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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. Dixon's Double Diamond 10 Years Old Tawny

    Dixon's Double Diamond, 10 years old 75cl

    This is a careful blend of wines with an average age of 10 years sourced from vineyards in the upper Douro Valley. Smooth and complex, this refined port has flavours reminiscent of apricots and dried fruits.

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    £27.25
    6 or more
    £30.10
    each
    £22.71
    6 or more Excl. VAT
    £25.08
    each Excl. VAT
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  2. Niepoort Tawny Dee

    Niepoort Tawny Dee 75cl

    Brick red in colour and displaying dried fruit flavour with nutty subtleties.

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    £15.54
    6 or more
    £18.10
    each
    £12.95
    6 or more Excl. VAT
    £15.08
    each Excl. VAT
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  3. Niepoort Senior Tawny

    Niepoort Senior Tawny 75cl

    Aged for about 8 years, this has bags of tawny character. The fruit is tempered by hints of nuts that are typical with this most underrated style of Port.

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    £20.10
    6 or more
    £23.10
    each
    £16.75
    6 or more Excl. VAT
    £19.25
    each Excl. VAT
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  4. Taylor's, 10 years old

    Taylor's, 10 years old 75cl

    Ageing in wood for an average of ten years makes this port mellow and elegant with rich aromas and mature fruit.

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    £22.74
    6 or more
    £25.10
    each
    £18.95
    6 or more Excl. VAT
    £20.92
    each Excl. VAT
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  5. Taylor's, 20 years old

    Taylor's, 20 years old 75cl

    This lovely, elegant Tawny is pale in colour. The spicy nutty aromas of ageing are deliciously powerful and intense.

    More about this product
    £36.61
    6 or more
    £39.80
    each
    £30.51
    6 or more Excl. VAT
    £33.17
    each Excl. VAT
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  6. Taylor's, 30 years old

    Taylor's, 30 years old 75cl

    Intense tawny colour fading to pale amber at the rim. Opulent nose with notes of seasoned oak and rich jammy fruit. Smooth and round on the palate.

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    £66.01
    6 or more
    £74.00
    each
    £55.01
    6 or more Excl. VAT
    £61.67
    each Excl. VAT
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  7. Taylor's, Over 40 years old

    Taylor's, Over 40 years old 75cl

    The age shows well here; rich and long with delicate notes of spices mingling with the luscious fruit.

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    £108.37
    6 or more
    £121.85
    each
    £90.31
    6 or more Excl. VAT
    £101.54
    each Excl. VAT
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