By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 6 May 2017
Portugal is a great source of refreshing vibrant whites and lush mellow reds under £10.
What makes these wines so interesting is that they offer a taste so completely different from the classic grapes we encounter across the world. Portugal has its own raft of exciting indigenous varietals from white Encruzado, Arinto and Loureiro to red Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional. Most promising amongst the Portuguese regions at this price level in our tasting is Vinho Verde for whites and Alentejo for reds.
Vinho Verde: MUROS ANTIGOS LOUREIRO 2016 Anselmo Mendes (12%; £8.95 www.thewinesociety.com)
Very typical fresh floral example of Loureiro grown in the Lima valley with prominent acidity and citric flavours giving the palate a crisp lemony vibrancy. Winemaker Anselmo Mendes is one of the region’s brightest talents, he also consults in other Portuguese regions and abroad. Some of the Vinho Verdes in our tasting were a bit too sweet, but this is done dry, zippy and great value.
Dao: DAO BRANCO 2015 Quinta das Maias (12.5%; £9.95 Drinkmonger, Edinburgh & Pitlochry)
Grapes: Malvasia Fina & Encruzado
An organic white blend popular with tasters for its gentle blossomy aromas, appley flavours and rich creamy palate, with enough weight to match with rich textured seafood like scallops or monkfish. The pretty label depicts the weaver’s broom flower which the quinta was named after. Winemaker Luis Lourenco picks grapes from high altitude vineyards in the Sierra de Estrela.
Alentejo: CICONIA BRANCO 2015 Herdade San Miguel (12.5%; £8.95 Drinkmonger, Edinburgh & Pitlochry; Lockett Bros, N Berwick; Roberts & Speight; Oxford Wine Co; Wine Therapy)
Grapes: Antao Vaz, Verdelho & Viognier
An interesting mix of Portuguese grapes with Rhone’s Viognier which works well in southeast Portugal’s baking temperatures. Bursting with tropical fruits on aroma, but the palate has vivid minerally streaks and there is surprising freshness in this unoaked white given its southerly location. Named after the Ciconia Stork which populates Alentejo landscape.
Vinho Verde: VINHO VERDE 2016 Quintas do Homem (12.5%; £10 reduced from £10.99 www.virginwines.co.uk)
Grape: Loureiro & Arinto
Herby, melony aromas with a cut-grass flavours and a touch of spritz. Loureiro adds weight and alcohol, whilst Arinto gives it an aromatic lift. Best served chilled as aperitif, although winemaker Ana Coutinho recommends serving it with mussels and chips.
Vinho Verde: TAPADA DE VILLAR VINHO VERDE 2016 (11%; £9 Marks & Spencer)
Grapes: Loureiro, Arinto & Trajadura
Popular with tasters for its delicacy (not lowish alcohol at 11%), its floral aromas, sweet peachy flavours and hints of grapefruit. Not too bone-dry or acidic so suit those who like a soft approachable style of Vinho Verde.
Bairrada: FP BRANCO 2015 Filipa Pato (12%; £9.95 www.thewinesociety.com)
Grapes: Bical & Arinto
Very appealing unusual medium bodied white with a quirky label. If you normally drink unoaked Chardonnay, you might well enjoy this lemony, minerally aperitif with its silky nutty palate. Made by the legendary winemaker Luis Pato’s daughter, Filipa who trained in France and Argentina and is now back home making excellent wines in Bairrada. This is a good price, I spotted it at £13 with other winemerchants.
Douro: ANIMUS DOURO TINTO 2014 Vicente Faria (13%; £4.99 Aldi)
Grapes: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional & Touriga Franca
Aldi and Lidl’s Douro reds were much the cheapest in our tasting, so we pitched them against each other. Aldi’s Animus scored far higher, with its bright cherry and damson fruits, initially sweet soft tannins – just a touch short on the finish but you get a lot of voluptuous Portuguese fruits for your money here.
Alentejo: MONTE DAS PROMESSAS 2014 Casa Santos Lima (14%; £8.50 Oddbins)
Grapes: Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Petit Verdot & Alicante Bouschet
Our star red bottle appealed to tasters with its wonderful mulberry and damson aromas, spicy soft rounded generously fruity palate with plummy undertones and poised silky finish. Made by best Young winemaker of the Year who made the popular Bons Ventos, based in Lisbon he has headed east to Alentejo for these grapes.
Alentejo: PE TINTO 2015 Herdade de Esporao (13%; £9 Great Grog; Fine Wine Co, Musselburgh)
Grapes: Trincadeira, Aragonez & Castelao
A high scorer for its softness – definitely the lightest and guggliest red in our tasting. Soft herby fruits, but with good definition and finish. Made by Australian David Baverstock, who has lived in Portugal for many years.
Alentejo: TINTO DA ANFORA 2014 Bacalhoa (14%; £9.99 Waitrose; Ferriera Delicatessan; Paul Roberts Wines; SH Jones; Wright Wine Co)
Grapes: Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira & Cabernet Sauvignon
By far the meatiest and most powerful of the reds we tasted, so if you enjoy Big Reds with weight, spice, concentration and oak notes, this is for you. Some tasters found it a little too chunky and slightly bitter to finish, whilst others loved its chewy fruits and thought it great value. Just shows how a wine can ‘divide’ the room.
Alentejo: CICONIA TINTO 2015 Herdade San Miguel (13.5%: £9.95 Lockett Bros, N Berwick; Wine Trust 100; Bottle Apostle; Reserve Wines; Caviste; Corks of Cotham; Chester Beer & Wine; Oxford Wine Co; Corks Out)
Grapes: Aragonez, Syrah & Touriga Nacional
Juicy and herby, this medium bodied modern Portuguese red was a very high scorer in our tasting. Loved its balance between ripe sweet fruits and savoury undertones with a touch of oak – approachable in style for drinking with or without food.
Join Rose’s Spain v Portugal wine & charcuterie tasting at The Scores Hotel, St Andrews Fri 9 June £35 www.rosemurraybrown.com