Portugal has so many diverse and unknown wine regions that it would be easy to spend a day just talking about all that we don’t know about the country and it’s wines. Sure, everyone knows about the Douro Valley and their justly famous port wines and some may be familiar with Vinho Verde – the light, quaffable, slightly fizzy white wine of the north – but that’s about it.
The rounded bottle of Mateus is also emblematic of Portuguese wine but with a new generation and revitalization of the Portuguese table wine industry, that image will hopefully be changing soon. As a matter of fact, 2011 was the first year ever that table wine exports topped fortified (Port) wine exports. Very exciting news for Portugal’s table wine producers.
You may be wondering what I mean when I refer to “table wines”. “Aren’t all wines drunk at a table?” you may be asking. Well, yes but what I mean by “table wines” are wines that are produced without bubbles or fortified, in other words, “still” red or white wine.
The region of Bairrada has been traditionally known as a sparkling wine producing area but recently the growers there have ramped up still table wine production and we are seeing a lot more of it coming out of the region. Quinta do Encontro is one of these wineries and they have a new winery set amongst the limestone and chalky fields. They are producing a delicious red wine which I got to sample the other night.
The Preto Branco 2010 is a red blend of the traditional Portuguese grape varieties, Baga (which is widely grown in the Bairrada region) Touriga Nacional, and a white grape to add a bit of balance, Bical.
The French in the Rhone Valley are known for adding a bit of Viognier to their Syrah to give it a floral note, and the Bical does much the same here. The wine had an enticing aroma of violets and black cherry which greeted my nose straight off the bat. A smooth and elegant wine, it slipped down a treat, rounded tannins making this an enjoyable wine with dinner.
The Preto Branco is available in the UK from Clark Foyster.