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Portugal & Madeira

Featuring reports and blogs on: Madeira (Henriques & Henriques and D'Oliveiras), the Alentejo, Douro & Port (Niepoort, Quevedo...), Algarve, Dão, Bairrada; Falorca, Romeu, Lagos, Terras Alter, S. Miguel, Matilde, Vila Real, Vales, Regis Causa, Portal, Aliança, Cima, Solene, Croft Pink; Vargellas, Cockburn's, Fonseca, Graham's, Taylor's; Lisboa: Capucha, Areias, Sant'Ana, Monte d'Oiro, Chocapalha, Azulejo/S Lima, Rocha, Pinto, Pancas, Porta 6.

Latest pieces on Portugal linked just below (being updated...):

View down to Pinhão, Douro Valley.

Last train to Port land.

All from July 2015 including the two photos above:

Portugal: Bairrada, Dão, Douro (click there) - updated profiles on Quinta do Portal and Aliança Vinhos de Portugal (scroll down for summary too) plus a new one on Quinta do Romeu in the Douro Valley (August 2014).

Portugal: Lisboa wine focus (August 2014 - click there)
"Available as a special 20-page PDF report with pics focusing on the exciting Lisboa wine region and featuring these ten wineries and my reviews of their ranges: Vale da Capucha - Quinta de São José, Sociedade Agricola Labrugeira – Vale das Areias, Quinta de Sant'Ana, Quinta do Monte d'Oiro, Quinta de Chocapalha, Marta Vine - Azulejo (Casa Santos Lima), Félix Rocha – Quinta da Ribeira, Quinta do Pinto, Companhia das Quintas - Quinta de Pancas.
Plus three extra winery profiles in different regions: Aliança Vinhos de Portugal - Bairrada, Dão. Douro Valley: Quinta do Portal (including a Vintage Port retrospective 1995 to 2000) and Quinta do Romeu (organic). And two bonus retro features: Niepoort Port 'masterclass' led by Dirk Niepoort including Garrafeira, Colheita and Vintage ports spanning a century... (see below for more detail) + a tasty Algarve & Tavira wine and food touring article..." All yours for a mere £2. Click here for details.

"Wines of the mo" - Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2008 (Feb. 2014)
Pink Port and Amarone: a couple of "head-bangers of the moment" with Croft Pink... (August 2013)
A couple of Ports of the moment featuring Fonseca Bin 27 and 2007 Graham's LBV (Oct 2012). Plus Taylor's 2007 LBV (updated Feb 2013).
The Algarve & Tavira wine and food touring (Aug 2012).

Port: Niepoort masterclass

"Dirk Niepoort (pic. second from right) hosted what turned out to be a dream tasting back in late May 2012 at the London International Wine Fair, where eager members of the Circle of Wine Writers and guests were treated to three flights of his Garrafeira, Colheita and Vintage Ports spanning almost a century; from a couple of youthful 2009s back to an incredible 1912. Needless to say the latter has fared better than that other slightly better-known 100 year-old vessel, as it carries on sailing majestically across oceans of time..."
Featuring my notes on these sublime Niepoort Ports -
Flight 1: 1952 Garrafeira, 1970 Vintage, 1976 Colheita
Flight 2: 2009 Vintage, 2009 Bioma Vintage, 2005 Vintage
Flight 3: 1934 Colheita, 1912 Colheita, 1977 Garrafeira and 2010 Tiara dry white...
This special Niepoort tasting feature is now only available as part of my latest wine focus report (click there or see the August 2014 posting at the top of the page) on the exciting Lisbao region, plus bonus winery profiles and wine travel from the Douro Valley, Bairrada, Dão and the Algarve...

Another Portuguese winery profile here: Quinta da Falorca Dão (Oct 2011)
"Wines of the moment" Tagus Creek rosé (July 2011)
Dow's 2003 LBV (December 2010)

Herdade dos Lagos

This vast estate in the Alentejo region in southeastern Portugal (they've also made white wine in Vinho Verde country in the northwest and elsewhere: the Tejo? Will check that...) has 22 hectares (54 acres) of vines accompanied by no less than 95 ha of olive groves and a staggering 250 ha of carob trees. The latter have been farmed organically from the outset, and the vineyards are currently being converted over with the first certified vintage next year. Owned by German ship-owner Horst Zeppenfeld and the original family property holder, who went into partnership 25 years ago. It's located between the towns of Beja and Mértola in the Baixo (lower) Alentejo and is planted to Aragonez (they spell it like that on their website, although you can also use an S it seems; either way, it's a clone of Tempranillo or Tinta Roriz), Syrah (very promising by the looks of it), Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional. I tasted these wines in May 2010 at the London Wine Fair:
2006 Tinto (SyrahAragonês) - lovely minty "garrigue" aromas with sweet lavender vs dark cherry too; savoury vs dried fruit palate with a touch of underlining tannin, attractive now actually. 87
2005 Reserva (SyrahAragonês) - herbal and coconut spicy notes vs quite rich black cherry/berry; firmer more solid mouth-feel with peppery edges, fairly powerful with lightly grainy texture then more savoury finish. 88+
2007 Reserva - lush fruit vs grippy texture and a touch of grainy oak; tight and firm finish vs concentrated and ripe, attractive lingering liquorice and pepper flavours. Needs 2-3 more years yet. 90+
2007 Syrah - meaty and dark fruity profile, lovely wild Rhone/Barossa style with solid palate vs lush dark fruit; fine tight length too with tasty rich flavours on a firm backdrop. 92+
2006 Syrah Reserva - maturing fruit vs grainy grippy mouth-feel, more subtle concentration and richness even if less "impressive"; followed by firm taut and less up-front finish. 90+
2009 Vinho Verde - very lively gooseberry and other crisp green fruits, nice and refreshing finish. 80-85
2009 Vinho Branco Tejo (VidalArintoChardonnay) - floral "chalky" and lees-y notes on the nose; turns more exotic with banana flavours vs very crisp and mineral bite, different too.85-87
2009 rosé (Touriga Nacional/Cabernet Sauvignon) - nice creamy vs crunchy red fruits with crisp clean finish. 80-83

Terras d'Alter
Another exciting winery in the Alentejo region, Terras d'Alter is a joint venture between Sociedade Agrícola das Antas, Sociedade Agrícola do Monte Barrão (based in the Portalegre zone of the Alto or upper Alentejo) and "Pink Living," a company belonging to Australian winemaker Peter Bright, who's lived in Portugal for nearly 30 years. They've opted to make a nice range of different style varietals and "premium" (that not usually very helpful word adored by wine marketeers) blends based on Iberian and French grapes. I first met Peter on a trip to Portugal back in the late 90s I think, and bumped into his stand at the 2010 London Wine Fair.
2009 Arinto - aromatic and zesty with floral honeysuckle tones; juicy and crisp mouth-feel with quite long mineral finish. 85
2009 Alva (Alvarinho) - rich lees-y and quite exotic to start; gooseberry and lime zesty too vs "fatter" apricot fruit vs exciting crisp juicy finish. 87+
2009 Verdelho - greengage vs honeyed and pineapple notes; again nice crisp steely palate with green vs "sweeter" fruit finish. Attractive style. 85+
2009 Reserva (Viognier) - more buttery and exotic with full-on apricot fruit; full-bodied and rounded vs crisp bite, well made and balanced. 87
2009 Touriga Nacional - liquorice and dark cherry with peppery edges; gorgeous lush fruit with spicy/juicy profile vs a touch of grip and style. 87+
2007 Outeiro do Mouro (Syrah/Petit Verdot) - grainy coconut nuances vs enticing rich chunky fruit; pretty solid mouth-feel dusted with oak, although I like that coating of tannins and fruit vs 14.5% oomph; structured taut finish vs hints of savoury development. 88-90
2009 Tempranillo - very ripe and dark "tar" notes with toasty oak; rather firm and charred on the palate, although it's concentrated underneath and probably has potential (so why all that oak...)

Herdade São Miguel

A bit of a find at the 2010 London Wine Fair, this estate winery owned by Alexandre Relvas is found nestling (like the local stork population) in Redondo country in the vast and happening Alentejo region. 35 hectares (87 acres) out of 175 are planted with Iberian and international varieties; the rest is devoted to cork trees, "Mirandela donkeys and Garrano horses from Gerês." They make quite a big, and very consistent, range with a couple of real highlights; even if I think they should hold the oak a little for my taste! I only tried reds, for some reason, but they do also make white and rosé.
Some of the wines below are distributed in the USA in NY, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, NJ, Colorado and N. Carolina: more details from their website. The UK agent for the Herdade São Miguel range is Portuguese specialist Raymond Reynolds, while Atlantico and S. Miguel Descobridores Reserva wines are sold by Avery's. In Ireland, Erne Drinks/EnoWine will be taking the Ciconia and HSM range. And in Singapore, HSM is available from Viva Vino.
2008 Atlântico
 red (Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira, Aragonês) - "sweet" vs smoky berry fruit; nice juicy spicy palate with a bit of grip and ripe berries to finish. £5.99 Avery's (UK). 85
2009 Ciconia (Aragonês, Syrah, Touriga Nacional) - more peppery on the nose, again has attractive lively ripe berry fruit (red and black); more oomph and grip too vs liquorice and pepper length. £6.99 Oddbins (UK), $6.99 (US: see distributors above). 87
2009 Herdade São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada (Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês, Cabernet Sauvignon, Trincadeira) - spicy black cherry style showing juicy "sweet" dark fruit with spicy minty edges; structured mouth-feel with grip and power, needs 6-12 months to come together. US $12.99. 87+
2008 Touriga Nacional - touches of cedar and coconut oak vs very firm palate vs liquorice and dark cherry; spicy punchy and solid closing up on the finish, powerful stuff but promising. US $20. 88-90
2008 SM dos Descobridores Reserva (Alicante Bouschet,Touriga Franca) - grippy texture and grainy oak, a bit extracted and difficult to taste although concentrated with lurking fruit; pretty massive mouth-feel then tight finish. Leave it for a couple of years.
2007 Herdade São Miguel Reserva (Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês, Cabernet Sauvignon) - maturing smoky tobacco notes with underlying spicy oak; big firm and punchy palate, coating of dry tannins vs lush dark fruit; wow, even if pretty grippy still. US $30. 90+
2006 Private Collection (the top five barrels each vintage) - indeed, it's quite oaky but also has lovely maturing savoury and leather tones; again big tannins and structure with grainy texture, solid concentrated finish; just a bit too much oak for my liking but should age well over the next few years. 89-91

Porto Quevedo
Quevedo was established in 1991, or rather a new winery and wine/port brand: the family has been growing grapes for much much longer than that. Now in the hands of winemaking/blogging brother and sister team Oscar (above) and Cláudia Quevedo, there are 100 hectares of family vineyards lying in different spots in the Cima Corgo (the middle bit of the Douro Valley) and Douro Superior (the most inland and highest) regions. There are four Quintas or estates: Vale d’Agodinho, Quinta da Senhora do Rosário, Quinta da Alegria and Quinta da Trovisca near Sao João da Pesqueira (a small town a good bit east of Pinhao), where the cellar is also located. I first met bubbly Oscar in Madrid last year (where he used to work as an investment banker, I think, before turning his attention full-time to the family business) but didn't actually try his wines until May 2010 at the London Wine Fair (some of them, at least, as they make quite a range of ports). To find them in the US, you could start with flickingerwines.com; or UK on-line retailers nakedwines.com and winefantastic.co.uk.
2008 Oscar's Douro red (Touriga NacionalTinta Roriz 14% alc.) - meaty peppery nose with nice dark cassis and cherry flavours; "sweet/savoury" finish with well-textured tannins, a bit baked although shows fair depth of fruit. UK £9.
Rosé Port (Touriga NacionalTouriga FrancaSousão) - unusual tobacco notes or something unexpected on the nose!? Again a touch baked (could just be from sitting open for a few hours in a warm exhibition hall) but has rich red fruit palate with oomph and bite; not so sweet in the end and attractive enough style (I'm slowly warming to rosé ports, some of them taste too confected).
1996 Colheita Port (Touriga NacionalTouriga FrancaTinta RorizTinto CãoTinta Barroca; plus 12% "others" which sounds a little mysterious) - reddish brown colour; rich complex "sweet/savoury" profile with a bit of a kick still, sweet palate vs nice bite with dried fruit and oily nutty finish. 90
2003 Late Bottled Vintage Port (Touriga NacionalTouriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão, Tinta Barroca, "others" (20%) - baked leathery dried fruit nose; pretty stonking tannins still layered with lush smoky dried fruits, although quite mature at the same time; a bit clunky perhaps but still attractive. £9.55 half-bottle. 85+

2007 Vintage Port - baked liquorice tones with sweet, dried prune-y fruit vs peppery dark cherries; big chewy palate with fair oomph, "sweet/savoury" finish vs nice cut; concentrated and meaty with dried fruit and power to finish. Needs more time. £19.24 half-bottle. 87-90

Quinta Dona Matilde
Owned by Manuel Angelo Barros, of the old Barros Port family who sold off the estate in 2006, and aided by his sons Filipe and Nuno; Dona Matilde comprises 93 hectares (230 acres) lying close to the Douro River near Bagaúste (east of Peso da Régua). The Quinta has 28 hectares of what they call "top quality vineyards" - meaning they're officially highly rated under the slightly complicated classification system - as well as olive and orange groves and nut trees. I tried these wines with Manuel in May 2010 at the London Wine Fair:
2007 Reserva Douro red (Touriga NacionalTouriga Franca andTinta Amarela) - smoky, peppery and floral too with enticing cassis vs liquorice notes; grippy vs maturing mouth-feel showing good depth and more savoury finish. 87
2009 Douro white (ArintoViosinhoGouveioRabigato) - flowery honeysuckle vs zesty "chalky" aromas; lightly exotic banana fruit vs crisp and steely, juicy lees-y finish too. 80-84
2007 Quinta Dona Matilde Vintage Port - powerful with prune and leather on the nose and palate, extracted and fiery vs masses of liquorice and black fruits; very firm framework but there's lots going on here, needs a few years to open up. 92+

Adega Vila Real
A few words and more info on the wines to follow (their website is "coming soon" so I'll email them...). Tasted in London, May 2010, with boss Nuno Ferreira Borges:
2009 Douro white - cheesy vs banana aromas (?!); floral juicy mouth-feel with lightly crisp and mineral finish. 80-83
2009 Douro Reserva white - subtle toasted vanilla notes; again juicy and crisp in the mouth although rounder with tasty mineral finish. 85
2008 Douro Gran Reserva white - very cold to taste, although showing oilier and weightier palate plus a tad more coconut oak spice too; has attractive rounded mouth-feel though with nice fruit and texture, dry and crisp on the finish. 85-87
2009 Douro rosé - lively vs creamy red fruits, crisp bite again vs "sweet" fruit; attractive foodie style. 85
2008 Douro red - enticing perfumed and fruity cassis, liquorice and cherry; soft and juicy with ripe mouth-feel vs a bit of bite. Tasty, attractive and good value at £5 a bottle in the UK (as are the "basic" white and rosé above). 85
2007 Reserva red - hints of chocolate oak layered with dark plum, liquorice and peppery undertones; has fair depth of fruit with lightly cedar-y/toasty texture and flavours, attractive "sweet/savoury" mix on the finish though. 87
2007 Gran Reserva red (vat sample, not bottled) - quite lush and concentrated black fruits vs firm structure, tight and closed up finish; not revealing much at the moment although punchy with lurking fruit, could be promising.

Quinta dos Vales

This 50 ha (124 acre) estate is actually a wine, fruit and animal farm with "luxury" holiday accommodation, tennis court and art gallery no less, all on-site (check out their website below if that rings your wine travel bell). It's found in the deep south on the Algarve, in a little place called Estombar between the towns of Portimão and Lagoa. I sampled these wines in May 2010 at the London Wine Fair (Euro prices taken from their online shop):
2009 Marquês dos Vales white - floral orange shades with peaches and a touch of vanilla; juicy palate with vanilla oak touches and lightly bitter twist to finish. 83+
2009 Marquês dos Vales rosé (Castelão) - juicy and crisp with gentle red fruits, pretty dry and refreshing on the finish. €5.3183+
2007 Grace Vineyard red (CastelãoCabernet Sauvignon,Aragones) - a lot of smoky rubbery oak on the nose, perhaps a touch over-extracted yet there's some nice lush fruit lurking underneath. €12.60
2008 Grace Vineyard Touriga Nacional - rich plum nose with ripe cassis and chocolate oak on top; very firm and punchy with extracted tannins and rubbery oak texture, concentrated though with dark fruit undertones. Pity about the overdone oak... €12.60 87+?

Regis Causa
Run by Paulo Pinto Rosas, this "export/import company" sources from vineyards in the Douro Valley and has offices in Vila Nova de Gaia (Oporto). More info to follow: their website just shows a couple of pictures and their address...
2009 Douro white - aromatic floral Muscat-y even with mineral edges; nice crisp bite and juicy lees notes vs fruity finish. 85+
2007 Douro red (Touriga Franca, Touriga NacionalTinta Roriz) - attractive ripe vs herby red/black fruit nose with minty edges; meatier palate, tasty fruit vs solid finish. 87+
2007 Grande Reserve (Touriga NacionalTouriga Franca) - toasty oak and grippy tannins to the fore, nice sweet fruit though vs chunky oaky finish. Not sure, needs to open up maybe...

More Douro wines and Ports here ("a masterclass"... 2010)

Quinta do Portal

Updated August 2014 - see below...
The Douro Valley to be more precise, the intense sheer twisty vine-scape that is Port country. Portal is located in the Pinhão valley about two hours drive east from the city of Porto itself. You'll find the winery off the road running from Vila Real to Pinhão, just the other side of the lost village of Sabrosa. The Pinhão area is generally rated as prime terrain for Port grapes as well as red 'table' wines, which Portal is increasingly focusing on (while continuing to make very good ports it has to be said). The entire estate, owned by the Mansilha Branco family and currently run by Pedro Branco, is actually made up of four distinct 'quintas': Abelheira, Confradeiro, Muros and Portal itself, totalling 95 hectares (230-odd acres) of vineyards.
I bumped into Pedro at Alimentaria in Barcelona in March 2008, and tasted the wines below on his stand, a little Portuguese enclave among otherwise Spanish producers. It was good to catch up, as I visited Portal back in 2002 (see related feature written for OLN at the bottom of this page): Pedro confirmed his winemaker Paulo Coutinho was still very much there and having fun creating their pretty large range, with consultant Pascal Chatonnet occasionally adding his input. As an interesting 'by the way' (well, I think so anyway), they own sizeable and quite old Muscat vineyards to the south of the village of Favaios (I stood in it six years ago), which are the source for a couple of rather tasty, sweet fortified Moscatel styles. And they've since completed Casa das Pipas on site - a "winery guesthouse" as it says on their website (see below) - with ten cosy rooms, swimming pool and somewhat breathtaking view (a bit of a cliché but those who've been to this region will agree). So, it must be time to arrange that trip to the Douro...
2006 Portal Tinto - appealing mix of juicy ripe liquorice and spice flavours, leading on to a touch of dry grip; attractive easy-going style. 85+
2003 Portal Reserva (40% Touriga Nacional 30% Tinta Roriz 30% Tinta Francesa 14% alc.) - attractive savoury development on the nose, smoky with lovely ripe spicy fruit; quite firm and powerful still v maturing savoury fruit. 88+
2003 Portal Grande Reserva (50% Touriga Nacional 25% Tinta Roriz 25% Tinta Francesa 14.5% alc.) - more liquoricey with darker fruit v minty floral notes too, spicy and concentrated with very firm powerful framework countered by delicious lush juicy tobacco-tinged fruit. 90-92
2003 Touriga Nacional (15.5%) - turning savoury and leathery with spicy 'sweet' undertones, pretty powerful to say the least with very firm coating; beginning to oxidise a bit and a little too alcoholic despite that nice fruit, a victim of hot 2003 I'd guess? 87-89
L2006 Duradero (50% Toro in Spain, 50% Douro, 100% Tempranillo in disguise: Tinto de Toro and Tinta Roriz, 15% alc.) - crafty way of labelling it with the vintage by saying it's the lot mark (you're not allowed to put a vintage on a cross-country blend, which has to be labelled as table wine...), this is a slightly wacky joint-venture project. Perfumed black cherry, liquorice, blueberry and cassis notes with underlying chocolate oak; solid full-on palate yet well-balanced in its own way, quite concentrated with dry yet lush texture and perfumed spicy fruit on the finish. Promising. 89+
2000 Late Bottled Vintage Port - developing complex meaty tones with liquorice, cooked cherries, leather and pepper; rich sweet palate cut by alcohol and nice solid dry tannins, well-balanced despite its power with lovely sweet v savoury coating and grip. Coming back to it: not too heavy really with velvety seductive mouth-feel v "gently does it" undertones. After one week open: more savoury and softer with that sweet v dry coating still prevalent, the alcohol's become more integrated v lush depth of fruit. 2-3 weeks later: even better amazingly! 92-94

August 2014
Fully updated profile on Quinta do Portal with their latest range reviewed, plus a Vintage Port retrospective featuring vintages from 1995 to 2000, can be found in my new special Portugal report (click there to buy or subscribe). Includes RMJ's complete run-down on the winery and these new wines:
2013 Verdelho & Sauvignon – crisp and lively white with zingy greenish fruit, light and refreshing. £10 to £15
2013 Portal Moscatel dry white (Moscatel Galego = Muscat à Petits Grains) – aromatic and grapey with zingy mouth-feel and nice 'chalky' touch. £10 to £15
2013 Portal rosé (Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca) – lively 'boiled sweet' and red fruit cocktail, attractive elegant fresh and crisp finish. £10 to £15
2011 Portal d'Ouro red (Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca) – nice fruity style with a blob of vanilla on top, a touch of grip vs easy-going palate. £7 to £10
2011 Portal Colheita red (Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca) – has more depth and oomph, still quite 'sweet' upfront oak vs good fruit and grip. £10 to £15
2010 Portal Reserva red – dusting of coconut oak, fairly extracted and firm mouth-feel vs enticing dark fruit, still quite tight and closed up actually. £15 to £20
2009 Quinta do Portal Touriga Franca – dense and firm still, a bit 'cooked' perhaps with dark plum and soy sauce flavours; not so sure about this one. £20+
2008 Portal LBV Port (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca) – rich dark and plum pudding-y with savoury edges developing, tight and spicy/fiery still on the palate, pretty dense wine vs nice lively fruity finish. £20+
Portal 6 Barrels Tawny – getting nutty and caramelised, nice mix of smoothness vs kick on the palate, turning mature and more interesting on the finish. £15 to £20
Portal 27 Grapes – chunkier style with plum, liquorice and tobacco; dark spicy fruit with marzipan notes, a bit of kick and tannin vs lush sweet fruit. £15 to £20

Wine of the moment February 2008
2005 Quinta de Vargellas Vintage, Taylor's – enticing rich blackberry, damson and liquorice aromas enhanced by spicy alcohol (although not stinging) and fresh leather tones; pretty full-on lush sweet fruit v attractively ripe tannins, lending solid framework without any heavy extraction; submerged alcohol and nice peppery fruit make it surprisingly approachable now, yet its underlying structure and concentration indicate 5-10 years cellaring should reveal more. UK £25 / US $54. 90-92

Caves Aliança
Updated August 2014 - see below...
Part-owned and headed up by the indefatigable Mario Neves, Aliança is a big winery and distribution operation (they also represent some leading brands in Portugal) based in Sangalhos, between the lively coastal town of Aveiro and the rugged Bairrada hinterland. Neves has been busy buying and developing a handful of quality wine estates in other regions of Portugal such as Alentejo, Dão and Douro; as well as churning out their Casal Mendes volume brand and some good sparkling wines too.Winemakers Arminda Ferreira and Francisco Antunes are aided by hotly demanded (and paid I'd imagine) French consultantPascal Chatonnet. Tasted at Boutinot's trade tasting in the Tower of London (mind your head) Feb 2007, posted Aug 07:
2004 Quinta da Garrida, Dão - smoky fruit on a firm backdrop, still a little raw but nice mouthful of wine. 85+
2003 Quinta da Garrida Reserva Touriga Nacional, Dão - peppery tones with nice liquorice and black fruit, tight firm concentrated finish. UK retail approx £12 89
2004 Quinta dos Quatro Ventos, Douro - chunky meaty wine, black fruit with leather tones, lightly bitter twist v rounded with 'sweet' fruit. £12 89-91
2003 Quinta das Baceladas, Beiras - savoury cassis with herbal red pepper notes, maturing fruit v firm fresh and powerful; ripe & rounded though on the finish. £10 90

August 2014
Fully updated profile on Aliança Vinhos de Portugal with some of their latest range reviewed can be found in my new special Portugal report (click there to buy or subscribe). Includes RMJ's complete run-down on the winery and these new wines:
2013 Quinta da Garrida Dão white (Encruzado) – steely and mineral with yeast-lees intensity, tight and gummy finish; was a bit awkward when I tried it but showed nice steely bite and promise. £10 to £15
2009 Aliança Baga Bairrada – made from perhaps the star red variety in Bairrada and, unbelievably, aged for 44 months in French oak! It is quite oaky-coco to start but has lots of smooth savoury fruit, grippy and structured still vs subtle lingering dried fruits. £16
2011 Bairrada Reserva (Touriga Nacional, Baga, Tinta Roriz) – nice smoky maturing nose vs dark plummy fruit, smooth sweet/savoury finish vs still firm and chunky mouth-feel. Nice red. Less than £7.
2011 Quinta da Garrida Dão Reserva (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz) – a touch oakier vs ripe smoky and meaty palate, attractive chunky vs rounded finish. £7 to £10
Aliança Reserva Tinto Bruto sparkling red (Baga, Tinta Roriz) – savoury dried fruit vs a bit of grip, quite complex mix of leather and liquorice (what!) vs lively fizz. Odd but nice. £7 to £10

Previous winery snapshots (2005):
Cortes de Cima wines & olive oilPorto Solene Douro valley.

Feature on Portugal
1 November 2002 issue of retail trade paper Off Licence News.

Widely tipped as the next big thing, Portuguese wines frustratingly don’t seem to be grabbing the imagination of wine drinkers and flying off the shelves... Much has been said about the diversity of its indigenous grape varieties and regions, unique points of difference, advances in quality and value for money, and quite rightly so. However most consumers still don’t appear to recognise or understand and hence choose the wines, but do like the styles and flavours, when given the opportunity to taste them.
So what’s happening on the ground in Portugal and over here in wine shops and supermarkets? One of the most exciting (although least picturesque) regions is the Alentejo, a vast area bordering Spain that occupies the south-eastern chunk of this beautiful country. Amongst several dynamic producers here, Herdade do Esporão make high quality red and white blends and have been experimenting with varietal wines, such as Aragonês (aka Tinta Roriz, both clones of the Spanish Tempranillo), the white Roupeiro and now Syrah/Shiraz.
The latter shows real promise in the best vineyard sites, but are the wines very Portuguese? “With Syrah we can get away with a pure varietal; Cabernet, Merlot etc. are best for blending,” commented Nick Oakley, UK agent for leading Alentejo producer João Portugal Ramos, who makes traditional blends and varietal wines, Portuguese and French. “I don’t see it as a change in direction: good wine is good wine. Indigenous varieties are a weakness in terms of marketing and sales, but highly interesting otherwise. Portuguese reds are world class.”
Sogrape is also active in the Alentejo, having successfully launched the good value £4.99 red Vinha do Monte as part of its regional range and now premium varietals Trincadeira, Aragonês and Alfrocheiro produced at Herdade do Peso. “Sogrape relies solely on indigenous grapes, normally blended,” said Johnny Powell at distributor Stevens Garnier. “The new varietals are to a degree experimental, made in small quantities…an opportunity to learn about their own grape varieties.”
Sarah Turner, Product Development Manager for Portugal at Tesco, expanded on the “tricky debate.” “Indigenous varieties are what makes Portuguese wines so interesting, however commercially it’s much more of a struggle to sell grape varieties that customers haven’t heard of and can’t pronounce.” Waitrose has been a keen supporter of Portugal and Alentejo wines, particularly at the higher end. A spokesperson commented: “we prefer to back the indigenous grapes that give Portugal a point of difference.” Turner stated further: “As for international varieties, I think more work needs to be done to really understand what works well. Syrah, especially in the Alentejo, is looking as though it has great potential.”
In the extreme and stunning landscape of the Douro Valley, virtually everybody is now making table wines in addition to Ports. Here ‘foreign’ grapes have so far been shunned, as exemplified by Quinta do Portal, who create an impressive range overall from Vintage Ports to rosé to Grand Reserva reds. Their new young viticulturalist Miguel Sousa showed great enthusiasm and respect for Touriga Nacional on a recent trip (as their guest). “We want to increase plantings to maybe 15%. We need Tinta Roriz for fruit and ageing potential, but have to control yields to 1kg per plant for really top wine.” Turner cautiously agreed: “In terms of quality, there’s no doubt that grapes such as Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz in particular can produce fantastic wines but are understandably confusing for customers.” Director of Portal, Pedro Branco summed up their ambitious hopes for fine Portuguese wines: “65-70% of our sales is Port, the idea is to reverse this towards table wine.”
Caves Aliança, based in Bairrada, like many have been purchasing vineyards and making wines in other areas including the Douro. Their Foral label starts at £4.49 retail, and they’ve just released a super-premium red from Quinta dos Quatro Ventos, produced from Tinta Roriz, Touriga and Tinta Barroca in partnership with Michel Rolland and aimed squarely at niche export markets. Importer Meridian Wines’ portfolio also sources from Dão (south of the Douro), the Alentejo and Palmela (on the Setúbal peninsula facing Lisbon). Mario Neves at Aliança made some interesting comments on sales: “Portugal is having problems with wines considered generic, not the cheapest at £2.99 where price/quality ratio is good, but at £3.99-4.99 competing against the New World. But we are having success with wines from £4.99 to £6.99 and even some top ones.”
DFJ Vinhos has gained listings for its Grand’Arte varietal range, of which perhaps the £4.99 Alvarinho/Chardonnay 2000 from Estremadura (central coastal region) is the most significant. Not only do the two varieties perform together in terms of attractive style and quality, but the magic ‘Chardy’ should help it off the shelf. Oakley touched on this too: “Our challenge is to put something familiar on the label; we’re introducing three new wines made from a mix of Portuguese and international varieties. Grapes contribute to the brand, Cabernet Sauvignon is seen as a brand.” Powell agreed to an extent: “It’s all down to education…international varieties help draw attention to them, but the future lies in Portuguese varieties.” Oakley added: “If people buy (Cabernet Sauvignon/ Aragonês), they’ve gone through the gate. This might lead to them trying a pure Aragonês.”
The Ribatejo region to the east of Estremadura is delivering well-made wines at all price levels. DFJ Vinhos’ Grand’Arte Trincadeira is higher priced than the aforementioned white and impresses with its Old/New World chunky style yet finesse; JP Ramos sources his great value quaffing red Tâmara from this area; and Ben Ellis Wines ship the sensational Quinta de Lagoalva de Cima ‘Alfrocheiro’, an overlooked grape mostly encountered in Dão.
And what’s the potential for white wines? “Not really, we only stock one Vinho Verde,” Waitrose commented. Powell countered: “The Wine Society was surprised by the success they had with Sogrape’s Vinho Verde, introduced this summer.” Muscat/Moscatel can blossom into lovely fresh dry whites in the right hands: Albis from José Maria da Fonseca and Fontanário de Pegões are good examples. And let’s not forget local varieties Maria Gomes/Fernão Pires, Antão Vaz or Bical…


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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.