The White Wines of Portugal
Exciting diversity and discoveries just in time for summer.
Wine is a continuous journey of discovery. While there are always favorite wines to fall back on, change is good. Change is educational, and above all change is fun. There is always time for Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc but now, as we head into summer it’s time to search out the wines that will be perfect for the warm weather. Unfamiliar wines that will inspire us, save us some money, and excite our palates.
I’ll be trying plenty of these under the radar wines over the coming months but today I’d like to kick things off with a small sampling of white wines from Portugal. As you may know I am a big fan of Portuguese reds. They offer great value and represent one of the last bastions of affordable, classical table wines in the marketplace. Portuguese whites are in some ways similar, but drawing as they tend to form a portfolio of unknown grapes they offer our palates new experiences, while still tending to hew closely to the traditional styles that I tend to prefer.
I have a particularly soft spot for Encruzado, sadly none was tried on this day, but also for wines like dry Moscatels, perfect for fresh seafood dishes, and Fernão-Pires which seems to also have a spicy character and brings an exotic orchard and citrus fruit character to the wines it includes. In general it has been my experience that Portuguese whites produced from indigenous varieties tend to be bright, juicy wines, befitting a country with the expansive coastline and accompanying seafood such as is found in Portugal. While there remain some wines that suffer from the defects of rustic winemaking, oxidation and volatility in particular, they are increasingly rare to find.
Today’s small selection of wines had some true standouts, and as a group were exactly the kind of wines I love to try. Fresh, fairly complex, and distinctive, they are perfect wines for warmer weather, but above all they are wines that offer even my jaded palate a new set of sensory experiences that keep this hobby interesting and exciting. While these wines may not be for everyone, not a big, creamy buttery Chardonnay wines was to be found here, I urge you all to give them a swirl. There is so much variety in the world of wine, it’s a shame to not take full advantage of the diversity we have at ur disposal.
Are there under the radar wines you would like me to explore? Just let me know in the comments below and I’ll do my best to bring my impressions to you in a future article. In the meantime don’t wait for me get out there and try something new and different, then share your experience with us. I’m interested to hear about your experiences with new, different, and exciting wines this summer!
Gorgeous on the nose with an explosion of flowers, honeysuckle, grapefruit rind and passionfruit all topped with subtle notes of white pepper and dusty minerality. Perhaps not quite dry, this still drinks like a dry wine. Firm and minerally in the mouth, there’s a very pretty base of bright, white fruit here, a little tart apple toned with the spiciness of the nose emerging on the backend along with a green floral accent note. Finishes with great length and dynamic energy, this is all subtle grapefruit toned with mineral and sweet floral notes and just a hint of green melon. Simply a killer wine for the summer. This is fabulous. 91pts
A blend of Moscatel Graudo and Fernão-Pires
Perfumed and fruity on the nose with aromas of lime, lime zest, jasmine, polleny flowers, a hint of banana fruitiness and a touch of sage all coming together nicely. Soft, broad and yet taut and transparent on the palate, this is texturally very engaging with a richness that belies it’s delicate mouthfeel. There’s a base of sweet meyer lemon fruit here, tinged with a hint of pineapple supported by zesty acids and then this changes gears in the mouth revealing the floral notes found on the nose and gaining nuance with nut meat, mineral and herb accents that emerge on the backend and linger on the modest finish which gains some length and shows citrus pith and apple core accents that offer an attractive hint of bitterness in contrast to the core of sweetly flavored fruit. Subtle but this grows on me and gets better with air. I like this. 88pts
A blend of 60% Roupeiro, 30% Antao Vaz, and 10% Perrum
Bright and a bit smoky, almost flinty on the nose with chalky accents to the green apple and pear skin toned fruit. Juicy on entry with a fine edge if astringency underlying the bright, perfumed, apple skin and slightly nutty fruit that carries a hint of bitterness with it. Medium bodied and moderately rich in the mouth, this shows a fine edgy note and mineral persistence on the backend and through the moderately long finish. A hint of latex and something vaguely balsamic runs through this adding interesting detail Nicely balanced and well integrated. Slightly reminiscent of White Bordeaux without the wood. 87pts
Not subtle but neither well defined on the nose which shows mineral and green fruit aromas. Fresh and ever so slightly effervescent in the mouth, this is softish by Vinho verde standards, but delivers a lovely melange of mineral, green plum and citrus flavors with more mid-palate richness than one might expect from the genre. Clean and brisk on the finish, there’s good persistence to the fruit and a lively character that makes this classically refreshing. Shows real cut and verve on the palate. texturally this is great, it just lacks a little depth of flavor. 86pts
A blend of Arinto, Viral, and Chardonnay
Lightly aromatic with hints of candied citrus and jellied red currant on the nose along over hints of mango fruit. Smooth and easy going in the mouth, this offers a rather lush mouthfeel underpinned with fine acidity. Hints of figs emerge early on the palate followed by apple toned fruit that it round and supple but not soft. A touch of apple skin bitterness offers attractive contrast to the rather pronounced fruit and lingers on the fruit driven, tangy finish. very easy to drink. 86pts
A blend of Arinto Vaz and Fernão-Pires
And now for something completely different. This offers up aromas of quinine and medicine, with great big dried grass notes and sweetly oxidized aromas of fermenting apples and a touch of pine with a butcher’s wax topnote of volatility. In the mouth this tells a different story, fresh, edgy and bright with fine acids supporting clean, if slightly simple fruit but on the backend the aromas from the nose come into play adding in nuances of aged fruit and a touch of a hoppy floral character. The finish is long and precise, with much of the odd character dissipating, replaced by subtle sandy mineral notes and a fine edge of slightly creamy citrus fruit. A bit of an oddball of a wine but not without appeal. 85pts