the  earthier, more tannic Touriga nacional. These are lovely wines on release, with many having been aged for several years in barrel and in bottle at the winery. Earthy and lightly spicy, they are classic European table wines and particularly adaptable on the table.

Two to try

Cardeal Dao

Porta dos Cavaleiros Dao
 

Want to Learn More?

Be sure and check out Italian White Wines Worth Tasting!

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Comments

  • Snooth User: peterwolf
    502560 8

    The problem with most of these 'SMOOTH' wine recommendations is that you cannot find any of these wines in stores. Maybe a handful of specialty stores in New York carry them. That's it.

    Apr 12, 2012 at 2:56 PM


  • Snooth User: Azeredo
    536111 9

    All refereed wines are the producer’s entry level and cheaper wines. They are great value, and if well searched, there are a lot of stores that have.

    Apr 12, 2012 at 5:58 PM


  • Snooth User: hiyohello
    1067072 1

    How to you make a typo as obvious as Duoro? Come on man.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 12:16 AM


  • Portugal wine ? never had one yet ... will try soon.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:07 AM


  • Snooth User: InLux
    850245 3

    As Portuguese and Wine lover I must warn everyone that the reference made to "Casal Garcia" (under "Vinho Verde" wines) should not have place in a website like this. It is a mass-produced wine, with low quality and one that does not illustrate conveniently the high standards of Portuguese Wine making tradition. Other than that, the articles gives you a good image of this enjoyable "refreshment".

    Apr 13, 2012 at 5:18 AM


  • Snooth User: vava74
    1012246 15

    I am appalled with the contents of this article and sincerely I will never look at this newsletter with the same eyes after this.

    There are only a few valid explanations for the contents of this "article":

    a) The author knows nothing about wine;
    b) The author is making his best effort to ruin Portugal's reputation as a wine making nation (he would not be alone - see below*);
    c) The author is the distributor of these wines in the US, or linked to the distributor in some way (friendship/$$) or he has been pressurized by someone to publish this outrageous list of portuguese wineries and wines (*eventually even by the incompetent ViniPortugal organization - a champion in the art of shooting oneself in the feet).

    Being a Portuguese national and a wine lover, the recommendation of Casal Garcia is very very painful for me to read.

    Casal Garcia is an industrial/mass product sold for about $2 to $4 in Portugal. No vintage, no variation through the years.
    Calling it wine is probably even a stretch. Is it "drinkable"? Yes, just like any ordinary/bland beer: its refreshing and you can get drunk (fast) drinking it.

    Incredible that this has been subject to reference here.

    Also, Casal Garcia belongs to Quinta da Aveleda, so there aren't two recommendations here, just one.

    Quinta da Aveleda does produce a reasonably decent Vinho Verde called "Follies", however, anyone interested in trying this very very particular type of wine will not be hitting the mark with these "recommendations".

    Dão:

    Again, we are talking about probably two of the worst examples of mass produced wines in the Dão area, which is the home of FANTASTIC wines, both white and red (as well as Rose).

    The two referrals made here are taken from the dark ages of Portuguese wine (1980's) when apart from 2 or 3 wineries, most wine produced in Portugal could best described a "very coarse" interpretation of what a wine should be.

    PLEASE STAY AWAY FROM THESE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!

    The other wineries mentioned are on average decent** (apart from Vale Meão which the home of one of the most acclaimed reds in Portugal), but in general there are far far better Portuguese wines out there.

    ** Ermelinda produces good value for money wines and Bacalhoa produces good but somewhat overrated/overpriced reds;

    Apr 13, 2012 at 9:06 AM


  • Snooth User: bibuloso
    372893 6

    Alas ! I have ZERO experience of Portugese wines, so I'm in a real tizzy after reading the foregoing comments. I suppose I'll have to GO THERE and check it out.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 11:45 AM


  • I've had Casal Garcia white on numerous occasions and was very pleased. $ 5.49 for 750 bottle before the mixed case discount at a large Cherry Hill NJ retailer. Very crisp and the slight bubbly adds to the experience. Others I've suggested it to think likewise. I think the above reader has this in the 2 buck chuck category (which wasn't that bad) but I think that is an unfair assessment. I look forward to many more bottles this summer since after finishing off a $ 150 bottle of vintage cabernet, I become/get slightly distressed/depressed that the experience ended .. with $ 5 bottles there's no such letdown. Think I'll open a Casal right now ... Sedrick

    Apr 13, 2012 at 2:40 PM


  • Snooth User: Lusophile
    1067193 1

    The author says "Vinho Verde" is the name of *both* the wine and the region. But isn't the region where this wine comes from in fact Minho? For such a short article, there seems to be many many problems. Wasn't anything fact checked or edited?

    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:16 PM


  • Snooth User: Azeredo
    536111 9

    "Vinho Verde" is a DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada) Region.
    Is in the north of Portugal and Minho is the political territory division.
    The DOC is in Minho, Douro litoral, Tras os Montes, and have sub-regions.
    The best wines are from Monção (spanish border) and is done with Alvarinho grapes.
    This is the same grape that in Galicia- Spain does the Albariño wines, that are always the best white wines of this nation.
    Portugal is the 10 world wine producer, and have history and tradition. The grapes are local varieties, and the wines are different with personality.
    There are all prices of wine but, for the same quality, in average, are less than those from others countries.

    Apr 13, 2012 at 4:49 PM


  • Snooth User: bockpausa
    1034877 31

    Nos portugueses produzimos bons vinhos,iguais nao ha Rui Dores

    Apr 15, 2012 at 3:42 AM


  • I'm surprised that no Alentjo wines were surveyed. Wonderful red blends, at a fraction of the overpriced California red blends. Montaria is a good one. By the way, I thought that Aragonez was Temperanillo, and that Tinta Roriz is an indigenous Portuguese grape.

    Apr 15, 2012 at 8:04 PM


  • Snooth User: duncan 906
    Hand of Snooth
    425274 1,677

    I have been to Portugal twice;The Algarve,Lisbon and Maderia and was served some lovely red and white wines in the hotels and restaurants.Unfortuately it was a while ago so I have forgotten exactly what they were

    Apr 16, 2012 at 2:56 PM


  • Snooth User: Azeredo
    536111 9

    Tempranillo is in Spain, Aragonez is in Alentejo, and Tinta Roriz is in Douro and Dão, but all are the same grape. You are absolutely right, wonderful reds from Alentejo, but also from Douro, Dão, Tejo, Lisboa, and other Portugal's regions.

    Apr 16, 2012 at 5:58 PM


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