Carl Kanowsky: A Step Beyond in Portugal

A wine shop in Lisbon, Portugal.
A wine shop in Lisbon, Portugal.

So, it’s time to leave Jerez, Sherry, and Spain and venture to a new land for Terry and I, Portugal.

Now, Portugal’s winemakers labor under the same misconceptions most Americans have about Sherry.  Namely, that it’s sweet, a dessert wine, and only enjoyed on special occasions.

Before leaving España, we partied until the wee small hours in Cordoba, celebrating the marital union of Virginia’s (you remember, our son, Scott’s, significant other) brother, Domenico, to a lovely Spanish lass, Natalia.  Showing true class, Natalia and Domenico held their reception at El Castillo de Almodovar, an 8th century Moorish castle, dominating the countryside from its hilltop perch.

After the wedding, we took a 7-hour bus trip from Seville, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal, with a stop at the port city, Faro.  A long journey but a great introduction into rural Portugal.  The scenery reminded me of a picturesque trip to the Santa Ynez area.

While exploring Lisbon, we, of course, had to include delving into Portuguese wine.

Our tour of Lisbon began at Praça do Comércio, the massive plaza that fronts the seagoing port.  As you stand in the center, next to the statute of King José I, facing the water, look to your right.  You’ll see the Wines of Portugal Tasting Room, or in Portuguese, Sala Ogival.

Go inside.  There’s about six Enomatic wine dispensing machines, with eight bottles of wine in each.  The machines cover all the main Portuguese wine regions, Minho, Douro, Dao, Bairrada, Alentejo, and Setubal.  Frankly, before venturing in, I had no idea about any of this.

You can spend anywhere from .70€ to 10€ for a 2 ounce pour.  Wanting to get an idea of what most Portuguese would drink (and not wanting to blow the entire vacation budget), we kept to the wines that ranged from one to three euros.

And we had some fabulous wines.  Surprisingly, some of our favorites were whites.

Started with Herdade de Sao Miguel 2016, a white from the Antao Vaz grape and the Alentejo region.  Only about $12/bottle, it provides great value.  Green apple on the nose and palate, it has a long tropical finish.

Next – 2015 Casa do Capitao, a 100% Alvarinho (the Portuguese version of Albariño) from the Minho region.  Another outstanding value at $18.  On the nose, we got stone, damp rock, grass, shale – a whole panoply of fragrances.  Flavors of banana, stone fruit, and rock, this is a wine with layered tropical tastes.  A real delight.

Then onto the reds.  A Touriga Nacional/Syrah/Cabernet blend produced in the Tejo region only minutes from where we were tasting, the 2010 Cabeca de Toiro provides a fine introduction into dry Portuguese red wines.  It smells like tomato or leather or dirt, with tastes of black berry, tobacco, and pepper.

We then had our favorite red, the 2014 Monte de Desepero.  From Alentejo, the Aragonez grape, blended with Alicante Bouschet, gives a nose of prunes, blackberry, and licorice.  It’s a hearty wine, tasting of meat and blackberry with a lot of pepper on the finish.  Terry’s comment: “Yummy.”

We finished with a disappointing Vinhao (that’s the grape), the 2015 Aphros from Vinho Verde.  The nose is dirt, with a hint of vegetables (never a good sign).  It was very tannic and thin, with little character.  It was the only wine we could not recommend.

Overall, it was a great chance to learn and enjoy new wines from an unfamiliar source.

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS