Good Libations: Alentejo is the first port of call
Boasting the second-largest number of native grape varieties in the world – approaching 280 – gives Portugal a rich and rare resource in the authenticity and local accent of her wines. By their nature, Portugal's indigenous grape varieties are team-players, performing best when blended together for wines with added complexity and diverse flavours. Firm tannins and high-acidity make Portuguese reds essentially a food-seeking wine, capable of long ageing.
The highest-scoring red wines from a blind tasting from southern Portugal feature the hot and dry Alentejo/Alentejano interior region, 180km east of Lisbon, and the cooler Palmela coastal region, south of the capital.
Where local varieties only are used, the DOC Alentejo is awarded. If international varieties are blended in, the Vinho Regional Alentejano term is applied. Tchim-tchim!
1) Colheita Seleccionada 2011 Herdade de Sao Miguel, Alentejano 14pc
Concentrated flavours of leather, tarry black fruits and firm tannins. A solid wine, full-bodied, spiced and still evolving. Savour with lightly-fried liver and onions.
€14.50 at La Touche, Greystones, and O'Donovan's chain, Cork city-wide. In Dublin at Donnybrook Fair; Fallon & Byrne, Exchequer Street; Fresh chain; Deveney's; Corkscrew, Chatham Street; Morton's, Ranelagh; Coach House, Ballinteer and Sweeney's, Hart's Corner.
2) Sobro 2011, Herdade dO Sobroso Alentejano 14pc
Delicious blackberry fruits spiced with nutmeg and clove. Firm but friendly tannins. Try with a lentil lasagne.
€14.50 at La Touche; In Dublin at Fallon & Byrne; Fresh chain; Deveney's; Corkscrew; Morton's; Liston's, Camden Street; Nolan Food Fare, Terenure; D-Six, Harold's Cross; Coach House and Centra, Cabinteely.
3) Pegos Claros 2008 Das Quintas, Palmela 14pc
Mature bouquet of pencil shavings. Chewy ripe black fruits, leather and firm but mellow tannins. Match with roast lamb and rosemary.
€14.49 at La Touche; O'Donovan's chain, Cork, and O'Brien's chain nationwide. In Dublin at Donnybrook Fair; Fallon & Byrne; Fresh chain; Deveney's; Morton's; D-Six; Sweeney's; Coach House; McCabe's; Nectar; Magic Carpet, Cornelscourt and Liston's
4) Azamor Single Estate 2009 Kilburn & Gomes, Alentejano 14.5pc
Spiced plum and black fruits flavours. Youthful, ripe and will continue to improve over next three years. Enjoy with a chorizo, white bean and tomato stew.
€16.99 at Egan's Food & Wine, Portlaoise; Vanilla Grape Wines, Kenmare and Vineyard Wine Company, Galway. In Dublin at Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; McHugh's, Kilbarrack and Malahide Roads; Fallon & Byrne and Clontarf Wines.
5) JCM 2006 Herdade da Calada, Alentejano 14.5pc
Perfumed with vanilla, berries and pencil shavings. Feminine and ripe, balanced and harmonious. Match with roast duck with a marmalade glaze.
€16.99 at Cases Wine Warehouse, Galway. In Dublin: Wines on the Green, Dawson Street; Hole in the Wall, Blackhorse Avenue and McCabe's, Blackrock.
6) Esporao Reserva 2010 Alentejo 14.5pc
Subtle mint and cassis aromas. Very young but showing glimpses of berry and leather. Full-bodied and robust tannins with an alcohol-warming finish. A serious wine for hide-and-seek over the next 10 years. Serve with a casserole of pork, beans and olives.
€26 at Redmond's, Ranelagh and Wicklow Arms Off-licence, Delgany.