This week, the publishers of the Algarve Resident are sponsoring the second prize for a readers’ competition in the newspaper, which was deemed to be a box of wines for the winner to enjoy over Christmas. So, the editor called on me to select six of my favourite wines to fit the occasion, with a fairly healthy budget of €100. Now, this gives us an average of €16.66 per bottle which, here in Portugal, is sufficient to buy some very nice wines.
In order to make my selection, I assumed that the winner of this box, containing some of my favourite Portuguese wines in their respective price ranges, is hosting a Christmas lunch for six people and, over the course of the day, is expected to drink most, if not all, of the wines we are offering.
My wine “flight” has been chosen to accompany a traditional English Christmas lunch, starting with some bubbles for when the guests arrive, perhaps served with some light canapés. Hence, we start with an espumante natural (natural sparkling wine), which, for just under €13, is capable of giving many a mainstream Champagne costing three times the price a run for its money.
Borges Real Senhor Blanc de Blancs is made from a high quality Dão base wine with the Encruzado and Fernão Pires grapes, aged for three years in the winery’s cellars before being released. This is quite a classy glass of bubbles with complex notes of white fruit and peaches on the nose, nicely rounded and full in the mouth with a small and persistent bubble.
Moving to the dining table, I am pairing the next wine with a smoked salmon starter of some description, opting for one of my favourite Portuguese rosés, Quinta do Rol Pinot Noir, which, unlike many of the salmon pink rosés on the market, is a wine with enough character and flavour to work well with food. Good value again at just under €10.
And then, of course, we have the main course: roast turkey with all the trimmings, which pairs equally well with a rich and full bodied white wine as it does with a medium bodied red, hence I am assuming some guests will opt for white and others red.
The white, costing €14.99, is from Quinta do Cardo, a producer in the Beira Interior with vineyards at some 700 metres of altitude in the northern foothills of the Serra da Estrela mountains.
The wine is produced from the Síria grape (known as Roupeiro in the Alentejo). Pale straw in colour, there are hints of grapefruit on the nose mingling with floral notes and just a touch of toastiness from partial oak ageing. Clean and fresh in the mouth, the wine has good acidity and enough depth of flavour to stand up to the turkey.
As for my red, I could not bring myself to exclude my favourite Portuguese grape variety, Baga. And for under €20. one of my favourite Bagas is Niepoort’s Lagar de Baixo made in the Bairrada region. This is a red that ticks most of my boxes for pairing with roast turkey; good mature red fruits on the nose, medium bodied in the mouth with smooth and silky tannins and lovely dry, fresh finish. Excellent value for money at €14.95.
Now, with the turkey cleared up, we have the Christmas pudding, mince pies and cheese still to come. And which of my next two wines you serve first will depend upon the order in which you serve the food. Personally, I like to have my cheese course before my pudding, but as this is a traditional English Christmas roast, you will most likely start with the puddings and tuck into the cheese later on.
Assuming this is the case, the next wine, a fortified Muscat, is a wine that for me is as much a part of Christmas as the aforementioned mince pies and Christmas pudding, and if ever a wine was made to pair with these rich and fruity seasonal treats, then it is the 20-Year-Old Moscatel Alambre from José Maria da Fonseca in Setúbal. This is the most expensive wine of my selection costing just shy of €30 for a 500ml bottle, but worth every cent.
When the cheese is eventually served, a proper vintage port is, of course, the best match, but, for anything decent, my whole budget of €100 would easily have been spent on one bottle.
So, the next best thing is a good LBV (Late Bottled Vintage). Here I have chosen Niepoort’s Unfiltered LBV, a reliable high quality port, in this case the 2014, representing good value for money at €17.99.
Even though I blew my €100 budget by 78 cents, I found myself looking at a box of wine that would make me very happy if placed under my tree, and I hope the lucky winner enjoys the wines as much I would.