Wednesday, October 11, 2017

4 Portuguese Red Wines - That Aren't Port - to Try This Fall

When you think of Portuguese wine, the first thing that comes to mind is the big, sweet, rich wines of the Douro valley. Port has a special place in my heart for both it's complexity and interesting history, and Port is also really special to Amber - she's been to Portugal for academic conferences, and had some really great experiences there, many of which involved late night conversations over bottles of amazing local Port. But Port not the only noteworthy category of red wine made in Portugal.
Praca Dom Pedro IV, with São Jorge Castle in the background.

Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon, Portugal. Also, hello 2012 iPhone image!

Most every Port producer makes at least some kind of other red, usually from the same grape varieties used in Port production. These wines can be hard to navigate on a menu or in a wine store because the label doesn't show a grape variety most of the time. It may simply say, "Douro" sometimes not even highlighting the name of the producer.

Port is sweet because during the fermentation process, an unaged brandy (neutral grape spirit) is added. The yeast that turn the sugars in grape juice into alcohol can only live below a certain alcohol level. Just the right amount is added to stop this fermentation. These wines are what happens if you let the fermentation process finish and let the yeast create its own alcohol.

If you like a bold red that still shows a little restraint, these may be the wines for you. While there are many more serious, oakier, and pricier options, this is a good intro list if you want to check out what Portuguese table reds are about.

Quinta do Crasto is an old Port house with it's earliest mention on record dating back to 1615. The family that owns it currently has been at it for just over a Century. The table red they label Crasto is a bright, fruity, unoaked affair. It glows a bright shade of ruby in the glass and has aromas of fresh berries with a hint of violet. It keeps you sipping. It's a flexible choice for pairing with many types of red meat.

via Quinta do Crasto.
Altano - This wine comes from Vineyards owned by Symington, one of the largest producers in the Douro. This table red is one of the most price friendly options on the list as well. It is a bit lighter than some of the reds on this list with a nice acidic backbone.

via Altano.
Fonseca Domini - Fonseca's ports can be found on almost any wine store shelf in America. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious Port producers. Domini is the other side of that coin, and just a little harder to find. This dry red has notes of cherry, chocolate, and violet. It is soft and round on the palate. It's a perfect companion for pot roast or steak night!

via Fonseca.
Rapariga da Qinta - This is the outlier on this list. It's not from Douro (but the winemaker is), it is from Alentejano, a lesser known wine region of Portugal. I include it just to show some of the other great options Portugal has to offer. It is made by Luis Duarte, a winemaker and consultant known for helping push Portuguese wine into the modern age. Juicy black fruit, soft fine-grained tannins, and refreshing acidity make this wine a shoe-in for pairing with hearty fall stews and meats!

via Portugal Vineyards.

Anyone else have some surprising wine finds?

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