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Portugal

The people of Portugal are the second-largest consumers of wine in the world, a fact unsurprising in light of the quality and aplomb of the wine produced there.

Port and Madeira may hog the headlines, but red and white wines of great character and distinction are produced all over the country.

The people of Portugal are the second-largest consumers of wine in the world, a fact unsurprising in light of the quality and aplomb of the wine produced there.

Port and Madeira may hog the headlines, but red and white wines of great character and distinction are produced all over the country.

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Portugal is notable for resisting the world-wide trend of adopting international grape varieties and, accordingly, indigenous vines are responsible for almost all of its wines. Some of these vines are superb, but rarely have they travelled successfully abroad, and this makes Portugal a unique place to explore.

History

The history of Portuguese winemaking bears many similarities to that of Spain. The Phoenicians, the Greeks and especially the Romans established it here, a mid-20th century dictator damaged it hugely, and only since entry into the EU in 1986 has it revived. It may have been the British, however, who shaped it the most.

When Napoleon threatened the white cliffs of Dover, he inadvertently popularised Port and Madeira in Britain. Port, in particular, was already known at the Georgian table but when Bordeaux and Burgundy became out-of-bounds in the early 19th century demand for it rocketed. The fortification of these wines, so integral to their essence, was an innovation intended to preserve them at sea on their way over to Britain.

The Classification System

Paradoxically, the Portuguese system of classification is both one of the oldest and one of the newest, certainly in Europe. In 1756 the prime minister drew a line around the Douro to protect the quality of Port, but few further strides were taken until entry into the EU in 1986. At this time a system was drawn up in imitation of France's, but which suffered from all the bureaucratic inflexibility of the Italian attempt. Only time will tell whether the system comes to reliably indicate quality. 

Climate and Conditions

By a wonderful quirk of nature, Portugal has a varied climate working with a topography that frequently makes anything but vines a nuisance to grow. The Atlantic coast is wet, cool and a land of light reds and whites. Inland is particularly known for its reds, and in the high, hot north they can be powerful and impressive. It is here, in the inaccessible, inhospitable Douro, that the grapes for Port are grown.  On the volcanic soils of Madeira, irrigation is necessary except up in the clouds at high altitude.

The Wines of Today

Portugal, with its suite of indigenous grapes, traditional techniques and thirsty inhabitants, and with the exception of Port and Madeira, has always produced wine for itself instead of the world. Yet this is beginning to change, and the good news for the consumer is that the transformation does not involve vast plantings of international vines that have spread elsewhere in the world. Individuality has been preserved, and Portugal is improving and exporting whilst retaining its traditional and inimitable character.

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  1. Dom Rafael Mouchao, Alentejo

    Dom Rafael Mouchao, Alentejo, 2016 75cl

    Dry and rich with vibrant, fresh, tropical fruit which contrasts a textured and creamy aftertaste.

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  2. Loureiro Joao Ramos, Vinho Verde

    Loureiro Joao Ramos, Vinho Verde, 2016 75cl

    Floral aromas are present throughout with this fresh and vibrant Vinho Verde. There is plenty of citrus fruit, balanced by generous minerality on a deep and long finish.

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  3. Niepoort Redoma Branco

    Niepoort Redoma Branco, 2014 75cl

    Redoma 2015 shows a very fresh, delicate and mineral character. It has a complex and intense aroma, marked with good citric and floral notes, recalling orange blossom. In the palate, the 2015 Redoma shows an incredible structure, slightly creamy with a very balanced, firm, held by a fantastic and persistent natural acidity. 

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  4. Soalheiro Alvarinho, Vinho Verde

    Soalheiro Alvarinho, Vinho Verde, 2015 75cl

    Often quoted as the standard bearer for this variety in Portugal, Luis Cerdeira is the surest pair of hands south of the Minho with Alvarinho. Fresh, aromatic and delicious.

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  5. Terra d'Alter Viognier, Alentejano

    Terra d'Alter Viognier, Alentejano, 2016 75cl

    Showing classic aromas and flavours of Viognier. Strong floral notes on the nose with apricots and quince on the palate then a viscous and complex mineral finish.

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  6. Terra de Lobos Branco Casal Branco

    Terra de Lobos Branco Casal Branco, Tejo, 2016 75cl

    A plethora of aromas are detectable on the nose with apple, citrus and tropical fruits supported by a hint of spice. The palate is elegant and balanced with great structure and a cleansing finish.

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  7. Drink Me Tinto, Douro

    Drink Me Tinto, Douro, 2014 75cl

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  8. Gandarada, Boas Quintas, Dão

    Gandarada, Boas Quintas, Dão, 2013 75cl

    Aromas of wild berry fill the nose, with a touch of spice also detectable. The palate is medium to full-bodied with rich fruit character supported by spicy notes including coffee and some herby hints.

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  9. Moucha Mouchao, Alentejo

    Moucha Mouchao, Alentejo, 2012 75cl

    A wine with an intense garnet colour and aromas of black fruit jams, ripe olives, mint and spices. Its structure is distinct, possessing a clear freshness and a set of solid and exuberant tannins that guaranty its longevity.

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  10. Ninfa Escolha Red, Alentejo

    Ninfa Escolha Red, Alentejo, 2011 75cl

    Deep ruby in colour with rich and ripe red fruit colours with subtle hints of pepper. Big and full on the palate with rich layers of texture and great length of finish.

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  11. Ponte das Canas Mouchao, Alentejo, 2013

    Ponte das Canas Mouchao, Alentejo, 2013 75cl

    Deep and very rich with aromas of wild berry and some floral notes. There is a suggestion of eucalyptus and some charred wood due to the 24 months the wine spends being aged in oak. The finish is long, complex and satisfyingly persistent.

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  12. Red Leg Tinto, Alentejo

    Red Leg Tinto, Alentejo, 2014 75cl

    Aromas of blackberry and blackcurrant fill the nose, this develops on the palate with supple tannic structure and a good concentration of flavour. The finish is pleasing and silky smooth. 

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