September 30, 2019

When we met up with friends visiting Portugal to celebrate a special 50th birthday, we expected the wine to flow. The party began in the courtyard of the Tings Lisbon hotel in Graça, just a few steps away from one of our favorite miradouros, Senhora do Monte. While Hanna paraded out the special glasses she’d brought us in honor of the occasion, the bartender selected a Douro red for us to share, for our first toast of the week: a vinho tinto blend from Quinta do Couqinho.

The 2016 colheita appealed to those in the group who steer normally to bold Napa reds, without sacrificing balance to the fruit bomb. A misto of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Sousão, the wine ferments in stainless steel before a year of aging in French oak, lending the red and black fruits an underpinning of vanillin and spice. We had the red on its own, but you could easily pair it with presunto and tostas with jam. 14.5% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2016 Quinta do Couquinho

From: Douro DOC

Style: Fruity, balanced red

Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, e Sousão

Price: €20 at the wine bar; €12 online

September 23, 2019

One of the last visits we made before returning to the U.S. in July was to see our friends at Quinta de Sant’Ana. During that visit–and though we had some wine to drink from the home cellar before making our move–we picked up one more bottle of a longtime favorite, the 2017 Pinot Noir. In 2017, the vintage was a strong one, and the wine drinks wonderfully now–and we expect it to for a few years to come.

With a translucent garnet color, this light- to medium-bodied red showed aromas of violets and raspberries. I tasted black raspberries on the palate (S is convinced there is no such thing but I’ll prove to him there is during our stay in the U.S.!) with a richness, a leatheriness to its undertone. We had it with pork cutlets.

Vintage & Producer: 2017 Quinta de Sant’ana

From: VR Lisboa

Style: Light- to medium-bodied, flavorful red

Variety: Pinot Noir

Price: about €17 online or at the loja

September 16, 2019

After a hike up to the grand Palácio Nacional da Pena and tuk-tukking back into town, we brought friends to one of our favorite places for petiscos in the center of Sintra: Romario de Baco. The insouciant waiter swiped away my suggestion for a local bottle and insisted on bringing us the 2015 Xaino tinto from Quinta Vale d’Aldeia. The producer, from Meda in the Douro Superior, was one we yet to try, but we decided to follow the recommendation.

The rich red echoes the best of that region’s climate, with its intensely hot summers and downright cold winters (try living through one in a traditional schist-built house!) bringing that same intensity to the glass. Crafted from a blend including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sousão, and Tinta Amarela grapes, from altitudes up to 450 meters, the wine shows luscious red fruits, cocoa nibs, and a bit of vanilla from the aging time in oak. Excellent with our alheira and other meaty snacks. 14% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2015 Quinta Vale d’Aldeia

From: Douro DOC

Style: Rich, fruity red with medium tannins

Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Sousão, and Tinta Amarela

Price: about €18 at the restaurant in Sintra

September 9, 2019

It only makes sense that when, in the course of petiscos, we move on from lighter cheese and fish to meatier dishes, and thus require a vinho tinto to aid our journey. For this reason, when out with friends at Damas (as noted in our September 2nd entry), we segued on from the Astronauta branco to the Old Vines tinto that they had on their list. For several of us, it turned out to be the favorite of the two–but it wholly depends on your pairing.

Interestingly, the Old Vines tinto is crafted mostly from old vine red grapes, but also some white grapes, according to the website. At a moderate fruitiness and dryness, the wine balances well with a mixture of foods–hence its prominent position on the menu at our happy petiscos place in Graça.

Vintage & Producer: 2015 Astronaut Wines

From: DOC Douro

Style: Fruit-forward red with low tannins

Variety: An unknown cast of grapes

Price: About €10 online; twice as much in the restaurant

September 2, 2019

A funky little spot in the Graça neighborhood, Damas, has set the scene for a few meals with visiting friends as we’ve wandered the hills of Lisboa. They serve small plates of petiscos in meat, fish, and vegetarian options, and have a generally well-curated wine list featuring (of course) Portuguese wines. One lively evening with friends in July, we chose a 2017 Astronauta branco to pair with the polvo and other treats.

Crafted from Moscatel Galego Branco grapes, this moderately dry Douro white had floral, rosy notes to balance the lychee and citrus fruits on the palate. A great choice for sharing plates, as it went well with the variety of tastes we had on the table. 12% abv.

Vintage & Producer: 2017 Astronaut Wines

From: DOC Douro

Style: Floral and fruity dry white

Variety: Moscatel Galego Branco

Price: €17 at the restaurant; about €8 online

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