Portugal’s native reds, best at £8-£25
As the quality revolution gathers pace, Portuguese winemakers are producing a varied range of reds from indigenous varieties, with top examples highlighting a revival of lighter styles. Sarah Ahmed reports
Introduced by Sarah Ahmed, our expert panel picks 38 great-value wines made from Portugal’s indigenous grapes
How Thrilling To see the Arenae Ramisco 2007 from Adega Regional de Colares top this two-day tasting of 137 UK-imported Portuguese reds in such an important price bracket. This near-extinct, ungrafted grape (Ramisco) from a near-extinct region (Colares, by the Atlantic coast to the west of lisbon) showed terrific varietal and regional authenticity and complexity, winning a score of 95 points.
Together with the similarly rare Vulcânico Red 2015 from the Azores wine Co ( joint second on 93), Filipa Pato’s Post-Quercus Baga 2015 (amphora-fermented and aged) from Bairrada (90) and Aphros’ Vinhão 2015 from Vinho Verde (89), it additionally reflects an exciting revival of lighter, fragrant, nuanced reds from coastal regions.
Consistently producing fuller-bodied, satisfying reds, where judicious oak adds spice and polished tannins, the Douro and Alentejo have been at the vanguard of Portugal’s quality wine revolution. They easily fielded the most entries; a third from each (17 from the Douro, 11 from Alentejo) dominated the top 38. with more time for tannins to integrate, some Douro wines (especially from 2013) might warrant higher scores. Top wines did not forsake freshness. in Alentejo, Alicante Bouschet and Trincadeira brought savoury complexity to temper fruit expression. Returning to the less extractive theme, we had a high score from an unoaked, amphora-fermented/aged red from Herdade São Miguel (who, strikingly, produced four of Alentejo’s five top reds).
Scoring it 95 points, two tasters sighed over the Barololike savoury complexity and structure of Vadio’s Baga 2013 (£11.50), reinforcing the fact that this Bairrada grape can be a great buy. Neighbouring Dão, another classic region, disappointed. only three of 20 entries demonstrated the elegance and structure we expected to find. As for those regions that have traditionally focused on bulk and valuedriven wines, they were effortlessly outclassed. No wines from Tejo, lisboa or Península de Setúbal made the cut.
with its diverse terroir, huge varietal range, tradition of blending and the odd, esoteric single varietal (Ramisco, Baga), Portugal is never boring. Quality, however, can be inconsistent, so it pays to do your homework on producers and vintages. Douro and Alentejo look like safe bets but, as Colares, Azores and other regions demonstrate, do not be afraid to venture further afield. Portugal is dusting down its vinous gems to great effect.