Portugal

With its treasure trove of indigenous grape varieties, diverse geography and climate, Portugal produces world-class table wines. In his latest book, The World’s Greatest Wine Estates, Robert Parker mentions “the potential for creating exciting table wines is unquestionable” and Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar called them “terrific values compared to wines of similar concentration from the New World”

While many American wine consumers are familiar with Port, far fewer are familiar with the excellent table wines now available. Since the mid-eighties Portugal has been undergoing a quiet revolution in quality and their efforts are starting to pay off for consumers who seek good value wines that pair well with food.

Alentejo

Located only 90 minutes east of Lisbon, this region is very different from Portugal’s other important wine growing areas. With vast open fields of wheat, cork trees dotting the landscape and wonderfully preserved medieval towns crowning small hills, vineyards are hard to find at first glance. Winemaking has a long but turbulent history in the Alentejo. From the 1920’s to the 70’s many vineyards were ripped out and planted with wheat to make this area the breadbasket for Portugal. To make matters worse, in the mid-70’s many of the remaining estates were confiscated by local workers and run as cooperative and renamed as the April 25th or Red Star Cooperative. The properties were returned to their rightful owners in the early 80’s who have led a quality revolution and now deliver excellent value wines to consumers.

Bairrada

This area lies just to the north of the Coimbra (the capital of Portugal in the 14th Century) and a short distance inland from the Atlantic coast. It’s a unique wine growing area that is dominated by the single grape variety the Baga or Berry. Over 70% of the areas production comes from this grape and much of the remaining white grape production is turned into espumante (sparkling wine). While wine has been produced here since the Roman times, the weather is a constant challenge to growers. But in good years, when the grapes fully ripen, producers make some of Portugal’s best red wines. Many of these wines are made following age-old techniques by treading the grapes (stems and all) and fermenting the wine in stone lagares. Under these conditions traditional red Bairrada wines compare very favorably to good California Zinfandels.

Dão

Dão is located in the northern centre of Portugal just south of the Douro Valley. Surrounded by the Caramulo, Montemuro, Buaco and Estrela mountain ranges this region is protected from extreme weather elements. The vines themselves are located at a moderate altitude of between 1500 to 2500 feet on shallow granite and schist soils. The Atlantic to the West and dry interior to the East provide excellent dry summers for ripening grapes, and cold rainy winters to help replenish the vines. Until the mid 1980's, when Portugal joined the EEC, most of the production was done by cooperative wineries. Many small land holders would bring their small production of grapes to the central winery of the region and a wine would be produced and sold to larger companies. After Portugal joined the EEC many of these small producers and cooperatives modernized their wineries or invested in new space and hence the system we see today exists: Many smaller farmers producing their own wines from their own land. The vines in the Dão are made up of many different indigenous varieties. Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Roriz for red wines, and Encruzado, Bical, Cercial, Malvasia Fina and Verdelho for whites. The white wines of this region tend to be very aromatic, fruity and balanced. The reds are full bodied, layered and may become complex after ageing in bottle.

Douro

Home to Port, the world’s first branded wine, this area straddles the Douro River (just downstream from Ribera del Duero in neighboring Spain). This is the most rugged winegrowing region in Portugal – if not the world! The terrain is too steep and barren to grow anything but vines. This unique winegrowing region produces some of Portugal's best red table wines. The combination of climate, indigenous grape varieties and low yields produce inky, opaque wines with great structure and ageing potential. It took a change in the law in 1986 allowing Douro producers to export their own product to unleash this potential. Now each vintage produces additional world-class wines grown by producers who are committed to innovation, quality and fine wine.

Minho

The Costa Verde (green coast) lies north of Oporto and borders North West Spain and Galicia – the region known for Albarino. Not surprisingly the same grape (Alvarinho) is grown throughout this region as well. This is the largest DOC in Portugal and has long been known for its green-tinged whites. The name refers not to the color of the wine, but the need to drink them when they are still young and they are excellent with seafood. Like other regions with a long history of wine production (wines were exported to England in the 16th Century) this area has seen a revival in small-scale production since the early eighties. While there are still literally thousands of producers scattered throughout the region mostly making wine for family and friends, a small but growing band of producers are turning out excellent wines for export once more.

Ribatejo

Adjoining the Alentejo, the Ribatejo has long been Portugal’s agricultural heartland with some the largest and most prosperous estates found along the Tagus River. It is the second only to the Oeste in the amount of wine produced each year. The average vineyard holding is over three times that of the Vihno Verde, but averaging only three acres, these landholdings are still very small compared to most other wine growing regions. The best wines come from the less fertile charneca (“heathland”) area which is also home to bullfighting and hunting. There are also some well established vineyards developed with French influence in the 50’s planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Portugal Wine Producers

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Portugal Area
Producer
Label
About the producer
MadeiraHenriques & HenriquesVinum is honored to be the exclusive American importer of this historic Madeira producer.

Henriques & Henriques was founded by João Gonçalves Henriques in 1850. After his death in 1912, a partnership was created between his sons, Francisco Eduardo and João Joaquim Henriques, hence Henriques & Henriques. From then on, Henriques & Henriques played an important role in viticulture and winemaking on the Island and in 1913, the family interests were established as a firm, and by 1925, the firm concentrated on shipping its own wines instead of supplying them to other shippers.

When in 1968 the last of the Henriques line, João Joaquim Henriques, passed away without heirs, the company was left to his three friends and partners: Alberto Nascimento Jardim, Peter Cossart (who made 53 vintages with the company) and Carlos Nunes Pereira. Today Alberto's son, Humberto Jardim, leads the company.

Henriques & Henriques is the only Madeira producer with estate vineyards. With extensive stocks of older wines, including a stellar 20 year old Terrantez, this is a thrilling lineup of wines to taste!

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Winery web site: Henriques & Henriques

Download a full suite of fact sheets (as one .zip file) here: H & H Fact Sheets
AlentejoEsporão / Quinta dos MurçasEsporão is a high production, top-quality 500 hectare estate founded in 1973 in the Reguengos Monsoraz zone of the Alentejo, south-central Portugal, not far from the Spanish frontier. It was founded by José Roquette, who made his fortune in banking, and today is run by his son João. The family lost ownership of the land in 1974 when it was nationalized by the communist dictatorship, they subsequently fled the country for London and Brazil, then regained control and returned over 10 years later.

The Alentejo is also cork oak and wheat country, with very warm summertime temperatures and cool nights. Native cultivars like Trincadeira, Arinto, and Antão Vaz withstand the heat very well and produce balanced wines.

Quinta dos Murças, purchased by Esporão in 2008, was then a dilapidated old port farm first established in the 1770s with prime terroirs and ancient vines. David Baverstock and his team set about refurbishing this domaine and its vineyards completely - today it is a producer to watch, primarily for its "Assobio" and reserve dry red wines, but also its tawny and vintage ports. Here's the profile of Murças: Quinta dos Murças

The Esporão winemaking team is led by Australian-Portuguese David Baverstock, a major figure in Douro and Alentejo winemaking for over 30 years, and arguably one of the best winemakers in Portugal. He is an alum of Croft, Quinta do Crasto, Quinta de la Rosa, and Symington. The rest of the team is made up of winemaker Luis Patrão, who is responsible for Esporão reds, and Sandra Alves who works on Esporão whites and rosés.

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For winery & vineyard information, plus tasting & technical notes & accolades, please see the following site: Esporao

AlentejoHerdade do MouchãoMouchão has been owned by the Reynolds family since the mid-19th century, when Thomas Reynolds set out south from Porto to the Alentejo in search of a cork estate. He found Mouchão, all 900 hectares of it. Even today the estate is mostly cork grove, with a bit of vineyard - although its the wine that it is known for.

This estate is unusual in several aspects: it uses a very high percentage (80% or more) of the Alicante Bouschet grape (most other producers use this as a blending grape) and it maintains a curious collaboration between modern complex trellising in the vineyard and very traditional wine making techniques including foot treading in granite lagares.

The results are spectacular. They produce powerful, well-structured red wines that demand cellaring to round out and mature. As Richard Mayson writes in his encyclopedia, The Wines and Vineyards of Portugal, “Mouchão is undoubtedly one of Portugal’s most impressive red wines”. They also bottle wines under a second label, Dom Rafael, for both white and red wines that are suitable for drinking earlier.

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For winery & vineyard information, plus tasting & technical notes, please see:
www.mouchaowine.pt
DouroAlves de SousaDomingos Alves de Sousa and his son Tiago produce some of the most exciting wines coming from the Douro. A supplier to the Port trade for generations, in 1987 they became producers of estate bottled Douro wines. They are founding members of the Independent Wine Growers Association and the only vintner to be awarded the "Producer of the Year" twice (1999, 2006) by Revista de Vinhos, Portugal’s prestigious wine magazine.

Their vines are grown on five Quintas covering 110 hectares – Gaivosa, Vale da Raposa, Caldas, Estação and Aveleira. This diversity of terroir, slope, microclimate and grape varieties provide the raw material for a wonderfully diverse range of wines including whites, roses, red wines and Port.
In a remarkably short period of time their efforts to produce excellent wines have been recognized by the wine trade in the U.S. As Robert Parker noted when he tasted at the estate "their lineup included some of the most enjoyable wines I reviewed."

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For winery & vineyard information, plus tasting & technical notes & accolades, please see:
www.alvesdesousa.com

Here's a great blog profile of the father and son team: Alves de Sousa
DouroPoeiraJorge Moreira spent seven years as winemaker with Real Compania Velha before buying a small Quinta of his own and starting Poeira in 2001. The vineyard faces north (which helps to moderate the temperature here in the sweltering Douro Superior) and ripen the grapes over a longer period of time. The winery itself is very much in keeping with older methods, using traditional stone lagares and a screw press to crush the grapes.

Poeira aims to be a balanced and elegant wine. Douro wines generally rely on their tannins, but Poeira relies on its acidity. A wine that is extremely drinkable and appealing when young, but which at the same time has the capacity to develop.

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For winery & vineyard information, plus tasting notes, please see:
www.poeira.pt
DouroPVThis exciting new negociant operation is another example of the collaboration between winemakers that is taking place in the Douro. VT is directed by José Maria Calem (of the Calem Port Family), Jorge Serôdio Borges (co-owner and producer of Pintas) and Cristiano Van Zeller (owner and producer of Quinta Vale Dona Maria). They have pooled their skills, talent and resources to create a contemporary red wine that expresses the Douro’s diversity of grounds, grapes and expositions. With twenty generations linked to both the Douro and Port shipping, this team has honed their commercial and oenological skills to offer a full range of tastes native to this region.
Here’s what one English wine writer had to say about their first release, the ’04: “This first vintage is a blend of Portuguese varietals and has a youthful opaque purple color highly concentrated blackberry fruit and notes of violets and toasty oak. Modern in style, it has excellent structure, round ripe tannins and a long finish. This is another terrific wine from the Douro”.
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For winery information, plus tasting & technical notes in portugese, please see:
www.pvwines.com
DouroQuinta do Vale Dona Maria / Van Zellers & Co.
Van Zellers & Co. was officially established as a Port Wine shipper in 1780, by the first generation of Portuguese van Zellers. One of the earliest larger shippers, it was sold to other wine merchants in the middle of the 19th century.

It was reacquired by the van Zeller family in the 1930s, when it was incorporated into Quinta do Noval. Van Zellers & Co. was again sold by the van Zeller family along with Quinta do Noval in 1993, entering a stage of dormancy, with no commercial activity.

In 2006 Cristiano van Zeller finally reacquired the company and its brands - thanks to a generous and unexpected Christmas phone call from his cousin - and introduced the “VZ” and “Van Zellers” Douro DOC wines, as well as a revitalized Quinta Vale Dona Maria, and in 2009 he introduced the Van Zeller Ports. The Quinta Vale Dona Maria and "CV" wines are all made from estate fruit not far from Pinhão in the Cima Corgo; the van Zellers & Co. wines are made from fruit purchased from neighbors nearby and to also to the west, in the Baixo Corgo.

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For winery information, plus tasting & technical notes & accolades, please see:
Quinta Vale Dona Maria / Van Zellers & Co.

And you can download the full Vinum profile here: Quinta vale D. Maria / van Zellers & Co.
DouroVinhos BorgesFounded in 1884 by Francisco and António Borges, Vinhos Borges produces quality wines from different Portuguese regions.
Gatão is named after a small village of the same name where the orginal grapes used to come from. Eventually Gatão became the "big cat" and not the grape designation of origin. Gatão continues to be a Vinho Verde of exceptional quality and reputation.

The "Lello" line was produced for decades by the Lello family who eventually merged their business with the Borges family. Relaunched in 2006, the Lello wines have quickly become firm favorites in Europe and the US and offer exceptional price / quality rapport.

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For winery, tasting & technical notes, vineyard and award information please see:
www.borgeswines.com
DouroQuinta Seara d'Ordens / Quinta do CarqueijalNear the end of the 18th century the Leite family acquired a large estate near Poiares Seara. The owner, fascinated by its beauty & excellent location promptly invested in the property and quickly began planting Olive & Almond trees as well as acres of vines, focusing on the traditional Portuguese grape varieties. Quinta Seara d'Ordens is a family run winery producing some of the Douro's finest wines.

For more information, including fact sheets, please see Casa Ventura's Profile: Quinta Seara D'Ordens

And the winery's excellent web site: Quinta Seara d'Ordens
DãoQuinta do Cerrado (Cunha Martins)Quinta do Cerrado is one of the oldest wineries in the Dão region of central Portugal. Founded in 1942, the third generation of winemakers run the winery, creating a selection of fantastic wines that show why the Dão is considered one of the most prestigious wine regions of Portugal. Quinta do Cerrado is located in the tiny village of Oliveirinha, near Carregal do Sal, in the very heart of the Dão. In this beautiful estate, only native varieties are used. For whites, Encruzado & Malvasia Fina, for red, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen, Tricadeira Preta & Alfrocheiro.

For more information, including fact sheets, please see Casa Ventura's Profile: Quinta do Cerrado