It is hard to find a good selection of Portuguese wine in U.S. wine shops, and that’s a shame because Americans are missing out on some great wines at reasonable prices. Portugal was long known for producing excellent fortified Ports, but its dry reds and whites remained largely unknown. I was unfamiliar with them myself until my first visit to the Douro Valley a few years ago when I was amazed by the great wines we enjoyed. Outside of a few shops, it was impossible to find those wines back home.
One reason is that Americans are unfamiliar with Portuguese grapes, such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, or Alfrocheiro. Nor are we familiar with the wine regions, such as the Alentejo or Dão. Not exactly household names… There’s also a pre-conceived notion that a wine simply called “red” may be an inferior wine, made from whatever jumble of grapes the winemaker happened to have left over. But it doesn’t take much experimentation with Portuguese wines to get beyond those barriers.
It is important to note that the best dry table wines of Portugal weren’t produced until the last few decades. These wines didn’t even have a government classification until 1982, yet Port received its official designation in 1756. As an ancient wine growing region, many Portuguese vineyards consist of simply “old vines” of unknown varietals. Since old vineyards are often without modern irrigation, it took many years for the roots to reach down to the water table. These old vines are hardy and the grapes, though sparse, are rich and fruity.
Give Portuguese wines a try! We think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.