Portuguese Reds 

For such a small country, Portugal produces a surprisingly diverse number of wines. Best known among wine lovers for their delectable ports, this is also the country that gave us mateus and lancers rose, as well as that oh-so crisp and refreshing white, vinho verde. It's difficult to imagine a more dissimilar group, but in the past few years, it has been their red table wines that have made inroads into the U.S. market. With an eclectic array of grapes including Touriga National, Tinto Barroco, Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz and Arogonez (the last two synonymous with Tempranillo), Portugal is producing wines of remarkable quality and value. Here are this week's picks:

2005 Aveleda Charamba Vinho Tinto, $8.99

With a wine-making history dating back to the mid 1800s, Quinta de Aveleda is best known for their distinctive whites from Vinho Verde. In the past decade, they have ventured west to the Douro and this Charamba, named for a traditional Portuguese dance, is the result. The nose is surprisingly complex with cherry, chocolate, caramel, floral violet, smoke, spice and shitake mushroom. This wine is utterly charming in the mouth with its plush cherry and berry fruit, perfect acid balance and subtle, soft tannins on the finish. It's real crowd pleaser and an outstanding value.

2002 Monte dos Cabacos, $15.99

The traditional grapes of Portugal still rule, but both cabernet sauvignon and especially syrah have gained in popularity. This wine from the Alentejo region of southern Portugal includes both varieties in the blend. It offers an intriguing array of aromas including dried cherry, red berry and dark chocolate along with dusty notes of cedar, hazelnut, herb and leather. This is a lush and silky wine, mellow with age but still filled with fresh raspberry fruit backed by smooth tannins and bright acidity. Touches of coffee and mocha mark the sweet strawberry finish.

2005 Vale do Bomfim Doura Riserva, $11.99

From the House of Dow of the Symington Family Estates, best known for their excellent ports, comes this red wine, unusual in that the dominant aromas remind one most of berry-laced coconut. I liked it, but not all agreed—still no one found fault with the flavors. Big, ripe berry fruit melds with rich cherry and strawberry with an impressive intensity reminiscent of port. Good acidity balances things out, and ripe tannins add grip to the finish. This one cries out to be paired with grilled or cured meats like prosciutto and serrano ham.

This week's panel: Dave Faulk, Porterhouse Meats; David Kirkpatrick, Boise Co-op Wine Shop; Cindy Limber, Bardenay; Karen McMillin, Young's Market; Kevin Settles, Bardenay; Leslie Young, Boise Co-op Wine Shop.

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