Anthony Rose: 'Portugal is suddenly starting to take pride in the character of its native grapes'


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Indy Lifestyle Online

Portugal is the dark horse of Europe. Often ignored until the 21st century, it has undergone a wine revolution.

Portugal has not been helped by the fact that it's traditionally a country of blends rather than easily identifiable 'celeb' grape varieties. Having been tongue-tied about its native grapes, Portugal is suddenly starting to take pride in their character and to communicate their many and varied qualities to the world.

One of Portugal's best-known wines is vinho verde, made from the local loureiro and arinto, among others. These spring-fresh wines can be light in body and refreshingly crisp. Take the lively apple-and-pear juiciness of the 2013 Quinta da Raza, for instance, £8.50-£9.99, Hennings, Cellarvie, Fareham Wine, Butlers Wine, or the crisp and zesty 2014 Quinta das Arcas Tapada de Villar Vinho Verde, £8, Marks & Spencer, with its Granny Smith-apple bite.

It can also be full-bodied and rich. Take the Anselmo Mendes refreshing 2013 Contacto Alvarinho, £12.95-£15.30, The Wine Society, Prestige Wines, Bottle Apostle. The Douro region, too, is now producing complex white blends typified by Dirk Niepoort's elegantly oaked, burgundian-style 2013 Redoma Branco, around £18.75, Butlers Wine, Prestige Wines. Further south, the encruzado, the signature white grape of Dão, makes delicious dry whites such as the aromatic 2013 Quinta dos Roques Encrudado, Dão, £17.20-£17.50, PM Wine, The Good Wine Shop.

In Bairrada, Filipa Pato uses the bical grape in the intensely rich yet minerally 2013 Nossa Calcario, £23.20, Theatre of Wine. While Lisbon shows quality in the mouthwateringly peachy 2012 Quinta do Pinto Vinhas do Lasso Branco, £12.76, Vinoteca.

On the red wine front, the taming of the difficult baga grape has made a big difference in Bairrada with wines such as the beeswax and spicy blackberry 2012 Casa de Saima Bairrada Tinto, £11.95-£12.99, Vinoteca, Corks of Cotham, Caviste, The Oxford Wine Co, and Filipa Pato's fragrant blueberry- and blackcurrant-rich old vine Territorio Vivo, Baga, Reserva Especial, £19.80, Bottle Apostle.

Dão's Quinta da Falorca gets in on the act of blending touriga nacional, alfrocheiro and tinta roriz with a sumptuously perfumed 2009 Reserva Lagar, £16.19-£25,75, Exel Wines, Amazon, Hic! Wine Merchants. One of the up-and-coming regions to watch is Lisbon, whose 2011 Manz Pomar do Espirinto, Cheleiros, Lisboa, £15, Oddbins, is a seductive blend involving syrah, aragonês, touriga nacional and castelão, showing vivid pepper and spice-infused dark berry juiciness.