Since the turn of the century, Portugal has gradually taken its place alongside France, Spain, Italy, and Germany in any wine sampler of primary European producers.
This shouldn’t be surprising, as the country has made wines for centuries. But, for a variety of reasons, poverty and a dictatorial regime being two primary ones, the country’s wine industry suffered for years from more-than-average rusticity. The one exception, of course, was Port – and in many ways, the Douro has always made its own rules.
All that is past, or mostly so, with the exception of a couple of regions.
What is exciting is that long-established regions like Vinho Verde along the northern coast have only gotten better, while regions that were better known for their cattle farming, such as Alentejo (pictured above) on the southern interior, have been more than up to the challenge of being price and quality competitive in a world market.
We begin with two wines from each area that are “típico.”
2019 Anselmo Mendes “Contacto” Alvarinho Vinho Verde ($19). From one of the region’s best producers, this is a lovely and uncomplicated white with lean, fresh, piquant, green fruit.
2017 Anselmo Mendes “Curtimenta” Vinho Verde ($39). It’s always a bit of a risk to barrel age wine from grapes that are usually green and tartly fresh, but Mendes does a good job here – quite mellow with flavors of soft apple, quince, and lots of wood notes.
2019 Esporão “Monte Velho” Alentejano White ($10). An entry level wine from one of the region’s best producers, this is a well-balanced white that has mellow flavors of apples and stone fruit, and is somewhat reminiscent of a warm-weather Chardonnay.
2019 Esporão “Monte Velho” Alentejano ($10). The red side of this pairing is satisfying with good fruitiness, some savory notes, and a pert crispness in the finish.
And now on to the rest of The Dozen.
2017 Terraviva “Mario’s 45” Trebianno d’Abruzzo ($17). Lightly spicy and tart with notes of green fruits, honeycomb, and whey.
2019 Vietti Roero Arneis ($24). Very fruity and refreshing with some spritz, and the apple juiciness of a Chardonnay.
2018 William Hill “Benchmark” Napa Valley Chardonnay ($75). Elegant, with medium body, very mellow toast, and apple flavors.
2018 Vietti “Tre Vigne” Barbera d’Asti ($18). An excellent red for everyday meals with sprightly cherry fruit and good assertiveness.
2012 Valle Martello “Prima Terra” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ($26). Older than most releases from this region, it has dark cherry fruit with a “powdery” aroma, but is fragrant and full-bodied with a raspy finish.
2018 Vietti “Perbacco” Langhe Nebbiolo ($26). Lively red fruit with medium body and tart acidity.
2016 Château Odilon Haut-Medoc ($32). Very enjoyable combination of medium dark fruit and earthy savory notes… but it could be just a tad longer in the finish.
2016 Ratti “Marcenasco” Barolo ($58). Very good – lean, but not tart, cherry flavors with a hint of smoke and tight tannins.
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.