Portugal: More than just Port
Celebrated for its high alcohol, fortified post-dinner drink, this country is often overlooked when it comes to table wine. Though their famous dessert style seems to hog all the glory, terroir driven wines of exceptional quality have been coming out of Portugal’s wine regions for centuries. Historically, wine was produced in Portugal by religious figures and records of vine plantings date as far back as 2000 B.C. Spear-headed and nurtured by the church, wine production expanded slowly over time, finally seeing substantial growth in the 12th century when trade relations were forged with Britain.
Fast-forward to today and you have a small country—producing an incredible amount of wine— that is able to cater to international markets at very affordable prices. Dominated by indigenous varietals, the wines of Portugal provide truly unique characteristics in a world captivated by chardonnay and cabernet. Political turmoil left the merchants of Portugal relatively isolated throughout history so they were forced to work with native grape species (there are about 250 for them to choose from!) and today have made it a point to emphasize the fine characteristics displayed by these varietals.
Touriga Nacional– without a doubt, this is the finest of all Portuguese red grapes. Wines made from touriga nacional are produced all over the country, but in small quantities making it one of the most coveted wines for collectors. This thick-skinned grape makes intensely aromatic reds with aromas of spice, liquorice and dark red fruits. Age-worthy and bold, these wines show exceptional structure and tannin.
Tinta Roriz– also known as aragonês in some regions of Portugal and tempranillo in Spain, this grape produces lively, fresh reds and accounts for a considerable share of total wine production in the area. Characterized by its fresh berry notes and subtle hints of spice, this youthful grape is often blended with touriga nacional or touriga franca.
Alvarinho– the full-bodied, mouth-watering whites produced by this grape have distinct characteristics that set them apart from other whites widely available on the market today. The somewhat Asian nose of alvarinho, think jasmine, lychee and passion fruit, makes it easily identifiable based on these unique aromas. Delicious and fresh when drunk young, these whites also have excellent aging potential and can cellar nicely for up to a decade.
If you’re looking to branch out and try something new, or maybe you want to stump your wino friend (we all have one) pick up a bottle from Portugal. With exceptional quality and distinct style at affordable prices you might just find your new favourite wine in an aisle you’ve never perused before!