Saturday, 9 June 2012

Euro 2012. Wine by Wine. Portugal

Portugal's most famous wine export is also usually red in that it is Port but for a drink with the football you'll want something slightly less post-prandial.

Animus typifies quality
Portuguese winemaking
Not that you need stray far from the home of Port, the winemaking region of Douro, and neighbouring Dao and Bairrada.

This is where many of the better red wines of Portugal are made, whose secrets are an abundance of indigenous grape varieties, few of which are household names even within the country: look out for Touriga Nacional, Baga and Tempranillo, called Tinta Roriz in Portuguese. Don't expect the flashiness of Ronaldo though.

The Symington Family are massive in Portugal. Think of a Port - Graham's, Dow's Warre's - all Symington's.

Their easy drinking reds of predictable and reliable quality include Altano and Quinta da Roriz whose Prazo de Roriz is an unusual choice, a light but spicy fruit-driven red that can also be served chilled - ideal for lunchtime and afternoon drinking.

The secret behind the success of many of the better red wines of Portugal is this abundance of indigenous grape varieties including the Port grape, Touriga Nacional, whose structural strength is often complemented by the addition of Touriga Franca.

Miguel Leal of eponymous London-based Portuguese wine specialist Casa Leal  recommends Animus as representative of the traditional Portuguese wine-making style. It's that combination of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca that lies within Animus 2007 Douro DOC. It shows a garnet coloured ageing in the glass, is balanced at 13% alcohol and offers a nose of ripe red berries, and characterful aged fruit flavour with a dash of chocolate and distinctive tannin that shows it will mature still further.

The Wine Society has won the award as Portuguese Wine Retailer of the Year more than once but even so, Portugal still doesn't warrant its own listing, being found under Other Europe, which is a shame as the society actually offers some 58 wines from Portugal, including Port, at prices from £4.95 for Real Lavrador, Branco, Alentejo, 2011 (Adega Co-op Redondo) - an everyday lunchtime white - to £135 for a jeroboam of one of Luis Pato's famous single vineyard reds.

Luis Pato is Bairrada's most
celebrated winemaker
Among whites I suggest you try the Cerejeiras Branco, Lisboa, 2010 (Sanguinhal) at £6.95 - a Muscat-led affordable refresher dominated by the only grape that is truly grapey.

For a really distinctive premium red you need look no further than Vinha Barrosa, Vinha Velha, Beiras, 2005 from the aforementioned pioneer Luis Pato.

This single vineyard 100% Baga varietal may be his best wine, dedicated as he is to the revitalisation of Bairrada and the appreciation of Baga as a grape of character and longevity.

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© 2011 John Alexander

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