Still not convinced about Algarve wine?

Just recently I enjoyed dinner with a local government official who has been actively involved in promoting Algarve wine. He told me how hundreds of thousands of euros have been spent on promotion, mostly at fairs abroad, and we were talking about how difficult it is to get the name of Algarve wine out there on the market amidst so much competition from the more established wine regions of Portugal.

Around half way though the meal, whilst enjoying a very nice Algarve white with my fish, I had something of a penny drop moment. At risk of upsetting my rather important dinner partner, I raised the point that any money spent on promoting Algarve wine abroad, and even elsewhere in Portugal is, in my humble opinion, wasted.

Surely, I continued, what the authorities should be doing is creating real incentives to get the local population and visiting tourists drinking more Algarve wine. The best advertising, after all, is word of mouth, and who better to promote Algarve wine than the proud local residents and tourists?

A recent trip to the island of Majorca came to mind. There, you will not find a local restaurant, supermarket or wine shop that does not proudly promote the local wines of the island. But here in the Algarve, we still see so many restaurants and retail outlets that give little or no exposure to the wines of the region.

Most of the wine producers here in the Algarve struggle to sell their annual production and many of them, as a result, produce a great deal less capacity than they are capable of. I have no actual figures to go by, but there is no doubt that if the Algarve were to consume as much local wine as it does Alentejo wine, the demand would immediately outstrip supply.

I often hear foreign locals and foreign residents say how they do not like Algarve wine, but they love the wines of the Alentejo – this is downright ignorant. There are wines made here in the Algarve these days to suit pretty much all tastes and whilst there are some producers sadly going down the route of mass-producing wines that are loaded with artificial flavourings, many are producing a level of quality that is considerably higher that the mainstream of the Alentejo.

Recently I have been making a point of ordering Algarve wines regularly when eating out, and of complaining to restaurateurs who do not offer a decent selection – if more of us were to do this it could make a real difference. But what is really needed is a tangible incentive that would encourage them to give local wines at least the same prominence on their wine lists as they do to other regions.

And now to this week’s wine. Looking at the small selection of Algarve wines on offer at Apolónia (small but better than most), I spotted this 2012 red Reserva from the Cliff Richard’s Adega do Cantor winery near Guia. The wines of this producer did get some bad press in the early days and when first launched on the market in 2003, they were somewhat overpriced and may have fallen short of the expectations of consumers. But for many years now they have been producing excellent wines, amongst them a very good Syrah varietal and excellent Viognier and Verdelho whites.

This 2012 Reserva, however, is a blend of Syrah and Aragonês, made from the best grapes on the estate and aged for 12 months in oak. Now, after a further four years of bottle-ageing, it is very good indeed, with well-integrated oak adding leathery notes to the mature dark berry fruits on the nose. The structure is medium- to full-bodied and very elegant, with smooth tannins and a long dry finish.

This wine does benefit from breathing, if possible open two hours before serving and ideally decant.

The price of €11.99 at Apolónia makes this wine excellent value for money by any standards.

By Patrick Stuart
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