General information and history about wines from Portugal About Wines from Italy Best wine supplier in Philippines discusses wine related topics

December 23,2010
Northern Portugal
In the north is the Douro DOC, situated around the river of the same name. The Douro enters Portugal from Spain, where it is known as the Duero, and is home to the vineyards of the Ribera del Duero. Full bodied, meaty, complex reds can be produced here.
My top wines: Quinta do Crasto (especially the Touriga Nacional and Reserva), Redoma, Barca Velha, Quinta do Côtto.
Nearby is Dâo, very much an up and coming region for good value, full bodied reds, and even a few white wines. Wines from single quinta estates are, as always, likely to be of higher quality.
My top wines: Quinta Fonte do Ouro, Quinta dos Roques, Quinta de Saes, Quinta das Maias, Porta dos Cavalheiros.
Also nearby is Bairrada, another DOC producing a few good value red wines, although they are of less significance than those coming from the Douro and Dão. Bairrada has the dubious honour of being one of the main sources of grapes for Mateus Rosé, a medium sweet carbonated wine which graces supermarket shelves the world over.
My top wines: Quinta do Riberinho is the only estate that has ever impressed.
Also in the north is Vinho Verde, a region producing red and white wines which can offer some pleasant drinking from quality minded producers. Most offerings, however, are dire, so choose carefully. The wine has a slight spritz which was once due to a slight secondary refermentation, but unfortunately in modern times this is much more likely to be carbon dioxide added just before bottling.
My top wines: Quinta do Azevedo.
Getting Serious – Port
The table wines of Portugal are frequently very good value, with a smattering of producers that are turning out excellent wines. The fortified wines of the Douro are, however, unrivalled. They are much imitated, with similar styles emanating from the southern vineyards of France, California and Australia, but they are never equalled, and certainly not bettered.
Port is basically wine fortified with brandy spirit. This is added prior to the natural cessation of fermentation, so the wine is always sweet, as the addition of the strong alcohol kills the yeast converting the sugar into alcohol (the process of fermentation). The eventual alcohol content is still high, however (typically 20%), thanks to the brandy that has been added. Most Port is red, although some firms also produce a small amount of white Port.
Since the 18th century there has been a strong British presence in the Douro, as this was where British drinkers sourced their wines following the deterioration in relations between Britain and France at this time. The firm red wines of the region were bolstered up and protected with brandy before the sea journey north, and thus Port as a wine style was born. Or so the story goes.
Styles of Port
Vintage Port: Port vintages are declared depending on the quality of the vintage, some houses declaring much more frequently than others. In general, though, a vintage is declared about three times each decade. A declared vintage means that the Port house feels the wine is of the necessary quality to age well in bottle. The wines see up to two years in oak, but then do the rest of their ageing in the bottle. They may need upwards of fifteen years before they are ready, and may last for decades more. This is the finest quality level of Port.
Single Quinta Port: Most houses have quintas (vineyards) where they source their best fruit. In non-declared years they will release the wine from the quinta as a single quinta wine. These wines can be excellent value, frequently close to vintage quality.
Late Bottled Vintage Port: Good Port houses still produce good LBV wines. Such wines have been aged in wood for longer than Vintage Port, four years in total, or five years for a Traditional LBV. This prolonged ageing results in a wine ready to drink at a younger age.
Tawny Port: Wine aged in oak for a long time, resulting in a tawny colour. The age will be stated on the label, frequently ten or twenty years, less often thirty or even forty years.
White Port: A heavy aperitif wine, varying in style, often with a hint of oxidation.
Other styles: Ruby is a young and simple style. Vintage Character is a Port blended to resemble a vintage wine (often unsuccessfully in my opinion), and Crusted Port is a blend of several Vintage Character Ports.
Port – my top wines: Fonseca, Taylors, Quinta do Noval, Warres, Dows, Grahams, Niepoort. Good value comes from the single quinta wines of these companies, but also from Quinta do Vesuvio, Gould Campbell, Smith Woodhouse, Sandeman, and others.
Moving South
Further south the wines are much less significant. Around Lisbon are the regions of Estremedura and Ribatejo, although neither produce any great wines. A number of tiny subregions, including Carcavelos, Colares, Bucelas and Setúbal produce a few interesting bottles, although they are rarely seen in the UK.
My top wines: Bright Brothers (run by Peter Bright, an Australian flying winemaker) produces a few good value wines in Estremedura and Ribatejo.
Getting much further south, Alentejo can be interesting, as can Terras do Sado. On the Algarve a number of DOCs produce unsurprisingly forgettable wine. These include Lagos, Portimâo, Lagoa and Tavira.
My top wines: Cartuxa, Quinta do Carmo (both Alentejo)
Getting Serious Again – Madeira
The island of Madeira is a small outpost of Portugal off the west coast of Africa, which produces a fortified wine based on the Sercial, Verdelho, Bual and Malmsey grapes. It is made in a similar style to Port, with the addition of grape spirit causing cessation of fermentation. An additional feature, however, is the heating of the wine, at perhaps 50ºC, for about six months. This practice apparently stems from (another wine fable coming up) the improvement in the wine noted when it was transported on long sea journeys through hot climates in the 17th century. Heating the wine, together with exposure to oxygen, oxidises and stabilises it. As a result, Madeira is a long lived wine, with vintages from the early 20th and late 19th centuries drinking well at present.
My top wines: Henriques & Henriques, Madeira Wine Company, Blandy.
The most recently declared Port vintage was 2000, a vintage of excellent quality. Other Port vintages of note include 1997, 1994, 1991, 1987 (generally not declared but there are some excellent single quinta wines), 1985, 1983, 1977, 1975, 1970, 1967, 1966, 1963, 1960, 1955, 1948, 1947, 1945.

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