Português Grape Primer
Castelão One of the typical Estremadura region varieties and one of the most grown in Portugal (also known as Periquita). With a small bunch and small dark skinned berries, this variety allows the production of fruity wines (showing wild berry aromas), very smooth and well balanced and with good ageing potential.
Preto Martinho This almost extinct and very local variety is characterized by an average, compact bunch with dark coloured berries. Its wines have young and floral aromas and present themselves in the palate, soft and well structured, generally with low acidity and an average alcohol level.
Tinta Barroca Traditionally used in the production of Port wine, this variety has a large bunch and dark, thin skinned berries. Its wines are dark-coloured, with floral and berry fruit aromas, good body and a good ageing potential.
Tinta Roriz One of the most famous varieties of the Iberian Peninsula, present in almost all of the Portuguese wine regions, particularly in Douro. Tinta Roriz is also known as “Aragonez” and in Spain as “Tempranillo” due to its early maturation (“temprana”). With thick, dark-skinned berries, this variety originates wines with raspberry aromas and well ripped fruit, good structure, soft tannins and low acidity. The wines present a high alcohol profile and a good ageing potential.
Touriga Franca Mainly located in the North of the country, Touriga Franca is characterized by a compact and medium sized bunch, flatten shaped grapes and constant production levels. These characteristics allow the elaboration of quite expressive wines, with fruity and elegant aromas. In the palate, they generally present themselves smooth, with round tannins, with great longevity.
Touriga Nacional Probably the most prestigious Portuguese grape, Touriga Nacional is present in most of Portugal’s wine regions and is largely used in Port wine. It is characterized by a long bunch, small grapes and low productivity. Its wines usually present floral aromas of high complexity and in the palate are tannic, with good body, well balanced acidity and high ageing potential.
Trincadeira A very sensitive variety, and in order to show all its potential, Trincadeira requires a special care and vigilance throughout the year. When young, its wines present fruity aromas with some vegetal notes, evolving later to jam and spice aromas. The presence of round and present tannins, give this variety a good ageing potential.
Alicante-Bouschet Originated as a cross between the Petit Bouschet and Grenache varieties, this teinturier variety (with red pulp) presents an average sized bunch and round berries. Despite its average yield, its wines generally have an intense colour, with red fruit and prune aromas and are extremely well structured. Its acidity gives these wines a good ageing potential.
Caves Vidigal, Cortes, Leiria
When we met António Mendes Lopes from Vidigal for the first time we immediately dubbed him “Rock Star!” in recognition of his astounding range of fantastic value for money wines. In fact, the motto of the company is “The best possible wine at the lowest possible price”. As a result, Antonio has a huge following in Scandinavia (the largest selling single label in Norway for four years running has been the Tinto Reserva below) and our Roberto regularly drinks them when he is in Brasil. Plus you’ve GOT to love this manifesto from his website:
“We still have a romantic idea of honesty, uprightness, pride in our profession, traditional values and solid ethical behavior BUT we are also ruthless survivors in the fiercely competitive wine scene, armed with the unbeatable value for money in our products. Count on us…we are also able to offer much more than good value.”
Vidigal Tinto 2008, Dão
Meat meets fruit (with a side of rocks) in this lovely blend of Jaen (40%), Touriga Nacional (30%) and Alfrocheiro (30%). It’s just 13% ABV and we love that the back label says “Drink moderately in good company…”
Vidigal Tinto 2008, Douro
A full flavored but never overwhelming blend of Touriga Nacional (60%), Touriga Franca (30%) and a dollop of Tinta Amarela for aromatics, this wine comes from the rugged heart of Porto country. Serve it with hearty, country style plates (if the words “smothered”, “cured” or “smoked” appear in the name of the dish, that’s a good start!). Sealed with a screwcap for your protection!
Vidigal Tinto Reserva dos Amigos 2009, Estremadura
This was one of the first “serious” wines in the Estremadura and is making friends worldwide. Blended from Tinta Roriz (70%), Castelão (20%) and a splash of Tinto Miúda for fun, this is sure to win you new amigos wherever you take a bottle.
Vidigal Tinto Brutalis 2008, Estremadura
Our “Rock Star” gets all stream of consciousness on us here:
“We live in a world where the mainstream is the generalized massification of desires and products, in a world where even newness seems like more of the same, where desire is bewildered by the subtlety of differences and keeps desiring more in a manic tautology that has replaced products with brands and the good with the well known.
Brutalis is not exactly an elegant wine, but it’s not over extracted either! It looks at first like a ‘rough soul’ with hairs all over his chest which goes directly to the matter (but without dismissing subtleties and a gentleman’s good manners) while it bombards your senses with a array of well polished exaggerations–it’s like an iron hand in a glove of soft velvet: A wine for those moments when we are tired of everything and won’t have ‘more of the same’…”
Oh…WHAT is Brutalis? A smokin’ 50 / 50 blend of Alicante Bouchet and Cabernet Sauvignon that punches all the right buttons (but is only 13.5% ABV). Gorgeous “rough soul” packaging no extra charge!
Domingos Alves de Sousa, Douro Portugal
This estate is the result of a long multigenerational journey beginning with the Domingo’s father and grandfather growing traditional Douro varieties and selling them to Porto producers. Domingo was schooled in Civil Engineering but the double draw of the land he inherited and the wine flowing in his veins brought him back to viticulture in 1987. He then took formal training in vine growing and wine making both in Portugal and Bordeaux and took the leap of faith to build his own winery and begin estate bottling the fruit of his labors in 1992. Since then this estate has built a reputation as one of the very top producers of dry wines in the Douro, winning the designation of Producer of the Year for 1999 and again in 2006 in the prestigious Revista de Vinhos magazine. Now joined by son Tiago and famed enologist Anselmo Mendes in a sort of vinous Dream Team, Domingos’ vineyards and wines have a very bright future.
Alves de Sousa Estação Tinto 2010, Douro
Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Tinta Barroca from the youngest vines of the estate (but still 20 years old!), vinified for a fruit forward freshness with no oak in the mix. Made to enjoy now in its youth with hearty foods.
Alves de Sousa Vale da Raposa Tinto 2009, Douro
Alves de Sousa Vale da Raposa Reserva Tinto 2009, Douro
Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca and Touriga Nacional from vines at least 20 years of age, with the basic bottling vinified for a softer, lusher, early drinking style while the Reserva is given more time macerating on the skins and aging in wood for a deeper, more structured style.
Alves de Sousa Quinta da Gaivosa Tinto 2005, Douro
This wine is produced exclusively in years of exceptional quality, drawn from 60 year old vines of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca,Tinto Cão, Touriga Nacional and other local favorites. The wine is fermented on the skins for 6 days then given a further 8-10 days maceration for full extract before aging 6 months in French oak and a year in bottle. This is serious, deep dark and brooding red that can hold its own with any Cab or Syrah while bringing something new to the conversation.
Alves de Sousa Abandonado Tinto 2007, Douro
This unique and amazing wine comes from an 80 year old vineyard that was abandoned (“Abandonado”) for some time due to its meager yields and the extreme difficulty of working its steep slope and rocky soil. Under Domingos’ regime attempts were made to replace dead vines with new ones but none ever took hold. So the decision was taken in 2004 to just harvest what little yields there are of Tinta Amarela, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and a few other ancient varieties and make a wine as an homage to the history of the Douro. The resulting deeply textured wine with intense black fruit, eucalyptus, tar and earth notes and an amazing silky finish has charmed critics from Lisbon to London to the far corners of the globe. VERY limited, worth it.
Quinta do Conde, Quinta da Boavista, Estremadura
This winery is situated in Alenquer, approximately 45 km north of Lisbon, in a very traditional wine region where the typical Portuguese rural landscape can be seen in all its glory. The estate has been family owned for several generations with wine being the principal product but also some fruit orchards. As it has grown, the company has added brands and, especially, grape varieties. They bottle over 25 types of Portuguese grapes as varietals (we offer eight of them below) as well as in intriguing blends (the three we present here). Like our many friends in Puglia and Sicilia, they are quite dedicated to value for money and have won many awards for Best Buy in wine fairs all over the world.
The vineyards are located on rolling hillsides at between 110 and 220 meters elevation with excellent sun and a climate moderating wind off the Atlantic, less than 25 km away. The soil is clay mixed with Jurassic limestone and is rich in fossils of marine life and even the occasional dinosaur. Sustainable agriculture is very important to the family and they employ many practices to prevent soil erosion and other environmental problems.
Quinta do Conde Duas Uvas Tinto 2009, Estremadura
This fresh, fruity and zesty medium bodied blend of Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz scratches much the same itch as a nice Chianti or Cote du Rhône texture wise but brings an exotic spice note as well. Yummy, cheap, plentiful…
Quinta do Conde Estacas Tinto 2009, Estremadura
Our notes from meeting with the owners and tasting the wines: “Ha-uuuuuuuge mouthfeel, meaty flavors with a deep, dark fruit component, seriously long finish, HELL yes!”. As you can tell, we liked this a lot. What is it? A blend of Tinta Roriz, Castelão and Touriga National vinified on the skins for a month then aged for four months in oak that is more than ready for the heartiest food you can whomp up (or it can keep you warm on a cool night). An outstanding value for money, it comes in a gorgeous package to boot with a medieval rendering of a grape harvester on the label.
Quinta do Conde Escapada Tinto 2006, Estremadura Sold Out, New Vintage Soon!
This is the top wine of the estate and emphasizes complexity and elegance over the sheer power of the Estacas: Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca weave an ever ascending spiral of aromatics while Touriga Nacional (the primary grape in Vintage Porto) holds down the base with deep black fruits and rich full textures. Try one, you’ll like it…
Tired of Merlot (or even Schioppettino?) Try on some of these fun varieties for a change of vinous scenery….
Quinta do Conde Alicante Bouchet Quinta Vista 2003, Estremedura
A cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache, this teinturier variety (grapes with red pulp, fairly unusual) presents an average sized bunch and round berries with thick skins. Its wines have an intense colour, with red fruit and dried plum aromas and are extremely well structured. Their natural acidity gives the wine good ageing potential as well as great food friendliness.
Quinta do Conde Castelão Quinta Vista 2007, Estremedura
Castelão is a dark skinned grape variety planted all over southern Portugal. It became famous as the base of the first large quality brand of dry Português table wine, Periquita. This is a tough little grape that eschews the easy life, thriving in hot climes with poor soils. In those conditions it is capable of making deliciously fruity, spicy, refreshing wines with no lack of food friendly acidity. It blasts wild raspberries and spice out of the glass, is intensely flavored but low in tannins (yet is capable of aging for decades and developing a rich, gamey aroma with tar and earth elements).
Quinta do Conde Sousão Quinta Vista 2006, Estremedura
Sousão is used in Port blends because it brings two things to the mix: massive, dark, brooding color and a large dose of acidity (extremely useful in sweet wines). Vinified on its own and fermented dry it is an excellent foil for dishes like Tangerine Spiced Beef, BBQ, Grilled Sausages, Chili or other hearty fare with strong acidity in the prep. Plus, it’s nearly guaranteed to win a fun round of Stump the Wine Geek!
Quinta do Conde Tinto Cão Quinta Vista 2007, Estremedura
Although Tinto Cão is quite ancient in Portugal (it was already known in Douro in the 18th century) one might say that it was rediscovered for the high quality wines about twenty years ago when the large scale production of dry table wines began. When grown at higher elevations Tinta Cão gives very low yields and can have an intensely floral and spicy aroma with hints of black cherries and Christmas spices that can add a certain exotic character to the final wine. Try it with lamb curry, a full flavored winter stew or maybe a nice cheese and dried fruit plate….
Quinta do Conde Touriga Franca Quinta Vista 2008, Estremedura
Touriga Franca is one of the major grape varieties used to produce Port wine. Touriga Franca is lighter and more perfumed than Touriga Nacional and adds finesse to the powerful, fortified Porto. Touriga Francesa has been described by Jancis Robinson as playing “Cabernet Franc to Touriga Nacional’s Cabernet Sauvignon”. Touriga Franca does not give as much structure as Touriga Nacional, but it has many of the same qualities: a very expressive floral character and fruity and elegant aromas. On the palate, the wines have smooth, round tannins, with a very long, dry finish.
Quinta do Conde Touriga Nacional Quinta Vista 2007, Estremedura
Touriga Nacional is considered to be Portugal’s finest red wine variety despite the notoriously low yields achieved from its tiny black grapes. It plays a big part in the blends used for the best ports and is increasingly being used for dry table wines like this one. The tiny berries of Touriga Nacional have a high skin to pulp ratio which heightens the amount of extract in the wines. Touriga Nacional provides structure and body with high tannins and concentrated flavours of intense black fruit as well as very strong aromatics. Jancis Robinson has compared its relationship with Touriga Franca to the partnership between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, the former providing structure, the latter filling out the bouquet…
Quinta do Conde Trincadeira Quinta Vista 2003, Estremedura
Trincadeira has a true passion for heat so for centuries it has been chosen as one of the main varieties by the Portuguese regions with hotter summers. It is the most cultivated variety in Alentejo as its great qualities are only evident in drier regions, with poor soils and dry and hot climate during maturation where it produces good colour concentration, very fruity aromas with herbal notes, full-body and smooth but solid tannins allowing a long evolution in bottle. With age, Trincadeira wines gain aromas and flavours of jam, red plum and also spices such as cinnamon and clove. Several wine producers of this region choose to produce single variety Trincadeira wines, where this variety can boast all the features which made it famous.
Azamor Selected Vines Red 2004, Alentejo
A rich, dark and meaty blend of Syrah (33%), Touriga Franca (33%), Alicante Bouchet (19%) and Trincadeira (15%), you can pour this with pride and confidence when the situation calls for a pricey Rhone or Sardegnan red. Eight cases only at this price.
Luís Louro Tinto Agil 2010, Alentejo
Enologist Luís Louro did stages in California and at the traditional Quinta do Mouro estate in Estremoz, Portugal before striking out on his own with 25 hectares of leased vineyards filled with old vines of local favorites Aragonês, Trincadeira, & Syrah which he personally tends. The wines are made at a new winery following his designs to minimize damage to the fruit or oxidation of the wines. His goal is to produce a versatile, convivial wine with good value for money and he is hitting it out of the park. Just add Sausages…