With over 250 indigenous grape varieties, Portugal has the highest density of native grapes of any country in the world. And while Portugal is largely known for its supple Ports and zippy white wines, there are plenty of delightful red table wines made here as well, particularly in the sunny Alentejo region that dominates the southern half of the country.
Today we look at a collection of newly released wines from the Alentejo — all red blends — which showcase the variety and versatility of winemaking in this region.
2016 Esporao Reserva Alentejo DOC – A blend of aragonez (aka tempranillo) (40%), alicante bouchet (30%), trincadeira (20%), and cabernet sauvignon (10%). Surprisingly supple, this wine pops with gentle notes of blueberries and violets, with layers of vanilla lingering underneath. There’s a light touch of florals underneath, adding complexity, before a slightly sweeter finish, again showcasing vanilla, comes to the fore. It’s a beautiful, soft experience — and quite a bargain at this price. Best value. A- / $16
2015 Adega de Borba Reserva Alentejo DOC – Another big winner, this soft blend of 30% trincadeira, 30% alicante bouschet, 20% aragonez, and 20% castelao keeps the focus on red fruit, its crushed berries tempered by notes of cola, a bit of bay leaf, some brown sugar, and a touch of florals and some denser currant notes emerging on the finish. The tannins here have softened into nothing after 6 years, which makes this an incredibly easy sipper. Another great value. A- / $21
2014 Carmim Reguengos Garrafeira Dos Socios Alentejo DOC – This is a higher-end expression of Alentejo, a blend of alicante bouschet (65%), touriga nacional (20%), and tinta caiada (15%). Supple and lightly sweet, it showcases blackberries and spice and some licorice candy. At this age its tannins have faded into oblivion; what remains is a delightful melange of fruit, almost jammy at times, plus a sprinkle of spices from the baking rack and a touch of chocolate. A- / $48
2017 Herdade de Sao Miguel Colheita Seleccionada Alentejano – 50% alicante bouschet, 30% touriga nacional, 10% syrah, and 10% cabernet sauvignon; not a DOC wine. The syrah gives this an unusual character, and frankly it’s not my favorite wine in the mix here (in fact it’s the only one I didn’t really enjoy). Overwhelming with earth, it’s tough to dig deep enough to find the dark fruit underneath, some vague cassis and blackberry notes. The wine perks up with time in glass — and it helps to pair it with food — but it never wholly gels. B-/ $25
2016 Cartuxa Evora Tinto Colheita DOC – 40% alicante bouschet, 40% aragonez, 20% trincadeira. Gently sweet up front, the wine jumps from lush strawberry notes to mild florals and back, then sliding into a darker character that evokes chocolate sauce, plums, and some cassis. The floral elements return for the finish, finding balance with the more brooding, dried fruit character underneath. A- / $25