First published in The Irish Times Saturday 30th July, 2022
Many of you will be heading off to Portugal on holiday this summer; some may even be reading this article on your digital Irish Times in Portugal. Either way, make sure you take time to explore the wonders of Portuguese wine. The quality and range have increased massively over the last decade, with some truly innovative producers and scores of unique wines. In most cases, growers have eschewed the well-known international grapes and instead relied on Portugal’s own impressive array of indigenous varieties. This all makes for a veritable feast of distinctly Portuguese wines.
The three best-known regions for red wine are Dão, Alentejo and the Douro. Broadly speaking Dão is cooler and produces more fragrant elegant wines, while Alentejo, in the hot interior, is a great source of full-bodied ripe reds, although there are exceptions. The Douro, famous for Port, has recently gained a reputation for some very exciting table wines. Wines from the hot, arid terraces tend to be concentrated and powerful, but some producers have sought out old vineyards in higher cooler vineyards and the resulting wines are lighter and fresher. I am a big fan of the wines of Dão. While serious at the top end, less expensive versions are often delightfully light and gloriously fruity.
Even if you can’t make it to Portugal, there is plenty of choice at every price here in Ireland. At entry level, Aldi and O’Briens have led the way with a variety of pretty good, well-made wines. Aldi has three white wines, the Arinto (€7.99), Vinho Verde (€6.99) and the Alvarinho (€8.99). The Alvarinho is worth the extra euro. As well as a rosé (€7.99), they have two pretty good reds; the Specially Selected Portuguese Douro Reserva below and the Animus Douro (€7.99). O’Briens has a good range, including the ever-popular Porta 6, often promoted down to less than €10. In addition to this, a number of Irish importers have sought out some of the best boutique wines, so good independent wine shops should have an interesting selection in the €15-25 range.
The three most important grapes for the Douro and Dão are Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Franca. The best-known is Touriga Nacional, which brings ripe dark fruits, spice and at times tannic structure to wines. Tinta Roriz (also known as Aragonez in Alentejo) is the same grape as Spain’s Tempranillo. Touriga Franca is lighter and more fragrant than the previous two and brings elegance to the blend.
Portuguese white wines are every bit as interesting as the red, but that is for another week. Today three great wines from Dão and a sub-€10 Douro from Aldi.
Aldi Specially Selected Mimo Moutinho Douro Reserva 2019
Medium to full-bodied with earthy plums and dark cherries. Some light tannins kick in on the finish. Try it with a gourmet burger, meat or vegetarian.
Rótulo Dão 2018, Niepoort
This charms with its delicious, sweet-sour plum fruits, freshly ground black pepper and lively acidity. Also available in a three-litre bag-in-box for €58 — equivalent to €14.50 a bottle. Try it with grilled belly of pork, or charred hispi cabbage.
From Liston’s, D2; Drinkstore, D7; Avoca, D4 and Rathcoole; Donnybrook Fair; Whelehan’s, Loughlinstown. Three-litre bag-in-a-box from Pinto Wines, D9; Redmonds, D6; Brindle, D8.
Quinta de Saes 2018, Dão, Alvaro Castro
Delectable light to medium-bodied smooth ripe dark fruits that glide effortlessly across the palate. Try this with a grilled pork chop or a cauliflower gratin.
From 64Wine, Glasthule; Kelly’s, D3; Green Man Wines, D6; Ardkeen, Waterford.
Quinta dos Carvalhais Dão Touriga Nacional 2018
€29.99 — €31.99
Fragrant and supple with very seductive ripe dark forest fruits, thyme and subtle notes of wood. The finish is both smooth and refreshing. Try this with lamb cutlets or a herby tomato and bean stew.
From The Corkscrew, D2; Baggot Street Wines, D4; Martins Off Licence, D3; Ely Wine Store, Maynooth; Wineonline.ie.