In the April issue of Beverage World you might recall a story on emerging wine markets that I wrote. Among the markets mentioned was Portugal, a country that is becoming more widely recognized for its variety of wines that are specifically crafted with food in mind.
Last month, I attended a Wines of Portugal event at the Paramount—one of London’s premier spots to enjoy a cocktail wile also getting to enjoy a 360-degree view of the city.
The afternoon was an opportunity to sample a selection of the “50 Greatest Portuguese Wines” chosen by Olly Smith, a British television presenter, wine expert and foodie and writer who appears regularly on BBC1’s “Saturday Kitchen.”
The theme of this year’s event was “Great Value.”
Smith writes: “Portuguese wines are a treasure trove of undiscovered gems. ‘Great Value’ is my theme for this year’s ‘50 Great’ and there’s never been a better time to explore the excitement of Portugal’s outstanding flavors across their vineyards.”
There are 250 grape varietals in Portugal that are grown in diverse microclimates resulting in a wide range of wines. Because the wines are so food-friendly, Smith also grouped his selections by cuisine—sushi and sashimi, seafood, roast lamb, barbecue and dark chocolate.
There wasn’t enough time to sample all 50, but the ones that I did get to sip really showed the wide range of wines available from the country—all priced reasonably, between £7 to £30, demonstrating great value for the quality.
FP, 2012 produced by winemaker Filipa Pato from the Bairrada region was among my favorites. It was light, fresh and flavorful without being too powerful. Another fwas Beyra Quartz, 2011 by Rui Roboredo Madeira, which reminded me of summer in a glass and dining al fresco.
Winemaker Francisco Figueiredo was present and sampling his Arenae, 2010 from the Lisboa region, one of the smallest D.O.Cs in Portugal right by the ocean. Producing only 12,000 to 15,000 liters of this wine a year, the winery uses a smaller bottle (half-liter) to have more to sell, Figueiredo told me. Retailing for £9 this wine was quite different from the rest, getting its salty flavor from the ocean. The perfect food pairing for this wine, according to the winemaker—oysters.
One of the bolder labels of the 50 was a wine from Fita Preta Vinhos—a red wine with a bright pink, almost metallic label called Sexy. Offensive? Maybe, but Nuno Maçanita, who was there representing the wine, said it’s the best-selling wine in the winery’s portfolio. Now being imported to the U.S., Sexy retails for £13 (about $20) and is described by Smith as “fruit-driven” and a “wine that’s made ready to drink.” If it brings attention to Portuguese wines or the region, Alentejo, then who can argue?
Though Portugal is known for blending its wines, there were some single varietals among the 50. Two I sampled were Casa Cadaval Trincadeira Vinhas Velhas, 2009 from the Tejo region made with 100 percent Trincadeira grapes and Julia Kemper Touriga Nacional, 2009 from the Dão region made from Touriga Nacional grapes. Both wineries have very small production runs making them that much more special.
But no matter what your personal preference, there was great wine for a good value in a great location—There’s not much sexier than that.