Portugal: Wine for the People?

Yesterday I tasted an array of Portuguese wines that were all priced under $20 (tasting price). So what did I find out?

Portuguese wines, though still value-priced, are no longer totally undiscovered and undervalued and so prices are rising. But good news is that compared to over-inflated wine making regions we all know too well, they can still be a steal.

I need me some everyday wine that is not as dull as dishwater. And a few of the wines tasted fit the bill. I will discuss the three I liked the most and the one that baffled me the most.

2009 Quinta da Pellada Saes, white blend Dao “Riserva.” A ringer. I had before and took home for its elegance and interesting style reminiscent of White Bordeaux that had a baby with baby with a German Riesling.

2008 Quinta da Pellada Saes, red blend Dao. A surprise made from Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen (Mencia), and Tinta Roriz.  This earthy, dusty wine infused with violets fascinated me. It was rustic, indeed. I found myself ready to pair it with a game bird dish. (Ended up pairing it with a crisp braised duck because of its cherry fruits and yes, Pinot married and had a baby with a Grenache-based Rhone blend in the case.)

Wines from Portugal are definitely on the ascent. Though my trusty wine shop sales person at the San Francisco Wine Trading Company reminded me that not long ago wines that are now $12 per bottle were more like $6.

Alvaro Castro of Quinta de Saes and Quinta da Pellada in the Dão is definitely a mover and shaker in this shift. Here’s a short piece on the changes afoot. http://bit.ly/lleadi

Now back to that tasting: 2009 Afros, red Vinho Verde made from Vinhao was more of a challenge for me. Steel-tanked, no oak. It confused me but in the end enchanted with its unique flavors captured by dark fruit and spice coupled with Fleurie-like floral notes and a miner laity that contributed to the balanced presentation. Now what to make with this? (Any ideas to share?)

Finally, what are you to me, Mr. 2008 Quinta de la Roas, red Douro? Yes, you were more balanced than the previous wine tasted that reeked of raisins on the nose but still I don’t get your charms. Rioja meets Chateauneuf-du-Pape was in the description but I don’t think so – they did not marry yet alone have a baby worth paying attention to.

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