I was looking for a wine last weekend to pair with a dish of Asian spiced beef ribs I was cooking at home, and my first thought was a nice rich and fruity New World Syrah. But then with so much good Syrah produced in Portugal these days I opted to go national.
Browsing the shelves of my local Intermarché supermarket, I spotted this Cortes de Cima Syrah, a wine I had not tasted for quite a few years.
Summing up the facts I knew about this producer and their relationship with the Syrah grape, it was the obvious choice.
Cortes de Cima were one of the first producers in Portugal to plant Syrah grapes – they may even have been the first. But when they planted the vines in 1991, they were, without a doubt, the pioneers of the variety in the Alentejo and can take credit for proving the potential of Syrah in the hot climate of the region, setting a trend amongst other producers that soon spread to the Algarve where Syrah is probably the most successful red grape variety.
So what we have here is a wine produced from very well established Syrah vines (up to 25 years old), the same vines that in exceptional years yield the grapes for “Incognito” – Portugal’s best Syrah varietal, so named because when they first planted the vines it was illegal to grow the variety in the Alentejo.
A bottle of Incognito will set you back around €60 and the last vintage was 2011, but this Cortes de Cima Syrah is produced every year, and the 2012 shown here is drinking very well and at around €14 a bottle is a little more affordable.
On the nose it is rich in typical New World-style Syrah with notes of dark berry fruit and peppery spices, on the lighter side of full bodied in the mouth with good acidity and well-rounded tannins.
By PATRICK STUART [email protected]