Wine

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Food - Les­lie Wil­liams Con­tact Les­lie Wil­liams at wine@ex­am­iner.ie

This week I am fo­cus­ing on Por­tu­gal, one of the most un­der­rated wine re­gions in Europe and one that you should fo­cus on for value and flavour. With our crim­i­nally high wine taxes (the high­est in the EU) im­porters are in­creas­ingly look­ing to Por­tu­gal to cover their wines in the €16 and un­der bracket.

There was a time when a wine from Por­tu­gal would be cov­ered with a wax top and be a dried out dusty old thing, but that hasn’t been the case for a few decades. As with Spain, Por­tu­gal in­vested heav­ily in its wine in­dus­try once it joined the EU and these days the wines are clean and bright and packed with fruit. You will have to learn some new grape va­ri­eties as less than 10% of the wines here are made with in­ter­na­tional va­ri­eties.

The Douro is the best known re­gion and, thanks to a few cen­turies of per­fect­ing grapes for port, it has most of the old­est vine­yards. The best port houses usu­ally have a wine or two in their port­fo­lio and many are ex­cel­lent — watch for the wines of Quinta do No­val and Niepoort in par­tic­u­lar. Grapes in the Douro are nu­mer­ous but the best are prob­a­bly touriga na­cional, tinta roriz (tem­pranillo) and tinta francesa but there are a few dozen oth­ers I have no room to men­tion. Be­cause of the re­stric­tions on who can make port, the younger gen­er­a­tion of wine mak­ers here have be­gun to ques­tion the prac­tice of sim­ply sell­ing all their grapes to big port ship­pers, so ex­pect to see lots of new in­ter­est­ing wines from here. North of the Douro is Vinho Verde which was a com­mon site on Ir­ish wine shelves in the ’80s and early ’90s. The wines these days are still good value but are cleaner and fresher but of­ten have that be­guil­ing spritz. Watch for fra­grant ripe al­varhino here too (the Por­tuguese name for al­bar­iño).

In the cen­tre is Bair­rada and Dao which are of­ten a lit­tle more rus­tic but can be ex­cel­lent from the right pro­ducer. Fur­ther south is Alen­tejo and Lis­boa and both reds and whites are worth seek­ing out (of­ten un­der €10) — watch for white grapes such as ar­into, an­tão vaz and roupeiro and for reds watch for aragonez (tem­pranillo), al­frocheiro, trin­cadeira and castelão.

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