Portugal is known for its expertise in blending a wide variety of native grapes to create wines of premium quality with unique profiles that are distinctly Portuguese. This relatively small country takes its wine very seriously, with 13 wine regions over its length and breadth. Here we look at two of the most famous, Vinho Verde and Douro, and some excellent wines that really capture their essence.
VINHO VERDE DOC
Vinho Verde is the largest, oldest and northernmost wine region in the country having produced wine for over 2,000 years. 'Verde' refers to the wines being young, usually released 3-6 months after harvest and therefore creating, usually white, typically clean and fresh wines with lots of fruit aromas and flavours. Este Alvarinho Reserva (13.5% £14.30) uses 100% Alvarinho grapes from the sub-region Moncao, known for their citrus, stone/tropical fruit and floral hints. This is a tropical fruit-forward example, complex and powerful with mingling notes of green apple and a zesty acidity. Great for pairing with strong food and to make fresh seafood explode with flavour.
Este Vinhao Reserva (12% £10.30) uses 100% Vinhão grapes for a traditional-style, rustic wine with intense colour and delicious flavours of forest fruits. This wines modernisation alongside traditional methods has made it now famous for its culinary versatility. The grape Vinhao makes the darkest wine in Portugal (also called Sousao in the south) and it is considered a landmark wine in the region.
Este Branco blend (11% £9.30) uses refreshing Loureiro adding aromas of laurel flowers, lime blossom, apples and peaches; Trajadura adding body as well as crisp, citrus characters with some stonefruit; and Arinto known for vibrant wines with good mineral acidity, citrus and apple. The result is a soft, harmonious, fresh citrus & floral wine showing slight spritz.
As the origin of Port, Douro is well known for its fortified red wines. The region is rugged and mountainous with the River Douro running through, providing good terroir for grapevines on steep slopes by the river, benefiting from sunlight and good soils. Sheltered by the Marão and Montemuro mountain ranges from Atlantic winds, it has a continental climate, with hot and dry summers and cold winters. Rola de Tinto (13.5% £15.20) is a classic high quality blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. Delicate aromas of dark fruit with subtle floral tones precede a palate that is elegant yet full, with satisfying tannins balanced by refreshing acidity.
Quinta do Crasto Reserva (14.5% £27.30) is a meticulously balanced field blend of 25-30 types of old vine grapes, foot trodden and aged in French and American oak barrels for up to 18 months before bottling without fining or filtration. A complex, powerful wine with great intensity and a richly textured palate. It shows lifted oak aromas of cigar box, tobacco leaf, spices, cedar and vanilla, combined with fresh dark berries, ripe plums and a great length of finish.
Sagrado Branco (13% £15.20) uses hand picked Rabigato, Gouvejo, Viosinho and Codega do Larinho grapes from small vineyard plots, which are then allowed to age on the lees for 6 months to bring texture and flavour. Aromas of green fruit, pear, fresh tropical fruit and a touch of honey follow on to the palate with a smooth, dry finish. Uivo Moscatel Galego (12.5% £14.80) Uses the Moscatel Galego grape, harvested from high altitude vineyards on the mountainous slops of the Douro valley. The bouquet brings together lemon balm, lemongrass, ginger and grated carrot. Zesty on the palate with a modest body, light alcohol, refreshing quality and a delicate, fading finish.