January 28, 2019

When we visited Casal Santa Maria last summer, they let us know that they would reduce the number of wines they produced in order to focus on certain varieties, with favor to those grown on the estate. One casualty of this choice was proposed to be the Senhor d’Adraga line, a tinto and a branco, created from VR Lisboa grapes, and sold at a value price point.

We found a bottle of the Senhor d’Adraga tinto at one of our local markets, and tried it to see what impact the choice would have. We admit that we’ll miss this choice–so you might want to snap up any bottles you see around the Lisbon area. The clear, garnet-colored wine shows underbrush, cinnamon, and red currants on the nose, with red fruits and a current of minerality running through the palate. We enjoyed it with our chicken in vinegar tomato sauce over mashed potatoes.

Vintage & Producer: 2013 Casal Sta. Maria

From: VR Lisboa

Style: Fruity red with a mineral streak

Varieties: Tinto blend

Price: About €5 at the local market

January 21, 2019

At a balloon festival in Coruche, we met a boutique producer, Quinta da Arriças, that’s creating blends of Portuguese and international varieties in small-batch ways with great value. The town, in the heart of the Tejo viticultural region, is well-known for producing cork: from closures to clothing. But we tasted a white blend, and the quinta’s red reserva, that showed layers we’d not expected for the price (€10 for the two bottles we took home with us).

The 2015 white, made from Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Chardonnay, and Moscatel Graúdo, put forward honeysuckle and white grapefruit on the nose, with lime zest, white grapefruit, star fruit, and a hint of vanilla on the palate. The 2017 Reserva red, made from Pinot Noir, Vinhão, and Syrah, smelled of roasted meat, cinnamon, and dark berries, giving over to dusty blackberries on the palate, but with a lightness, and moderate acidity.

Vintage & Producer: 2015 & 2017 Quinta da Arriça

From: VR Tejo

Style: Complex red with moderate acidity, and a floral white with citrus zing

Varieties: see above

Price: About €10 for the two, at the quinta’s loja

January 14, 2019

One of the first wines that we came to know in Portugal hails from Monte da Raposinha, near Montargil, in the Alentejo viticultural region. Driving past miles of cork trees and the occasional sheep, you might not expect the hectares of vines that tuck into the folds of the land in this north central part of the region. The family estate blends international varieties with Portuguese grapes, for rich, complex wines we have enjoyed ever since those first bottles.

The 2016 Monte da Raposinha tinto matches 80% Touriga Nacional with 20% Syrah, and ages the blend for 12 months in used French oak. Edgy and complex, it’s filled with gravelly dust at the outset, with a bit of saddle leather, and dark berries on the nose. The palate opens up to black currants, and cassis to the finish. A hearty wine deserving of a lamb chop with sun-dried tomato pesto, perhaps. 14% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2016 Monte da Raposinha

From: VR Alentejano

Style: Complex, rich red

Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Syrah

Price: About €7,50 at local supermarkets

January 7, 2019

We launch into 2019 with a continued focus on the gems from small producers from around Portugal that represent great complexity and enjoyment. Because so many can be found for less than €25, you can explore new wines with ease. In 2017, we visited Quinta de Soalheiro, near Melgaço in the far north of Portugal’s Vinho Verde DOC–not quite in Spain, but you can see it from their patio. We’d held onto a special bottle of their 2016 Alvarinho Reserva and enjoyed it over the holidays.

We’re glad we set it aside–and this wine certainly could age in the bottle for several years. While the typical Vinho Verde at lower price points can be light and effervescent, the 2016 Reserva shows off its aging in oak through lovely spice box aromas and flavors. I also found aromas of chermoya (custard apple) and kiwi, with green mango and golden pears on the palate. Lots of layers to this white, though its mouthfeel remains rather light. We had it with roast pork with mustard cream sauce for an elegant meal.

Vintage & Producer: 2016 Quinta de Soalheiro

From: DOC Vinho Verde, Monção & Melgaço Subregion

Style: Complex, spicy white

Variety: Alvarinho

Price: About €24 online

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