Portuguese Table Wine

I’ve been wanting to try some Portuguese wines for some time now and today the theme is Portuguese Table Wine hosted by Catavino.  That gives me the extra motivation I need to stop delaying and try some Portuguese wine!
I in fact have a sliver of a connection to Portugal as I supposedly have some Portuguese blood in me. It’s pretty diluted to be trustworthy… nonetheless, I embrace it.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve been wanting to try Portuguese wines, another is the fact that when I read reviews in various wine publications the list of highly rated value wines from Portugal seems to keep getting longer and longer.  So I make notes of all the fantastic values that I read about and head off to the wine shop and walk in circles tiresome to find these fantastic wines…  Where are they?!  I’m off to another wine shop… same thing… and another…
I had a devil of a time finding Portuguese wine, much less finding some not from Douro. The few Portuguese wines I found were usually mixed in with Spanish wines. One shop I was in even has a sign that looks something like this:
SPAIN & Portugal
It seems that the wine distributors in my area (Cincinnati, OH) are doing a piss-poor job at bringing in Portuguese wine. And I reckon they are missing a huge opportunity. Everyone likes a fantastic deal, and from what I’ve read there are lots of fantastic value wines available from Portugal. If I knew the business of wine distribution I would do it myself.  If anyone knows the folks at Cutting Edge Selections make the suggestion as I reckon they are probably the ones who would go after this market.
The Tasting
After much searching I was able to pick up two bottles from producer Sogrape Vinhos.  One of them I thought was mediocre, but the additional bottle I thoroughly loved.
The first bottle I tried was Vinha Do Monte 2001 ($10.99) from the Alentejano province.  This wine is a blend of Aragones, Trincadeira and Alfrocheiro Preto grapes.  All of which are new to me, so I did a small digging:  Aragones it seems is either another name for Garnacha or Tempranillo (I’m not sure which to believe); Trincadeira is an indigenous Portuguese varietal that grows best in dry, hot regions and typically produces flavors of jam, red plum, cinnamon and clove; Alfrocheiro Preto is another indigenous varietal thought to be related to Pinot Noir.  Alfrocheiro Preto is typically grown in Dão and is attributed to producing flavors of mint, flowers, black currants and fresh strawberries.
The Vinha Do Monte has an fascinating nose: strong floral and vanilla with earth and cherry undertones. The palate brings out the cherry a bit more with plum and vanilla riding shotgun. It has a very warming mouth feel with a rather high acidity that is just slightly out of balance. It’s a small bitter on the back of the tongue. The end is long but rather uninteresting.  In general it’s an OK wine, but not fantastic.
Wine: Vinha Do Monte
Varietal: Blend of Aragones, Trincadeira and Alfrocheiro Preto
Vintage: 2001
Alcohol: 13.5%
Rating: 82
The second bottle I tried was Grão Vasco 2004 ($6.99) from the Dão province.  This wine is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro Preto and Tinta Pinheira. Touriga Nacional is a varietal used extensively in Port wine that has characteristics of strong tannins and concentrated black fruit.  Jaen is a rather bland grape with low acidity that is often used to balance tannins from additional varietals.  Tinta Pinheira, also known as Rufete, is another varietal used in Port that oxidizes easily and adds candy-like fruit flavors.
Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable wine.  It has a nice smoky, leathery and floral bouquet.  Cherry and pepper on the palate with a silky mouth feel.  It isn’t terribly complex, but it does have surprising concentration for a $7 wine.  It always makes me pleased when the less expensive wine is my favorite.
Wine: Grão Vasco
Varietal: Blend of Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro Preto and Tinta Pinheira
Vintage: 2004
Alcohol: 13%
Rating: 89

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Finisterra Red and White Wine from Portugal

Finisterra Red and White Wine from PortugalAs a guy who is into value wines, I’ve found that there are a few regions you can count on for consistent values.  Chile and Spain are two regions that are on that list, but one that I don’t see enough of is Portugal.  There are some incredible bargains to be found in Portuguese wines, but unfortunately I don’t find many of them on the shelves in my province.  Distribution seems to be spotty, unless you’re in New York City.
Given the fact that I don’t come across many Portuguese wines, I was glad for the opportunity to taste these.  I was glad, and also slightly challenged.  One of the things that makes these wines fascinating is that they are produced using grape varieties that are unique to Portugal.  But that also puts me in a position where I’m reviewing wines made with varieties I’m unfamiliar with.  An vital factor I kept in mind when evaluating these wines is that stylistically, these are “ancient world” wines, so I evaluated them as such. With all of that said, take my notes and scores on these with a grain of salt as I’m admittedly in new territory with these wines.
Both of these wines come from the Alentejo province of Portugal.  This is a province in the south of Portugal with a Mediterranean climate and over 22,000 hectares of vineyards. Read more

Alente Wines from Portugal

Alente Wines from PortugalTonight we’re checking out two Portuguese wines from Alente, which is a producer in the Alentejo province of Portugal.
As I’ve commented in the past, I reckon some of the best values in wine are from Portugal.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that distribution of Portuguese wines is a bit spotty in the US.  In my province, I don’t find many of them and they are usually tucked into the Spanish section of wine shops.
These two wines were not tasted blind.  I feel like I’ve been saying that on a lot of reviews lately, but that’s mostly because I’m going through some odds and ends for which a blind tasting would be pointless.  I have no preconceived notions about these wines, additional than the fact that I reckon Portugal has some fantastic value wines to offer.  But at the same time, I’ve had plenty of Portuguese wines that have left me unimpressed.  So… let’s find out what these two are all about.
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Great Sense Vinho Verde

Great Sense Vinho VerdePeople often question me, “what’s your favorite wine?”  But that’s an impossible question to answer.  I don’t have one favorite.  My favorite thing about about wine is the variety.  I like different wines at different times.  Sometimes it depends on what I’m eating with it, what the weather is like, or just what I feel like.  And when you like to mix it up, Vinho Verde is a nice wine to add to your repertoire.
It’s a very set alight and fresh wine.  And fresh is exactly what these wines are.  Vinho Verde translates to “green wine” which is a allusion to the youthfulness of the wines.  These are meant to be consumed within a year of production.  So, as a 2010 vintage, this one is nearly overdue for consumption… but it is subdue quite excellent.
The designation of Vinho Verde refers to the style of wine (i.e. young) and the location (i.e. Northwest Portugal) much more than it refers to the grape varietal, as there are a number of different varietals allowed in the wine.  This one is made with 60% Touriga Nacional and 40% Espadeiro.  Most Vinho Verde that I’ve come across is colorless, but some is red and some, like this one, is rosé. Read more

Casa de Vila Verde Vinho Verde

Casa de Vila Verde Vinho VerdeThe additional day we reviewed a Vinho Verde from Fantastic Sense and tonight we’re checking out another one, this one from Casa de Vila Verde.
Like many European vineyards, Casa de Vila Verde has a long description, going back to the mid-17th century within the same family.  And like many European producers, the winery was modernized within the past 20 years — in this case it was in 1996.  While in the US it’s fascinating to learn about vineyards with such a description, the tale is so prevalent in Europe that when I speak to wine writers there they find it cliché.  Maybe it is, but I subdue appreciate the family heritage that goes into many wines in the province versus the corporate heritage we find on many of the shelves in the US.  That’s not to say there aren’t family wineries in the US, there are many of them, but very few with the extensive description of those from additional regions.The aromas on this wine are like fresh squeezed lime over green apples, with a hint of honeysuckle in the background.  The palate has really nice, vibrant acidity with flavors of fresh apple, lime and a touch of mineral.  The end is nice too, with plenty of citrus and mineral flavors lingering on.  This one doesn’t offer the fizz you would find in many Vinho Verdes, but the acidity gives plenty of life to the mouth feel.
Wine: Casa de Vila Verde Vinho Verde
Variety: Colorless blend
Vintage: 2010
Alcohol: 11.5%
Rating: 87
Fee: $10.00 Read more