Wine: Lisbon's leading reds
Portugal is an exciting wine country for one specific reason - unfamiliar diverse choice. With around 280 native grape varieties, Portugal has a local accent in its wines. Firm tannins and high acidity make reds essentially a food-seeking wine and capable of long aging.
The highest scoring red wines below are from a blind tasting of Portuguese regions clustered around the capital, Lisbon. They include the Atlantic cooled Palmela coastal region south of the city, the fertile banks of the Rio Tejo (River Tagus) north-east of Lisbon and the hot and dry Alentejo/ Alentejano interior region, 180km east of the capital which has a reputation for approachable fruity red wines. In Portugal, when only local grape varieties are used, the D.O.C. is awarded. If international varieties, usually Syrah, are grown and blended in, the Vinho Regional (VR) term is applied. As they say in Portugal, tchim-tchim!
1) Pegos Claros Reserva 2011, DOC Palmela 13.5pc
Concentrated and earthy with a smooth texture, deeply flavoured with black fruits and a mellow maturity.
€17.95 at La Touche, Greystones and in Dublin: The Corkscrew; Coach House; D-Six; Deveney's; Redmond's; Morton's; Black Pig; Wine Shop; Nectar; Jus de Vine; Sweeney's; Fresh Outlets and Mitchell & Son.
2) Touriga Nacional 2011, Tercius, VR Tejo 13.5pc
Intense, earthy with a cranberry fruit character. Uncomplicated and very mouth-watering with a rhubarb finish. Serve with a casserole of pork, tomatoes, white beans and olives.
€12.49 at Marks & Spencer nationwide.
3) JCM 2011, Herdade da Calada, VR Alentejano 15pc
Exotic incense, spice, leather and a core of baked plums supported by firm tannins. Powerful but well-hidden alcohol. Try with lamb tagine and prunes.
€16.99 at Wines on the Green, Dawson Street and McCabes, Mount Merrion. Cases Wine Warehouse, Galway.
4) Monte Velho 2013, Herdade do Esporao, VR Alentejano 13.5pc
Rich and smoothly textured highlighted by tangy red berry fruits. Enjoy with roast duck with a marmalade glaze.
€16.99 at Drinkstore, Manor Street, Dublin and wineonline.ie
5) Azamor Single Estate, VR Alentejano 14pc [Liberty Wines]
Ripe jammy black fruit scents and flavours. Firm tannins support the long blackberry finish, spiced by a peppery hint of oak. Match with roast lamb, garlic and rosemary.
€17.99 at Egan's Food & Wine, Portlaoise and The 1601, Kinsale. In Dublin at Jus de Vine, Portmarnock and Redmond's, Ranelagh. Online at thewineshop.ie and wineonline.ie
Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food & Wine, Shanagarry, Co. Cork, May 15th -17. A must go festival pioneering the celebration of Ireland's authentic neighbourhood and local produce with talks and demonstrations by national and international chefs and gurus of beers, spirits and wines. Book: (021) 464 5777 from 10am to 5pm daily or visit litfest.ie