When it comes to wine, Portugal is best known for the northern region of Douro and the fortified wines that made it famous. But further south down by the capital of Lisbon, a quiet revolution is going on. A number of different regions are producing excellent reds and whites from a variety of traditional grapes. Joe Veselko is the U.S. sales manager for Manoel D. Pocas, a Port house with an outstanding portfolio. He also represents Companhia das Quintas, a consortium of six different wine estates scattered throughout Portugal. In town recently for a visit, he walked me through a small sample of their offerings. Here are a few favorites that should be popping up on wine store shelves any day now:
2005 Quinta da Romeira Calhandriz Branco, $9.99
From the Estremadura region north of Lisbon comes this lively blend of Arinto and Moscatel (Portuguese for Muscat). It's bursting with aromas of bright citrus and sweet rose hips. The palate is all fresh and fruity with lemon, lime and ripe mandarin orange accents. The rose-hip quality also carries through, especially on the finish that shows a nice hit of crisp acidity. The perfect wine to welcome in our warmer spring weather.
2005 Quinta da Farizoa Gaiao Tinto, $10.99
The wide landscape east of Lisbon and south of the Tagus River is known as the Alentejo. The region produces much of the cork that still seals most wine bottles, but it is also known for vineyards most often planted with traditional Portuguese varieties. The Gaiao is a blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira and Castelao that offers light plum and intense red berry aromas. In the mouth, it's a soft and fruity charmer with just a light tannic grip on the finish. Stylistically, it reminds one of a Beaujolais, and it makes a nice seasonal transition red.
1999 Pegos Claros Tinto, $12.99
The wine region east of Pamela produces this wine made from the Castelao grape. Despite its age, it's a remarkably smooth and youthful wine with beautiful berry and cherry aromas backed by touches of leather and fresh tobacco. The lovely cherry fruit continues on the palate in this round and velvety offering with nicely resolved tannins and a long, long finish. A remarkable value!