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Portugal is starting to make some stunning dry red wines, particularly from the Douro, but also from the Alentejo, Estremadura, and the Ribatejo regions. As a result, it's shedding its image as simply a place to look for Port.
Barca Velha is one of Portugal's most famous and most expensive red wines. It sells in the U.S. for about $80 per bottle and comes from the Douro. It's regarded as Portugal's first great wine and had its initial vintage in 1952. Barca Velha is released ready to drink rather than cellar, and is made mainly from Tempranillo grapes—called Tinta Roriz in Portugal—blended with the traditional Port varieties of Tinta Borroca and Touriga Nacional.
Barca Velha varies slightly vintage to vintage, like a top-flight Bordeaux wine, but carries the hallmarks of intense berry fruit, spice, earth, chocolate, and smoke.
The 2001 Altano Reserva Douro is an excellent wine from the Douro region. It is a blend of the two Portuguese native grapes— Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca—and is oak aged, creating a wine of ripe cherry, berry, and vanilla bean flavors.
The dry wines from the Douro tend to be made from the same varieties as those that go into Port, such as Tinta Roriz,Touriga Nacional, and Touriga Franca.
Sogrape is Portugal's largest wine company and its quality ranges from very average wine, such as its ubiquitous sweetish Mateus Rosé, to its better reds, such as the beautiful, silky, intense Reserva Alentejo. This red is a very seductive wine that sells at a mouthwatering price of under $20.
Another excellent producer from Portugal's Alentejo region is Cortes de Cima. The wines made at this family estate range from the Touriga Nacional 2003, which tastes of roses, violets, dark berries, and spice, to the wine called Hans Christian Andersen, made from 100 percent handpicked Syrah grapes. The 2005 vintage of this latter wine is all ripe plum, cherryvanilla, and spice, but will develop more complexity in bottle as it matures.
DFJ Vinhos produces good quality wines from the Estremadura and Ribatejo regions of Portugal—at good prices.
Another stellar producer from Portugal is João Portugal Ramos. His wines are quite cutting edge, with the Marquês de Borba 2003 offering amazing value at less than $15. Bright red fruit, coffee, and spice. Long.
Although Portugal is not known for great white wines, it does make a quaffable, inexpensive white refresher called Vinho Verde. This name translates literally to green wine, with reference to the fact the wine is meant to be drank young—within a year of vintage ideally. Although it can be red as well as white, only the whites seem to hit export markets. Expect this wine to be floral, bone dry, tart, and lean, and often displaying a light sparkle. Sogrape is a reliable producer. Portuguese Wine 169
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