Made from a blend of two of Encruzado and Arinto, two of the finest white grape varieties of Portugal, this wine offers exceptional value for money at €13.95. Fresh peach and pear fruits with a really well integrated mineral acidity. Perfect on its own but better with lighter seafood dishes. We enjoyed ours with clam linguini. 13% €13.95 down from €17.25 in O’Briens
I have always had a soft spot for both the red and white wines of Dão. The best reds are elegant, refreshing and subtle. The white wines can be equally good, with concentrated succulent fruits and a lively acidity. Typically based on excellent local Encruzado grape, they have been compared to Chardonnay in style and I can see why.
First published in The Irish Times,Saturday 24th August, 2019
Portugal has always done wine differently, placing its trust in a group of indigenous red and white varieties rather than the well-known “international” grapes. For a while it seemed as if the rest of the world was content to ignore the wines, even though some were world class, but that has all changed in the past decade or so.
I wrote earlier this year about Alvarinho, the Portuguese name for Albariño, the variety responsible for Rías Baixas in northern Spain. Most Alvarinho is used to make vinho verde, or green wine, in the north of Portugal. The green refers not to the colour of the wine but to the verdant countryside; you can actually find red vinho verde. The quality of white vinho verde has shot up in recent years, but so too has white wine in every part of Portugal.
I have written about Prova Regia before too. Various versions are widely available from independents and from O’Briens for €14-€16; this is one of the best-value white wines of all. Prova Regia is made from the Arinto grape.
Originally from the coastal regions around Lisbon, Arinto has spread to other regions, particularly Alentejo, where it is prized for its ability to retain much-needed acidity in hot climates. Given a year or so to develop, it can also have richer peachy flavours.
Antaô Vaz is another high-quality indigenous variety that has some Chardonnay-like characteristics. Pick early and you get a crisp, refreshing dry wine. Leave it a while longer on the vine and you get a much richer, more textured wine, with plump ripe fruits.
The third high-quality grape is Encruzado, grown mainly in the Dâo region, where it produces excellent crisp, dry whites with structure and plenty of rich fruit.
Add in Fernão Pires, Loureiro, Bical, Roupeiro, Rabigato, Gouveio, and many more, and you have an array of exciting unusual varieties. The names do not trip off the tongue, and, to make matters even more complicated, each of these varieties will have its own unique local name in each region. All are pretty much exclusive to Portugal, and most are capable of producing good, sometimes great, wine. Once you taste a few wines, you begin to understand why Portugal never really needed to import Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay.
At the entry level, O’Briens pioneered inexpensive Portuguese blends, with the Porta 6 and Júlia Florista wines both available for about €10. SuperValu and Fresh now offer similar wines. But it is worth paying a few euro more to find wines with uniquely Portuguese character and style. All of the wines below are made from blends, all 100 per cent Portuguese.
Fonte do Ouro 2018, Dâo Branco, Portugal 13%, €16.95
Fresh and fruity; greengages and apples with lively lemon zest and a crisp, dry finish. Perfect with grilled hake and dill. From: O’Briens, obrienswine.ie
Clima 2016, Vale da Capucha IG Lisboa 13.5%, €19-€21
Delicious textured nectarines with a distinctive salty tang. Serve with richer fish dishes; some stewed squid or octopus, perhaps? From: First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8, firstdraftcoffeandwine.com; Avoca, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, and Monkstown and Rathcoole, Co Dublin, avoca.com; the Wine House, Trim, Co Meath; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3, sweeneysd3.ie
Delightful fresh medium-bodied white with textured ripe nectarines, and a crisp saline dry finish. Dangerously moreish.
Grilled mackerel or sardines.
Made from a blend of three Portuguese varieties, Gouveio, Fernão Pires and Arinto, this is one of many excellent white wines now coming out of Portugal. Vale de Capucha, run by the youthful Pedro Marques, is one of my favourite producers in Portugal for both red and white wines.
€20 from Lilac Wines, Dublin 3, lilacwines.ie; The Wine House, Trim; First Draft Coffee & Wine, Dublin 8, Firstdraftcoffeandwine.com;
Perfect on a warm summer’s eve; light, a mere 12%, and refreshing with vibrant citrus and peach fruits. Despite the lightness, it has good concentration and length. Great value for money too.
We drank this with some queen scallops simply seared with butter and lemon juice.
Vinho Verde has come on in leaps and bounds; these days fewer semi-sweet green herbaceous wines and more light succulent and concentrated versions that are perfect with shellfish. Anselmo Mendes seems to have a hand in just about everything that is going on in this part of Portugal. Not only does he have his own winery (available through Wines on the Green) but he advises a number of other producers too. Including this one.
Fossil 2013, Vale da Capucha, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal
€16.95 from Green Man Wines, Terenure; Jus de Vin, Portmarnock; Morton’s Ranelagh; Drink Store, D7; The Corkscrew, Chatham Street.
Delicious cool minty herbal aromas, and lovely rich peach fruits, opening out beautifully on the long dry mineral finish. There is a sightly salty touch to it. Lovely wine.
Drink with all manner of fish. I can see myself drinking this alongside a bowl of mussels, clams and other shellfish with a handful of herbs thrown in at the last minute.
I have written about Pedro Marques of Vale da Capucha before; he is one of the rising young stars of Portuguese winemaking. His wines, both red and white are captivating, and certainly worth seeking out. For the moment they are very reasonably priced.
Vale de Capucha Branco 2012, Vinho Regional, Portugal
An enchanting combination of zesty citrus, grapefruit pith and plump peachy fruits. One of those that gets better with each sip. Just don’t serve it too cold.
I would have this with richer fish dishes, maybe fairly plain cod, hake or black sole.
Available from Mitchell and Son, Gibney’s Malahide, Corkscrew, Redmond’s Ranelagh, 64 Wine, Glasthule.
Pedro Marques is one of the rising stars of Portuguese winemaking. He visited Dublin last year to attend the SPIT tasting (if you don’t know about it, google and make sure you get to the 2016 event) where he showed his amazing wines. The white wines are brilliant, and the reds pretty good too.
Prova Regia 2013, Arinto, VR Lisboa, Portugal
Stocked by a large number of independent wine shops and off-licences.
I have been enjoying this wine on and off for many years. Plump tropical fruits with pineapples and peaches, and a good fine crisp acidity. If you are tiring a little of Sauvignon Blanc, this is the perfect replacement. Drink on its own, or with fish. Arinto is widely grown in various regions of Portugal. The grapes retain a good acidity even in hot climates.