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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. Loureiro Joao Ramos, Vinho Verde

    Loureiro Joao Ramos, Vinho Verde, 2015 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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  2. 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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  3. Red Leg Branco, Alentejo

    Red Leg Branco, Alentejo, 2013 75cl

    Was £8.95

    A strong lemon aroma carries through to a light palate that has bags of refreshing minerality. There's good depth to the fruit flavour too, whilst the finish brings a slight steeliness and has good length.

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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, 2014 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, 2015 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. 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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  8. Niepoort Vertente

    N/A - Niepoort Vertente, 2013 75cl

    With a beautiful violet colour of medium concentration, Vertente 2014 has a delicate profile with mineral and wild black fruit notes. The wood is well integrated, showing some smoked and spice notes. Tense, deep, and with a good structure, it is fine and elegant in the mouth, with a balanced acidity and well integrated tannins.

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  9. Smart Dog Syrah, J. P. Ramos, Alentejo

    Smart Dog Syrah, J. P. Ramos, Alentejano, 2015 75cl

    Intense aromas of red berries with some spicy notes coming through the ripe fruit flavours. The palate is smooth with soft tannin supporting generous fruit and a full body. The wine finishes with plenty of spice and decent length.

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  10. Terra d'Alter Telhas Tinto

    Terra d'Alter Telhas Tinto, 2012 75cl

    This classic blend of Syrah and Viognier (5%) shows the lifted aromatic characters of the Viognier complementing the brooding black fruit and pepper of the Syrah.

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  11. Terra d'Alter Alfrocheiro, Alentejano

    Terra d'Alter Alfrocheiro, Alentejano, 2015 75cl

    Alfrocheiro is the Pinot of Portugal with the characteristic small bunches and berries, creating a wine redolent of black cherries and soft red fruits, and a creamy silky finish.

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  12. Terra de Lobos Tinto Casal Branco

    Terra de Lobos Tinto Casal Branco, Tejo, 2015 75cl

    Aromas of black fruit with some floral overtones fill the nose, there's also a hint of spice. In the mouth the wine is rich with a medium to full body and good fruit content. The finish is persistently pleasing.

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