The New Wines of Portugal, Report # 24, is now available to subscribers at iwinereview.com. It’s our first Double Issue ever. And why, you might ask, a double issue? Because Portugal is so incredibly diverse in terms of climate, soils, growing conditions, and grape varietals. Each of the nine growing regions on the mainland is unique, so exploring the wines of Portugal essentially meant exploring nine different countries.
We tasted over 500 wines for this report, all of which are available on our database and most of which are written up in the report itself. I didn’t keep track of how many incredibly hospitable winemakers we met, how many different varietals we tasted, and how many different dishes of bacalhau we sampled. But it was a lot.
The most surprising things we learned are how much the wines have improved since our last visit, how distinct the wines are in each region, and how Portuguese winemakers are rapidly discovering how to make world class wines from the many indigenous varietals in the country.
I won’t even try to summarize a report of this length, but some of our favorite grape discoveries are:
• Alvarinho and Loureiro white varietals in Vinho Verde.
• Touriga Nacional and all the Port field blends in addition to distinctive whites like Viosinho in the Douro.
• Burgundy-like Baga in Bairrada and Alfrocheiro, Bical and Encruzado in the Dão.
• Crispy, high acid Arinto in Bucelas and Syrah in Alenquer in the Lisboa Region.
• Castelão and sweet Moscatel in Setúbal.
• The tropical Antão Vaz, red-fleshed Alicante Bouschet , and Aragonez in the Alentejo.
We also discovered many new winemakers and wineries throughout Portugal producing surprisingly good wines. Several of the better winemakers have themselves become itinerant consulting enologists, and we highlight this phenomenon in the report.
Portuguese table wines continue to get better and better. The huge cooperatives, large commercial wineries, and artisanal, independent growers and winemakers are all producing good quality and good value wines today.
We hope this report tempts our readers to contact their favorite wine shops or internet purveyors and request some of the wines that we recommend.