Portugal is generally seen as an underrated producer, where you can get great wines for keen prices.
At the recent Portuguese wine fair in Dublin however, the conclusion had to be that, although there is value on offer, there are also many moderate wines priced at €6 – €10 ex cellar, which would hit retail markets for more than similar quality products from the New World or even other parts of €urope.
This is a tough time for wine producers and Portugal faces challenges in terms of the unfamiliarity of many of its grapes and lack of penetration in some important markets, which would warrant a rethink of over-ambitious pricing on the part of some wineries. However, there are lots of consumers to whom chenin blanc and cabernet sauvignon are as mysterious as touriga nacional and arinto, and what’s more, offering unfamiliar varieties creates a point of difference for the enthusiast, so there is certainly potential in Portugal for new markets to explore.
Portuguese varieties like touriga nacional, touriga franca and baga are capable of yielding reds of real quality and character. Amongst whites, alvarinho and loureiro of the Vino Verdhe region knock the socks off many an international sauvignon blancs, while antao vaz and rabigato, skilfully vinified, can produce wines in rich styles reminiscent of Burgundy.
Portugal also does great justice to certain non-indigenous grapes, such as alicante bouschet, a cross between grenache and petit bouschet developed in France. This red-fleshed grape, when amply restrained and grown on the right site, has become a mainstay of some surprisingly fine wines of peppery berry flavour and decent structure.
At the Dublin fair, many producers were seeking importers, offering a chance for wholesalers and adventurous independents to bring in something new. Unfortunately, catalogue errors caused confusion over prices and availability so potential importers would need to confirm exact conditions before ordering. Among those seeking distribution, Vallegre (www.vallegre.pt) stood out with several very good, well priced reds and well concentrated tawny Port.
Prices are approximate trade, allowing for the fact that negotiations may happen on wines not yet available here. Importers seeking further details and copies of the catalogue can contact Ana Sofia Olivera at email@example.com or Jean Smullen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Grace Campbell Importers specialises in fine Portuguese wines (contact Kevin O’Hara at email@example.com), Febvre (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Wicklow Wine Co (email@example.com) are among others with interesting selections.
Herdade de la Malhadinha Nova Antao Vaz de Peceguina 2007 (Grace Campbell, €7). Good value with subtle aromatics and clean green and citrus fruit.
Qinta de Cidro Albarinho 2007 (Grace Campbell,€9). Nice aromatics and good length.
Herdade de Grous 2008 (Grace Campbell €9). From an estate which stood out on the day, this blend, based on antao vaz, has good balance between crispness and ripe fruits.
Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2008 (Febvre, €8). Excellent, with well defined Bramley apple flavours, good length and just 10.5% alcohol. Recommended.
Quinta dos Carvahais Duque de Viseau 2007 (Febvre €8.50). Malvasia fina blended with other local varieties. Similar to a decent Italian Frascati.
Morgado de St Catherina Bucelas 2007 (Grace Campbell €12). A punchy, oaky style from the arinto grape but with lots of zingy grapefruit flavours beneath.
Vallegre Quinta de Valle Longo Douro 2006 (seeking importer). At €4 ex cellar, this is a sensibly priced table red from Port grapes, with firm berry fruit and mocha notes.
Vallegre Quinta de Valle Longo Reserva 2005 (seeking importer). Well judged French oak creates a well structured plum and blackurrant palate. €8.50 ex cellar.
Carmin Reguengos Reserva Alentejo 2006 (seeking importer). Made from trincadeira preta, this is a warm dry berryish style and very tasty. The wines in the range are decent country styles with an appealing white from ucnthe antao vaz.
Encostas de Estremoz Touriga Franca 2004 (seeking importer). At €3.90 ex cellar, this was a good value expression of this local variety, with full, almost flowery flavours. The Reserve is €5.95 but delivers well.
Herdade dos Grous 2007 (Grace Campbell €11). Largely alicante bouschet, this wine is full of tasty, peppery berry flavours. Delivers well on price.
Pegos Claros Palmela 2004 (Grace Campbell, €9). Lovely country wine with hearty plum and berry flavours.
Cabriz 2007 (Wicklow Wine Co, €6). Tarry, old fashioned aromas and tasty red fruit flavours. Hearty and easy in the best sense. Touriga nacional and tinto roriz dominate.
Quinta do Carmo 2004 (TP Reynolds). At around €24, this is a classy blend of aragonez, alicante bouschet and other varieties; it is classy stuff though not cheap.
Tagus Creek Trincadeira Syrah 2008 (Classic Drinks, €10). Personally, I don’t like the name but soft bramble and cherry fruits, along with a decent input from local grapes, overcomes the prejudice.
Conde de Palma 2006 (Wicklow Wine Co, €7). Nicely made and good value, the appealing country red combines alicante bouschet with local varieties. It’s amongst of several decent Portuguese offered by Wicklow Wine.
Quinta de la Rosa Douro Tinto 2006 (James Nicholson, €12). Smooth, well made and classic stuff based on touriga nacional and other Port grapes.