Home' A Plus Magazine : Oct 2012 Contents 58 October 2012
Beyond port and plonk
There's more to
Portuguese wine than
meets the palate,
George W. Russell reports
Portugal's vineyards have long
lived in the shadow of their coun-
terparts in France and Spain. The
country is far better known for its Port and
Madeira than table wines.
Even in Hong Kong, Portuguese wines
are more closely identified with trips to
Macau, where they are more widely con-
sumed and better appreciated. Indeed,
some major resorts such as the MGM Grand
devote more than one-third of their wine
lists to wine from Portugal.
To be sure, the best known wines from
Portugal found in Macau are the crisp,
green, low-alcohol Vinho Verde styles often
associated with quaffing on a summer
afternoon. But as the days cool, it's worth
taking a look at some more robust vintages.
The international appeal of Portugal's
wines hasn't been helped by the fact that
90 percent of the country's wines are pro-
duced using Portugal's 200-plus indige-
nous grape varieties such as Touriga Nacio-
nal, Baga and Rabo de Ovelha. Others are
referred to by their Portuguese names,
such as Aragonês, known elsewhere as
For oenological purposes, Portugal is
divided roughly into three clusters: north-
ern Portugal, central Portugal and south-
ern Portugal. Northern Portugal includes
the Douro and Dão regions where much of
the country's finest reds come from.
The valley of the Douro -- difficult ter-
rain that 17th century winemakers had to
create into terraces -- is known for its rich
red wines. Touriga Nacional is the princi-
pal grape variety grown in the Douro. The
valley's hot, dry climate produces dark, aro-
matic wines similar to full-bodied Cabernet
One excellent Douro available here in
Hong Kong is the Quinta do Vallado 2007
(HK$220, Fairmont Fine Wines, Wanchai).
It delivers concentrated fruits such as plums
Central Portugal is the least well-known
when it comes to wine production. Very
little good wine is produced around Lisbon
and vintages from the Carcavelos, Colares,
Bucelas and Setúbal areas are rarely seen
outside Portugal. However, the centre of
the country does contain the Ribatejo and
Estremadura regions, where many fine
wines are produced.
Ribatejo wines are rarely found in Hong
Kong but one worthwhile purchase is the
Conde Vimioso Tejo 2009 (HK$78, Wat-
son's Wine Cellar, Central). This blend of
Touriga Nacional, Aragonês and Cabernet
Sauvignon has red fruit, almost jam, notes.
Southern Portugal includes the Algarve,
the enclave of second homes for British
emigrants that unsurprisingly produces
poor wine, but also Alentejo, an important
grape-growing region and another signifi-
cant contributor of Portuguese wines to
Fine Alentejo reds include the Cortes
de Cima 2007 Touriga Nacional (HK$495
Grand Wine Cellar, Sheung Wan) with
its complex blueberry-blackberry aroma,
notes of leather and firm tannin structure.
A more economical alternative is the
Quinta do Carmo 2007 (HK$235, Rare
and Fine Wines, Sheung Wan), another
rich, fruity vintage ideal for accompanying
autumnal meat and game dishes.
Portuguese whites shouldn't be ignored.
And there's absolutely nothing wrong with
quaffing a sharp, raw Vinho Verde on those
last heady days of summer heat.
In terms of value for quaff, you can't go
past that staple of picnic baskets and Outly-
ing Island seafood restaurants, Aveleda's
famous Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Branco
(HK$58, Lam Hoi Kee, Yung Shue Wan).
Made from Loureiro, Trajadura, Arinto and
Azal grapes, it's crisp and refreshing with
sustained citrus notes.
For a slightly more upmarket experi-
ence, try the Quinta de Gomariz Loureiro
2010 (HK$150, Ample Vision Wines, Kwun
Tong). On its own, the Loureiro grape tastes
like something between a Sauvignon Blanc
and a Viognier. It has a touch of sweetness
but still has that summery, spritzy appeal.
The Douro valley also produces some
fine whites, such as the Altano Branco
Douro 2010 (HK$98, Watson's Wine Cel-
lar, Central) made by Symington Family
Estates. This has fruity notes at the apricot
and pineapple end of the spectrum, with a
pleasing citrus acidity.
The nearby Dão region is better known
for its reds, but also produces interesting
white wines such as the Quinta das Maias
2007 (HK$180, Chateau Lamma, Yung
Shue Wan). An ideal seafood accompani-
ment, this has a pleasing sweetness with
fetching hints of sea salt.
Terraced vineyards have covered the schist slopes of the
Douro Valley in northern Portugal since the 17th century.
Links Archive Nov 2012 Navigation Previous Page Next Page