6 Portuguese wines that will shake up your vino routine

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      As we settle into summer, how about we mix things up a little? If you’re finding yourself in a bit of a rut with what you’re sipping, why not have a summer fling with something new?

      I recently had the opportunity to taste through a good number of Portuguese wines, and although awareness of this category is growing steadily across Canada, there are many wine enthusiasts out there who haven’t ventured too far beyond an after-dinner glass of port.

      Summer is a great time to discover, or rediscover, Portuguese table wines. The whites are generally crisp and dry, with shimmering acidity—perfect for fresh local seafood. When it comes to reds, you can fire up the barbecue with burgers, ribs, sausages, chicken, or pretty much anything else, and the wines should wash ’em all down with ease.

      Of course, the wine industry in Portugal isn’t new at all. In 1756, the Douro Valley became the world’s first demarcated, regulated wine region—way before appellation laws were enacted in France and beyond. In fact, the area’s history is so significant that in 2001 it was deemed an official UNESCO World Heritage Site.

      I get it. One of the obstacles with Portuguese wines is the multitude of grape varieties they’re made from; there’s more than 250 of them. Although most may not know their Encruzado from their Trincadeira, let’s not get too hung up on particulars. What’s important is that wines from Portugal offer quality, value, and an authentic sense of place while being particularly food-friendly as well.

      This week, a half-dozen delicious wines for you to try. When you find your new favourite or two, then maybe you can hit the books and learn a little more about their varieties and specific provenance. In the meantime, it’s summer. Just crack open a bottle, pour yourself a glass, and enjoy.


      Esporão Monte Velho Branco 2015

      ($18 to $21, private liquor stores)

      A lively and juicy white with waves of yellow apples, fresh lime, and Asian pears, then a small handful of white flowers in tow. The fruit is concentrated and pristine; I’m thinking fish tacos, spicy tuna rolls, or clam chowder. Actually, anything that swims will come up a treat.


      Esporão Monte Velho Tinto 2015

      ($18 to $21, private liquor stores)

      This is the red counterpart to the previous wine, and although it’s composed of indigenous Portuguese varieties like Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira (which are commonly used in port production), there’s also Aragonez in there (which is just a synonym for the Tempranillo variety more commonly associated with Spain), and then a little splash of Syrah rounds things out. Six months of oak aging frames a good smattering of dark- berry fruit, with liberal dustings of cocoa and anise finishing things off. Both of these wines were most recently spotted at Kitsilano’s New District, but if you can’t make it all the way to deep Dunbar, they’re always keen to deliver.



      Casa Santos Lima Bonavita Tinto 2013

      ($14 to $17, private liquor stores)

      What a bargain! Gobs of juicy black fruit, Coronation grapes, and a good dash of pepper make this a cheery crowd pleaser that begs for grilled burgers piled high with bacon, mushrooms, and sharp cheddar. Marquis Wine Cellars on Davie Street currently has it in good supply.


      Casa Santos Lima Confidencial Reserva Tinto 2013

      ($15.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      This one’s an exclusive at B.C. Liquor Stores and available in the majority of locations, so there’s no reason to not be jumping on it, and soon! Fresh-picked, sun-warmed, ripe blackberries mingle with crunchy cherries and a dollop of blueberry jam, and they’re all polished off with a quick shot of espresso. A fantastic value at 16 bucks, it totally punches above its weight.



      José Maria Da Fonseca Periquita Reserva 2014

      ($15.99, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      Okay, the regular Periquita at $8.99 has long been one of the best bang-for-your-buck cheapies on B.C. Liquor Store shelves, but this reserva edition at $15.99 surpasses it in quality and tastiness by leaps and bounds. A cornucopia of berries is spiked with cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and orange peel, with solid complexity and charisma. You may even want to decant this one, to let all of those flavours sing a little louder.


      José Maria Da Fonseca José de Sousa Alentejano 2014

      ($16.79, B.C. Liquor Stores)

      The first three words I wrote upon tasting this wine were: “Fresh! Fresh! Fresh!” The ripe raspberries and cherries are ultrabright, and they’re held aloft by aromatic herbs like eucalyptus, lemon verbena, rosemary, and lavender. I think this is destined to be my pizza wine of the season.