After writing a little overview of the main regions in Spain, I thought I would also do a small piece on Portugal. Portugal is slightly more complicated, mainly due to the fact its regions are not as well-known and its grape varieties are indigenous and more unfamiliar. However don’t let the obscure grape names and regions lead you to avoid the country – here great value and interesting wines can be found. Last week we held a tasting, run by the Portugal wine expert Charles Metcalfe, so here is a little insight in to what I learnt.
The best known region is Porto and the Duoro, which produces the wine that Portugal is most famous for – Port. This region is mountainous with lots of local grape varieties, but there are five main ones used in Port – Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão. We tried Quinta do Crasto LBV 2008 – with a palate of dried fruits and hints of fig, this was a crowd pleaser. The region also produces unfortified wines, for example Quinta do Noval, Cedro do Noval. A blend of two of the Port varieties with Syrah, this was a smooth ripe, subtly smokey wine and delicious.
The most well known white region is Vinho Verde. Situated in the North West, it is the biggest DOC, producing white and sparkling wines. The main grapes are the floral Loureiro, steely Trajadura and mineral Alvariho. These create light, crisp, aromatic wines. We tried Adega de Moncao 2012 – it was very popular and everyone agreed would be perfect for a summer afternoon.
The other main regions are Alentejo, Bairrada and Dao. Alentejo covers a large proportion of Portugal, but with specific areas where wine can be classified DOC. Mainly red grapes are grown here, as it is too hot for whites. They are extremely popular wines – rich, fruity and very drinkable! We tried Marques de Borba, Joao Portugal Ramos. From the Borba town in the region, this had a palate of dark red fruits, but great acidity to make the wine feel fresh.
Moving back to the North West is Bairrada, underneath Vinho Verde. This has a more maritime climate and is an important region for sparkling wine, as the cooler climate provides more acidity in the grapes. Here the traditional local red grape is Baga. This produces tannic wines that can give rich, dense fruity reds that age in to elegant wines with great complexity, for example Bairrada Reserva, Aliança Vinhos de Portugal.
The last major region is Dao, situated in the central northern part of Portugal. Surrounded by mountains, this region is protected from the direct influence of the continental climate and from the chill and rains from the ocean. This means the grapes can ripen slowly, gaining good acidity and aromas, making elegant wines. We had a lovely white, Quinta dos Roques Encruzado, Faldas de Serra. One of Portugal’s top varieties, this was a more toasty, creamy wine with flavours of citrus and stone fruits.
These are the main regions that we tried wines from, though there are numerous other smaller regions. The tasting gave a great insight in to the variety of wines from Portugal – from fruity light whites to a more oaked style, easy drinking reds to richer dark fruited ones and of course the sweeter smooth fruit of port. A country that offers great value for money!