50 Great Portuguese Wines by Olly Smith

Olly Smith

Portugal is a fascinating wine country – it produces everything from light, crisp and refreshing to deep, rich and full-bodied via intensely aromatic, honeyed and fruity. Not only that, but quality and value are truly happy bedfellows. Not many countries can provide wines of such variety and quality at such affordable prices. Olly Smith presented his selection of 50 Great Portuguese Wines with an emphasis on great value. Here’s a round-up of my personal favourites.

I love the Alvharino (Albariño in Spanish) grape variety that makes such great Rias Baixas wines in North West Spain and Vinho Verde in Portugal. However, something is afoot, as over the last few months, my favourite expressions of these wine styles have been crafted from other grape varieties, particularly Loureiro. Olly’s second wine of his 50 was a 100% Loureiro Vinho Verde – Casa da Senra, 2012. Delicate fruity aromas followed by peach and apple-like flavours, this is an elegant, dry and fresh white wine. RRP £8.50.

My favourite of the Vinho Verdes was Quinta da Raza Arinto, 2012, made from the Arinto grape. This is a wonderfully fragrant wine with citrus, peach and tropical fruit flavours coming through and for £10.99 would make a real summer treat. Delicious!

I really like Quinta do Pinto wines from the Lisboa region. Olly chose the floral and mineral-fresh Vinhas do Lasso, 2010, which also had a hint of freshly-mown grass on the nose and a touch of honey on the palate. RRP £12.50.

Dona Ermelinda, 2011 for £7.00 from the Setubal region, was a real bargain with refreshing pineapple, apple and honey characteristics.

Another wine I’ve had before and mentioned in a previous article was Valle Pradinhos, 2011, from the north-eastern region of Tras-Os-Montes. Made from Malvasia Fina, Riesling and Gewurztraminer, this is intensely aromatic and flowery with peach, rose petal, ginger and spice characteristics that would make this a superb match for fresh and lightly spiced food.

However, my star winery was Esporão from Alentejo. Their white and red wines that Olly chose were absolutely fantastic. The Esporão Reserva 2011 white was intensely fruity with added notes of spice and lemon peel, the oak providing richness and some smokiness. RRP £12-14. Their red was aromatic, smooth, velvety and elegant with black fruit and a buttery smokiness on the palate. RRP £17.99.

Staying in the Alentejo, J. Portugal Ramos Vinhos’ F’OZ, 2011 was a £9.99 bargain. A nose of cherries, chocolate, tobacco and spice with a hint of pear led on to a fruity palate full of cherries plus notes of smoke and licquorice.

Quinta do Crasto wines from the Douro are always worth trying and I enjoyed Crasto Superior, 2010. A fragrant nose of white pepper, spice and dark fruit was followed by juicy fruit on the palate and a smokey rich spiciness - definitely a meat wine. RRP £14.00.

Talking of meat wines, another quality one was Aliança Bairrada Reserva, 2011. With cedarwood smoke, black fruits and hints of coffee on the nose and palate, I’d love to try this with a hearty meal.

Off now to the Dão and Altano Quinta do Ataíde Reserva, 2009, from Symington Family Estates, is another rich and beautifully scented wine with aromas and flavours of violets, plums and spice – a great food match, especially with red meat. RRP £13.50.

Julia Kemper Touriga Nacional, 2009 from the same region was a beautifully complex wine with spice, herbs, violets and tomatoes on the nose and palate. I thought this could go well with cheese, so forget chutney, choose this! RRP £24.99.

Finally a couple of sweet wines. Moscatel de Favaios Colheita 1980 from the Douro region was a delicious treat. A perfumed nose that reminded me of oranges in caramel sauce led to a rich, sultana, honey and caramel palate. This is a beautifully smooth dessert wine and for £30.00 should be tried at least once in your life!

Família Horacio Simões Bastardo, 2009 from Palmela is unctuously rich with an earthy, golden syrup and orange liqueur-like intensity that made me write down the words ‘alcoholic marmalade’. Price TBC. Now what would you like to spread on your toast?

In his presentation, Olly described Portuguese wines as having a sense of flair with fantastic flavours and also being good food matches, whether for curries, BBQs or fine dining. He explained that by judicious blending of indigenous and other grape varieties, they give us great value wines with fantastic aromas and flavours that don’t just rely on oak ageing. However, perhaps his most telling quote was: “A bottle of wine can be judged by the moments of joy it gives.” So give Portuguese wine a try and feel the joy! Saúde!