The stunning Douro Valley. These days, though, there's a whole lot more to Portugal than Port.

Portugal’s stunning Douro Valley. These days, though, there’s a whole lot more to Portugal than Port.

Portugal is back in the table wine game with a vengeance. No better proof of that than a recent Vancouver  visit by a couple of score of key producers. Judging by the excitement in the room the you could have sworn it was a Burgundy tasting—except it wasn’t.

This was the first major Vancouver offering of wines from Portugal for probably over a decade. As a result, hundreds of industry types and wine lovers were circling the tables in a somewhat cosy space on top of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Here’s why Portugal is back.

1. Value

I’ve known for some time that Portuguese wines are undervalued—too often dismissed merely as affordable entry-level Wines—and long overdue for a return to and always curious market.

 

2. Variety

Again often overlooked is the remarkable range of wines made in Portugal. From crisp and bright Vinho Verde to a range of rosés, plush and rounded but well structured reds, and even dessert style and sparkling, Portuguese wines run the gamut. Oh, and did we mention Port?

 

3. Food

Wines from Portugal tend to be very food friendly. (See 2) Wine is as enmeshed in Portugal’s culture as its food (also often under-appreciated), and the two really do go hand in hand in its myriad regions.

 

4. Quality

It took a while but wine buyers have finally acknowledged that Portugal has broken through that perceived consumer budget sweet-spot of $20. In essence, Portugal boasts great QPR (Quality/Price Ratio). Taste away from the bargain basement and you’ll find no shortage of mid to premium offerings that can hold their own with many regions elsewhere around the world.

 

5. Portugal = Personality

Portugal’s wines of today often display a balance that, while sometimes acknowledging more modern (‘new world’) styles, still speak very much with their own personality and identify with the specific regions.

 

A strong selection at the preview tasting

A strong selection at the preview tasting

I don’t think anybody has any doubt concerning the quality of what’s in the bottle. Although—especially given the consumer’s preoccupation with knowing every grape used—there’s a bit of a learning curve to understand the numerous varieties. They can be challenging to read and pronounce. But that shouldn’t be a deterrent to enjoying the wines.

From what I was tasting, I would be thrilled if even 10% of these were able to make it into the Vancouver market. Based on this tasting my guess is there’ll be a whole lot more wines coming, especially from regions such as Tejo and Alantejo.

 

Here’s four from  Treve Ring’s (Wine Align) well chosen preview tasting which underscore the variety and epitomize the quality now to be found in Portugal. And are well worth your attention…

• Quinta do Ameal- Vinho Verde Branco 2011. (Ponte de Lima) The perfect summer drop: Aromas of green apple and pear with juicy acidity, good length and lingering zesty notes with a touch of mineral. Think oysters or crispy fried smelts! The deal. BCLS $17.49 , 90 pts.

• Domingos Soares Franco Private Collection Moscatel Roxo Rosé 2013. (Setubal)  How Portugal can be so exciting! This wine sports floral and rose petal aromas, with distinct Turkish delight, before a dry, fruity palate with a clean, acidity driven end. BCLS $20.99, 90 pts.

• Vale do Bomfim Tinto 2009. (Douro) Great table wine, from legendary Port producers Symington. Five more common Portuguese varieties make up this plush and well rounded but well structured, gently peppery, plummy and black fruited medium bodied red. BCLS $19.99, 91 pts.

Quinta do Crasto Tinto 2011. (Douro) Classic value from one of the Douro’s originals, and one of Europe’s oldest vineyard sites. Made from four varieties, including Tinto Roriz and Touriga Naçional. Well balanced fruit and acidity with red and black berry notes before a lengthy and layered palate. Fire up the Barbeque! BCLS $19.99 91 pts.