September Wines of the Month
Portugal is where we are headed!
Portugal is home to over 200 indigenous grape varieties – the vast majority of which are not grown anywhere else in the world. Like many countries, they have multiple names for the same grape – Tempranillo is called Aragonês and Tinta Roriz; Castelão and Periquita are the same grape.
Portuguese wines are often named after the region (similar to France, Spain and Italy) and not by the grape’s name (which is common in the US and other New World countries). Wine is made in all parts of Portugal.
Prior to 1990, many grape growers in Portugal were required to sell their grapes to winemaking cooperatives that were substandard and poor in their winemaking techniques and skills. When Portugal joined the European Union in 1990, cooperatives were forced to loosen their stranglehold on growers, so more and more wineries opened. Both grape growing practices and winemaking methods were improved and the quality of the wine began to go up-and-up.
Portuguese wines are coming on strong in the US and Maine markets. They are well-made and great values!
Quinta da Alorna is an old property. It’s located in the Ribatejo area near the Tagus River.
The Ribatejo area is the agricultural heartland of Portugal that is on either side of the Tagus River inland from Lisbon. This area is one of the wealthier ones in all of Portugal. The grape varieties include
Fernão Pires, Arinto and Talia (all white grapes) and Castelão Francês, Alfrocheiro, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah are the red grapes.
Quinta da Alorna was founded in 1723 by Pedro de Almeida, who was a Viceroy in India at the time and the 1st Marquis of Alorna. Today, the winery has 500 acres of grapes planted.
Quinta da Alorna Arintho 2008 (Ribatejo, Portugal) $10.99 – This is crisp and bright. 100% Arinto. Stainless steel fermentation. Aromas and flavors of ripe pears, melons and apricots. Lots of fruit balanced by the grape’s natural acidity. It’s lush in the middle. Nice combination of smoothness and crispness.
Arinto is unknown outside of Portugal. Its home is a small appellation, Bucelas, which is in the Lisbon suburbs. Shakespeare mentioned a wine, “Charneco,” in “Henry VI.” Charneco is a small village within Bucelas. The Duke of Wellington enjoyed Bucelas wine and helped it gain a good reputation in the England of his day. Bucelas wine is high in acidity, so the English referred to it as “Portuguese Hock” (Rhine Riesling).
Food pairing – Thai dishes, spicy Mexican food. Sushi. Spicy Chinese food.
Quinta da Alorna Vinho Tinto 2008 (Ribatejo, Portugal) $10.99 – This pops with red fruit – strawberries, raspberries and cherries. The wine is soft and smooth. Perfect for a cookout! Blend of Tinta Roriz, Castelao, Syrah and Alicante Bouschet.
Alicante Bouschet is a grape developed by a father and son. In 1824, Louis Bouschet crossed Aramon with another obscure grape, an ancient red-juiced variety, Teinturier du Cher, and named the grape Petit Bouschet. In 1865, Louis’ son, Henri, crossed Petit Bouschet with Grenache and created Alicante Bouschet.
Food pairing – roasted meats, grilled meats, pasta dishes, mushroom dishes, ripe cheese.
Dona Maria is a winery that dates to 1718. The Portuguese king, Dom Joao V, gave the Quinta to a courtesan he’d fallen madly in love with. This wine is named after her.
The winery is in the Alentejo plain to the South and East of Lisbon. This area is literally the “bread basket” of Portugal. Alentejo covers about 1/3 of the entire country and virtually all of the land south of the Tagus River. It’s sparsely populated and has been emerging as a more and more important wine area over the last decade or so.
Dona Maria Vinho Branco 2008 (Alentejo, Portugal) Reg. $19.99 – This starts clean and refreshing. Aromas of lemons/limes, green apples and tropical fruits. It is medium-to-full bodied. Weighty. Creamy. Fleshy. Flavors of pears, green apples, tropical fruits all balanced with good acidity. This has a good, long, lingering finish. Blend of 60% Roupeiro, 20% Arinto, 20% Antao Vaz. Stainless steel fermentation and aging. Food pairing – sautéed chicken dishes, roasted pork tenderloin, lighter appetizers. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 89 points
Dona Maria Vinho Tinto 2006 (Alentejo, Portugal) Reg. $21.99 – This has a soft, plush texture. Aromas of red berries, red cherries, toast and vanilla. A little earthiness right when you open the bottle that fades with air. Flavors of red fruits, spices and vanilla. Soft edges – nothing hard or harsh about this. Blend of Aragonês (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet & Syrah Food pairing – grilled meat, pasta dishes with mushrooms.
Anselmo Mendes Andreza Alvarinho Vinho Branco 2006 (Vinho Verde, Portugal) $19.99 – This is bright, fresh and pleasing as one would expect a wine from Vinho Verde. But, if you are expecting a light quaffer, you’d be shocked. This is a bigger, more complex white wine than most. It’s intense and bold. This is mouth-coating. Aromas and flavors of grapefruit and grass, but this doesn’t taste like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. It also has notes of green apples and minerals in the flavors. Dry finish.
Vinho Verde is best-known for light white wines that are a little spritzy and inexpensive. Vinho Verde also produces excellent, bigger white wines – which makes sense given its proximity to the Rias Baixas area in Spain that produces Albariño. Vinho Verde is in the far northwestern corner of Portugal. This wine is from the sub-region of Monção, where Alvarinho is the dominant grape.
This area, Vinho Verde, is the largest wine-making area in Portugal and the best-known throughout the world. The area has some of the oldest manor houses in Portugal and the “noble” families in the area date back to the 11th and 12th centuries. It’s a mountainous, green area with mild winters and warm, pleasant summers.
Food pairing – Seafood, poultry, chicken sausages, lobster. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 89 points
Casa de Santar Dão Reserva 2005 (Dão, Portugal) $29.99 - We loved this when we tasted it last month. This is big, bold, balanced and delicious! Aromas and flavors of dark cherries, blueberries, dark plums, dark chocolate, spices and more. A little earthiness in the aromas. The texture is big and lush. The lushness continues to the finish. Wines are a blend of elegance & finesse rather than power. Blend of Touriga-Nacional, Alfrocheiro & Tinta-Roriz. Tinta-Roriz is Tempranillo. Unfiltered, so this might have some sediment.
Dão is a rapidly emerging wine area – it’s in the heart of Portugal in the Beira region. Beira is divided into 3 parts, the Beira Litoral (coastal), the Beira Alta (upper mountainous region, which is where Dão comes from) and the Beira Baixa (lower region). This Beira Alta is almost completely surrounded by mountains. This protects the area from storms from the Atlantic and the extreme continental weather to the east. It has long, warm summers, cool nights and plenty of winter rainfall. Over 2/3’s of all wine produced in the Dao are red and are made from up to 9 approved grapes; 20% of any red mush be Touriga Nacional. Wine has been made at Casa de Santar since 1616.
Food pairing – a really good steak! Grilled meats. Roasts. Drinks well without food. Robert Parker, Wine Advocate, 90 points
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