Anybody ever heard of the Samarrinho grape?

For such a small country, the huge variety of grape varieties grown here and the remarkable number of wine producers are impressive, if not mind boggling. And the Douro, as the world’s oldest demarcated wine region, is literally a world unto itself, with many grape varieties used in seemingly random blends that produce some of the country’s greatest wines.

It all started with Real Companhia Velha, a company founded in the 16th century when English merchants first started exporting Portuguese wine. This is the company that actually discovered port wine and has survived over the centuries to remain even today as a major player in the Portuguese wine business.

Today, they are best known for their big brands like Royal Oporto, Evel and Grandjó but a few years ago they embarked on an interesting project by the name of “Séries”, experimenting with new techniques and unusual grape varieties.

It was whilst eating at the Terroir wine shop and restaurant in Carvoeiro last week that I had the chance to try this white made from the Samarrinho grape.

Sommelier and co-owner of Terroir João Marques can always be counted on to surprise me with the occasional wild card and when he gave me a glass of this one to taste blind I was quite flummoxed.

The nose reminded me of a good old world sauvignon blanc whilst the freshness and mineral flavours had me thinking Alvarinho, but then the creamy texture in the mouth was not right for either.

What we have here is a very classy white wine, un-oaked but with some body to it from fermentation on the lees and, I expect, “battonage”.

The sad news is that only a few hundred bottles were produced of which just 60 came to the Algarve, distributed by Garrafeira Soares. The price, if you can find a bottle, is around €14.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]