by Rose Murray Brown MW   Published in The Scotsman 7 November 2015

Portugal was recently named as the number one most under-rated wine country in the UK.  No wonder – we were really spoilt for choice in the under £10 category with so many refreshing vibrant whites and mellow succulent reds. 

What makes Portuguese wines so interesting is that they offer something completely different with their range of exciting grapes from white Arinto and Antao Vaz to red Arangonez and Touriga Nacional.  I could have picked 20 examples under a tenner, but here I have listed our Top Ten from the tasting:


Lisbon: CIGARRA BRANCO 2014 (£6.50 Oddbins)
Grapes: Arinto, Fernao Pires & Seara Nova
Alcohol: 12.5%
Our tasters loved the combination of creamy succulent tropical fruit notes, herb and lemon undertones and its vibrant steely core making this a very quaffable unoaked fresh white.  It hails from the old Estermadura wine región, now known as Lisboa – an easier name to remember.  An example of a great value new wave Portuguese white. STAR VALUE BUY WHITE

Vinho Verde: VINHO VERDE CASAL DE VENTOZELA 2014 (£6.66 Majestic Wine Scotland)
Grape: Arinto
Alcohol: 12%
We had plenty of Vinho Verde in our line up, but Casal de Ventozela’s example really stood out as the star example from this región with its lemony flavours, zippy crisp dryness, decent length and its good value.  I found a few of the other Vinho Verdes just a little too sweet.  This does also have a slight spritz which freshens up the palate.  Unusually this is made from just one local variety, Arinto.

Top Ten Portuguese wines under £10Alentejo: ESPORAO DUAS CASTAS ‘ARINTO-GOUVEIO’ 2014 (£7.95 The Wine Society)
Grapes: Arinto & Gouveio
Alcohol: 14%
Very popular with tasters.  Herdade do Esporao, who make this wine, highlight the two indigenous grapes in this elegant blend.  60% Arinto grape, one of Portugal’s oldest indigenous varieties, gives limey citrus and plenty of juicy acidity: this useful grape also keeps its acidity in the heat.  The 40% remainder is from the tightly packed bunches of the Gouveio grape which gives body, structure, minerality and a spicy aniseed note.  I loved this wine.  Bring out the dim-sum!  STAR BUY WHITE

Alentejo: PATO FRIO ANTAO VAZ 2013 (£9.08-£10.75 Fine Wine Co, Musselburgh; Exel Wines, Perth; Eclectic Tastes; Great Western Wine Co)
Grape: Antao Vaz
Alcohol: 13%
Never heard of the Antao Vaz grape?  This very obscure grape hails from Ribafreixo in the heart of Alentejo región beneath the Serra do Mendro mountains, where it produces tangerine and citric flavoured minerally vibrant whites.  Another plus is that this is grown biodynamically.  Another good example of a new wave Portuguese white.

Dao: QUINTA DAS MAIAS BRANCO 2014 (£9.50 Drinkmonger, Bruntsfield, Edinburgh & Pitlochry;;; £8.99
Grapes: Malvasia & Encruzado
Alcohol: 13%
Popular with tasters for its gentle blossomy aromas, appley flavours and rich creamy palate.  It has enough weight to make a perfect match for a rich textured seafood dish like scallops or monkfish.  This quinta is named after the month that the weaver’s broom flowers, in May.  Winemaker Luis Lourenco picks grapes from high altitude ‘organic’ vineyards in the Sierra de Estrela: his quinta is under the same ownership as one of my favourite red Dao producers, Quinta dos Roques which I have often mentioned in my wine column in the past.


Dao: F’OZ DAO 2013 (£7.99
Grapes: Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro & Jaen
Alcohol: 13%
Very popular with tasters.  Bright red fruit notes, a touch of resin and a herby undertone.  With four months in old French barrels it has mellowed the palate to a very smooth rounded velvety softly tannic red.  Dao’s vineyards lie on a high plateau surrounded on three sides by granite mountain slopes.  Once known for its over extracted bitter reds, Dao is now emerging from its timewarp.  This wine called F’oz (which means estuary) shows us the face of modern Dao.  It won the Decanter World Wine Award Regional trophy for Best Red wine from northern Portugal under £15.   STAR BUY RED

Tejo: PORTAL DA AGUIA DOC 2011 (£7.50 Oddbins)
Grapes: Touriga Nacional, Castelao & Trincadeira
Alcohol: 13%
I have often put this wine into tastings as an example of Portugal’s good value – and tasters rarely guess the correct price, often thinking it could be over £10.  So juicy succulent smooth textured, easy-going and more-ish with forest fruit aromas and silky slick palate – all made without a stick of oak.  STAR VALUE BUY RED

Alenquer: QUINTA DAS SETENCOSTAS 2011 (£9 Oddbins)
Grapes: Castelao, Camarete, Tinta Miuda & Preto Martinho
Alcohol: 13%
Made by Casas Santos Lima, who also make the popular Quinta Bons Ventos.  A good example of a spicy full bodied structured blend, this is weightier, brusque and firmer in tannins than many of our other picks, but would suit those who usually drink big solid chunky reds like Malbec.

Dao: RIBEIRO SANTO 2012 (£7.25 The Wine Society
Grape: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Alfrocheiro
Alcohol: 13.5%
Tasters really enjoyed the damson and cherry fruits of this wine (and the price).  Bursting with succulent fruit (the kind of dark luscious fruit you find in port), firm tannins and a dusty earthy finish so typical of Dao.  Another good example of modern Dao, here with an enticing mellowness from a bit of bottle age.

Alentejo: MANZ PLATONICO 2012 (£10 Oddbins)
Grapes: Aragonez, Shiraz, Touriga Nacional & Castelao
Alcohol: 14%
Uusual label, looks very un-Portuguese – more Germanic.  This blend of native and international grapes was popular with our tasters for its forest fruit mature bouquet and spicy complex palate – seemed well balanced without too much weight, even though it is 14%.  Manz wines was set up by Andre Manz in Cheleiros village in 2004 with an aim to try local varieties and make wines from regions across Portugal.  Slow cooked venison casserole recommended.


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