Drive south from Porto along the Atlantic coastline. When you get to Lisbon, hang a left, and you’ll come to Alentejo, once known for its cattle ranching and cork oaks but today the source of some of Portugal’s best table wines. Parts of it are rolling plains leading to the Spanish border, but it’s a large region, and the country is much hillier in its north.
Although international varieties are grown here, most of the whites of Alentejo (and the regional Alentejano) are blends of domestic Portuguese grapes such as Arinto, Alvarhino, and Antão Vaz. Most are of medium weight with moderate green fruitiness and somewhat crisp finishes.
This Dozen has some to get started with.
2021 Esporão “Monte Velho” Alentejano Branco ($11). It is an indigenous blend similar in its green fruitiness to Sauvignon Blanc or Vermentino, with a dollop of creaminess – a good lunch wine.
2020 Marques de Borba Alentejo Branco ($13). Very minerally with a touch of cheesy whey, though the addition of a bit of Viognier gives it a floral lift.
2021 Ermes “Quattro Quarti” Sicilia Grillo ($15). Green aromas and flavors, a touch of chalkiness, yet a bit languid on the palate.
2020 Rocim “Mariana” Alentejano Branco ($16). Rich but crisp with dark honeyed and light caramel notes.
2021 Esporão Alentejano White ($18). Creamy green-flavored wine with lime and kiwi, moderate body, and a crisp finish.
2021 Domäne Wachau Federspiel Grüner Veltliner ($20). Spritzy approach, a bit broad in its mellow apple flavors, with a grain-like savory component.
2020 Vergen de Galir “Pagos de Galir” Valdeorras Godello ($20). Very nice presentation – lightly green, almost mellow kiwi flavors with hints of yeasty bread.
2018 Portalegre “Conventual Reserva” Alentejo Branco ($25). Well-structured and refreshing with a good combination of green fruit and floral notes.
2021 Torre de Palma Alentejano Arinto-Alvarhino ($40). Very tart green flavors, lime primarily, with a medium body – Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc without the bite?
2021 Esporão “Monte Velho” Alentejano Rosé ($12). Nice red berry flavors, a bit of cream, and a tangy citrus finish.
2021 Ermes “Vento di Mare” Terre Siciliane Nerello Mascalese ($13). A lean wine, light-bodied with a plain raspberry fruitiness.
2019 Frank Family Napa Valley Zinfandel ($38). A delicious Zin that combines ripe cherry fruitiness with red-fruit acidity.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Featured photo is courtesy of Wines of Alentejo.