Life is too short to drink bad wine

In last week’s edition of this newspaper, my fellow contributor Pat the Expat dedicated his always entertaining column to the joys of cheap Portuguese wine. He talked of wines that inhabit the bottom shelves at supermarkets costing as little as €2 per bottle and how he occasionally splurges out and spends as much as €4.

He also made a polite request to me, that I might veer away from the upper shelves from time to time to help readers find decent wines on the bottom shelves.

Well, it just happened that in the same edition last week, I wrote about a wine costing close to €30 per bottle, but in general I do try to focus on wines in what I consider to be the mid-priced range, anywhere from just under €10 creeping up towards €20.

I have on rare occasions featured a wine costing as little as €5, but in truth it is difficult to find anything interesting to write about on the lower shelves.

What’s more, the sad truth is that most of the mass-produced cheap wines are loaded with artificial flavourings and chemicals. Of course, these additives are all harmless and are certainly no worse than those used in most fizzy drinks. I, however, prefer not to drink such wines, even if they taste OK.

But I do have a few go-to cheaper wines that I look out for in more humble eateries where better quality wines cannot be found.

One old favourite is Periquita; this is a mass-produced wine made by José Maria da Fonseca, exclusively from the Castelão grape (known as Periquita in the Setúbal sub-region where it hails from).

This is a medium-bodied red with nice upfront fruit on the nose and well-rounded tannins, although it is undoubtedly enhanced in some way. This wine has an integrity that I like, and I always enjoy it. Pingo Doce sell it for €4.49.

As for whites, you can never go wrong with good old Planalto, an authentic Douro white costing under €5 at most supermarkets. There are many other decent-quality wines around the €5 range.

Also from Douro, a safe bet is always Esteva, the entry level wine of Casa Ferreirinha, the winery that make Portugal’s most expensive red wine Barca Velha. A bottle of Esteva costs between €5 and €6 in most supermarkets.

Elsewhere, the Dão region has many great options such as the ever-reliable Casa de Santar costing around €6 in supermarkets.

In the Alentejo, around €6 will buy a bottle of Marquês de Borba in red or white, a very respectable Alentejo wine from one the region’s leading producers João Portugal Ramos.

So, dear Pat the Expat, that’s my advice – if you just up your budget very slightly to around €5 or €6 a bottle, there is much to be enjoyed. After all, life is too short to drink bad wine.

By Patrick Stuart
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