Article

Portuguese Prospects

A series of impressive performances in the Sommelier Wine Awards, and growing positive rumblings from within the trade meant we thought it was time to put Portugal’s wines to the test. Neil Phillips provides the salt cod as our tasters get to work


Portugal is fast gaining recognition as a country that produces a quality range of wines from the north to the south, as a series of impressive performances in the Sommelier Wine Awards over the last few years demonstrates.

The Douro might be the country’s best-known region, but areas like Dão and Barraida have improved immensely, while places like the Beira Interior and Tejo are fast gaining ground. All are making decent wines with indigenous and international grapes, from decades-old family businesses and new arrivals.
Given that so much has happened in Portugal over the last 10 years, we felt it was time to place the country in the spotlight.

For this tasting, we selected wines from four different regions, allowing us to take a snapshot of the country’s styles. The regions were Vinho Verde, which has an established range of good producers of white wines; the widely acclaimed Douro, which produces a wide range of red wines, and has some delicious whites too; Tejo, an emerging area; and Alentejo in the south, regarded as one of the country’s most exciting areas.

Although importers had the opportunity to include rosés, all except one decided to focus on whites and reds. Pricing ranged from £4.99-19.31 per bottle ex-VAT.


How it works
Importers were asked to submit white, red and rosé wines from four selected regions of Portugal at any price point. These wines were then evaluated blind by a team of sommeliers, resulting in an overall percentage score. Tasters used the entire percentile scale when scoring the wines, and those that gained scores over 60 are listed below.

RESULTS

Whites

81 Trevo Branco 2009, Vinho Verde

The highest scoring white and one of the least expensive, proving that Portuguese whites can offer value. ‘Fresh and fruity on the nose’ said CJ. ‘A good balance between fruit and acidity,’ added AT.

£6.80, Charles Hawkins, 01572 823030


80 Quinta da Romaneira 2007, Douro

CP found ‘delicate lime, toast and petrolly notes on the nose,’ whilst NP liked ‘the citrus, creamy, well-made balanced style.’

£11.09, Liberty Wines, 020 7720 5350


79 Conceito Branco Douro 2009

‘Seamless balance, velvety texture, and subtle citrus flavours,’ said ID. CJ liked ‘the minerality, elegance and structure.’

£10.14, Raymond Reynolds, 01663 742230


78 Vale D’Algares Selection 2009, Tejo 

ID was impressed with the aromas: ‘Wow! Very pronounced multi-dimensional nose, with intense, exotic notes.’ AT liked ‘the ripe fruit character, crisp acidity and balance.’

£8.46, Castas, 07730 570 983


78 Quinta da Sequeira 2008, Douro

CJ enjoyed ‘clean aromas of kiwi, pineapple, and passion fruit, consistent throughout.’ Another fan was CP: ‘Clean zesty full of flavour, delicate fruit, oranges, rosemary, balanced with a long finish.’

£6.95, Ince Wines, 020 8847 6211


78 Quinta do Ameal 2009, Vinho Verde

This 100% Loureiro was ‘very aromatic and exotic, with pineapple, guava, Turkish delight and a Muscat-like character,’ according to ID. NP found it ‘Classy, minerally, citrusy, flinty, with lovely fruit.’

£9.85, Raymond Reynolds, 01663 742230


74 Alvarinho Reguengo de Melgaço 2009, Vinho Verde

‘Good expression of tropical fruit with touches of white pepper, then melons and pineapples on the palate,’ AT. ‘Very minerally from the mid palate onwards and lovely baked apricot finish,’ added CP.

£11.77, Hallgarten, 01582 722538


73 Herdade dos Grous 2009, Alentejo

‘Floral, fresh, with tea leaves, yellow pear and plum,’ said CP. ‘Elegant, fruity, plenty of weight, balanced with minerality.’ CJ

£8.15, Great Western Wine, 01225 322813


72 Portal 2009, Douro

AT enjoyed ‘applely and ginger characters – a well balanced style of wine.’ ‘Ripe stone fruit, delicate but intense, mirabelle plum, yuzu fruit, very long, fresh and balanced, lots of finesse. Great stuff,’ said CP.

£8.85, Charles Hawkins, 01572 823030


69 Terra de Lobos 2009, Tejo

The least expensive wine was ‘clean, elegant, focused and terroir-driven,’ according to CJ. ID found ‘herbal character, smokiness and depth.’

£5.09, Oakley Wine Agencies, 01787 220070


69 Quinta da Lagoalva 2009, Tejo

The weight of this wine pleased ID, who found it ‘Big but balanced, with bold flavours and a jammy, apricot and pineapple finish. AT liked ‘lime flavours and a strong minerally finish.’

£5.50, Casa Leal, 07957 572 957


68 Esporão Verdelho 2009, Alentejo

‘Peaches, elderflower, earthy, long finish. Balanced but lacks vibrancy,’ said CP. ‘Dry herbs, with lemon character and white pepper on the finish,’ added AT.

£8.35, Charles Hawkins, 01572 823030


65 António Futuro 2009, Vinho Verde

‘Mid-weight, round, textured, ripe, appealing with stone fruit set against a backdrop of minerality,’ said ID. AT found ‘touches of stone fruit with intense flavours of peaches and melons.’

£5.10, Ince Wines, 020 8847 6211


Also tasted:
Quinta de Azevedo 2009, Vinho Verde; Marques de Borba 2008, Alentejo; Solar los Lobos 2008, Alentejo; Altano 2008, Douro


Rosé

73 Arca Nova Vinho Verde 2009

The panel thought the only rosé was good value, and good by the glass. ‘Fresh, light with intense raspberry and cherry’ said AT. ‘A definite strawberry, creamy character. Refreshing with lingering finish’ said CJ.

£4.99, Casa Leal, 07957 572 957


Reds

85 Delaforce Touriga Nacional/Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Douro

The panel unanimously praised the reds in this tasting, so to come out top was good. ‘Good expression of bitter chocolate and black fruit on the nose with pronounced intensity of ripe black fruit. Long length. An excellent wine,’ said AT. Further praise from ID: ‘Balanced, controlled tannins, silky, sexy, impressive and lovely.’

£11.16, PLB, 01342 318282


84 Vale D’Algares Selection 2007, Tejo

NP found ‘herbaceous, minty, dark fruits, subtle oak, with good length.’ ‘Full-bodied with ripe black fruit, balance of tannin, acidity and oak.’ said AT.

£12.34, Castas, 07730 570 983


84 Quinta da Terrugem 2006, Alentejo

‘Big, rich, concentrated, regional and charming! Fruitcake and mocha chocolate,’ said ID, while CJ commented: ‘Plum, cherry finish with balance, elegance, mineral character.’

£10.09, Boutinot, 0161 908 1314


83 Pintas Character 2007, Douro

The highest priced wine delivered. ‘A complex palate: juicy blackberries, truffles, walnuts and herbs. Savoury, sweet, refreshing. Ultra long,’ CP. NP enjoyed ‘dark fruits and a herbaceous character.’

£19.31, Corney & Barrow, 020 7265 2441


82 Quinta do Tedo 2007, Douro

The Douro wins approval across a wide price range. ‘Silky, spicy with ripe fruit,’ said CJ. ‘Dark, concentrated, chocolatey, liquorice flavours, balanced and well made full-bodied red,’ enthused NP.

£7.77, McKinley Vintners, 020 7928 7300


81 Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas 2008, Douro

‘Bitter dark chocolate flavours, rounded, meaty and dark fruits aftertaste. Excellent value for money,’ concluded AT. ‘Perfumed, herbaceous, minerally, silky, elegant and high quality,’ added CJ.

£6.58, Maisons Marques et Domaines, 020 8812 3380


79 Esporão Quatro Castro 2008, Alentejo

‘Ripe, cherry, plums, silky, with toasty flavours. Good potential,’ decided AT. ‘Excellent, dark damson, blackcurrant, minty, herbaceous and earthy. Balanced, dark fruits, acidity and tannin,’ said NP.

£10.07, Charles Hawkins, 01372 823 030


79 Corpus 2008, Douro

‘Sloe, vanilla, loganberry, with chewy, slightly dry tannins – but it still tastes a bit young,’ said CP. ‘Extremely black ripe fruit, long finish and good value.’ NP.

£11.99, Casa Leal, 07957 572 957


78 Lusitano 2008, Alentejo

‘Herbs, sweet cherries, cocoa and earthiness. Sweet finish, balanced, compact, nice.’ CP. ‘Great perfume, with lavender, violet, mint on palate,’ said CJ.

£7.20, Casa Leal, 07957 572 957


76 Callabriga 2007, Alentejo

‘A well made, commercial offering,’ said ID. ‘Pleasant and accessible style with good finish.’ CJ agreed: ‘Cherry with subtle oak. Restrained, sophiscated and elegant.’

£7.96, Stevens Garnier, 01865 263300


75 Altano Organic Red 2007, Douro

‘Juicy, chewy, spicy, with intense black fruit compote. Vanilla, plum flavours with a long finish,’ said CP. ‘Violets aromas with medicinal flavours, well balanced with a fine finish,’ added AT.

£5.35, Fells, 01442 870900


74 Pontual Trincadeira/Touriga Nacional 2009, Alentejo

‘Rounded berry fruit, attractive style, soft tannins and good structure,’ noted NP. ‘Ripe fruit characters, pepper and toasty flavours,’ said AT.

£8.90, Casa Leal, 07957 572 957


73 Quinta da Lagoalva Reserva 2008, Tejo

‘Violet and damson scented nose; elegant, very Portuguese. Medium-bodied with a long, flavoursome finish,’ said ID. ‘Elegant cherry and plum nose with lean, good fresh fruit and balanced acidity,’ thought CJ.

£6.99, Casa Leal, 07957 572 957


72 Marquês de Borba 2008, Alentejo

‘Bitter almonds, barbecue sauce, chocolates and spice.’ AT. ‘Orange peel and cinnamon on the nose with juicy, spicy, nutmeg and truffle. Long, balanced and concentrated,’ concluded CP.

£7.65, Oakley Wine Agencies, 01787 220070


71 Quinta do Portal Reserva 2007, Douro

‘Strawberry, cranberry and rose petals in a youthful, minerally, pretty style.’ ID. NP liked ‘the soft fruit flavours.’

£8.85, Charles Hawkins, 01572 823030


71 Herdade dos Grous 2009, Alentejo

‘Black fruit and liquorice,’ noted AT. ‘Delicious dark damson, cherry and mint backed by structure and soft tannins,’ NP.

£9.90, Great Western Wine, 01225 322813


69 Terra de Lobos 2008, Tejo

‘Good mid palate with cherry fruit, acidity and some restraint,’ thought CJ. ‘Attractive fruit flavours,’ added NP.

£5.09, Oakley Wine Agencies, 01787 220070


69 Animus 2007, Douro

‘Redcurrant, mocha and slate on the nose. Juicy with dark fruity flavours and light, chewy tannins. Good value.’ CP. ‘Toasty and ripe fruit flavours, well made,’ said AT.

£5.50, Casa Leal, 07957 572957


69 Delaforce 2007, Douro

A well-priced offering enjoyed for its ‘floral nose and fruit driven, straightforward style.’ ID. ‘Has finesse and elegance.’ AT.

£7.33, PLB, 01342 318282


68 Quinta dos Quatro Ventos 2007, Douro

‘Sweet spicy oak overlays intense damson fruit. Dense and chewy, refreshing acidity,’ commented CP. ‘A mix of red and black fruit, some herbaceous character.’ CJ.

£10.09, Boutinot, 0161 908 1314


66 DFJ Vinhos Douro Vega 2007

‘Aniseed balls, black fruit. Soft and unstructured but a powerful finish,’ said CP. ‘Balanced, easy drinking style.’ NP.

£5.39, Ellis of Richmond, 020 8744 5550


66 Callabriga Douro 2007

‘A dark, brooding, smoky nose, with blackberry, tar, toffee,’ said ID. ‘Medium-bodied with balance, good fruit.’

£7.97, Stevens Garnier, 01865 263 300


Many thanks to Portal restaurant in London for hosting the tasting.


Conclusions

*  Several tasters enthused about the minerality and texture of the Vinho Verde whites, while others much preferred the fuller styles from Tejo, the Douro and Alentejo.
All the tasters were impressed with the general quality and consistency of the reds, enjoying the freshness and vibrancy of fruit character, nicely balanced by a judicious use of oak and soft tannins.
Overall, the panel picked up on the different regional styles, and found
a distinctive Portuguese personality in both whites and reds.
Regarding pricing, there was a consensus amongst the panel that a few of the higher priced wines didn’t always merit the extra cost. By contrast, there was some excellent value at the cheaper end.
All the regions delivered some high-scoring wines, proving that there
is strength in depth in Portugal at the moment.


From the panel
Ivan Dixon, Harvey Nichols
‘I was slightly disappointed with the whites. Some of the Vinho Verdes were overtly commercial in style: fruity, slightly formulaic, with residual sugar and a lack of acidity. Conversely, the reds had quality and consistency and a real sense of regionality and essence of place. They were generally very well balanced with good oak management.’

Charlotte Jonasson, Murano
‘Some of the whites were fresh, zesty and spritzy in style, whilst others had ripeness with a touch of oak. There was also a good expression of terroir and minerality. The reds had really attractive aromas with violets, liquorice, lavender and herbaceous characters and, on the palate, elegance, balanced tannins and acidity.’

Christine Parkinson, Hakkasan
‘The whites were fresh, vibrant and zesty with nice texture; others had ripe fruit, firm acidity and a subtle use of oak. The single rosé was lovely and well priced. I enjoyed the reds, which had a Portuguese character, were well made and not too modern.’

Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster
‘The Vinho Verdes were impressive overall, with both the fruity, easy drinking and the more classy, minerally styles both showing well. The reds delivered an overall quality across all the regions. There was an appealing range of flavours on offer, accompanied by soft tannins and a judicious use of oak.’

Agustin Trapero, Andaz
‘Some of the whites had a citrus lemony character with high levels of acidity, whilst others had an appealing tropical fruit character. The reds were very good, with ripe fruit character, finesse and balanced acidity. They also had good potential for ageing and good structure.’

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – September/October 2010

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