Portuguese Reds 

From a country best known for its fortified dessert wines, more dry red wines are becoming available made from a mostly unfamiliar blend of grapes, including touriga nacional, camarate and periquita. What's important is not the blends, but that the results are eminently drinkable and typically well priced. Here are the panel's top picks (with a tie for third place):

2006 Lurton Barco Negro, $11.99

Lovely aromas of blueberry and black cherry with nice touches of licorice and toasted marshmallow. Ripe and round in the mouth, this elegantly structured charmer offers creamy berry and sweet cranberry up front with soft acidity and smooth tannins on the finish.

2005 Monte Velho Alentejano, $10.99

Easily the most unique wine of the group. The aromas are big and complex with an underlying core of ripe berry fruit, surrounded by earthy layers of tar, anise, game and bacon. In the mouth, it's a sucker punch of smooth and succulent red fruits showing remarkable persistence at an outstanding value.

2007 Quinta das Amoras, $7.99

Opens with racy aromas of ripe berry and spicy cherry backed by intriguing whiffs of mint and sweet balsamic. That light mint comes through on the palate that's filled with blueberry and cherry fruit flavors. A well-balanced bargain with a velvety texture and a long, creamy finish.

2007 Vale do Bomfim, $10.99

From the famous Port house, Dow, this table wine is a blend of five grapes, including turiga nacional and tinta roriz (aka tempranillo). The aromas are rich in dark chocolate and ripe cherry with nice hints of vanilla and earth. The palate is filled with dark berry, plum and mocha spice.

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