There is no doubt that Portuguese wine is establishing a growing international reputation. At the 2013 Challenge International du Vin in France, Portuguese wines swept the board, taking home a total of 145 medals: 50 golds, 32 silvers and 63 bronzes. Entrants were from 38 different countries, yet Portugal alone walked away with over 11% of the total medals awarded.
Those who live here have long known how much Portuguese wine has to offer. The huge variety of decent brands and the low prices make wine here an essential item, rather than a luxury. In additions to reds, whites and rosés, green wine (vinho verde) and rosé green wine (vinho verde rosé) provide fresh, slightly sparkling alternatives to accompany light meals and seafood dishes or just to enjoy while sitting in the sun.
Although port enjoys a well-known reputation around the world, non-fortified Portuguese wine used to be quite hard to track down for those outside of the country. While living in England some four years ago, we were limited to only one option when trying to buy Portuguese wine in the supermarket, or perhaps three or four alternatives if we went to our local Laithwaite’s shop.
These days, Laithwaite’s stocks an impressive 32 varieties of Portuguese wine (excluding port) and Waitrose’s offering has reached double figures. The enthusiasm of figures such as British TV presenter and wine expert of Olly Smith, who recently announced his 50 favourite Portuguese wines has certainly helped to spread the news of how good Portugal’s wine is beyond the country’s borders. It was also great to see that our personal favourite – Marquês de Borba – topped Olly’s list of the reds he most enjoyed.
So if you are in the UK and have yet to experience Portuguese wine, make a point of seeking it out next time you go to the supermarket. And if you are already enjoying Portuguese wine – either here or elsewhere – then you can be comfortable in the knowledge that you are part of a growing scene with a rising international reputation for excellence. Why not share your favourite Portuguese wine with us by leaving a comment below?
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A family member was given two bottles of Tázem Reserva 2009 as a gift, so we opened one over Sunday dinner in order to test it out.
This is a red wine from the Adega Cooperativa de Vila Nova de Tázem. Adegas cooperativas can be found across Portugal – they are wineries where local growers take their grapes, which are then processed and turned into wine as a community effort.
The Tázem Reserva 2009 is a wonderfully rich, dark red colour and it tastes as good as it looks – full of deep, fruity flavour. Having opened the first bottle just to ‘try out’ this wine, we quickly succumbed to the temptation of the second. This is a great wine to drink with hearty red meats – we had it with roast beef, which was perfect.
This is a bit of a mystery wine – I can’t find it in my local supermarkets, which is a shame as I would definitely like to drink it again. It has certainly inspired me to investigate more wines from the Adega Cooperativa de Vila Nova de Tázem. The adega describes itself as open, knowledgeable and passionate about unique and spectacular wines. If the Tázem Reserva 2009 is anything to judge by, this approach is certainly paying dividends!
We selected this red wine based on how good the Quinta da Alorna Reserva 2009 had been. The Reserva had won the gold Mundus Vini medal and was delicious, so we were excited to find the regular Quinta da Alorna 2009 red had not only scooped the gold Mundus Vini 2011 medal, but also the gold Concurso Mundial de Bruxelas 2012 medal.
Our expectations were not disappointed. This is a lovely, deep ruby red wine, which is full of big fruity flavours. It manages to be a robust mouthful, yet delightfully smooth at the same time. The bottle recommended it as an accompaniment to white meats, cheese and pasta, but personally I think it would stand up well to red meat too.
At half the price of the Reserva, this is a really good option for a low-cost red and it’s one that I’ll be buying next time we have guests for dinner.
Price: €2.98 in Jumbo
When the trusted waiter in your favourite restaurant tells you your choice of wine is “fantastic,” you know to expect good things.
Whilst dining at Brisa do Rio in Tavira recently, my dining companion selected a bottle of red that we hadn’t tried before – Quinta da Alorna Reserva 2009. When it arrived at the table we immediately spotted the lovely gold Mundus Vini medal adorning the bottle and our anticipation increased.
My companion – a somewhat more dedicated wine drinker than I – took charge of trying the wine. He swirled and sloshed his glass around, inhaling deeply of the blended touriga nacional and cabernet sauvignon grapes. The bouquet instantly won him over – before the wine had even reached his lips, he had already declared himself to be in love with it!
Despite such high expectations having been built up, the taste didn’t disappoint – it was full and fruity, with hints of blackcurrant that lingered delightfully in the mouth. Needless to say, the bottle didn’t last long.
This is definitely one that we will be drinking again – I intend to stock up on a few bottles as part of our Christmas selection.
Price: I have yet to find this wine in the supermarket, but other members of the Quinta da Alorna range are available in Continente, starting at €2.98.
UPDATE: We have since found this in Pão de Açúcar for €5.88.
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We seem to have settled into a bit of a wine rut recently. Each trip to the supermarket or meal out involves us drinking our established favourites. Given the huge range of inexpensive wines that we have yet to try, this is inexcusable.
So, this month we have made an effort to become more adventurous in our wine selection and try out a few unfamiliar bottles.
We selected Quinta Dos Currais Tinto based on its being a gold medal winner in the Concours Mondial awards (looking out for winning stickers has proved to be a rather dependable way of making new discoveries). We weren’t disappointed. This is a lovely, full-bodied wine, which leaves you with a mouthful of spicy, dark, forest fruit flavours. We had only intended to have a glass each, but somehow the entire bottle disappeared in record time. Highly recommended.
It seems the Quinta Dos Currais range, although not particularly well-known, has won a number of medals in recent years. Based on our first experience, this certainly won’t be the only one of their prize winners that we try.
Price: €3.49 in Jumbo.
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A rather exciting parcel arrived this morning. Dogoyaro, a loyal reader of Food and Wine Portugal recently recommended Garrafeira Nacional, a large Lisbon wine and spirits store which has a web ordering facility.
Armed with a number of suggestions given to us by the kind people on the Expats Portugal forum, we placed an order for some Christmas drinks, including a number of these wine recommendations. Reviews and write ups will follow as we try these seasonal treats!
From left to right, here is a run-down of what we have in our Christmas drinks box:
Offley Rose Port – It’s taken us a while to try this new-fangled pink port idea. We plan to mix it up Pimms-style with soda water and fresh raspberries.
Moscatel de Bacalhoa 2004 – Portuguese moscatel is a wonderful honey-sweet addition to rich Christmas desserts, and it’s ludicrously cheap too. This boxed bad-boy cost €4!
Tio Pepe Fino Sherry – This classic accompaniment from just over the border will accompany any Spanish tapas that find their way into any Christmas celebrations.
Havana Club Rum – After overdoing this during a night out in Seville earlier this year I had vowed I wouldn’t touch it again, but six months on the memory of the Havana-hangover seems to have dissipated. Now I’m just thinking along the lines of lemongrass mojitos.
Raposeira Bruto Super Reserva – A very popular sparkling wine which, in all honesty, I can’t distinguish from “proper” French champagne….which is a good thing when you consider the state of the economy and the fact that this stuff costs €7 and Veuve Clicquot costs €57. This is what our guests will be enjoying on Christmas Eve.
Luis Pato Touriga Rose – A random choice of pink fizz. On Christmas morning it has to be pink.
Marques de Borba 2009 – This very popular Portuguese red is one of those wines that always seems to make someone at the table say, “ooh, this is lovely wine.”
Quinta de Lagoalva 2009 – A rose randomly selected by my wife on the basis of colour and label design…and why not?
Quinta de Bageiras 2007, Tinto Anfora 2007 and Grao Vasco Red and White – All Christmas wine recommendations from forum members, which we can’t wait to try.
Now all we have to do is remember that we are not supposed to touch our Christmas wine until at least 1st December….but I’m not making any hasty promises.
If anyone else has any Portuguese wine suggestions for the festive season, please leave a comment.
I think sometimes it is good to push the boundaries of just how cheap you can go in Portugal and still have a decent glass of wine! Vinha Dos Frades is one of the cheapest of the cheap, and if you have a glance into the kitchen in some Portuguese restaurants you may well see a box – it could well be the “house red.” This is quite low in alcohol (11.5%) and sold as a table wine of non-specific origin BUT….it is really more than pleasant. It tastes like concentrated blackcurrant juice and is soft and scarily easy to glug! The thing is, it just doesn’t feel like really rough, cheap wine. Proof to us has been that we have far “better quality” wine in the house and we have still opted for the box. I suspect one of these boxes will become a permanent fixture on top of our fridge.
PRICE: €4.20 – FOR FIVE LITRES!!
MY VERDICT: 8/10
SECOND OPINION (The Wife): Nothing wrong with this at all, except for the fact it is hard to know how much you have had when it comes out of a handy tap! 8/10
For the last of today’s wine reviews, I’m finishing with a Portuguese classic – Monte Velho. This wine from the Alentejo is hugely popular and available everywhere, including the majority of restaurants. Available in both red and white, it is the red I write of here (the white is also delicious – more another time.) It’s popularity is justified – this red is rich and lingering yet silky with it. It is full bodied enough to stand up to rich beef and lamb dishes without becoming “cloying” by the end of the bottle. After how much disappointing wine we used to get in the UK at around £7 per bottle, it is quite incredible that we now have this available as a “special treat” wine at under 4 euros per bottle.
PRICE: €3.79 – Everywhere (more in restaurants)
MY VERDICT: 9/10
SECOND OPINION (The Wife): Love it, love it, love it – very tasty and dangerously drinkable! 9/10
This does exactly what is says on the tin (or the bottle!) We were attracted to it for two reasons – we wanted a light fruity red to go with a chicken dish AND Continente were (and still are) giving 50% cash back on our card. It is fruity yet flavourful and fits the bill nicely where we would have had a Fleurie or similar when we lived in the UK. This is a cheap and dependable wine from the Alentejo which we will definitely buy again.
PRICE: €3.29 (Continente – with 50% cashback on a Continente card!)
MY VERDICT: 8/10
SECOND OPINION (The Wife): Delicious! VERY Frutado! 8/10
This is quite a spicy wine from the Beiras region. We were a little unsure at first but it is one of those wines which tastes a little too rough on the first mouth-full but then becomes something really rather nice that slips down swiftly! This was a good mouth-full and wrapped beautifully round a rich stew. One we will buy again.
MY VERDICT: 7/10
SECOND OPINION (The Wife): The bottle disappeared quickly enough but that initial taste left me slightly unsure. 6/10