Wines of Portugal Tasting

Posted by

This event held in London, on 20 March 2024, brought together an impressive 60 producers showcasing 600 wines from 11 distinct wine regions of Portugal. The tasting highlighted the rich vinicultural diversity of Portugal, a country with a wide array of over 250 grape varieties.

A highlight of this tasting was the inclusion of a Masterclass ‘Hidden Gems’ led by Dirceu Vianna Junior MW. This session looked into the under-appreciated grapes of Portugal, shedding light on the potential and uniqueness of lesser-known varietals.

The variety of grapes, terrains and winemaking methods in Portugal results in a vast diversity of wines which presents a challenge. This variety, while offering a rich palette of flavours and experiences, also sometimes requires a departure from the traditional approach of trying to categorise wines into specific types or characteristics. You often have to evaluate each wine on its own merits, setting aside notions of typicity.

You can learn more more about wines of Portugal in my introductory article on ‘Understanding Portuguese Wines‘.

Here are the wines I personally found to be particularly exceptional, along with my notes on each.

São Luiz Grande Reserva Old Vines 2019
This wine, whose parent company also owns the oldest Port Wine House, Kopke, is aged for 24 months in oak barrels. It has a deep purple hue, carrying a blend of floral and dark fruit aromas. It offers a taste of juicy, red fruits with a long finish and has 14% ABV. It is priced at approximately £40, distributed by Hayward Bros Wines and available from independent retailers.

Esporāo Reserva Red 2021
This organic and vegan wine, blended from Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, is 14% ABV and is aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. It’s a complex, well-balanced offering with notes of black cherry, plum, spice and vanilla, leading to a fruity, experience with a good finish. Awarded in the Wine Merchant Top 100 and highly rated at 4.1 on Vivino, this wine, priced around £20 and imported by Hatch Mansfield, is sold by independent retailers.

Terra D´Alter Telhas 2020
This wine, blending 95% Syrah with 5% Viognier grapes and having 14.5% ABV, has a high rating of 4.2 on Vivino. It presents a great mix of dry yet fruity sweetness, highlighted by its very aromatic nature and flavours of black fruit and pepper from the Syrah. Priced at around £25 to £30 and imported by Delibo Wine Agencies, it’s available through independent retailers.

Quninta Da Pedra Alta “Alto” Tinto 2020
A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Sousão, Tinto Cão, and Fernão Pires grapes, aged for 20 months in French oak on the lees. It features an aromatic and oaky profile, with red and blue fruit aromas with herbal nuances, enriching the dark and intense fruit flavours. With a 14.5% ABV and priced at around £40, it is distributed in the UK by Bancroft Wines and sold through independent retailers.

Quinta do Crasto Roquette & Cazes 2020
This wine, a collaboration between Portuguese and French wine families, blends Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz grapes. Achieving a high 4.3 score on Vivino, it stands out for its aromatic profile of violet and berry fruits, balanced oak and a rich, long finish. With a 14.5% ABV and priced at around £23, it is imported by Enotria & Coe and sold through independent outlets. This cross-cultural venture offers a unique and exquisite wine experience, reflecting the best of both Portuguese and French winemaking traditions.

Quinta do Crasto Touriga Nacional 2019
This distinguished wine, with a high 4.3 Vivino score, has been aged for 18 months in French oak, developing a smoky nose alongside a spicy and fruity palate of blackberry, mulberry and toasted dark fruits, leading to a long finish. Its well-integrated tannins and good balance, coupled with a 14.5% ABV, make it a robust yet refined choice. Priced at around £55 and imported by Enotria & Coe, it’s available through independent retailers.

Vale Barqueiros Reserva 2020
This blend of Alicante Bouschet, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, notable for its ruby colour, sweet jam and spice profile, and long finish, boasts a 14.5% ABV. It offers great aromatic intensity, with soft smoke and cacao notes alongside complex red fruit flavours of redcurrants. Highly rated by the press, it’s currently seeking UK representation after the previous distributor closed due to Brexit. Previously available for around £14, this wine is an excellent opportunity for prospective distributors to offer a highly acclaimed and affordably priced option to the UK market.

DFJ Vinhos Grand`Arte 2017
Made from 100% red Alicante Bouschet grapes and showcasing a 13.5% ABV, this is a rare find of non-blended Alicante Bouschet. It features a deep colour, with hints of tobacco and liquorice, reflecting the varietal’s usual role in adding intensity and colour to blends in Portuguese winemaking. With integrated tannins and flavours of black plum, damson, and blackberry, it presents a rich and complex profile. Priced at around £14 and imported by Redgreen UK, this wine is available through independent retailers.

Now two different wines seeking distribution in the UK:

Casa Santos Lima LAB Vinho Tinto NV
This unique red wine, notable for its low 8% alcohol content and vegan-friendly production, presents a dark red hue accompanied by hints of caramel and floral aromas. It delights the palate with red berry flavours, leading to a good finish. The wine is well-structured, featuring balanced tannins and a taste that is refreshingly not too sweet for a low alcohol wine. This combination of attributes makes it an intriguing choice for those seeking a lighter wine option without compromising too much on taste or complexity.

Quinta do Tamariz PET NAT 2022
This innovative and unusual wine is a low intervention, natural, unfiltered Pét-Nat from 2022, mistakenly listed in the event guide as still instead of sparkling. Made from the Loureiro grape, known for fresh, aromatic, and crisp wines, it features small, soft bubbles, a very cloudy appearance (see below), and a refreshing taste much like Vinho Verde. Despite its light and refreshing profile, it has a surprisingly high alcohol content of 14%.

These two innovative wines seeking UK distribution represent a fantastic opportunity for an importer looking to expand their portfolio.

The ‘Hidden Gems’ masterclass, led by Dirceu Vianna Junior MW, presented a refreshing contrast to the predominantly red wines found in the tasting hall, featuring 5 white wines, 1 rosé, and 2 red wines. This session provided a unique opportunity to spotlight the diversity and potential of Portuguese white wines, a category Wines of Portugal is probably keen to expand. Highlighted were the Verdelho, Jampal, Rabigato, Sercialinho, Encruzado, and Tinto Cão grape varieties. The white wines showcased not only typical high acidity and freshness but also a range of profiles, from the floral and citrusy Jampal to the Burgundy-esque Encruzado, the latter of which benefits from blending and oak. These varieties and wines, though relatively rare, demonstrated they deserve greater recognition and popularity.

The masterclass also featured Tinta Miúda and Alicante Bouschet grapes for the red wine segment. The Alicante Bouschet grape particularly captured my interest, not just for the DFJ Vinhos Grand`Arte wine mentioned above but also because it was featured in the masterclass with Herdade do Rocim 2022, which was equally impressive. Both priced at around £14, these wines represent exceptional value for their quality. Given the Alicante Bouschet grape’s resilience in hot climates, I hope for its increased presence in the market.