Alentejo meets Douro

Most connoisseurs of Portuguese wine would agree that the country’s greatest wines come from the Douro, but there are those who would argue the case of the Alentejo.

I personally would agree with the Douro even though the most interesting wines currently being made in Portugal, in my humble opinion, come from the Lisbon, Bairrada and Dão regions.

But what better to please those torn between Douro and Alentejo than to make a wine that is a blend from both regions? And this is exactly what Paulo Laureano, one of Portugal’s leading winemakers, whose own winery is based in the Alentejo, did, joining forces with Laura Regueiro of the award-winning Quinta da Casa Amarela winery in Douro.

I first sampled the white, picking it up at around €10 at my local Intermarché supermarket. What caught my attention was that this is a “table wine” (vinho de mesa), the most basic denomination for Portuguese wine, whereby the producer is not obliged to write on the label which region the wine is from or the year of the vintage.

Even on the rear label, there was no hint as to where the wine is from and only the Roman numeric XI suggested that it was a 2011.

Upon tasting the wine, I was convinced it was a Douro, the freshness and minerality of the region’s typical white grapes coming to the forefront, but there was an underlying creaminess to the texture and fruitiness on the palate that suggested something else.

As I discovered by contacting Paulo Laureano himself, the Douro grapes, predominantly Gouveia, are made into a Douro white that is later blended with an Alentejo white made from the Antão Vaz grape.

I was impressed by the white and welcomed Paulo Laureano’s offer to send me a bottle of the just launched 2009 red.

A similar mystery surrounds the red but here we are dealing with a premium wine price at over €40 in the shops – certainly not something I would have casually picked up at the supermarket!

The wine is made from a mix of traditional Douro red grapes such as Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz blended with Alicante Bouchet and Tinta Grossa from the Alentejo.

Deep and dark in colour there is the powerful backbone of a top class Douro red softened by the jammy new world style of the Alentejo – outstanding.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]