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Home-grown talent: Portugal’s finest indigenous wines

First published in The Irish Times,Saturday 24th August, 2019

All of the wines listed below are made from blends, all 100 per cent Portuguese.

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

Herdade de Grous Branco 2018, Alentejo
13%, €17.95
A wine blessed with succulent plump, peachy fruits balanced perfectly by a streak of citrus. The Reserva (€27) is even better. Drink solo, with nibbles or a Greek salad.
From: Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; La Touche, Greystones, Co Wicklow, latouchewines4u.ie; the Corkscrew, Dublin 2, thecorkscrew.ie; Fresh, freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie; Redmonds, Dublin 6, redmonds.ie; Matson’s, Grange and Bandon, Co Cork, twitter.com/matsonswines; MacGuinness Wines, Dundalk, Co Louth, dundalkwines.com; Whelehan’s Wines, Dublin 18, whelehanswines.ie; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Listons, Dublin 2, listonsfoodstore.ie; D-Six Wines, Dublin 6; peggykellys.ie; Donnybrook Fair, Dublin, donnybrookfair.ie; Red Island Wine Co, Skerries, Co Dublin, facebook.com/Red-Island-Wine-Company

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

Redoma Branco 2018, Douro, Niepoort
11.5%, €26 
Light, crisp and mineral with light pear fruits, hints of toasted almonds and a long, dry finish. Drink this with oysters – or go Portuguese, with grilled sardines.
From: Morton’s, Dublin 6, mortons.ie; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4, baggotstreetwines.com; Blackrock Cellar, Co Dublin, blackrockcellar.com; Redmonds, Dublin 6, rRedmonds.ie; siyps.com; Wicklow Wine Co, wicklowwineco.ie; Nectar Wines, Dublin 18, nectarwines.com

 

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Arinto 2018, Vinho Verde, Quinta Picouto de Cima

Arinto 2018, Vinho Verde, Quinta Picouto de Cima

Made from 100% Arinto, this Vinho Verde has stimulating racy green apple fruits, and a light sparkle; slakes the thirst and gets the mouth watering. 12.5% alcohol.

 

As an aperitif with nibbles, raw seafood, sushi or oily fish such as mackerel.

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.

€11.95 down from €14.95 from O’Briens, obrienswine.ie

 

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Clima 2016, Vale da Capucha IG Lisboa

Clima 2016, Vale da Capucha IG Lisboa

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;

 

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Solto Escola 2016, Vinho Verde, Portugal

Solto Escola 2016, Vinho Verde, Portugal

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.

€13.95 from Searsons, Monkstown, searsons.com; Brady’s, Shankhill, bradysshankhill.ie; Bradleys Off-licence, Cork, bradleysofflicence.ie; The Cinnamon Cottage, Cork, cinnamoncottage.ie; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock, jusdevine.ie; J.J. Fields, Skibbereen, fieldsofskibbereen.com; Lilac Wines, Dublin 3, lilacwines.ie; Martin’s Off Licence, Dublin 3, martinsofflicence.ie; Deveney’s, Dundrum; Objekt, Newcastle West, object.ie

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Fossil 2013, Vale da Capucha, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal

<strong>Fossil 2013, Vale da Capucha, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal</strong>

IMG_4469Fossil 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.

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Vale de Capucha Branco 2012, Vinho Regional, Portugal

Vale de Capucha Branco 2012, Vinho Regional, Portugal

IMG_4091
Vale de Capucha Branco 2012, Vinho Regional, Portugal
12.5%
€19.95

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.

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Prova Regia 2013, Arinto, VR Lisboa, Portugal

Prova Regia 2013, Arinto, VR Lisboa, Portugal

IMG_1562Prova Regia 2013, Arinto, VR Lisboa, Portugal
13%
€13.95

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.

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