It's not all about Mateus Rosé...

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Boas Vinhas Tinto, 2009 has a twirl of spice and fragrant hints

Boas Vinhas Tinto, 2009 has a twirl of spice and fragrant hints

Portugal, as regular readers will know, is a place that captivates me with its wine.

I’ve written about its wines here before, extolling the characterful local grape varieties, with diverse flavours and thrilling regional variety.

And I was chuffed recently to win the journalism prize at the Wines of Portugal Awards 2012, which was presented to me by  Dr João de Vallera, the Portuguese Ambassador.

But something profound has changed for me in the past few weeks.

I’ve been tasting a wealth of Portuguese vinos that are knocking me sideways with their quality – and almost more interesting is their cracking value for money.

At a tasting of the wines of the importer Raymond Reynolds – winesfromportugal.com – my tasting notes had begun to bulge with an extraordinary number of wines that were scoring highly indeed, head and shoulders above many other southern European bottles at the same prices.

 

Years ago, the story was simple: port and Mateus Rosé. Today the excellence in Portuguese winemaking ranges from local talents to international stars such as Peter Bright with his Terra D’Alter range.

Ask Olly...

winedemon.com

Is there a Facebook of wine?

Sort of! I’m working with winedemon. com which offers tips from everyday wine fans instantly and for free. Across smartphones and the web, it’s a new way to instantly hunt wines by the shop or restaurant you’re in, by deals or by the stockist closest to you. Any way to make wine more accessible and for wine lovers to share tips seems to me to be a great idea!

In part the upswing in interest in Portuguese wines has come from restaurant wine lists – where Portuguese is still a great area for quality and value – and those in the know, from bloggers to die-hard wine fans.

The style of Portuguese wine has moved from earthy and rustic to modern, sleek, fruit-driven and more complex, with adventurous blends and a pride in grape varieties that no other country can offer.

The Douro is just amazing, with its bold, fragrant reds wreathed in spice (try out the awesome Quinta do Vale Meao Meandro 2009 Douro, £19.45, philglas-swiggot.com) and whites, which for such a hot place as the Douro Valley can be incredibly fresh and nimble.

But beyond this heartland of quality, the nation is rising up with wines of respectable alcohol levels and real intrigue.

These range from tingly shrill Vinho Verde whites (try Sainsbury’s Torre de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2010, £6.99, or the incredible Quinta da Raza 2011 Vinho Verde, £9.99, Selfridges) to rosés with impressive provenance that don’t just rely on sweetness for appeal.

And look out also for Alentejo reds with oomph and fistfuls of fruit.

Wine Rules: No12

Red wines that dry your mouth out are not necessarily bad, they just contain a lot of tannins – natural organic compounds found in grape skins, seeds and stems. Pair the same wine with a chunky steak or slice of hard cheese and the tannins will melt away into a sweet boost of flavour.

A great producer to look out for is Herdade de Malhadinha Nova, which you can even visit in style (check out mrandmrssmith.com or malhadinhanova.pt).

These are wines that take a lot of pride in being Portuguese at a time when the economic climate is crushingly oppressive.

I’m buying Portuguese wines to sip as well as lay down, with producers such as Dirk Niepoort, Quinta de la Rosa, Noval and Quinta de Vallado creating serious wines for long-term development.

I urge you to branch out and embrace the unique intensity and thrilling value that these truly great wines can offer. Saúde!

Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2010

Cigarra Shiraz-Tinta Barroca 2010

Crasto Douro Quinta de Crasto 2009

Boas Vinhas Tinto, 2009

Villemarin Picpoul de Pinet Coteaux di Languedoc 2011

Tom eats... Olly recommends

M&S Macon Villages Uchizy 2010

Roast chicken for me is all about rich white wine. If you’re mad keen for red and serving the bird with all the trimmings try an aged Bordeaux or mature Gran Reserva Rioja, but personally I prefer white Burgundy or a rich white from New Zealand, Oz, South Africa or South America. Schug Sonoma Chardonnay 2009 from winetreasury.com is a treat for £20 or try M&S Mâcon Villages Uchizy 2010 for £9.99.

 

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