By: MAURICE LEE
Maurice Lee has lived in the Algarve for five years but has been visiting for 20 years. He is a retired Cellar Master and is part of a local wine society. He is often invited to be a guest speaker to discuss wines and regularly holds tastings.
I HAD a great friend named Benny, and over the many years of our friendship we dined in various restaurants. No matter what we ate, Benny had a stock phrase for it. ‘That’s the best meal I’ve ever had in my whole life’. That was some statement considering we dined together regularly for almost 50 years.
I thought of Benny a few weeks ago when I was drinking a glass (or was it a bottle?) of vinho tinto made from the Trincadeira (Preta) grape. Unlike Benny I won’t say, ‘It was the best wine I’ve ever tasted in my whole life’, but it certainly was a very good wine. Produced at Quinta do Sampayo in the Ribatejo region, it was classified as a Vinho Regional wine. As it was a 2000 vintage, the tannins have softened and there was a tremendous amount of fruit in there.
Although Portugal has over 100 indigenous grapes, not every grape is planted in every region. For example, Trincadeira is not considered one of the principal grape varieties in the Douro region, nor in any other northern region, for that matter. It does not mean there aren’t any plantations of Trincadeira in the north, but they may not be easy to find.
In Central Portugal, you will find it in the vast Beiras region but not widely planted, and I doubt if you’ll find it in Dão or Bairrada wines. There is an abundance of it in the Lisbon and Tagus Valley which includes regions, such as Ribatejo, Estremadura, Tomar, Santarém, Arruda and Alcobaça.
In Southern Portugal, there are quite a few plantations of this grape. You will find them in the Alentejo, Terras do Sado, Moura, Granja-Amareleja, Évora, Portalegre, Borba and Redondo.
After trying a Trincadeira wine, you may find that it is not to your liking. Just because I like it doesn’t mean that everyone will.
Vineyards would have major production problems if we all liked the same wine, so shop around and try some of the other equally famous Portuguese grape varieties and wines. When you find a grape that you like, make a note of it in your diary or in a small notebook. You should also note which region the wine is from, as a grape grown in western Alentejo can produce a very different wine to a wine made from the same grape but grown in the Beira Alta (high). This happens because of the different soils, climates, viticulture, vinification methods, or even luck.
Liking a particular wine is all down to personal taste, as perfume is to ladies and aftershave is to men. New deodorants are always being tried by people, so why not try a new wine.
In Portugal, there are four qualities of wine produced. The top quality is Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC). The second level is Indicação de Proveniência Regulamentada (IPR). Both these levels guarantee a maximum yield per acre, specific grapes used, a minimum alcohol content, and minimum ageing.
The next level is Vinho Regional. These VR wines are allowed greater flexibility for ageing the wine, and can grow a greater variety of grapes. They can be equally as good as some DOC or IPR wines and in, a lot of cases, better value for money.
Finally there is Vinho de Mesa (Table Wine). Every restaurant, café and bar will have a table wine (vinho da casa), and they are all very drinkable. Maybe I’ve been lucky as I’ve never had a bad one. V de M is produced all over Portugal and the grapes used can be grown anywhere in Portugal. In other words, there are very few controls over their production. Nevertheless, you should try a few different ones. They can be really good, drinkable wines.
If your tipple is a Rosé wine then you will find some excellent Portuguese ones. Mateus Rosé, of course, has been Portugal’s flagship for nearly half a century. They now have two wines named Mateus and have dropped the word Rosé. One is named Mateus Emotions and is a Vinho Regional wine from the Beiras region. It is made from the Aragonêz grape which interestingly is not a principal grape in that region. The other Mateus is a basic Vinho de Mesa, and both it and the Mateus Emotions are produced by Sograpes. Be sure you buy the right one.
Other Portuguese Rosés are: Casal Mendes (V de M) ; Lancers (V de M) ; Quinta de Baixo (DOC Bairrada) ; Dom Martinho (Domaines Baron de Rothschild Lafite), VR Alentejo, and there are many more.
Rosé wines are probably best drunk well chilled at lunch time. Ideal with salads, but don’t be too heavy with the onions or garlic. Of course you really don’t have to wait for hot days and salads, they can be drunk at any time and with whatever food you choose. They can be dry, medium or sweet. Try pouring some sweet rosé over your strawberries. Yummy! If the weather is somewhat inclemenent you can always drink a Trincadeira to accompany, say, a nice leg of roast lamb, or a good steak.
My friend Benny would agree with either.
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