Tag Archives: Portuguese wine

Wine of the week: Bar o de Vila Proeza Dao Tinto 2010

 Proeza Dao TintoPortuguese wine has become chic over the past year or so, which is surprising given that it has been around for hundreds of years. So what’s different this time?

Mostly that quality keeps improving. The Wine Curmudgeon has written about Portuguese wine that isn’t vinho verde off and on over the years, and the only consistent thing has been its inconsistency. The Portuguese are best known for port, the fortified dessert wine, and their table wines, red and white, often seem like afterthoughts. The whites can be thin and acidic, while the reds sometimes have a heavy, ashy feel to them.

The Proeza Dao Tinto ($9, purchased, 13%), though, demonstrates that the country’s winemakers are making impressive progress. It’s a nice little red wine, simple but not stupid, made with touriga nacional, the primary grape used to make port, plus tinta roriz, the country’s equivalent of tempranillo, and alfrocheiro, a blending grape. This combination gives the wine a rich, almost port-like feel, with plum and berry fruit. It’s not as pleasantly tart as a Spanish tempranillo can be, but that’s not a flaw.

A label note, since these terms are so unfamiliar: The producer is Barao de Vila and the wine is called Proeza, and it’s made in the Dao region, north of Lisbon about halfway between the coast and the Spanish border. Tinto, of course, is red. Drink this with traditional red wine food, and it’s also a red wine for summer — low alcohol, lots of fruit, and something that can even be served a little chilled.

Vinho verde review 2014

vinho verde review 2014Vinho verde keeps getting stranger and stranger, but that’s the wine business for you. What’s the first thing it does when it has a drinkable, $6 wine? Confuse the issue, of course.

This year, there are varietal vinho verdes, something I’ve never seen before. Vinho verde, a Portuguese white wine that ?s actually kind of green, is supposed to be an inexpensive, non-vintage, simple wine served ice cold, and even with an ice cube. But, in a trend that started last year, producers are trying to take vinho verde upscale, and one bottle I tasted (I did eight this year) cost $13. This baffled my friend Jim Serroka, a vinho aficianado: “Why, when you get something right, do you have to change it?” he asked.

Blended vinho verde, made with three grapes that most wine geeks haven’t heard of, is slightly sweet with lime or green apple fruit and very low alcohol, plus some fizz that’s more like club soda than sparkling wine. You buy it, drink it, and forget about it. It’s the quintessential summer porch wine, which isn’t surprising given the region’s 100-degree summer temperatures.

Most of the single varietals that I tasted, made with one of the three grapes used in the blend, were sour and not in a good way. The one that stood out and was worth the extra money was Anjos ($10, sample, 9.5%) — a little sour, a little sweet, some bubbles, and very fresh.

Otherwise, stick with the $6 versions. The Sonalto ($6, purchased, 9%), known for its crab label and also called Santola, was much as always: Fresh, limey and effervescent, without too much sweetness or the warm beer taste that sometimes shows up. The Famega ($6, purchased, 10.5%) went in a slightly different direction, with more apple, but is still enjoyable.

For more on vinho verde:
Vinho verde review 2013
Vinho verde review 2012
Vinho verde review 2011

Vinho verde review 2013

vinho verde review 2013The damnedest thing happened when the Wine Curmudgeon went vinho verde shopping this year. The wines, usually around $5 or $6, weren ?t that cheap. Most were about $8, and one cost $11 ? a price that seemed to defeat vinho verde ?s purpose.

That ?s because vinho verde, a Portuguese white wine that ?s actually kind of green, is supposed to be an inexpensive, simple wine served ice cold ? with an ice cube, even. It ?s made for hot summer days and it starts to wear out around the time the kids go back to school in September. It ?s slightly sweet with lime or green apple fruit and very low alcohol, plus some fizz ? more like club soda than sparkling wine. You buy it, drink it, and forget about it.

Why anyone thinks they can get more than $10 for vinho verde is beyond me. Are you listening, Broadbent?

Most vinho verde is made by a handful of companies, which they sell to retailers under a variety of labels. This year, the Sonalto ($6, purchased, 9%) was about as good as vinho verde gets — fresh, limey and effervescent, without too much sweetness or the warm beer taste that is sometimes a problem. You may see the same wine called Santola; both have a crab on the label.

For more on vinho verde:
? Vinho verde review 2012
? Vinho verde review 2011
? Vinho verde review 2010

Wine of the week: Vinho verde

A funny thing happened on the way to the annual vinho verde review. I tasted some poorly made wine, which has never happened before, and almost didn ?t do the review.

The thing about the Portuguese vinho verde, as regular visitors know, is that it ?s not complicated enough to screw up. It ?s an inexpensive, simple wine, slightly sweet with lime or green apple fruit, plus some fizz ? more like club soda than sparkling wine. It ?s low in alcohol and needs to be ice cold, which makes it the ideal wine for this time of year. It ?s not made to age, even for a couple of months, and usually wears out by the time cooler weather arrives.

A couple of producers make most of the vinho verde, which they sell under different labels.This year, though, much of the wine was underwhelming. The Gazela ($7, purchased) was sour, not especially fruity, and thin ? more like Alka-Seltzer than wine. The Famega ($7, purchased), usually the standard, was only a little more enjoyable than the Gazela. It had some sweetness and the traditional spritz, but also an unpleasant, almost quinine flavor.

Fortunately, the Casal Garcia ($6, purchased) was up to snuff, fresh and lively. It tasted of very tart green apples, with the right amount of fizz and sweetness. I drank it with linguine with grilled shrimp (lots of garlic and parsley, too), and it did exactly what it was supposed to do. What more can you ask of a $6 wine?

Wine of the week: Vinho verde 2011

Vinho verde, the Portuguese white wine, is almost, in the right light, green. It’s often spritzy and can even be sweet. But it is cheap, usually $8 or less, and it somehow always tastes better than it should. So don’t discount vinho verde — and especially if it’s a long, hot summer with too many traffic jams and cranky bosses.

Our vinho verde primer is here and last year’s review is here. Keep in mind that several companies control the market, often selling the same wine under different labels. My retailer, in fact, had four vinho verdes this year, including one for $12, but all four were made by just two producers.

I bought the Caves de Cerca Famega ($7, purchased), which was one of the best-made vinho verdes I’ve had in years. It wasn’t as soft drink fizzy as so many others, and it had more fruit (lime?) and less sweetness. Don’t worry, though, because it’s still light and sweetish, with just 10 percent alcohol. It’s just not as cloying as vinho verde can be.

This is wine for people who want a glass when they get home from work but don’t want to consult their wine oracle about what to drink. Which, actually, is something we should all do more often.

Wine review: Prazo de Roriz Douro 2008

Portuguese wines are all the rage. Quality has improved markedly over the past couple of years, as has availability. Sales are growing, and not just for the the most common wines, like vinho verde. Higher quality and even more expensive red and white table wines, the mainstay of any wine business, are becoming more common and more popular.

In fact, I have had a half dozen or so top notch Portuguese wines over the past year, and that so many of them have been so good and have cost around $10 is worth an eventual Portuguese wine post. Until then, consider the Prazo ($17, sample), a red blend made with tinta roriz, the Portuguese version of tempranillo, touriga nacional, the classic port grape, and three others. As such, it could have been heavy and cloying, which was not unusual for this style of wine in the past.

But it's fresh and clean — an almost New World-style tempranillo, with lots of red fruit, acid to balance, and soft tannins on the finish. A conscious effort has been made to steer the Prazo away from the typical raisiny, gooey style, and it shows. My only concern was value: It is it worth $17? Probably, given how many annoying, over-ripe California wines cost that much. Serve this with spring and summer barbecues, and think about it as a gift for the red wine drinker who wants to try something different.

Wine of the week: Douro Altano 2008

The first time I tasted this wine, a Portuguese red blend, it was from the 2003 vintage and it was an outstanding $7 wine — almost $10 Hall of Fame worthy. The next vintage, the 2005, was less than impressive, overripe and flabby. The 2006 was better than the 2005, but not as good as the 2003.

This inconsistency has driven the Wine Curmudgeon crazy, since I really want to like the wine. As noted, there just aren’t that many nifty $10 reds out there these says. So when the 2008 was up to the 2003’s standards, I was ecstatic. This version of the Altano ($10, sample) manages to combine an Old World sturdiness with bright, dark fruit (prune-like, if that’s possible). It’s not especially tannic or acidic, but this doesn’t seem to be a problem. Pair it with any weeknight red wine dish, like meatloaf or stuffed bell peppers.

So why was this vintage so much better than the others? I checked with the producer’s Dallas representative, and he didn’t mince words. There were a variety of problems with the way the wine was made, like hiring port winemakers to make table wine. These problems, he says, have been fixed by the label’s new owners, and the ’08 was made by winemakers who specialize in table wine. Which is good news, and I’m looking forward to the next vintage.