Some top-quality bubbles (and a real Champagne alternative) from the Lisbon region
Quinta do Rol
Grande Reserva Blanc de Blanc
This really is one to look out for if you want to impress your guests over Christmas with a Portuguese bubbly that not only drinks as well as (or in most cases better than) most mainstream Champagnes, but also costs around €10 a bottle less.
It is a shame that the stigma exists that drinking anything less than real Champagne is second best, or perhaps considered to be cheap-skating. But the fact is that there are many Portuguese natural sparkling wines that cost a great deal more (and are worth it) than mainstream Champagnes.
Here, however, we have a natural sparkling wine of excellent quality representing real value for money (€18.95 at Apolónia).
The producer, Quinta do Rol, is well known for its Pinot Noir, the only red wine grape grown on the estate, and they make arguably the best Pinot Noir in Portugal. They also make a very good pink sparkler from the Pinot Noir grape, but this is a blanc de blanc, made from 100% Chardonnay.
Great care has been lavished on the production of this wine. It is an Extra Brut, meaning that unlike normal “Brut” Champagne only a minimal amount of “dosage” (sweetening) is allowed. What’s more, this sparkler gets the treatment of a vintage Champagne, allowed to age on the lees in the bottle before “dégorgement” for a full six years.
It is bright yellow in colour with hints of green and a tiny yet persistent bubble, fresh white fruits on the nose with a creamy texture in the mouth and a long refreshing finish. Enjoy in a nice wine glass rather than a flute to appreciate the delicate aromas.
Looking for a nice Portuguese brandy this Christmas?
This Aguardente Velha made in the Douro has won a host of awards and, costing less than €20 a bottle, represents very good value for money when compared to more expensive brandies. In fact, Portugal’s leading wine magazine Revista de Vinhos ranked it second place in a recent tasting, higher than many Portuguese brandies costing two or three times more. Aged for many years in old Port Wine barrels, this is a rich and fragrant brandy tasting of dried fruits and spices; very smooth. Around €20, available here in the Algarve from Prime Wines (914 666 476 | www.prime-wine.pt) or from Garrafeira Soares shops.
By Patrick Stuart