A look at some Portuguese table wines.
By Louis Marmon
Gazette Newspapers October 17, 2007
Known for centuries as the home of exceptional Port and Madeira, Portuguese winemakers are making some very good table wines now. Mirroring their Spanish counterparts, Portuguese wine producers have made major investments to modernize their facilities and to plant new varietals.
‘‘We needed to show the world that we could make quality table wines,” Jose Bento dos Santos, owner of Quinta do Monte D’Oiro explained at a recent tasting. ‘‘So we made wines from grapes people already know. Now that they see what we can do, they are more willing to try the wines from native grapes such as Touriga Nacional.”
As Vice Chairman of the International Academy of Gastrostomy and a recognized expert in wine and food, dos Santos should know. His property is located in the Estremadura region, about 30 miles north of Lisbon. He notes that ‘‘there is a new spirit of cooperation between winemakers. We are sharing our experiences with these new wines and resurrecting old properties.” The result is a ‘‘considerable improvement in Portuguese wines” from regions throughout the country.
We tasted his wines that were made from grapes usually associated with southern France. The Quinta do Monte D’Oiro Reserva 2003 ($50), a blend of Syrah and Viognier, is a gorgeous example. Bursting with violet and apricot aromas, it is well-balanced and full-bodied with spicy chocolate and black fruit flavors and enough tannins to benefit from a few years of aging. A lovely white wine, the pale gold Quinta do Monte D’Oiro Madrigal 2005 ($25), is made entirely from Viognier and has floral and peach notes along with juicy citrus flavors.
Located in the Ribetajo region about 40 miles north of Lisbon is the family owned winery Pinhal da Torre, which produces wines from two adjacent properties, Quinta do Alqueve and Quinta Sao Joao. Over lunch, CEO Paulo Saturnino Cunha pointed out that their wines are predominantly comprised of indigenous Portuguese varietals, although they blend in some locally produced Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot when they are ‘‘looking for specific flavors.” The grapes are harvested by hand and they still use four large old vats where up to 60 percent of the grapes are stomped by foot. Paulo claims it is the ‘‘the most gentle way to extract the juice.”
The Quinta do Alqueve Fernao Pires 2006 ($9) is a terrific value, with its apple and lime aromas, crisp citrus flavors and a nice finish. Another good deal is the full-bodied Quinta do Alqueve Ancestral 2003 ($13), a blend of Tourga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has bright raspberry and dark cherry flavors, excellent balance and a nice full finish with a bit of oak and red fruit at the end.
Softer in style is the Quinta do Alqueve 2 Worlds 2003 ($16), a delightful 50-50 blend of Touriga Nacional and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged in French oak, it has big rich red fruit and cassis flavors along with vanilla oak and soft tannins that allow it to be enjoyed now or in a few years.
Wines have been produced in the Douro region of northern Portugal since the Roman age. Owned by the Roquette family for more than 100 years, Quinta do Crasto produces superior Port and table wines. Try the tasty Quinta do Crasto Douro 2005 ($20), a blend of the Portuguese grapes Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional. It has red fruit and blueberry notes along with some anise and chocolate flavors.