Why Portuguese wine is hard to beat | Wine
JIf you think Portuguese wine is all about demi-sec rosé and cheap fries, the sparkling vinho verde might be surprised to hear that Portugal’s recent wine tasting was one of the most exciting I’ve ever been to. attended this year. With the exception of Italy, nowhere rivals Portugal for individuality and the number and variety of its native grape varieties. And if you need further proof, delve into the wine list at Nuno Mendes’ incredible new restaurant Lisboeta or head to Tobacco Dock in east London this weekend for a festival dedicated to the gastronomy and Portuguese wine called Festa, which was orchestrated by the excellent Bar Douro.
You might assume that reds would be Portugal’s forte, but I find the country’s whites equally compelling. If you’re not familiar with them, I’d start with the alvarinho, the Portuguese answer to the Spanish albariño from just over the border. Or, in more classic vinho verde style, try the immensely refreshing 2020 Cascata (£11.99, or £10.49 if you mix 12, Laithwaites, 11.5%), which is a blend of loureiro, arinto , trajadura and avesso (see what I say about the varieties?).
White wines from the Dão and Douro regions tend to be richer and more textured – think oaky white rioja or Rhône whites for comparison. A good example is the 2021 Somontes Branco (£11.95 Davy’s, 13%), a wine I’d happily drink with grilled pork or local salt cod.
Douro reds are generally made from the same grapes as port – that is, varieties such as touriga nacional, tinta barroca and tinta roriz – and result in wines that are just as rich and full-bodied. The standard of supermarket own-label red douro is particularly high, and Booths’ new bottling in today’s selection is a particularly good example of this. You’ll also find lighter, more innovative styles like the delicious Niepoort Primata Natcool, which is only 11%. For softer Italian reds, look to Alentejo.
The other thing Portugal has to do is price quality, as the French call it. Not that all the wines are cheap, but they tend to be better value for money than comparable wines from elsewhere. Aldi, in particular, has some real bargains right now, some of which I’ve touched on before, including Mimo Moutinho Arinto Vinho Verde 2021 (£5.29, 11.5%) and the specially selected 2019 Douro Reserva (6 £.79, 13.5% ).
In fact, I had an even harder time than usual narrowing down my recommendations to five this week, so take the opportunity to try them when you find them by the glass.
Five Portuguese wines to discover
Taste the Portuguese Alvarinho difference 2021 £7 Sainsbury’s, 13%. If you’re a fan of albariño, you’ll love this great value Portuguese version. One for grilled calamari and other seafood.
EH Booth & Co Douro Red 2019 Stands for £11, 13.5%. Exceptionally good, own brand red. Soft and velvety: ideal for roast beef or steak.
Herdade de São Miguel Tinto Colheita Selected 2020 £12.95 Cheers in Swansea, £13.29 Butlers Wine Cellar, 14%. An easy-drinking blend of Bordeaux varieties with local Touriga Nacional. Perfect for grilled lamb.
Niepoort Primata Natcool £18 (1 litre) Wanderlust, 11%. Contrary to what is generally expected from Douro, this delicious light summery red is full of small red fruits. May be slightly chilled.
Estates of Churchill Red 2019 £16.50 Bar Douro Wine Shop, 14% off. Very elegant Portuguese red made from tinta roriz, the Portuguese name for tempranillo. Delicious now, but you could happily store it for two or three years. Seems a bit good for the pizza and burger pairings they suggest; I might opt for a gourmet burger instead.