Portugal has long been a source of value-driven wines that offer refreshment and food pairing options galore. But Portuguese wines also frequently possess a unique regional signature — they remind you that you are drinking a wine that could come from nowhere else.
What makes entry-level Portuguese wines so exciting to explore (perhaps more so than many similarly-priced wines from some New World regions) is the preponderance of indigenous grapes. Among the plethora of wine grapes grown in Portugal, some 250-plus different varieties are native to the land. Loureiro, Baga, Touriga Nacional, you may never have heard of these grapes, but discovery is part of the fun.
You can spend a lot on Port and the increasingly renowned dry reds of the Douro Valley, but there are tons of wines in the $10-$20 range worth seeking out.
I recently tasted through three Portuguese wines for part of a Twitter (#winechat) tasting with Master Sommelier Devon Broglie. The tasting was sponsored by Whole Foods, which is selling these wines, among others, as part of a recent Portuguese wine promotion. These wines by no means comprise a snapshot of the best Portugal has to offer, but less than $20, you can get a whole lot of Portuguese goodness.
2013 João Portugal Ramos Vinho Verde "Lima" - Portugal, Minho, Vinho Verde
Light gold color. Nose of honeysuckle, white peaches, green apple slices, also some slate and chalky aspects. Juicy and bouncy on the palate with crisp acid. Clean and bright, lots of grapefruit, green apple and white peach play well off a sense of chalk and crushed rocks. I like the tingling acidity, the nervy approach, and the seafood friendly appeal. Not profoundly complex but nice stuff. Made from 100% Loureiro. (86 points)
2011 Luis Pato Beira Atlântico "Colheita Seleccionada" - Portugal, Beiras, Beira Atlântico
Bright ruby/cherry colored. Smells earthy and dusty, charcoal, anise and black pepper on top of bright black cherries and raspberries. Tart and bright on the palate with medium tannins and refreshing acid. A juicy, forward approach with black cherries and raspberries leading the way. I get smoky notes and some herbal kicks as well, backed up by earthy-dusty-charcoal aspects and sweet cola. Open, forward, fruity and fun but some elegance and earthy complexities. All stainless steel fermentation, aged two years in concrete tank, this is a blend of 70% Baga and 30% Touriga Nacional. (87 points)
2012 Quinta do Crasto Douro "Crasto" - Portugal, Douro
Deep purple color. Juicy plums and blackberries on the nose, along with rocky soil, some lavender, roses and coffee. Medium but manageable tannins, a fine and dusty wine, medium acid. Bright and juicy plums all the way, pure and fun. Notes of loam, charcoal, coffee and anise. Moderate structure for near-term cellaring but good to drink now. Great intro to the Douro that is sure to wine over many a palate. Long, earthy, smoky finish. A blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca. (88 points)