The last "Winesipper" column lauded the pleasures of Port, the fortified dessert wine for which Portugal is best known. However, Portugal also produces excellent dry reds—some from Douro (the home of Port) and some from other regions. Many solid examples can be had for less than $10, but for this tasting we decided to amp it up a bit. Here are the panel's top three Portuguese reds, all reasonably priced under $20.
2010 Casa Ermelinda Freitas Touriga Nacional, $18
From the Palmela region in southwest Portugal, this is a nicely aged wine that is a combo of old and new world styles. You get rich red aromas colored by new oak and cigar box. Dark cherry flavors combine with smooth oak and spicy cedar. Light anise and creamy berry come through on the long finish.
2011 Quinta do Romeu, $19
A traditional blend of Port grapes, this Douro house has been producing fortified wines for five generations. Its dry red combines Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Sousao. On the nose, you get a dark plum core colored by pepper and spice. The palate is fresh and fruit forward, and bursting with racy ripe cherry and berry flavors.
2013 Quinta dos Roques, $16
Giving up teaching math for winemaking, Luis Lourenco crafts this Touriga Nacional dominant blend in central Portugal's Dao region. It opens with candied cherry aromas that segue into tart cranberry. The flavors are filled with creamy cassis backed by light oak, earth and leather. Bright acidity marks the finish, along with soft tannins and an intriguing bit of tobacco.