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50 great Portuguese wines

by Tom cannavan, 06/10

Earlier this year I was honoured to be named as Portuguese Wine Journalist of the Year at an awards ceremony in London. Pictured right, I accept the trophy and title from the Portuguese Ambassador, Antonio Santana Carlos, at the Portuguese Embassy in London. As winner of the title for 2010, I am also charged with naming my own '50 Great Portuguese Wines', which will then be gathered together and taken on a tasting road show around the UK for the press, trade and consumers at the beginning of 2011. I have several fact-finding and tasting visits lined up over coming months.   

Meanwhile...

   The out-going holder of the title from 2009 was wine writer and good mate of mine, Sarah Ahmed (aka The Wine Detective). Sarah has been taking her selection of the '50 Greats' around the UK, with tastings in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. I caught up with her in Edinburgh last week, where she officially handed over the baton to me! (left).

Sarah's 50 were absolutely brilliant, with not a dud in the room and a fascinating array of grapes, regions and wine styles on show. I have a challenge ahead of me to follow her class act.

My tasting notes on the 50 wines follow - or rather, on 40-odd of them. Despite having attended Sarah's events in both London and Edinburgh, the sheer number of people who wanted to congratulate me on winning the title this year, tell me how good Sarah's wines were (and rib me about having to trump her next year) meant I simply failed to get round all 50 wines, even with two attempts. I was particularly sorry to miss a selection made from Alicante Bouschet and the two dessert wines. My apologies to Sarah, organisers ViniPortugal and the producers concerned, but I have included the details of all 50 wines - even the ones I missed - and Sarah has also added her tasting notes to her Wine Detective web site.

Sarah's white wines

Quinta de Chocapalha, Arinto 2008, Vinho Regional Estremadura
Lovely mealy and lemony richness, with a touch of toast. The palate has real textural breadth and richness too, with that fat, lemony fruit and lovely acidity. Juicy and mouth-watering. 89/100. Imported by Corney & Barrow. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Ameal, Loureiro 2008, DOC Vinho Verde
A little waxy weight, a delightful lemon sherbet aromatic. This has huge verve and freshness, and a beautifully focused finish. 90/100. £12.00, imported by Raymond Reynolds. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Anselmo Mendes, Contacto 2008, DOC Vinho Verde
Grape Varieties: Alvarinho. Beautiful peachy, smoky freshness with a really flinty touch and lovely lemony freshness. 89/100. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Louridal, Poema 2007, Vinho Regional Minho
Grape Varieties: Alvarinho. Lovely big, leesy, grassy, bold and assertive nose, with lots of minerality and that bold lemony fruit. Gorgeous mouthful of fresh, tangy fruit. 91/100. £15.95, imported by Castas See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Soalheiro, Primeiras Vinhas 2008, DOC Vinho Verde
Grape Varieties: Alvarinho. Very ripe, rich, peachy nose: a fuller style, but retaining that edge of salty minerality. The palate has huge intensity and concentration. There's a wonderfully vibrant gooseberry and grapefruit tang. 93/100. £20.00, imported by Raymond Reynolds. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Vale d'Algares, 'Selection' 2008, Vinho Regional Ribatejano
Grape Varieties: Viognier (55%) and Alvarinho (45%). Prominent smoky oak here is an overriding feature, with the lemony and orchard fruits beneath. Lovely freshness and terrific bite, that fresh apple fruit slicing through the finish. 89/100. £15.95, imported by Castas. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta das Bágeiras, Garrafeira 2007, DOC Bairrada
Grape Varieties: Maria Gomes & Bical. Nicely herby and nutty, with distinctive bite on the palate: very dry, very grapefruity and pithy with a wonderful freshness and authority. 91/100. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Cardo, Síria 2008, DOC Beira Interior
Grape Varieties: Síria. Very pithy and limey, with a dry lemon fruit, though the palate is vibrant and bursts through with a very zesty, bright, more tropical, ruby grapefruit zing. 89/100. £8.50, imported by Portovino. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta dos Currais, Colheita Seleccionada, 2007, DOC Beira Interior
Grape Varieties: Síria, Fonte Cal, Arinto. Gentle toast here, a lovely buttery richness. Smooth, full and mouth-fillingly waxy texture. Full and luscious, with a long, shimmering finish. 91/100. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta de Saes, Reserva Branco 2008, DOC Dão
Grape Varieties: Encruzado, Cercial, Malvasia, Gouveio. Lovely nose, fairly understated with orchard fruits and a sense of oatmeally richness, some mineral notes too. The palate has delicious tang and vibrancy, the lemony, pithy acidity making this very food friendly. 89/100. Imported by Castas. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Poeira, Pó de Poeira 2008, Vinho Regional Terras Durienses
Grape Varieties: Alvarinho & Gouveio. Pungent, vivacious nose with lots of green fig and bean notes and a smoky oak background. Vibrant palate too, with lots of juicy fruit and an orangy zest, as well as pin-sharp lemon acidity. Delicious and invigorating. 91/100. Imported by Fields Morris and Verdin. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Niepoort, Redoma Reserva Branco 2008, DOC Douro
£29.00 Grape Varieties: Rabigato, Codega, Donzelinho, Viosinho, Arinto and others. Raeburn Fine Wines. A fairly subdued, gently oaked nose with nutty and herbal overtones and solid, cool orchard fruits. The palate has a very racy dryness, in a much more Chablis style this, and just lovely. 92/100. Imported by Raymond Reynolds. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

J. Portugal Ramos, Vila Santa 2008, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Grape Varieties: Antão Vaz, Arinto & Verdelho. Lots of creamy, vanillin oak here, a certain almond and oatmeal richness. Lovely palate: a dry, pithy lemon fruit fills the mouth, with lots of weight and texture and lovely punch. 90/100. £12.99, imported by Oakley Wine Agencies. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Adega da Cartuxa, Pera-Manca, 2007, DOC Alentejo
Grape Varieties: Antão Vaz, Arinto. Massively heavy bottle, surprisingly refined, subdued nose, with nuts and herbs over cool, but focused melon and citrus fruit. The palate is searingly dry, with a very cool, tempered, concentrated minerality that has huge, shimmering length. 92/100. £29.99, imported by Atlântico UK. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.
  

Sarah's red wines

Quinta das Vinhas de Areia, Fundaçâo Oriente Ramisco 2005, DOC Colares
Grape Varieties: Ramisco (100%). Lovely earthy minerality about this, with a deep vinous fruitiness and lovely gamy touches. There's fantastic fruit concentration here in a delicious, sappy and well balanced wine. 93/100. £15.65, imported by D&F Wine Shippers. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Monte da Casteleja, Maria Selection 2007, Vinho Regional Algarve
Grape Varieties: Alfrocheiro, Bastardo & Alicante Bouschet. Big, jammy, raspberry and raisin fruitiness with a dense, smoky fruitiness on the palate. 89/100. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Filipa Pato, Lokal Silex 2008, DOC Dão
Grape Varieties: 85% Touriga Nacional. Beautifully aromatic and scented, juicy, bright berries and cherries, with a beautifully firm core of fruit. A liquorice edge of cherry skin and plum, silky but precise with huge length. 93/100. Imported by Clarke Foyster. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Dao Sul, Encontro 1 2007, DOC Bairrada
Grape Varieties: 50% Baga, 50% Touriga Nacional. Creamy, dense, lots of meaty richness. Very fleshy on the palate: lots of dry extract here, lots of fragrant oak too, in a huge, ripe and full-on style. 90/100. Imported by Clarke Foyster. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta da Dôna, 2004, DOC Bairrada
Grape Varieties: Baga. Huge, creamy blackcurrant and coffee nose. Very international in style, but lovely depth and polish. Palate has super sweet, super concentrated fruit, big powerhouse tannins and beautiful sweetness. huge and arguably not showing a huge sense of place, but just delicious. 91/100. £24.99, imported by Boutinot. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta da Falorca, T-Nac 2007, DOC Dão
Grape Varieties: Touriga Nacional. Big, smoky herbal hit. Lots of tobacco but quite lifted, cherryish fruit. The palate is dry and has plenty of tannin, coating the palate over that smooth but bright fruit. 90/100. £13.40, imported by Armit. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta de Cabriz, Colheita Seleccionada 2007, DOC Dão
Grape Varieties: Alfrocheiro, Touriga Nacional & Tinta Roriz. Beautifully earthy and liquoricy, a touch of gamy quality, lots of perfume here. Fresh and appetising palate, quite fragrant too. 90/100. Imported by Clark Foyster and Atlântico, UK. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta da Pellada, Tinto Reserva 2006, DOC Dão
Grape Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz. Meaty and spicy, with fantastically gamy edges of perfume. Love the orange and lemon zestiness to the acidity here, in a wonderfully fresh style. 92/100. Imported by James Swann - La Vinya del Senyor. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Vinha Paz, Reserva 2005, DOC Dão
Grape Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro. Very smooth, creamy, beautifully composed black fruit. Lots of creamy black fruit and cassis intensity. Fabulous freshness here again, very fleshy and rich, but creamy and powerful, again with great intensity, but feels naturally so. 93/100. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta dos Roques, Garrafeira 2003, DOC DãO
Grape Varieties: Touriga Nacional (65%), Alfrocheiro (15%), Tinto Cão (10%). Big, very meaty nose, with lots of oak, lots of deep fruit and a slightly reductive edge. The palate has real depth and concentration. There's masses of fruit and delicious weight to this, the tannins meaty and dense and the whole picture powerful though balanced. 92/100. £30.00, imported by Raymond Reynolds. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta de San José, Colheita 2007, DOC Douro
Grape Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca. Beautifully gravelly as well as being fresh and fruity, with masses of cherry, red berries and beautifully judged background oak. 91/100. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Coa, 2007, DOC Douro Superior
Grape Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca. Gorgeously deep blackcurrant and black cherry fruit here, with a smoky edge and some Sandalwood notes. Lovely palate too. This is modern, plush and deliciously deep, but retains a sense of the sun-baked Douro too. Fine finish. 92/100. £14.99. imported by Raymond Reynolds. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Noval, Cedro 2007, Vinho Regional Duriense
Grape Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Syrah. Beautifully Sandalwood spicy, tobacco laden aroma, with an intense mulberry and cherry fruit. On the palate this fills the mouth: sweet and giving, with a juicy mid-palate, but the tight, liquoricy tannins are intense and that spice and cedar pushes through. 91/100. £13.99, imported by Gonzalez Byass UK. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Noval, Labrador 2007, Vinho Regional Duriense
Grape Varieties: Syrah. A 100% Syrah wine, that is svelte and velvety deep, with lots of schisty, cedary and peppery character and a deal of minerality, as well as a pastry case or baked plum pie aroma. On the palate the purity of that dark, blueberry and damson plum fruit comes through, with chocolaty tannins and plenty of warming, coffeeish oak. Again, this wine retains very good, cherry-skin freshness. 90/100. £13.99, imported by Gonzalez Byass UK. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Niepoort, Redoma 2007, DOC Douro
Grape Varieties: Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Amarela, Tinto Cão & others. Lovely nose here, smoky, tobacco and earthy notes with a nicely wild, game and herbal edge. Beautifully bright fruit, dry and powerful, with lots of richness and ripeness, but that great sense of place and the balance perfect. 93/100. £29.00, imported by Raymond Reynolds & Raeburn. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Passadouro Reserva 2007, DOC Douro
Mixed vineyard plantings. Big, bold, bloody and dense, with fine, deep fruit and a classy tobacco and cedar background. Fine palate, flooded with dense black fruit and the tannins refined, melding into a spicy oak. 93/100. Imported by Richards Walford. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.
   noval

Lemos & Van Zeller, 'Curriculum Vitae' 2007, DOC Douro
More than 25 different varieties. Massive alcohol (15.5%), and a massive nose with a little raisined note to dense black fruit and a touch of chocolate. The palate is dry and coats the palate in a thick, rich film of tannin and savoury fruit. Given the huge concentration and weight, surprisingly easy to drink. 91/100. Corney & Barrow, Tanners, The Wine Society, Waitrose. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Crasto, Vinha da Ponte, 2007, DOC Douro
More than 30 different old vine varieties. Lots of creamy vanillin here, as well as a beautifully rounded, fleshy black plum fruit. The palate has a real sense of concentrated firmness at its core and delightful balance. 91/100. £45.00, imported by Adnams PLC. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta de Macedos, Pinga do Torto 2005, DOC Douro
Grape Varieties: 50% mixed old vines & 50% Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. Beautifully fragrant and cherry-scented, with lots of leafy freshness as well as very good fruit. Sweet, savoury, and fleshy. 92/100. £12-13, imported by Raymond Reynolds. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Alves de Sousa, Abandonado 2005, DOC Douro
Grape Varieties: Douro grapes. Very cedary, high quality. Powerful with lots of mint, liquorice and black plum bite. Nicely tempered palate, with a racy edge to the tannins and lovely spice and grip. 92/100. £49.95, imported by Top Selection. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Vale Dona Maria, 2004, DOC Douro
More than 25 different varieties. Gamy and ripe, with a delightful edge to the fruit, there's a bitter cherry and chicory bite to this making it very food-friendly and delicious. 92/100. Corney & Barrow, Tanners, The Wine Society, Waitrose. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Herdade dos Grous '23 Barricas' 2008, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Grape Varieties: Syrah, Touriga Nacional. Big, deep, charry and smoky nose with a lift of violet and cherry, to a meatier, more gamy note. Lovely dry extract - mouth filling, perhaps just a touch inky at present but glorious fruit beneath. 91/100. £22.00, imported by Great Western Wine. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Terrenus, Tinto 2007, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Grape Varieties: Aragonês, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouchet. Scented, savoury, aromatic lift with a really lean, keen edge to the fruit. Very linear and sinewy stuff. 89/100. £12.50, looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

the ones that got away

São Miguel Descobridores Reserva 2007, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Grape Varieties: Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Franca & Touriga Nacional. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Herdade do Esporão Private Selection 2007, DOC Alentejo
Grape Varieties: Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês. Charles Hawkins & Partners. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Herdade do Rocim, Grande Rocim 2007, DOC Alentejo
Grape Varieties: Alicante Bouschet. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Crasto Reserva Old Vines 2004, DOC Douro
Grape Varieties: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aragonęs, Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet. £12.50, Enotria Winecellars Ltd. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Herdade do Mouchão Tonel 3-4 2005, VR Alentejano
Grape Varieties: Alicante Bouschet. £69.00, Berry Bros & Rudd. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Zambujeiro 2004, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Grape Varieties: Touriga Nacional, Aragonés, Alicante Bouschet & Castelão. Looking for importer. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Mouro, 2004, Vinho Regional Alentejano
Grape Varieties: Aragonês, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon. James Nicholson. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Quinta do Portal, Late Harvest 2007, DOC Douro (Sweet)
Grape Varieties: Rabigato, Moscatel, Viosinho. £15.00, Charles Hawkins & Partners. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Bacalhôa, Moscatel Roxo 1999, DOC Setúbal (Sweet)
Grape Varieties: 100% Moscatel Roxo. £14.49, Ehrmanns. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.