Okay, so this is the scoop — the Portuguese really, really, really know how to make wine. They produce revelatory, celebratory wines of unforced elegance, crisp sips of freshness and delight, layered, cascading complexities of world-class refinement, offered at an unbeatable value. How do they do it? For starters, Portugal boasts a crazy quilt of geographic variety — lush coastal lowlands, dry rocky mountainous zones and vast riverine plains. Also, Portuguese winemaking has evolved in relative isolation. The country’s unique vines and grapes rarely, if ever, cross borders, growing on what amounts to their own enological island. Luckily for us, the island is open for business, and business is delicious.Here are a few eye-opening Portuguese treasures:
Lima by João Portugal Ramos Loureiro Vinho Verde is a happily bright, fresh white wine made from 100% loureiro grapes, named for their aromatic “laurel” scent. From Portugal’s Vinho Verde region, it showcases the tropics with pineapple, guava and mango notes. Look for lemon curd on the substantial finish. It’s lovely with a fresh, tangy goat cheese, scallops or this Green Pea Salad with Orange Blossom Honey.The Vinho Verde region makes Reds and Rosés too — not just Whites. While “verde” does mean green, the common thinking is that the term refers to drinking wines while green, or fresh. Orlana’s Vinho Verde Rosé is a lovely example of a regional Rosé. Exuberant, with a hint of bubbles lifting strawberry aromas out of the glass, this crisp, elegant wine shows notes of dried cranberry and ripe lemon. Brie and charcuterie are wonderful with it.
Further south, you’ll find the Setúbal peninsula, a warm, ocean-blown region famed for its Periquita Original Red, the country’s first bottled red wine. Castelão, trincadeira and aragonez grapes combine to entice with loads of berry notes, mint, vanilla and even sassafras flavors. It’s silky smooth, fruity and well-balanced. Pulled pork, lamb with mint salsa verde and Portobellos Stuffed with Greens and Blue Cheese are perfect matches.
Luis Pato’s Colheita Seleccionada Red Wine uses a grape many Portuguese consider a national icon — the baga grape. Although unfamiliar to most of us in the US, it has a storied history in Portugal and is famed for being extremely difficult to grow. Here, it imparts dark chocolate and raspberry notes to the wine. Velvety, subtle, spicy — this wine is straight up delicious. Try with cocoa-rubbed chicken or traditional paella.And finally, Quinto do Crasto’s Douro is a great example of a stellar Portuguese red blend (touriga nacional, tinta roriz, touriga franca, tinta barroca). In the glass, the violet color dazzles, signaling intense berry and subtler floral aromas. Sumptuous and generous, it seems to expand on the palate as it finishes. Cioppino, pasta Bolognese or Easter ham are wonderful pairings.
Discover more of our favorite Portuguese wines. If you’ve tried a Portuguese sipper you can’t stop talking about, please let us know in the comments below!