WBW 38: Portuguese Table Wines

by Tim Elliott on October 10, 2007

It’s time for another edition of our monthly international virtual tasting known as Wine Blogging Wednesday. This month the theme is Portuguese Table Wines hosted by my friends Gabriella and Ryan from Catavino. From their home base outside Barcelona, Spain they cover wines made on the Iberian Peninsula shared by Portugal and Spain. This month they have asked us to focus on lesser known Portuguese wines so Porto, Madeira and Vinho Verde are out. Also out is the popular Douro Valley appellation where most of the wines on the shelves here in the U.S. are made.

With those guidelines in mind, I started to look for wines around town and frankly didn’t find a whole lot of choices until I ventured to one of the urban wine stores in Minneapolis. I selected two wines, a white and a red, made by producers I was unfamiliar with and regions I had never tasted before. One of the wines was even made from a grape variety I had not tried, Alfrocheiro Preto.

The white was made in DO Estremadura just northwest of Lisbon from 100% Alvarinho. This grape is mostly known here in the U.S. by it’s Spanish name Albariño and is one of my favorite white varietals. According to a fine piece over at Catavino, Estremadura is the second largest wine producing region in Portugal with 311,000 hectoliters produced annually. This wine is produced by DFJ Vinhos, which seems like a fairly large operation from their website, with a wide range of single varietal and blends, but there was not much else about their background from the sparse information there (in English, anyway).

Grand' Arte Alvarinho 2005

DFJ Vinhos, “Grand’ Arte” Alvarinho (Albariño), Estremadura, Portugal 2005 ($9 on closeout)

Straw yellow in color with aromas of citrus and white peach. Refreshing grapefruit and mineral flavors finishing bone dry with good acidity. More in the lighter Pinot Grigio style than the ripe and generous Albariño I have come to appreciate more this summer. I think this wine is getting a bit past it’s prime but it’s still a nice example of Alvarinho that would pair nicely with a salad on a warm afternoon.

12.5% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 86
Rating: ★★★½☆

My second selection was more in line with what popped into my brain when I first heard about this theme. A lot of very nice red wines from Portugal are appearing on wine store shelves and this is a nice example of what can be found for less than $15. It’s a blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro Preto, two indigenous red varieties. Touriga Nacional is the best known as the lead grape used in Porto but it’s also getting quite popular in table wines. Alfrocheiro Preto is a bit more obscure but is an important grape in the Dão region where this wine was made by a cooperative. The Dão is south of the Douro Valley where their red wines must contain a minimum of 20% Touriga Nacional for some reason.

Quinta dos Grilos 2004

C.V.R. DAO, Quinta dos Grilos, Vinho Tinto, Dão, Portugal 2004 ($14)

Inky purple-black in color with aromas of strawberry, cherry liqueur, minerals and licorice. Rich in the mouth with juicy raspberry and cherry fruit, a touch of black pepper and plush tannins. A bit like a Petite Sirah in the color, body and tannin department but the flavor profile is more like a Syrah-Pinot Noir blend (think big Cali Pinot). A very satisfying wine that would pair well with roasted meats.

13% ABV
Natural cork closure
Score: 88
Rating: ★★★½☆

So another great Wine Blogging Wednesday comes to a close with two very nice wines to pick up and enjoy. Thanks once again to our hosts this month, Gabriella and Ryan from Catavino . I’m looking forward to next month where we’ll be searching for affordable Burgundy. Look for the announcement soon over at the Brooklynguy’s Wine and Food Blog.

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  • Bill

    Hello Tim,

    I’m a fellow Twin Citian and confronted the same problem regarding the availability of Portuguese wines. Catavino’s August Tasting highlighted the wines of Portugal. I complained to Ryan that there was a dearth of these wines in the Twin Cities. He suggested that I head on over to St. Paul to check out Solovino on Selby Avenue. As usual, he was right on. The selection of Portuguese wines was excellent. Not only were there 10 to 15 reds available, but also several roses and at least 5 or 6 whites, in a variety of price points. It’s a long way to go, but if you are serious about finding more Portuguese wines, I highly recommend it. BTW, I am envious of your alfresco dining experience on the Terrassa rooftop! Ryan and Gabriella really know how to throw down a good meal.

    Regards,

    BB

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