WINE O’CLOCK: Nice label … and the wine ‘s not bad either
It’s easy to spot Portuguese wines on the shelves of supermarkets and off-licences. They are the bottles with the nicest labels, colourful and artistic. But, like books and covers, you shouldn’t judge a wine by its label.
With the exception of their wonderful Ports, the reputation of Portuguese wines has been for pleasant rather than exciting products, nice Vinho Verde (although they tend not to travel well) and decent mellow reds.
You will have a better experience if you are doing your drinking in Portugal. That is because the country produces relatively low quantities of wine and some of the best never gets exported.
Portuguese vineyards tend to be small and some have found there is more profit to be made from conducting tours, and selling wine to the visitors, than from wrestling with the bureaucracy of the export markets.
The advance of the Covid plague has made this year a poor one for tourism. Tânia Matos, who helps run a vineyard on the Algarve, estimates that their visitors have been down by 70%. Production is also down but, even so, more bottles are going onto the general market.
“Our wine has a lot of quality,” explains Tânia. “There is a choice of grapes both in the field and in the cellar. The fact that we are small, makes us pay attention to the details.”
There are quality Portuguese wines to be had in Ireland, too, if you look for them. Watch out for the colourful labels.
Fado Friendship Reserva (€9.84 SuperValu).
Yes, a great label, with a sailing ship and musicians outside a café. The wine is not bad either. A smooth red with flavour of autumn fruits and a hint of spice. Reduced from €13.76 in SuperValu ‘s current wine sale.
Azevedo Loureiro Alvaringo (€16.99. The Wine Store, Kilkenny).
A wine from the Vinho Verde region but not one of the slightly sparkling variety we have come to expect. This is a complex wine with ripe fruit flavours of mango and nectarine, balanced by a citrus tang. Lovely with prawns, olives and goat cheese.
Ai Galera Poetico (€13 Wineonline.ie)
Another beautiful label with literary images to match its literary name. A dry red from the Tejo region, south of Lisbon. It has the look of a big, hearty red but it is a gentle mellow wine, good with chicken, salmon or soft cheeses.