Portuguese 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.