Algarve reds for the Christmas table

For those of us living in the Algarve, Christmas is a great time to showcase our local wines to visiting friends and relatives. The quality of Algarve wine has come on leaps and bounds over the last 15 years or so, to such an extent that it is now fair to say that the region is on a par with the Alentejo, at least in terms of quality. What it still lacks is recognition.

When it comes to reds, much like the Alentejo, Algarve wines tend to be full-bodied and quite powerful; not really the profile of wine that I would pair with my Christmas turkey, or with any poultry for that matter.

If choosing a French wine and were money of no consideration, I would go for a nice Pinot Noir from Burgundy or perhaps a medium-bodied Syrah from the northern Rhône or, even better, a nice Côte-Rôtie (Syrah Viognier blend). And so, what do we have here in the Algarve?

The closest wine to a Pinot Noir produced here in the Algarve is the Negra Mole varietal from João Clara in Alcantarilha, a quite remarkable wine that shows the full potential of this humble Algarve grape.

The wine is ruby colour, light to medium bodied with dry fruit notes on the nose and good tannic structure. The 2015 currently on the market is already drinking very well.

Also from the 2015 vintage from the nearby Quinta dos Vales winery in Estômbar is Marquês dos Vales Syrah/Viognier. This is the first experiment in this part of the country combining red Syrah and white Viognier grapes, the ingredients of the great wines of Côte Rôtie.

Over in the cooler climes of the Rhône Valley, producers typically add between 10% and 15% of Viognier to the Syrah but, considering the more full-bodied nature of Syrah grown in these parts, Quinta dos Vales decided to add 25%, fermenting the red and the white grapes together before ageing in oak for 12 months and then in the bottle.

I have been following the progress of this wine very closely since it was bottled, and it has been interesting to note how it has evolved.

A year ago, the wine was intensely fruity, but now it has become more elegant with silky smooth tannins and a drier finish. Both wines are excellent partners for the Christmas table, doing the Algarve proud and well worth the asking prices – each around €20 in supermarkets.

By Patrick Stuart
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