Portuguese wines – and why I’m a convert

Another highly enjoyable evening at Central London Wine Society. Tonight’s tasting – the latest in our our monthly ‘Wine & Dine’ series – was all about Portugal and who better to introduce us to the delights of Portuguese grapes than Gary White, who has a Portuguese wife, Sara, and spends every holiday in Portugal?

Lucky for us that he does, as Gary brings home a truckload of wine from each visit and tonight we benefited from his Christmas foray into the Beira Interior and elsewhere. It was a crisp, fresh white wine that got us underway: Quinta dos Termos Fonte Cal Reserva Beira Interior DOC 2016. Very pale yellow in appearance, I found it pleasingly citrusy. “Zingy”, I recorded in my notes – I’m not sure whether that counts as a technical term in the wine world, but you get my drift.

Off to a great start, then, and two more interesting white wines followed, both from the same vineyard: Casa Ferreirinha ‘Papa Figos’ (‘Fig Eater’) Douro DOC 2016 and Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Douro DOC 2015. The former was very dry – I had to search out the fruit – and didn’t have much length, but I enjoyed it nonetheless – more so, funnily enough, than its 2015 companion which I found very acidic and far too young. That said, we were advised that this particular wine will keep for up to ten years and I have no doubt that in a few years’ time it will be delicious.

Papa Figos

On to the reds, and we returned to the Beira Interior for a Quinta dos Termos DOC 2012. One of the hottest regions of Portugal, water stress can be a problem for wine makers here and this particular wine I found disappointing. Whilst easy to drink, it lacked fruit and was, in truth, unmemorable. Far more appealing – and also hailing from Quinta dos Termos – was its Vinhas Velhas Reserva Beira Interior DOC 2014. What a stunner. Having benefited from six months in French oak, it boasted ample fruit and a very decent finish. The vineyard considers it to be one of its best wines, and I can see why.

Next up: Animus – Douro DOC 2014. Also packed with fruit, this found favour with virtually everyone in the room – even more so when we discovered that you can purchase it from Aldi for just £4.99. £4.99! Expect to see an Aldi delivery van parked outside my home in the near future.

Animus Douro DOC 2014 01

The next wine, a Porta 6 Reserva Lisboa VR 2015 was pleasant enough, with a good amount of fruit but little else to recommend it. The same could not be said of the Esporao Tinto Reserva Alentejo DOC 2012, whose nose and taste were fabulous. “Like inhaling a jammy doughnut”, I’ve written in my notes and the wine itself packed a real punch; it was full of heat and really lingered. Esporoa is considered one of Alentejo’s top producers and on this evidence I would love to try more of their wines.

We were nearing the end of the tasting, now, and our penultimate wine was Casa Ferreirinha’s romantically-named ‘Callibriga’ – ‘The Little Princess’ – Douro DOC 2014. Somewhat less romantically, it was rather peppery, albeit still perfectly drinkable.

Last, but certainly not least, came a Prats and Symington Post Scriptum Douro DOC 2014. Made with port grapes, this boutique wine can also be purchased in the UK. I liked it very much – it was beautifully soft to drink and nearly, although not quite, enjoyable as the ‘Vinhas Velhas’ (my fellow tasters disagreed, however, voting it their favourite wine of the evening).

Tonight confirmed my appreciation of Portuguese wines. Approachable and affordable, they offer something for everyone and I look forward to further encounters with this fascinating country.

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