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Why I Love Portuguese Wine

Reading Time: [est_time] This is a confession, I love Portuguese wine. Maybe it’s the unique grape varieties, perhaps it’s the high quality to price ratio, or maybe it’s the people. Portugal is home to almost 250 native

Why I Love Portuguese Wine

Reading Time: 5 minutes

This is a confession, I love Portuguese wine.

Maybe it’s the unique grape varieties, perhaps it’s the high quality to price ratio, or maybe it’s the people. Portugal is home to almost 250 native grape varieties. Thanks to the centuries-old wine culture and to a number of high-quality cooperatives, you can pick up a fantastic bottle of Portuguese wine for less than ten US dollars.

The people of Portugal are wonderful, some of the warmest people in Europe in my opinion. They are a proud and stubborn, yet friendly group, insisting on keeping their culture alive. The Portuguese have carried on old winemaking traditions such as the ‘cooked’ wines of Madeira, to the foot-stomping practices in the Douro, to the amphora wines of Alentejo.

Unique wines at great price points produced/served by wonderful people. Couple that with a diverse range of growing conditions and there are real reasons to champion Portuguese wine.

Portuguese Wine Distributor: Wine Concept

During the Fall of 2019, I did a whirlwind two-week trip through Portugal. The trip started with the Douro Boys Auction followed by stints in the Dão, Bairrada, Lisbon, and Alentejo. During my visit with Esporão, head winemaker David Baverstock told me he had his own project in Alentejo called Howard’s Folly. I wasn’t able to visit the estate but David directed me to his distributor Wine Concept in Lisbon.

Upon arriving in Lisbon from Alentejo, I headed straight to Wine Concept. During the course of an afternoon, the opened bottles from Howard’s Folly and other producers in their portfolio. After a few hours of tasting, I packed up and left their office.

Once out the door, I got a call. Wine Concept owner, Nuno Neves de Sousa invited me out to lunch with the team. Another few hours went by filled with laughter, food, and wine. When I finally left it occurred to me. This is everything that I adore about Portugal.

When the world went into lockdown in March 2020, I found myself stuck in Croatia. Wine Concept was kind enough to send me a case of wines to sample. In the pack, 11 of the 12 wines were good to very good (one bottle was a faulty bottle, which happens). The selection was a great representation os Portuguese wine and all are available in Portugal for 15 Euros or less. Did I mention that I love Portuguese wine?

Wine Recommendations:

You can find out more about our scoring system on the WINE RATING page.

White Portuguese Wine

  • Casa de Saima, Bairrada Vinhas Velhas 2018 – Bairrada

The Casa de Saima, Bairrada Vinhas Velhas (old vines) 2018 is a blend of Maria Gomes, Bical, and Cercial. It’s a wine that doesn’t see oak but remains on the lees for a year. It has an oily mouthfeel with notes of pine, green guava, lemon, mineral, and gas. Rich concentration with a slightly flinty finish. For a wine that can be found under 10 Euros in Portugal, this is a steal. Score: 90+/100


  • Dona Paterna, Alvarinho 2019 – Monção e Melgaço

The Dona Paterna, Alvarinho 2019 is a zesty and fresh white. There are notes of lemon, curd, cumin, and minerals. The nose is quite subtle but the wine shoots through your palate like a laser. Focused fruit with a steely finish. Pair this with oysters and watch the magic happen, very well done at this price. Score: 90/100


  • Pico Wines, Frei Gigante 2018 – Pico

I tasted the Pico Wines, Frei Gigante 2018 on several occasions. The first time was was the GoVolcanic Tasting 2019 in Budapest. This bottle didn’t show as well as previous encounters. Chalk it up to a bad bottle. Check out my first review of the wine HERE.


  • Quinta Varzea da Pedra, Fernão Pires 2017 – Óbidos

The biggest surprise in this selection is the Quinta Varzea da Pedra, Fernão Pires 2017. This grape is also known as Maria Gomes. Beautiful notes of pine, gas, white pear, lemon, and seawater. It’s full of white fruit on the palate, yet finishes with a mineral edge. This is everything I like about Portuguese white wines, there’s enough fruit but the sharp, salty edge is what makes the wine interesting. Score: 91/100


  • Quinta Vale de Fornos, Arinto Chardonnay Gewürstraminer Reserva 2018 – Tejo

The Quinta Vale de Fornos, Arinto Chardonnay Gewürstraminer Reserva 2018 is aged in French oak. Unusual blend that was aged in oak. It has the aromatic Gewürtztraminer in the blend but it’s still neutral on the nose. Notes of white pear, white flower, chalk, and citrus emerge from the glass. The palate is surprisingly bright and full. It’s not an uber complex white wine but there is body, flavor, and plenty of tangy acidity making it more than a simple poolside sipper. Score: 89/100

Quinta Vale de Fornos Arinto Chardonnay Gewurstraminer Reserva
  • Amareleza, ‘José Piteiro’ Vinho de Talha Branco 2015 – Alentejo 

This is a real gem. The Amareleza, ‘José Piteiro’ Vinho de Talha Branco 2015 consists of Diagalves and Roupeiro fermented in talha (amphora). Brown in color, almost like a tawny port. This is a highly oxidized style of wine with notes of caramel, fall leaves, nuts, apricot, and toffee. Not a lot of fruit here, it’s more nutty and savory. Fine texture and a small amount of tannins. This is yummy, complex stuff but buyer beware, it’s not a fruity white wine. Almost like a dry tawny port. Score: 92/100


Red Portuguese Wine

  • Amareleza, ‘José Piteiro’ Vinho de Talha Tinto 2017 – Alentejo 

The Amareleza, ‘José Piteiro’ Vinho de Talha Tinto 2017 is made from the grape Moreto and fermented in talha (amphora). Moreto is not a well-known grape but it is praised by winemakers in Alentejo because of its ability to retain acidity. There are notes of stem, black cherry, red plum, and a touch of white pepper. It smells like a cool weather red but has the lusciousness and mouthfeel of a warm climate red. The finish is exceptionally fruity with ripe, sweet tannins. Very delicious for a red wine made in amphora. Score: 89/100


  • Casa de Saima, Pinot Noir 2017 – Bairrada

The Casa de Saima, Pinot Noir 2017 is not a typical Pinot Noir but a nice take on the grape. Made by a minimal intervention producer. Notes of cherry, rubber, sea salt, and clay. It’s silky on the palate with bright acidity. This is an interesting take on Pinot Noir, it’s definitely in the category of a “natural wine” but it’s well done. Plenty of juicy red berry fruits with low amount of tannin. Handled lightly and it’s clean for a natural wine, which is a big plus. Score: 90/100


  • Quinta Vale de Fornos, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2016 – Tejo

The Quinta Vale de Fornos, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2016 is made from old vines and aged in French oak for 12 months. It has a unique nose for Cabernet Sauvignon. There are notes of thyme, tar, black currant, and earth. There’s plenty of dark fruit upfront on the palate. It’s full-bodied and round on the palate but finishes with grippy tannins. Very good Cab considering the price point, where else can you get solid Cabernet Sauvignon for around 11 Euros? Score: 89/100

  • Casa Américo, Jaen 2015 – Dão

The Casa Américo, Jaen 2015 is a deep red from the Dão. This grape is also known as Mencia in Spain. Notes of pine, blackberry, black cherry, and crushed rocks. It’s full on the palate without being too broad or fat. There is plenty of acidity here and a thyme-like vintage. It’s a wonderful interpretation of the Dão. Score: 90+/100

  • Quinta do Pinto, Petit Verdot & Alfrocheiro 2015 – Lisboa

The Quinta do Pinto Petit Verdot & Alfrocheiro 2015 has a French red grape in the blend but this is a Portuguese red through and through. This is dark and inky in color. There are notes of red plum, cherry, leather, and soy sauce. It’s full in body but not massive. There’s a savory note to the wine but the fruit is still the highlight here. Firm tannins. It’s not typical Petit Verdot, which isn’t a bad thing. Score: 88/100


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Thanks to Wine Concept for providing tasting samples. Please note that the opinions expressed are our own and have not been paid for in any way. We do not sell editorial content as that would destroy the legitimacy of our reviews and the trust between Exotic Wine Travel and its readers. On occasion, we extend the option of purchasing the wines we review or/and the products we spotlight. Some of these product links are set up through affiliate programs, which means Exotic Wine Travel gets referral credits if you choose to purchase these items via the links we provide.

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