wa3.gif (3780 bytes)



Tasting notes of Portuguese wines

see also: 

My blog entries on Portuguese wine

More recent notes, with date of tasting indicated in month year, and UK stockist and price information (£1 = approximately US$1.50). Older notes are further down

Fita Preta Preta 2005 Alentejo, Portugal
14.5% alcohol. 73% Touriga Nacional and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, made b
y David Booth and António Maçanita. Deep coloured, this has an alluring sweet black fruits nose with lushness and just a hint of jamminess, although it maintains balance. The palate shows nicely defined pure, sweet blackberry fruit with great concentration of pure fruit, countered by some attractive fresh spicy, savoury notes. Deliciously forward but with some seriousness, too. This is a really good example of a top-quality modern Alentejo red. 92/100 (UK retail £18.50) 12/08

Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2008 Portugal
Pale and lightly spritzy, this is beautifully delicate with a hint of pithy bitterness, some floral notes and delicious citrus notes. The high acidity keeps things very fresh. This is a lovely summer wine. 87/100 (10.5% alcohol, £5.99 Majestic) 05/09

Malhadinha Nova Aragonês da Peceguina 2007 Alentejo, Portugal
14.5% alcohol.
Fermented in lagares and then aged for 11 months in new French oak. It’s a small, 20 barrel lot. Deep coloured, this has a subtle vanilla new oak lift to the pure, sweetly fruited nose. The palate shows lovely vivid, pure plum and red cherry fruit with some supporting oak. It’s really fresh and focused with some grippy structure underneath the sweet fruit. This has the potential to age beautifully into a mellow, complex midweight wine, and I think it will probably merit a higher rating in five years’ time. I really like the purity of the fruit here. 91/100 12/08

Marques de Borba Reserva 2004 Alentejo, Portugal
One of the leading wines from João Portugal Ramos, this is slightly closed on the nose immediately after opening. The palate shows tight, spicy, structured yet sweet dark cherry and plum fruit with good acidity. There’s a subtle liqueur-like edge to the fruit, and some oak influence. This may well open out with a few years in bottle when it might get a higher rating. 90/100 12/08  

Quinta de Foz de Arouce Vinhas Velhas de Santa Maria 2005 Beiras
14% This is a varietal Baga made in lagares and then aged in new French oak. Slightly shy on the nose, this is a tight, brooding wine that you might be tempted to dismiss as a bit simple. But there’s real depth and power here on the palate – it’s a savoury, spicy yet quite elegant Baga with firm structure and the potential to develop nicely over the next 20 years. Good acidity, too. I really like it, but hold for a while before drinking. 92/100 12/08

Quinta de Sant’Ana Mafra 2006 Estremadura, Portugal
13% Sweet, vibrant nose with bright berry fruit, some subtle leafy greenness and a roast coffee character. There’s a touch of meatiness, too. The palate is fresh, spicy and meaty with a nice green olive edge to the fruit. Really distinctive with lovely savoury personality and a hint of tangy funkiness. Delicious stuff. 89/100 12/08  

Quinta de Sant’Ana Mafra Reserva 2005 Estremadura, Portugal
14.5% 100% Aragonez. A really rich, sweetly fruited, modern-styled red with ripe blackberry, dark cherry and raspberry fruit and a touch of oak. It’s really smooth and quite elegant, with lovely balance and purity. Finishes a bit spicy: quite a serious effort. 90/100 12/08  

Quinta do Dorado ‘Auratus’ Alvarinho 2006 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Deep coloured.
Lovely rich opulent nose is bold and melony with lots of fruit. The palate is soft and fat with lovely rich fruit. A full style of Vinho Verde. 89/100 (£7.50 Genesis Wines) 02/08  

Lagoalva Talhão 1 Branco 2007 Ribatejo, Portugal
A blend of Fernão Pires, Arinto, Alvarinho, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho. Bright, fresh, crisp and fruity with a subtle herby, waxy character as well as pure, fresh citrussy fruit. An attractive, unoaked white. 87/100 11/08

Quinta da Lagoalva Castelão-Touriga Nacional 2005 Ribatejo, Portugal
Fresh, bright plum and cherry fruit here, with some distinctive savoury spiciness. A bitter plummy character on the finish makes this highly food-friendly. There’s fruit here, but it’s quite a traditional, old-fashioned style of wine. 84/100 11/08  

Quinta do Coa Branco 2006 Douro, Portugal
Intense, rich, toasty and bold, with some nutty, oily notes. Concentrated palate with dense, rich fruit and some oak. A delicious, full-on Douro white, but not for everyone. 90/100 (£10 UK agent Raymond Reynolds) 02/08

Quinta do Coa 2006 Douro, Portugal
Beautiful pure dark fruits nose: a bit floral and quite fresh. The palate is rounded and delicious with pure, vivid dark fruits and nice freshness. 91/100 (£10 UK agent Raymond Reynolds) 02/08

Adega de Pegões Colheita Seleccionada 2005 Terras do Sado, Portugal
13.5% alcohol. Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grown in the sandy soils of the Setúbal Peninsula near Lisbon. This has a lovely sweet, fresh, aromatic nose of cherries, plums and raspberries, with lovely fruit purity. The palate is bright and refreshing with tangy cherry and berry fruit, and a hint of plummy bitterness and savoury spiciness on the finish. This is really delicious, and great value for the 6 or 7 Euros it retails for in Portugal. It’s made by the over-performing co-op at Pegões, which is probably Portugal’s best. 88/100 (UK agent is Hallgarten) 11/08  

Vinha da Palha 2007 Estremadura, Portugal
The second label of Sandra Tavares' Quinta da Chocapalha, this is a blend of 60% Castelao and 40% Tinta Roriz. It's a deliciously bright, fresh red wine with a real Portuguese taste to it: slightly herby ripe plummy fruit with hints of mint and thyme on the nose, leading to a fresh, vibrant palate of ripe cherries and plums, with good acidity and a bit of spicy structure. It's not the world's most complex wine, but it's balanced, food friendly and delicious. 86/100 02/09

Quinta de Foz De Arouce 2006 Beiras, Portugal
I've tried the reserve version (Vinhas Velhas), but not this, the regular wine - a blend of Baga and Touriga Nacional. It's made by Joao Portugal Ramos from his wife's property, and it's really attractive. The nose shows sweet plummy fruit with some spiciness. The palate is quite Italian in character, with plummy, damsony bitterness as well as sweet cherry fruit, and quite firm structure, as well as fresh acidity. There's some modernity here, but there's also a more traditional earthy spicy character. 88/100 02/09  

Afros Vinho Verde Tinto Vinhao 2007 Portugal
Remarkable stuff, and pretty refined by Vinhao standards. Opaque inky-dark red black colour with a purpe rim. Intense, sweet but savoury pure raspberry and cranberry fruit nose. The palate has a slightly spicy spike under the intense, pure, cherry, raspberry and plum fruit with a spicy, tannic bite. Brilliantly vivid, savoury and moreish with a gastronomic character. Great fun, but with a serious side. I love it. 92/100 01/09

Afros Vinho Verde Tinto Espumante 2006 Portugal
Another Vinhao, this time the sparkling version. Really deep red/purple in colour, this sparkling red is really food friendly. There's nice vivid dark fruit here with a hint of chocolatey richness and a trace of meatiness. Lovely acidity and some delicious tannic grip. But it shows some refinement, too. This is delicious stuff that would work brilliantly with a wide range of foods. 91/100 01/09

Casalinho Arinto 2007 Vinho Verde, Portugal
This is really good. Beautifully aromatic with notes of herbs, lemon and minerals. The palate is zippy and bright with lovely herby freshness and light, zippy lemony fruit. Very fresh and precise. This is a beautiful wine with lovely spritzy freshness, as well as some seriousness. 90/100 (Milton Sandford) 01/09

Romanisco Reserva 2005 Douro, Portugal
Fresh dark cherry and spice nose with some tarry richness, as well as a plummy, herby note. The palate has a tarry, spicy edge to the spicy, savoury plummy fruit. An intense savoury style with chunky tannins. Good stuff. 87/100 (Milton Sandford) 01/09  

Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional 2005 Douro, Portugal
Wonderfully aromatic nose of dark, violetty, spicy fruit with some complex meaty notes. The palate shows sweet dark cherry and raspberry fruit with some oak influence and a nice savoury, spicy tannic structure. A stylish, fruit-driven style with beautiful Touriga aromatics. 93/100 (£17.99 Waitrose) 01/09

Sandeman 30 Year Old Tawny Port
Beautifully complex and intense with amazingly complex nutty, citrussy, woody notes combining together brilliantly. Superb with amazing acidity and complexity. Beautiful. 94/100 12/08

Quinta do Poço do Lobo Garrafeira 1993 Beiras, Portugal
From Caves São João, this is a Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bairrada region. It’s evolving really nicely with a beautiful nose of tar, herbs, earth and sweet blackcurrant fruit. The palate is fresh and elegant with good balance between the sweet fruits and savoury, gravelly, earthy notes. Delicious structure and drinking perfectly now. It's great to be able to buy a wine with some bottle age on it like this. 91/100 (£10.49 Laithwaites) 12/08  

Taylor's Quinta de Vargellas Vintage Port 2001 Portugal
Bottled in 2003, this is Taylor's top Port from a year that didn't quite make it to an official 'Vintage'. Coming after 2000, 2001 was actually a pretty good vintage in the Douro, and so this wine is relatively underpriced (had 2000 been a poor year, I bet they'd have declared 2001). It's a serious Vintage Port style, so could do with decanting, and will improve for some years to come - although it is delicious now. Deep coloured, it has a lovely floral, aromatic blueberry and blackberry nose with some tarry, spicy notes. The palate is concentrated with beautifully pure sweet fruit and a lovely spicy, savoury, tannic structure. I'd either drink this now, or leave it for a decade: I often find top Vintage Ports perform well young, enter a sullen middle age, and then reemerge into a mellow, complex maturity. 93/100 (c £23 Sainsbury's, Tesco, Waitrose, Selfridges, Majestic, Oddbins) 11/08  

Reguengos de Melgaco Alvarinho 2006 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Fresh, bright, minerally, lemony nose with some fruity depth as well as the freshness. The palate has a citrussy edge to some beautifully weighted just-ripe peach notes, with a lovely fresh balanced character. Quite serious stuff, this. 90/100 (UK retail c. £12, agent Hallgarten) 11/08

Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Pale in colour: cherry red with orange tints. It's smooth, sweet and mellow with subtle spicy notes on the nose. The palate is elegant and super-smooth with nice soft texture and some mellow warmth. Some floral notes and hints of cherry add aromatic interest; overall, this shows great purity and elegance. 91/100 (£16 Waitrose, Tanners) 11/08

Adega de Pegões Colheita Seleccionada 2005 Terras do Sado, Portugal
13.5% alcohol. Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grown in the sandy soils of the Setúbal Peninsula near Lisbon. This has a lovely sweet, fresh, aromatic nose of cherries, plums and raspberries, with lovely fruit purity. The palate is bright and refreshing with tangy cherry and berry fruit, and a hint of plummy bitterness and savoury spiciness on the finish. This is really delicious, and great value for the 6 or 7 Euros it retails for in Portugal. It’s made by the over-performing co-op at Pegões, which is probably Portugal’s best. 88/100 (UK agent is Hallgarten) 11/08  

Fonseca Guimaraens Vintage Port 1988
I really like this. It's showing some evolution, which has added complexity, but there's still a real fruity presence here. Deep coloured, it's aromatic with lovely complex dark fruits with herbs, leather and spice, as well as a hint of sweet tarriness. The palate is open and lively - vinous, almost - with pure plum and dark cherry fruit backed up by warming spiciness and notes of earth, tea and tar. It's drinking beautifully now, with lovely complexity and a dark elegance, but do decant this because it has a ton of sediment in it. 20.5% alcohol. 93/100 (£19.99 Sainsbury, Waitrose, Fortnum & Mason, Booths, Costco, Makro) 12/08

Quinta Lagoalva de Cima Alfrocheiro 2006 Ribatejo, Portugal
Cherry red in colour, this has a nose of bright cherry and berry fruit, with a hint of spiciness. The palate is juicy and vibrant with lovely red cherry and raspberry fruit, backed up by firm, spicy tannins. There's a nice fresh quality to this wine, which reminds me a bit of Pinot Noir. While it's quite structured, the fruit has a lightness to it that's really attractive. Some earthy spiciness on the finish. Delicious stuff. 90/100 (Clark Foyster Wines is the UK agent; the Wine Society have the 2005 for £9.95) 11/08  

Conceito Bastardo 2007 Vinho Regional Durienses, Portugal
Apparently 100 years ago Bastardo and Alvarilhão were the most widely planted grapes in the Douro. They don’t have a lot of colour, and this is why Sousão, a teinturier (red fleshed) variety, was introduced from Vinho Verde. This is a remarkable wine. It’s a varietal Bastardo made in lagar, with stems, and no sulfur dioxide addition. Very pale in colour, it looks like a rosé. It has a beautiful, fresh, aromatic nose with a nice herby green edge to the bright cherry fruit. The palate is remarkable: even though this is a pale wine, it is intense, with a rounded texture and lovely spiciness. Fresh, super-elegant and persistent, this is a beautiful wine. It’s labelled Vinho Regional because the IVDP refused the Douro appellation numerous times because this is ‘atypical’. 93/100 11/08

Niepoort Charme 2002 Douro, Portugal
Not much of this made in 2002. Quite deep coloured, the nose shows sweet aromatic, spicy-edged red berry and cherry fruit. Smooth and aromatic. The palate is dense an firm with some nice tannic structure and a core of tight spiciness. There’s some elegance here, but also some structure, with a subtle, integrated greenness. Stylish and intense with lovely purity, and beginning to evolve nicely – if I had some I’d keep it for a while before opening. 93/100 11/08

Conceito Vintage Port 2005
Sweet, rich, intense and spicy with good structure. Pure and quite serious with lovely intensity of fruit. 93/100 11/08

Fonseca Guimarens Vintage Port 2001
Really nice aromatics. Fresh, slightly spicy and quite sweet with red and lack fruits to the fore. The palate is expressive, dense and sweet with lovely structure and brilliant spicy tannins. A very expressive, alive Port with real complexity. 94/100 11/08

Fonseca Vintage Port 2003
This is incredible. Intense, sweet, firm spicy nose. The palate shows some concentration with lovely intensity and firm tannins. A massively intense, structured Vintage Port that’s utterly serious. 96/100 11/08

JM da Fonseca Moscatel de Setubal 1976
Beautifully aromatic: fresh and spicy with dried fruits, citrus, waxy notes. The palate is super-concentrated with intense spicy, fresh, herby super-complex fruit and spice characters. Thrillingly intense with lovely complexity. Simply amazing. 96/100 11/08

JM da Fonseca Moscatel de Setubal 1960
Amazing stuff, with a really volatile, intense nose showing wildly aromatic varnish and old furniture notes. The palate is amazingly complex: powerful, intense, tarry, wild, raisiny and viscous with alarming flavours and an everlasting finish. I’d score this higher, but it isn’t really balanced. A remarkable wine experience. 94/100 11/08

Marias da Malhadinha 2004 Vinho Regional Alentejo
A blend of 40% Aragonês, 25% Alicante Bouschet, 15% Cabernet, 10% Syrah and 10% Touriga Nacional, aged for 26 months in new French oak. This is an intensely concentrated red with a sweet nose of ripe blackberry and plum fruit with complex spicy notes. The palate is dense and sweetly fruited with spiciness and smooth but firm tannins. This generous red wine is ripe but not jammy, and there's lovely balance between the sweet fruit and the more savoury, spicy elements. Massively intense and multilayered, this should age really well, and in terms of style it's similar to a high-end new-wave Rioja. 94/100 (08/08) 08/08  

Quinta de Saes 2006 Dao, Portugal
Beautiful stuff. It's dark and intense with a lovely aromatic nose of dark cherries, raspberries and spice. Pure fruit dominates. The palate is concentrated with dense spicy structure and good acidity adding a savoury complexion to the bold, sweet, pure fruit. A vivid, expressive and rather primary wine of immense appeal. 90/100 (£8.29 Cheers Bottle Shop) 08/08

Duas Quintas 2006 Douro, Portugal
Lovely vivid pure sweet raspberry and blackberry fruit dominates here, and it flirts with jamminess. The palate has nicely dense berryish fruit with an attractive spicy edge and some chocolatey richness. It's quite pure with nice balance between the primary fruit and some spicy tannins. 88/100 (Nicolas £9.15)  08/08

Quinta de Azevedo 2007 Vinho Verde, Portugal
Just 11% alcohol. Light, spritzy and very fresh, with a hint of pithy bitterness under the lemony fruit. A crisp, quite savoury style of wine that’s bone dry and high in acid. Although this is a modern interpretation of Vinho Verde, it still has the distinctive personality of wines from this region. 86/100 (£5.99 Waitrose) 07/08

Covela Escolha 2004 Minho, Portugal
Savoury and blackcurranty with some minerality and raspberry freshness. Very fruit focused, and showing good acidity. A lovely wine. 90/100 (09/08)

Pedro Basta 2006 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 12 months in new and used French oak. Dark blackberry fruit on the nose with overt roast coffee character, plus a bit of plummy spiciniess. Quite savoury. The palate is dense with some firm, savoury, spicy structure underneath the sweet blackberry and plum fruit. Quite well structured with nice balance and focus. This is a warm climate wine with nice definition. 90/100 (£10.50 The Wine Society) 09/08

Herdade de Malhadinha Nova 'Malhadinha' 2006 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for 14 months in new French oak. Aromatically intense, with beautifully forward lush, sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Real purity here, as well as some warm spicy notes. The palate is ripe and sweet with concentrated, lush, pure fruit that marries well with some spicy oak notes. Despite the sweetness, there's lovely spicy definition and good acidity. Delicious now, but with the potential to develop. 93/100 (UK agent Raymond Reynolds) 09/08

Malhadinha Nova Pequeno Joao 2005 Alentejo, Portugal
A small production run of Cabernet, Aragones and Syrah that's bottled in 50 cl format. Beautiful purity of sweet raspberryish fruit with foresty, blackberry notes in the mix too. The palate is pure and intense with lovely fruit intensity and nice spiciness. Ripe, rich, fruit-driven and delicious. 92/100 07/08

Monte da Peceguina 2007 Alentejo, Portugal
From Malhadinha Nova, this a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tinta Caida, aged in French oak for seven months. It’s a vibrant, pure, fruit focused red for early consumption, offering blackberry, raspberry and ripe cherry fruit, with a bit of spicy tang. It’s ripe and sweetly fruited, but there’s a lovely freshness, with good acidity and just a hint of attractive plummy bitterness on the finish, which makes it food friendly. Impressive stuff. 90/100 07/08

Cedro do Noval 2004 Douro, Portugal
This Douro table wine is one of the best-value examples of this genre around, and I reckon it can compete effectively with many of its more expensive peers. The nose is complex with dark cherry fruit and some spicy, minerally depth. It’s ripe and sweet, but savoury and balanced at the same time. The palate has some savoury tannic structure, some ripe cherry fruit and a pleasant plummy bitterness. Good acidity keeps it fresh. An appealing, dense, savoury wine that displays some warm-climate ripeness allied with old-world savouriness. 91/100 (c. £10 retail) 12/07

Pedra Basta 2005 Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal
This is the wine from Richard Mayson’s Quinta do Centro, made by Rui Reguinga. It’s a blend of traditional varieties Trincadeira, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet with Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for a year in French oak barrels and weighing in at 14.5% alcohol. It’s a bit restrained and tight on the nose at the moment, not offering a lot. Closed? The palate is savoury with brooding dark fruits and a distinctive minerally, earthy seriousness. This is ripe, but it’s fresh and well defined at the same time – not as showy or new-worldy as some Alentejo wines can be. Although this is a little angular and closed at present, I think it’s quite a serious effort and I suspect this will age well in the medium term. 90/100 (£9.95 The Wine Society) 04/08

Caves S. Joao Reserva Particular 1959 Portugal
This old bottle is a blend of fruit from Bairrada and Dao. A deep colour with some brown hints, this has a wonderfully aromatic nose that is dark and meaty with a lovely spiciness. There's old wine complexity here, but it is still really alive, with bloody, iron-like notes in the background. There's also a bit of herby undergrowth character. Brilliant old wine. 94/100 05/08

Niepoort Pinot Noir 2006 Douro
Still in cask, soon to be bottled. This is from the highest, coolest Niepoort vineyards, and this year Luis Seabra said he cut his holidays short to pick on the 24th August, to keep the wine fresh. It certainly is fresh, with bright, ripe red fruit character and a bit of mintiness. There's some elegance and nice texture, with hints of vanilla oak on the finish. This is actually pretty stylish. 89-93/100 05/08

Robustus 2004 Douro
Robustus was the name of Dirk's first table wine, made in 1990 (for more, see here). This new Robustus is a wine made repeating many of the 'mistakes' Dirk made back in 1990, and it's fabulous. It's half Redoma, half Batuta fruit, bottled after four years in wood. Deep coloured, it has a fresh, pure dark fruits nose that leads to a focused palate with elegant fruit and some oak imprint. There's brilliant freshness here with good tannins. It's quite firm with lovely freshness and density. Serious stuff. 'Not a modern, fruit-driven, square wine', says Dirk. Just four 1200 litre barrels made. 94/100 05/08

Niepoort 1963 Vintage Port
We tasted this blind. The others were in the 1970s; I was in the 1960s but got no closer. It's mature, super-elegant, spicy and a bit floral. There's nice freshness here as well as a seamless texture. Almost perfect balance: this isn't a big, heavy wine at all. 95/100 05/08

Esporão Reserva (Tinto) 2005 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of the Trincadeira, Aragones and Cabernet Sauvignon grape varieties, this is a deep-coloured wine. It shows fresh, bright plum and blackberry flavours, with a distinctive slightly roasted, tarry savoury edge and a hint of bitterness, that isn't completely masked by the sweet coconut and vanilla characters from the American oak that was used here. It's an attractive, food-friendly red, but, if I'm going to be ultracritical, I don't find the oak that well integrated, and the bitterness on the finish is a bit off-putting. 85/100 (£12.30, UK agent Charles Hawkins) 05/08

Esporão Reserva (Branco) 2007 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Arinto, Antão Vaz and Roupeiro that spends six months in new French and American oak barrels. The nose is attractive, with lemony fruit as well as some grapefruit freshness, and any oak notes right in the background. The palate is savoury, with citrus pith and grapefruit, together with a hint of waxiness and good acidity. A food-friendly style of wide appeal, with very little obvious oak, aside from a hint of vanilla. It's a really nice wine. 89/100 (£9.95 UK agent Charles Hawkins) 05/08

Howard’s Folly 2006 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Syrah, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional, made by Portuguese-resident Aussie winemaker David Baverstock. It’s a deep-coloured wine with a seductive nose of sweet dark fruits and nicely integrated oak. The palate is broad and sweetly fruited with nice density and some freshness. Ripe, full and generous; made in a modern, new world style but it seems to me that this is still retaining a sense of Portugueseness (albeit only just). 89/100 (£8.95 UK agent Charles Hawkins) 04/08  

Casa de Mouraz Branco 2005 Dão, Portugal
This organic white Dão is a bit of an oddity, but it’s fantastic. Lovely reductive, burnt match nose combines with some barrel-ferment richness. Long, broad, full palate is minerally and fresh with lovely depth of flavour. A very distinctive Burgundian style. 92/100 (£8.99 Duncan Murray Wines, Philglass and Swiggot, Corks of Cotham) 12/07

Quinta Nova 'Grainha' 2005 Douro, Portugal
Very attractively packaged, this relatively modestly priced Douro red has a deep red/purple colour. The nose shows berry and dark cherry fruit with a bit of spice and tar, and leads to a savoury, spicy, quite structured palate with a hint of plummy bitterness on the finish, and just the slightest hint of vanilla sweetness. It's an attractive food friendly wine for drinking now and over the next decade. I like the savouriness. 88/100 10/07

Quinta Nova Reserva 2005 Douro, Portugal
Aromatically fresh and vibrant, this has a really attractive nose of dark cherries, herbs and spices. The palate is really lively, with some classy oak supporting the bright berry and cherry fruit. With nice grippy tannin and fresh acidity, this is a really elegant expression of the Douro that should evolve really nicely for at least a decade. It's almost Bordeaux-like in terms of its structure, if not its flavour profile, which is warmer and spicier. I'd be really interested to see how this wine develops - I reckon it will age well. 91/100 10/07

Niepoort LBV 2001 Douro, Portugal
This is a late-bottled vintage Port that would put some vintage wines to shame. On the nose there's some spicy, herby complexity, with some lifted tar notes and a bit of perfume. The palate has a pronounced spicy tannic structure underpinning the sweet fruit. Finishes drier and more savoury than you'd expect. Plenty of personality here, and a persistent structure. Very good/excellent 90/100 (£13 Butlers Wine Cellar, Cambridge Wine Company, Fareham Wine Cellar, Fortnum & Mason, Bentleys Wine and others) 04/07

Quinta da Romaneira 2004 Douro, Portugal
A deep red/purple colour, this Douro red has a classy nose of sweet raspberry and blackberry fruit complemeted by some spicy, tarry complexity and sophisticated oak notes. It's pure, intense and quite exotic. The palate is firmly structured and spicy, but still shows more of this ripe, complex fruit character. The firm tannins suggest that there's some development to come, but it's already a modern, seductive wine with a hint of Douro wildness to it. Great concentration and focus, and reassuringly this isn't just another over-ripe late-picked international red (despite the hefty 14.5% alcohol). Very good/excellent 93/100 03/07

Churchill Estates Douro 2004 Portugal
I like this wine a good deal: it tastes very much of the Douro and it's affordable, balanced and very drinkable. Nicely perfumed nose of dark spicy black cherry fruit with a savoury, dusty edge. The palate shows pure dark fruits with some spicy definition and a really attractive savouriness. Despite the relatively high alcohol (14.5%) this isn't a sweet, overripe style, but instead shows great balance and quite a bit of class. Very impressive. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£7.99 Majestic, currently on offer at 6.39 if you buy two) 04/07

Quinta do Crasto 2003 Douro, Portugal
This is very drinkable, with ripe, sweet dark fruits providing the gratification, and subtly green, tarry tannic structure providing a nice counter. There's nothing terribly heavy or serious about this wine, and the bright plummy, slightly sappy fruit is really appealing. This is a wine for current drinking that has a hint of the new world to it, but also speaks (albeit rather softly) of its Douro origins. Great value, and recommended at this price. Very good+ 87/100 (£6.99 Adnams) 03/07

Quinta do Noval Silval Vintage Port 2000 Douro, Portugal
Opaque red/black colour. Dark, almost savoury nose with a meaty, spicy edge to the sweet black fruits. The palate is dense and quite tannic with a plummy character and sweet dark fruit. Lots of structure here – a serious, dense effort which will likely become aromatically much brighter and perfumed over the next few years. Satisfying and bold. 93/100 11/06

Calem Vintage Port 2000 Portugal
Slightly muted nose of brooding dark fruits with a spicy sheen. The palate is concentrated, lush and full with a firm spicy, tannic structure. There's an open, fruity mid-palate but the finish is firm and spicy. This is quite primary and needs to develop real aromatic interest, but it is nicely structured and quite serious. Finishes dry-ish. Puts on some weight after a few days. 92/100 11/06

Kopke Vinho Tinto Tinta Roriz 2003 Douro, Portugal
Open, quite fruity, fresh pure red fruits nose with some spicy depth and a bit of wood. The palate is savoury, dark and tannic with bright plummy, cherrish fruit and some warm spicy oak notes. Quite Italian in style. 86/100 11/06

Curva Douro Reserva 2004 Portugal
Made by Calem, this stylishly packaged red has a lovely aromatic nose of pure, sweet blackberry and blackcurrant fruits which is dark and rich with a subtle woody, spicy edge. The palate has vivid pure fruit coupled with some dense spicy structure. It’s a lovely, alluring forward wine with richness but a hint of seriousness. Charming. 90/100 11/06

Tinto da Anfora 2004 Alentejo, Portugal
Juicy, spicy, oaky red fruits nose leads to a full, spicy palate. There’s plenty of sweet oak, but also a bit of grip and good acidity. A nicely judged, modern style of wine that’s food friendly. 86/100 (Waitrose) 03/07  

Vida Nova Rosé 2005 Algarve, Portugal
Quite a deep pink colour. Shows ripe, sweet red fruits with a herby edge. A bit alcopoppy. There’s a hint of spiciness, too. Very accessible with cranberry juice character, and some sweetness. 80/100 06/06

Vida Nova 2004 Algarve, Portugal
Dark coloured. Warm, spicy nose with sweet black fruits. The palate is dark and spicy with good concentration and well integrated oak. It’s actually quite tasty, in a warm, spicy sort of way. 87/100 (£7.99 Waitrose) 06/06

Niepoort Redoma 1991 Douro, Portugal
The first Redoma. Smooth, dark fruits nose is quite refined with a subtle, spicy minerality. The palate is smooth and nicely fruity with a bit of minerality and good tannins. Really quite elegant and balanced: a lovely wine ageing well and now drinking superbly. 93/100 05/06

Tinto de Ãnfora 2003 Alentejo, Portugal
This Portuguese red wine has recently been reinvented: it used to come in a Bugundy-shaped bottle and was rather old fashioned. The new incarnation is in a Bordeaux bottle and has been made in a more modern, less oxidative style. It’s a bit of a bruiser, with intense dark fruits on the nose and a spicy, chocolatey edge. The palate shows ripe dark fruits with a rich chocolatey, spicy, earthy character. Not subtle, but there’s lovely fruit here and this is good value for money. Very good+ 89/100 (£5.99 Waitrose) 04/06

Cortes de Cima Syrah 2003 Alentejo, Portugal
Very deep coloured.
Lovely forward, spicy pure dark fruits on the nose, with a liqueur-like richness. The palate shows deliciously ripe sweet fruits in a new world style—but it’s in balance, with the fruit driving without overpowering. A delicious wine. Very good/excellent (£9.99 Waitrose) 04/06

Quinta de Cabriz Reserva 2003 Dao
From the impressive Dao Sul operation, an inexpensive Dao red that really delivers. Served a little warm (inevitable on a night where the temperature, just after midnight, is 26 centigrade), it is open, ripe and supple, with mouth-filling sweet red and black fruits backed up by a subtly tarry, minerally sappiness. It tastes like a traditional Dao that has been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, with its greenness tamed, its fruit boosted, but all the while it retains some regional character. A hippy wearing a nicely-fitting suit. Thoroughly drinkable. Very good+ 88/100 07/06

Valle Pradinhos Tinto 2003 Tras-os-Montes, Portugal
Beautifully packaged in a Burgundy-shaped bottle and with an elegantly simple label, this is a lovely gutsy red that reminds me of the best wines of southwest France. It has a bright, savoury spicy nose with dark fruits and a hint of tar. There's a gravelly minerality to the palate, which has tight dark fruits with a spicy kick, and plenty of tannins. The result is very refreshing, drinkable and utterly food friendly. There's even a hint of elegance here - it isn't overly rustic. I like it a lot. Very good/excellent 90/100 (use wine-searcher.com to locate stockists) 11/06

Sexy 2004 Alentejo, Portugal
www.fitapreta.com. Spontaneous yeast ferment, with lots of oxygen and a 20 day post ferment maceration. 30% aged in new French and Portuguese oak barrels. Sweet dark fruits nose (blackberry and blackcurrant) with warm spicy overtones. The palate is smooth, ripe and spicy with soft, full black fruits. A lovely ripe style but not too modern, with some of that wild Alentejo character. Very good+ 88/100 (7 Euros retail in Portugal) 06/06  

Barros Vintage Port 2003 Douro, Portugal
Deep coloured, this Vintage Port has a wonderfully perfumed, open nose. Therefs an almost floral, herb-tinged dark fruits character, which is supplemented by lifted spicy notes. Itfs very seductive and expressive, with a nice sweetness. The palate has lovely sweet fruit with some assertive spiciness and a bit of tannic grip, but itfs not really built for the long haul. Instead, this is a beautifully poised, perfumed Vintage Port which will keep for a decade or two, but which will probably reach its peak earlier rather than later. Itfs incredibly enjoyable now, though. Very good/excellent 93/100 12/06

Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port 1966 Portugal
his old Port wasn't decanted, and so needs a little air to open up. It has a mellow, soft spicy nose that's initially a little spirity, but becomes a quite fruity and fudgy. The palate is soft and complex with mellow red fruits, yet still has a bit of spicy bite. Rich, intense and drinking very well now. I reckon there's no hurry to drink this up, although it's probably not going to get any better. Very good/excellent 91/100 12/06

Malhadinha Nova Pequeno João 2004 Alentejo, Portugal
Weighing in at 15% alcohol, this is a modern, ripe, fruit-filled wine, but it doesn’t go over the top. Lovely nose of pure, sweet raspberry and blackberry fruit with some nice spiciness. Quite exuberant. The palate shows lots of lovely sweet pure fruit. There’s the brightness of summer but also some darker, autumnal tones. The wood is well in check – you can’t really spot any – even though it has spent 12 months in new French barriques. Wonderful purity of fruit is the defining character. Modern but lovely. Very good/excellent 92/100 (from a 50 cl bottle) 02/06

Sandemans Vau Vintage Port 1999
Delicious stuff.
Nice aromatic nose of red and black fruits with notes of liquorice and pepper leads to a sweet, open, fruit-packed palate backed up by lovely fine, firm spicy tannins. It’s very open and forward (as you might expect: Vau is deliberately made in an early drinking style), but the tannic structure gives it seriousness. Highly drinkable. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£19.99 Lea & Sandeman) 05/06

Dow’s Quinta do Bomfin 1996 Douro, Portugal
Sweet, dark and rich with perfumed, plummy blackberry fruit on the nose together with some herby spicy notes. The palate is concentrated and smooth with a rich texture and spicy tannic structure acting as a foil to the sweet dark fruits. A satisfying, dense, easygoing wine. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£21 Tesco, Thresher, Oddbins, Tanners) 06/06

Quinta do Portal Malvis Douro Reserva 2000 Douro, Portugal
A nice drinking wine – well priced with a bit of Douro character. Ripe red fruit on the nose meshing well with savoury, spicy notes. The palate has an earthy, spicy structure underpinning the red fruits. Savoury and earthy with some plummy bitterness on the finish.
Very good 84/100 (RRP £4.99, UK agent Charles Hawkins) 02/06

Quinta de la Rosa Tinta Cão 2004 Douro, Portugal
A special Cuvée made to celebrate the Quinta’s centenary.
Savoury, firm, bright and spicy with a dried meats sort of character. Complex, chewy and spicy, this is potentially long lived. Unusual stuff. Very good/excellent 90/100

Quinta do Noval Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port 2000 Portugal
A cracking Port for the money, with a dark, intense, sweet, herby nose with blackberry fruit and lifted floral aromatics. The palate shows a nice concentration of open, herb-tinged, sweet blackberry fruit backed up with firm spicy tannins. Open and enchanting, but also has a more serious grippy side. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£11.99 Oddbins) 11/06

Valle Pradinhos Tinto 2003 Tras-os-Montes, Portugal
Beautifully packaged in a Burgundy-shaped bottle and with an elegantly simple label, this is a lovely gutsy red that reminds me of the best wines of southwest France. It has a bright, savoury spicy nose with dark fruits and a hint of tar. There's a gravelly minerality to the palate, which has tight dark fruits with a spicy kick, and plenty of tannins. The result is very refreshing, drinkable and utterly food friendly. There's even a hint of elegance here - it isn't overly rustic. I like it a lot. Very good/excellent 90/100 (use wine-searcher.com to locate stockists) 11/06

Paço de Teixeiró Branco 2004 Minho, Portugal
Minerally, flinty reductive note on the bright fruity nose. The palate has a flinty edge to the fresh, crisp savoury fruit. A fresh, precise white wine. Very good+ 89/100 (£7.49 Laymont & Shaw) 08/06

Malhadinha Nova Aragonês de Peceguina 2004 Alentejo, Portugal
Wonderfully pure red and black fruits nose, together with some liquorice and spice. The palate shows a nice mixture of sweet raspberry jam fruit with spice and grippy minerally tannins. It’s pretty serious stuff with lovely sweet fruit allied to firm structure. A lovely wine. Very good/excellent 93/100 05/06

Montinho São Miguel 2004 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Aragonês, Trincadeira and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s cherry and spice on the nicely savoury, subtly roasted nose, which is quite bright and fruity. The palate is fresh and slightly sappy with lots of savoury edged dark fruits. A really nice food wine with good acidity. Not serious but enjoyable and substantial, and honest. Very good+ 87/100 (£6.49 Handford) 02/06

Quinta do Judeu 2004 Douro, Portugal
Deep colour. Dusty, spicy extracted nose with sweet ripe red fruits. Primary palate with sweet bright fruit, some richness and fresh acidity, together with spicy dusty structure. It’s fresh and fruit driven, but quite extracted. It’s a bit hard to know where this quite primary wine is going. Almost Italian in style with a nice spiciness, and a good concentration of sweet fruit. Very good+ 89/100 05/06

Quinta do Judeu ‘Manuel de Talho’ 2004 Douro, Portugal
Bright berry fruit nose with a fresh, spicy character. The palate shows bright fruit bolstered by subtly medicinal spiciness and good acidity. It’s fresh, but a tiny bit rustic. Perhaps there’s a bit of Brettanomyces here? Still, it’s enjoyable and highly food compatible. Very good+ 86/100  06/06

Churchill’s Late Bottle Vintage Port 1999 Portugal
It’s rare that I actually have to decant an LBV, but this unfiltered beauty from Churchill really needs it. It’s sweet, dark, concentrated and spicy with nice aromatics and relatively firm tannic structure. This is pretty serious, and probably has the potential to improve with a few years cellaring. Interestingly, 1999 wasn’t a vintage year in the Douro (it was tricky), but the Niepoort and Noval LBVs have also really impressed from this year, too. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£12.50 Andrew Chapman, http://www.surf4wine.co.uk/) 08/06

Prazo de Roriz 2004 Douro, Portugal
A good deep colour, this has an inviting nose of pure, ripe red fruits, with some cherry and plum notes along with a hint of chocolatey richness. The palate is ripe with plenty of pure fruit, together with a spicy, savoury tang. A modern, fruity style with good concentration and purity. It’s almost new world style, but just about avoids being too forward and ripe. Convincing stuff and a bit of a bargain. Very good+ 87/100 07/06

Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas 2002 Douro, Portugal
Not a great vintage in the Douro, but this is a really nice wine. It shows restrained red berry and black fruits with a savoury structure, and quite elegant spicy tannins. There’s a hint of earthiness, too. Drying finish, but a lovely fruit profile. A good, spicy, earthy, authentic Douro red. Very good+ 88/100 (£6.99 Majestic) 07/05

Quinta do Noval 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Red/brown colour with an orange tint. Lovely complex, nutty, spicy nose with notes of dried fruit, orange peel and old furniture. Quite warm. The palate is concentrated, deep and spicy with lots of length and sweetness. Exquisite balance: a really top tawny. Excellent 95/100 (£35) 11/05

Domini Plus 2001 Douro, Portugal
A collaboration between Christiano Van Zeller and JM da Fonseca, this is quite a success. Dark coloured, it has an inviting nose of sweet, ripe dark fruits with a liqueur-like quality to the fruit together with some tarriness. The palate is quite dense, savoury and spicy, and shows good concentration of ripe fruit. Roasted, slightly baked finish. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Waitrose £12.99) 04/05

Quinta de Covela Escolha Rosé 2004 Minho, Portugal
Nice deep pink colour. Fresh, slightly sweet herby, strawberry fruit dominates. It is quite concentrated and full with a bit of structure and some herby warmth. Quite a serious grown-up rosé. Very good+ 88/100 (£8.99 Corney & Barrow) 07/05

Quinta do Noval Unfiltered LBV Port 1999 Portugal
What a fantastic Port for the money. Deep coloured, this has a sweet, intense nose with vibrant, warmly spiced fruit and some complexity. The palate shows a great concentration of warm, sweet rich spicy fruit with good structure. It's perhaps a little tight and there's some heat, but otherwise this is an LBV that would put some Vintage Ports to shame. (£10.99 Oddbins, Direct Wines) 11/05

Grahams ‘The Tawny’ Port
Beautifully packaged in a squat bottle, this Tawny is a pale red/brown colour. It’s utterly delicious, with sweet, soft, spicy, raisiny flavours and a long aftertaste. Subtlety and complexity are the keys to its success – a glass of this is a civilized way to end a day. Very good+ 88/100 (£14.99 Sainsbury, Tesco) 10/05

Quinta da Casa Amarela Reserva 2003 Douro
Lovely freshness and balance is the key to this wine. It shows vivid red fruits with a lovely savoury, spicy structure and good acidity keeping things fresh. It’s quite elegant rather than being big and rich, but has plenty of concentration and the structure to evolve over the next few years. A superb effort. Very good/excellent 92/100 07/05

Taylors LBV 1999 Douro, Portugal
This LBV Port is cedary, spicy and quite intense with nice aromatics and a spicy structure. Nice weight: a good effort, and much better than the 1998 version. Very good+ 89/100 12/04

Poeira 2002 Douro, Portugal
Initially quite shy, savoury and taut on the nose, but opens out to reveal spicy, liquoricey edged dark fruits with a lovely earthy complexity. The palate is concentrated and dense with more dark fruits and a profound structure: spicy, earthy tannins with good acidity. Very refined and intense. It's not as aromatic and forward as the 2001, but there's perhaps better structure and longevity to this. A tiny bit stern at the moment, but will likely be singing in a decade's time, and may evolve positively for even longer. Very good/excellent 94/100 (07/04)

Quinta do Noval LBV 1998 Douro, Portugal
Christmas is coming so it's time to stock up on some Port. Three recommendations follow at varying price points. First, an LBV that tastes like a single Quinta Port. Dark colour. Firm, dark spicy nose with blackfruits and an earthy edge. The palate is concentrated and full with lovely spicy, smooth tannins. Sweet, but nicely balanced: a fairly serious LBV. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£9.99 Oddbins) 11/04

Dow’s Quinta do Bomfin 1995 Douro, Portugal
This single Quinta port shows a very sweet, open, pure blackcurrant fruit nose. The palate is sweet, ripe, soft and seamless: drinking brilliantly now. Very good/excellent 92/100 (£21.09 Tesco) 10/04

Quinta do Vesúvio 2001 Douro, Portugal
Vivid purple colour. Very expressive spicy, taut fruit on the nose. The palate is concentrated and rich with lots of structured fruit. Not overly sweet but very powerful with brilliant fruit quality. Fantastic stuff. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£34.99 Sainsbury’s Wine) 10/04

Dow’s Trademark Finest Reserve Port NV Portugal
Nice stuff, and a brilliant bargain at Sainsbury’s offer price. Good density of curranty red fruits on the nose. The palate is sweet with good fruit and nice spicy structure. It’s a tasty, relatively structured Port. Currently on offer at £5.49, Sainsbury, reduced from a somewhat token £10+ normal price. I reckon it tastes like an £8–10 wine, and this is a wine to buy by the sixpack for the festive season. Very good+ 87/100 (Sainsbury £5.49 down from £10.49) 10/05

Warre’s Late Bottle Matured Late Bottled Vintage Port 1994 Portugal
A fairly serious traditional LBV (which means it hasn’t been filtered and may throw a deposit) that punches well above its weight. It’s dark, with a delicious savoury spiciness running counter to the sweet blackcurrant fruit, adding an extra dimension to the flavour. It’s drinking very nicely now, but will probably mellow to a graceful elegance with a few years more cellaring. Tesco have the 1995 vintage, which is almost as good, for a similar price. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£15.49 Waitrose) 10/05  

Cossart Gordon Single Harvest Malmsey 1990 Madeira
The big change in Madeira in recent years has been to release vintage dated wines in 50 cl bottles. The official single vintage Madeiras have to spend 20 years in cask, and are inevitably expensive, but this single harvest or colheita style is more affordable, while still being of top quality. There's a lovely contrast on the nose between the sweet, raisiny, grapey fruit and the spicy, lemony notes. The palate is sweet, dense and rich with a lovely lemony tang. Quite brilliant. Very good/excellent 93/100 (£14.35 Berry Bros & Rudd) 10/04

Cossart Gordon Colheita Bual 1990 Madeira
Very striking nose: sweet walnuts, brandy, herbs and a caramel note, too. The palate is striking with high lemony acidity offsetting the sweet caramel and walnut character. Spicy finish. Great length. Very good/excellent 92/100 05/04

Niepoort Vintage Port 1994
Dense, spicy, tannic and rich with some sweetness. Good complexity but it’s far to young to be drinking this now. Lots of promise for the future when it will merit a higher rating. A very good vintage Port indeed. Very good/excellent 91/100 08/04

Berrys William Pickering Port 20 Year Old Tawny, Portugal
From Quinta do Noval. Very nutty, spicy, caramelly nose. Rich, spicy, woody palate with a lovely toffeeish caramelly edge. Raisiny, complex and rich. Very good/excellent 92/100

Domini Plus 2001 Douro, Portugal
A collaboration between Christiano Van Zeller and JM da Fonseca, this is quite a success. Dark coloured, it has an inviting nose of sweet, ripe dark fruits with a liqueur-like quality to the fruit together with some tarriness. The palate is quite dense, savoury and spicy, and shows good concentration of ripe fruit. Roasted, slightly baked finish. Very good/excellent 90/100 (Waitrose £12.99) 04/05



Older notes

(Prices and stockists in the UK are listed in brackets; as a rough guide £1 = US$1.50. Date of tasting is indicated at the end of each note as month/year)

Alenquer back to top

Quinta de Abrigada Tinto 1996, Alenquer, VQPRD
Made from Periquita and Alicante Bouschet, this wine comes from a region just north of Lisbon, a little inland. Nose is muted with some wet stones. On palate there are plums, cherries and some pepper spice, but the new oak claimed on the back label is not immediately evident. Reasonably complex and harmonious, with dry tannins, this is good but not a bargain.  (Bentalls £6.99) 02/99

Castas do Carneiro 1998, Alenquer, Portugal
Interesting herby nose with a touch of vegetation; it's savoury and quite complex. Palate is juicy, herby and ripe. Not a heavyweight, but tasty and accessible. Very good (£4.49 Majestic) 10/99

Alentejo   back to top

João Portugal Ramos Trincadeira 2001 Alentejo
Lovely lifted spicy berry fruit with a chocolatey edge: ripe and full. The palate shows lovely richness of berry fruit with a spicy edge from the oak. A big, rich spicy wine. Very good+ 88/100 06/03

Esporão Syrah 2000 Alentejo, Portugal
Weighing in at 14.5% alcohol, this southern-style red has a ripe nose of spicy berry fruit, with a coconut and vanilla edge. The palate is ripe, spicy and accessible with lots of American oak influence. Spicy, tannic finish. Tastes almost Spanish with all the oak. Very good 84 (£7.99 for 50 cl, mainly on-trade - UK agent is John E Fells) 04/03

Mouchão 1997, Alentejo
I’d been wanting to try this well regarded Alentejo wine for some time. Boasting a high proportion of the red-fleshed Alicante Bouschet grape variety, this is an opaque, inky dark wine. It displays an appealing deep nose with some sweetness to the fruit, and which opens up after a while to displaya spicy, chocolatey richness. The palate is thick, dense and nicely savoury with a pleasant bitterness on the finish and good acidity. Unsubtle, but lots of interest here: this is brilliantly individual and not too modern. Very good/excellent (Berry Bros £16.95) 10/02

Cartuxa Reserva 1997 Evora, Alentejo, Portugal
Lovely old-fashioned lifted herby nose with a sweet edge: quite expressive. Midweight palate is beautifully poised with caramel, spice and herby notes. Complex and expressive, I think this is wonderful albeit a little old fashioned. Very good/excellent (£16.95 for availabilty contact Raymond Reynolds, UK agent) 05/02

JP Ramos Trincadeira 2000 Alentejo, Portugal
Aged for 6 months in French oak barrels. Expressive, spicy, herbal fruit on the nose. The palate displays lovely sweet berry fruit with a spicy edge. Attractive modern-styled wine with some personality. Very good+ (£6.99 Waitrose) 10/02  

Cortes de Cima Chaminé 2000, Alentejo, Portugal
Mostly Aragonez and Trincadeira. A bright red/purple colour, this wine shows vibrant berry and cherry fruit on the nose, with an intriguing spicy, herbal, almost medicinal edge. Juicy berry fruit dominates the palate, which shows nice concentration and intensity. Overall, the wine is quite balanced in an attractive savoury, high acid style. Modern, but not entirely divorced from its geographical roots. Good value at the sale price. Very good (Oddbins £4.99 reduced from £6.99) 01/02

João Portugal Ramos Trincadeira 1999, Alentejo, Portugal
This varietal Trincadeira from the Alentejo is full of interest, but its lush modern style just failed to grab me. A vibrant purple/red colour it has a seductive nose of sweet, creamy, blackcurrant, cherry and strawberry fruit, with a vanilla undercurrent. The concentrated palate is soft (there's hardly any tannin) and sweetly fruited, with a liquoricey edge and just enough acidity to hold things in check. Should be a stunner, but the whole isn't more than the sum of the parts, and it's just a little unbalanced. Very good (£7.49 Waitrose) 01/01

Cartuxa de Evora 1995, VQPRD Evora, Fundacao Eugenio de Almeida, Portugal
Medium red colour. Inviting, perfumed nose of cherries and spice, with some gamey aromas mixed in. On the palate, mouthfilling flavours of ripe cherry fruit, with an amazing soft, silky texture and real complexity. There is some brett, too, with medicinal and herbal notes in the background. This wine avoids the rather bitter character I've often encountered in Portuguese reds. There is real concentration and class here, with all the elements in harmony. Fantastic wine; distinctly Portuguese, quite unusual, but of stunning quality. It is made from a blend of Periquita, Aragonez, Trincadeira, Moreto and Alfrocheiro. I'd really recommend you try this if you can find it. It changed my opinion of Portuguese wine. (Bentalls £9.50) 02/99

Cartuxa, Evora 1995 VQPRD Evora, Fundacao Eugenio de Almeida, Portugal
The second time I have had this wonderful Portuguese rarity from the region of Evora, in the Alentejo. It is relatively light in colour with a big bretty nose (manure/earthy components) and plenty of soft, complex fruit. There isn’t the usual bitterness that is commonly found in Portuguese reds. It is an excellent, thought provoking wine, and if you can find some, I’d urge you to expand your horizons by trying it. (Bentalls, £9.50) 05/99

Catuxa Branca 1997, Evora, Alentejo
From the well regarded Adega de Cartuxa estate in the Alentejo, home to one of Portugal's most famed wines (Pera Manca). Arinto and Antão Vaz grapes. Rich, ripe white, with a nutty, waxy character. Good concentration. 05/00

Cortes de Cima Chaminé 1998 Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira and Periquita, this is made in a very modern style, enhanced by a spell in French and American oak barrels. A cherry red colour, it displays a lovely sweet nose and cherry and licqourice flavours dominate on the palate. Good depth and nice softness to the fruit. Very good. (Adnams £7.40) 11/00

Cortes de Cima Chaminé 1999, Alentejo, Portugal
Fairly deeply coloured, this is a modern, lush style of wine with lots of fruit but enough tannin and spice to keep things interesting. Very good (£6.49 Majestic) 10/01

Cortes de Cima 1997, Alentejo, Portugal
Predominantly Aragonez with some Periquita and Trincadeira. Modern styled, tasty wine. Good deep red colour with an enticing nose of sweet fruit and cherries. Firm, characterful palate: rich and full flavoured with ripe cherryish fruit. Very good. (Adnams £10.50) 11/00

Monte Velho Tinto 2000, Alentejo, Portugal
An everyday glugger from Alentejo producer Esporão. Bright herby nose is a tiny bit confected, and leads to a palate with juicy berry fruit. Fair value, especially at the reduced price. Good/very good (£4.99 Majestic) 10/01

Chaminé 1999 Cortes de Cima, Alentejo, Portugal
Deep red/purple colour. This is a modern styled wine with a pungent nose and interesting savoury cherry and herb palate. Good concentration. Very good (£6.99 Majestic) 10/00

Esporão Reserva 1995, Reguengos DOC, Alentejo, Portugal
Deep red/purple. Rich red berry fruit combined with considerable new oak, and backed up with firm tannins. Moderately high acidity, giving the wine quite a firm, tight structure. This is in an international, modern style, with good concentration and complexity but ultimately not particularly Portuguese. Good, but not what I was after. (Tesco £7.99) 2/99

Esporão Reserva 1990, Reguengos DOC, Alentejo, Portugal
Brick red fading to brown at the rim. After some years in bottle, this has softened out and now shows gently spicy strawberry fruit and an enticing cedary nose. It is drinking nicely, but it does owe a lot of its character to the new oak in which it was aged, rather than the fruit. (Thresher £6.99) 7/99

Esporão Branco Reserva 1997, Reguengos DOC, Alentejo, Portugal
Nose of lemony fruit with a distinctive 'boiled sweets' components (known as 'hard candy' in the USA I believe). On the palate, fresh, crisp lemony fruit with complexity from new American oak. After a while the wine opens out a little to reveal nutty and waxy components. It is quite a useful food wine with its crisp acidity and deep flavours, but there seems to be a bit of a hole in the mid palate, and for my tastes this wine is rather too technologically made. Good, but not outstanding. (£6.99 Oddbins) 12/99

Esporão Reguengos 1990 VQPRD, Alentejo, Portugal
Despite languishing on the shelves of a local branch of Threshers for a few years (the current release is 1998, I think), this wine was still very much alive. A reassuring deep red/purple colour with some brick red at the rim. There’s a sweet edge to the high acid, slightly volatile, spicy nose, with notes of leather and tea. The palate shows high acidity, some dry tannins and even some berry fruit, although it is starting to dry out a bit. Not at all rustic, this is a medium bodied, expressive wine that needs drinking up soon. I’m not sure, but I suspect that this is pre-David Baverstock (the current winemaker at Esporão). Very good+ (£4.99 Thresher) 07/01

Esporão Branco Reserva 1996, Alentejo, Portugal
Deep yellow/gold colour, this is a full, rich white wine with plenty of nutty, toasty new American oak and some lemony fruit. It’s quite matures, with some smoky, butterscotch notes in the background. Savoury in style, with a creamy texture, it is drinking well now, but some people will find this strongly flavoured white a bit extreme. A good food wine. Very good (£5.99 Oddbins in a clearance sale) 07/01

Aragonêz 1996, Herdade de Esporão, Alentejo
Another sturdy Portuguese red, this time a varietal from the large Alentejo firm of Esporão. I tasted this alongside the Quinta do Crasto Reserva 1996. Both wines are the same colour, a dense purple black, but immediately this wine stood out because of a blast of sweet new American oak. On the palate there is a strong cherry component, high acidity, and spicy vanillin oak. However, it would be unfair to say that it is overoaked, as the oak balances well with the spicy, bitter fruit, making a well rounded package. However, I'm not as enthusiastic about this wine as I am the Quinta de Crasto, which gains complexity in the glass, whereas this wine wears all its allure up front. Good, but not 'authentic'. (£6.99, Fullers) 11/99

Alandra (NV), Vinho de Mesa Tinto, Esporão
Doesn't say where the grapes are sourced from, but this is an easy drinking, authentic pepper-laced tablewine. High acidity and deep colour. Nice enough for the price, and a good bargain basement choice. (£3.49 Threhser) 12/99

JP Vinhos, Tinto da Anfora 1994, JP Vinhos, Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of local grape varieties aged for 1 year in small barrels of Portuguese oak and Chestnut. Beautiful fragrant nose of sweet herbs and cherries, with some earthy woodiness. This is nicely open after a few years in bottle. Palate has firm tannins and is medium bodied, with complex flavours of mushrooms, black cherries, coffee and olives. Distinctively Portuguese wine, this is very good. (£5.99 Sainsbury) 12/99

Vila Santa 1998, João Portugal Ramos, Alentejo, Portugal
This is a blend of Aragones, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet, given the full new oak treatment. A remarkably dense purple/black colour, this is an intruiguing, inky wine. On the nose there is sweet fruit with a seconary herbal quality. On the palate there is an appetizing blend of blackberries, black cherries, blackcurrant and creamy vanilla. My only criticism is that there is something missing from the midpalate -- the overall flavour is a little flat right in the centre of the flavour spectrum. Otherwise, it is an unusual and appealing wine. Very good (£7.99, Waitrose) 7/00

Bairrada back to top

See also: Bairrada masterclass; the wines of Luis Pato

Casa da Saima Bairrada 2000, Portugal
Slightly shy spicy/herby nose leads to a palate displaying savoury, dusty dry tannins. Chunky with good acidity: a juicy red that would be very good with food. Not at all showy. Very good (£7.99 for availabilty contact Raymond Reynolds, UK agent) 05/02

Casa de Saima Branco 2000, Bairrada
Bairrada is best known for its sturdy red wines, but this modern, fresh white is an interesting wine. Crisp lemony, floral nose leads to a fairly intense herbal, lemony palate. Bone dry.  Very good+ (£7.95 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Casa de Saima 1999, Bairrada
Really interesting traditional-styled red. Mid coloured, this has a sweet spicy, leathery, herby nose with a dusty edge. The palate dry, taut, leathery and spicy, finishing with dusty tannins. A chunky, sinewy wine. Very good+ (£7.95 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Quinta das Bágeiras 1999, Bairrada
Slightly shy, dry, spicy nose, with just a touch of dusty fruit. Structured palate is quite dense and savoury.  Tight-knit herby, spicy wine. Tough but still attractive; not fruit driven. Very good+ (£7.95 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Quinta das Bágeiras Reserva 1999, Bairrada
Deep vivid red colour, with a slightly fading rim. Very attractive forward nose displaying sweet berry fruit with a complex herby edge; almost exotic. The palate has lovely ripe forward fruit with firm tannins, a savoury edge, and juicy acid on the finish. Lots of interest here. Very good/excellent (£15.95 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Quinta de Baixo Reserva 1999, Bairrada
Deep coloured. Slightly shy nose is quite closed with a touch of herby berry fruit. Good density of tight berry fruit on the palate, which is firmly structured with a dusty edge. Quite closed at present and needs time. Very good (£10.75 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Quinta de Baixa Garrafeira 1996, Bairrada
Deep red/black colour. Quite a rich nose with some sweetness to the fruit, a touch of lush menthol and some herbiness. The palate is concentrated with savoury herbal complexity, firm (almost rasping) tannins and a dry spicy finish. A big wine that probably needs some time to settle down. Very good/excellent (£18.75 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Dom Ferraz Bairrada 1999, Portugal
Bairrada is an interesting region, making ageworthy reds mainly from the Baga grape that can be quite stern in their youth. This is more accessible example from modernist producer Dom Ferraz. It's quite aromatic, with coffee, spice and raspberry fruit on the slightly volatile nose. The palate is rich and savoury, showing spicy, herby notes and high acidity, together with some tannin. An interesting, characterful, full flavoured red wine. A tiny bit manipulated, but still showing some regional character. Very good (£4.99 Tesco) 10/01

Dom Ferraz Bairrada DOC 1997
Made mainly from the Baga grape. This is a cherry red colour, with a fruity nose of cherries, strawberries and vegetation. This initially seems to be a rather simple fruit driven wine, but develops to reveal a pleasant herbiness and a touch of spicy oak. Good concentration. It is not a great wine, but for this price it is a good bargain: modern styled and clean. (£4.89 Tesco) 11/99

Carvalho, Ribeiro & Ferreira Barraida Garrafeira 1980, Portugal
This Portuguese wine is still alive after almost 20 years, but unfortunately still doesn't have too much appeal. It is still fiercely tannic and has juicy acidity, factors which no doubt have contributed to its survival. On the palate it is dry, with a sour cherry flavour. Begins to open up after a while to reveal earthy, gamey notes, but is a bit hard and dry for real enjoyment. 1/00

Luis Pato 'Vinhas Velhas' 1995, Bairrada, Portugal
Made from 60 year-old vines, and spends 10 months in new oak barrels. This is an opaque red-black colour, showing a touch of fading around the rim. Subdued, gently leafy nose, slowly opening out but not giving too much away. On the palate this wine is sternly tannic: it is not fruit-driven, but instead shows notes of herbs, tea, chalk and minerals, with the effect of the Portuguese oak apparent. Very structured and dry, but a good food match and a steal at £4, for what is quite a serious, if stern, wine. (£3.99, Majestic -- part of the bin-end sale, so hurry). 2/00

Luis Pato, Bairrada
Luis Pato is the name everyone mentions when the Bairrada region is discussed: he's been producing wines from 62 ha of family owned vineyards (in 23 different plots) since the early 1980s that have been attracting a lot of press. So it was nice to be able to try Pato's quartet of single vineyard wines side-by-side. They are potentially very impressive; I say potentially, because all these wines will really need a decade or so to really show at their best. They are not widely available yet in the UK. The retail price will be some £15-20 per bottle, so they are not cheap, although this is reasonable for the quality on offer. As with most red Bairrada, the variety used in these wines is the tannic Baga grape.

Luis Pato Vinha Pan 1998
Made from 20 year old vines. This is a rich, deep wine with complex fruit and a touch of sweetness. Richly tannic. Very good, but don't drink yet. 5/00

Luis Pato Vinha Barrosa 1998
Made from 70 year old vines, this is a concentrated, deep, tannic wine with a firm structure. It is not yielding too much at the moment, but this complex wine may develop nicely. 5/00

Luis Pato Barrio 1998
From 70 year old wines, this gives a little more on the nose. There are cherries and some meaty notes. Bright fruit on the palate, with firm tannins. Good. 5/00

Luis Pato Quinta do Moinho 1998
Once again, a firm, tannic wine. Deep and complex; good stuff that needs time to show its best. 5/00

Casa de Saima, Bairrada
This 20 Ha property is one of the leading lights in the Bairrada regions. All the red grapes are hand-harvested and trodden in lagares, where fermentation are takes place. The reds are then aged in large oak vats for one to three years, and bottled unfiltered. In contrast to the ultra-traditional reds, whites are given the modern treatment in the winery, with cold fermentation.

Casa de Saima Tinto 1998
90% Baga with 10% Tinto Pinheira. 70 year old vines and old oak. Concentrated, richly tannic wine with a firm structure. It is a big wine, but is approachable now with food. Very good. 5/00

Casa de Saima Tinto 1997
A lovely wine. It’s massive in both flavour and structure, with super concentration. Delicious. 5/00

Casa de Saima Tinto Garrafiera 1997
A step up in price, this comes across as a little lighter in colour than the regular Tinto, but it is more expressive. Firm tannins underlie a complex palate, with notes of herbs and tea. Old fashioned in style, but very good. 5/00

Casa de Saima Branco 1999
Made from the Bical and Maria Gomes grapes. Rich nose. Soft textured on the palate, with nutty, waxy complexity. Good. This wine has a good reputation for improving with as much a decade's bottle age. 5/00

Casa de Saima Garrafeira 1997, Bairrada
Predominantly from the Baga grape and trodden and fermented in lagares, this is the top wine from leading traditional-style Bairrada producer Casa de Saima. It has a distinctive (and completely untrendy) sliced cork label! Note as written, tasted blind. The ripe spicy nose is peppery and rich, with a hint of olives. The palate is rich and savoury: meaty and full, with a spicy character dominant. Youthful tasting, this is delicious stuff with great potential. Very good/excellent (UK agent Raymond Reynolds, retail about £25) 06/01

Beiras  back to top

Bela Fonte Baga, Beiras, 1998
Attractive red/purple colour. Bright and fruity with deep cherry fruit combined with spicy and medicinal notes, and some herbiness which I associate with the Baga grape. There are hints of American oak. Overall, this is quite modern styled but still retains more than a hint of authenticity. Very good for the price. (£4.99 Tesco) 11/99

Quinta da Giesta 2000 Branco, Beiras, Portugal
An interesting blend of the Malvasia Fina and Bical grapes, this Portuguese white has a delicate, fresh lemony/floral nose. The palate is light textured and shows flavours of lemon and herbs. Impressive stuff. Very good (£5.49 Handford) 09/01

Bucelas back to top

Quinta da Murta Branco 1999, Bucelas
Bucelas became popular in England in the 19th century, but subsequently vineyards went into decline. Over the last couple of decades the injection EU money has led to a mini-revival. This crisp white wine comes from a 15 ha vineyard first planted in 1988. It is 95% Arinto, 5% Esgana Cao with no oak. Bright, fresh, aromatic wine with real interest. 5/00

Dão  back to top

See also: The wines of Quinta de Saes/Quinta de Pellada

Quinta Fonte do Ouro Tinto 1999 Dão, Portugal
Aged in 50% new Allier oak. Rich juicy berry fruit on the nose is quite full, with a spicy, herby edge. Nice savoury herb-tinged palate with some minerality. Good typicity and some drying tannins on the finish: a nice food wine. Modern but not overly so. Very good+ (£8.99 for availabilty contact Raymond Reynolds, UK agent) 05/02

Quinta Fonte do Ouro Touriga Nacional 2000, Dão, Portugal
Aged in 100% new French oak. Delicious forward nose with lifted acidity and complex herbal fruit. Quite Pinot Noir like. The palate is chewy and midweight with some wood tannins and attractive herb-tinged spicy fruit. Quite authentic and with nice balance, but perhaps just lacks a tiny bit of density. Very good+ (c. £16 for availabilty contact Raymond Reynolds, UK agent) 05/02

Quinta das Maias Jaen 1999, Dão
Striking nose of vivid, bright cherry fruit with a herby edge: almost Pinot Noir-like, with a touch of lifted acidity. The palate shows crisp, juicy fruit: attractive and herby with some tannin and well-integrated oak. The high acidity keeps things very fresh. Very good/excellent (£12.95 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Quinta dos Roques Afrocheiro Preto 1999
Forward nose shows ripe, sweet spicy fruit with a lush caramel-laced edge. Rich, dense palate shows ripe cherry and plum fruit with some spicy new oak and a touch of vanilla sweetness. Interesting but a touch pricey for what is on offer. Very good+ (£12.95 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Quinta dos Roques Reserva 1999, Dão
The nose shows restrained savoury herb and caramel notes; rounded and quite sweet edged. The palate is complex and dense with bright acidity and youthful, tight fruit. There’s some tannin and integrated new oak, but this wine needs some time to develop real complexity. Very good+ (£14.95 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Quinta dos Roques Touriga Nacional 1999, Dão
Complex nose of sweet spicy fruit with notes of herbs, caramel and new oak. The dense palate is tannic and savoury with rich berry fruit and quite a bit of new oak. It’s a youthful, classy wine that should show its best after some time in bottle: all the ingredients are there. Very good/excellent (£14.95 La Vigneronne) 05/02

Quinta dos Roques Encruzado 1999, Dão, Portugal
An interesting white from Dão's star performer, Quinta dos Roques. Like the reds from this estate, it comes in the world's heaviest wine bottles; quite classily packaged in a Portuguese sort of way. It's a pale yellow colour, with a fresh, fruity nose (a touch of cranberry?) and a little spice, suggesting some oak influence. The palate is clean and fruity, with a lemony, mineralic twist. As it warms in the glass some waxy notes emerge. Not a head-turner but interesting and probably ageworthy. Very good (£10 Handford Wine) 01/01

Sogrape Duque de Viseu Dão 1999, Portugal
A new-wave Dão from Portuguese giants Sogrape. Good, concentrated colour. The nose displays herb tinged cherry and raspberry fruit, leading to a modern yet savoury palate of good density. Very good (£4.99 Majestic) 10/01

Quinta Fonte do Ouro 1997, Boas Quintas, Dão
A new project initiated as recently as 1991, with 10 Ha of vines planted in three plots. 50% Touriga Nacional in the blend, and 50% is matured in New Allier oak. Concentrated purple/black colour, this has a great intensity on the palate, with firm tannins and some new oak character. Super stuff, made in a new wave style. Very good. 05/00

Dom Ferraz Dão 1999, Portugal
A blend of the Touriga Nacional and Jaen grape varieties. Lively nose with spicy oak notes combining with cherry fruit and a pronounced herbiness. The palate shows juicy, herb-tinged berry fruit together with a spicy character (from the oak?), some tannin and plenty of acidity. Although it's quite a modern interpretation of Dão with all that spicy oak, it has maintained enough of its regional identity for it to be interesting. Great value. Very good+ (£4.99 Tesco) 10/01

Dom Ferraz Dão 1998, Portugal
A blend of Touriga Nacional and Jaen grapes. On the heels of the very successfull 1997, this co-op wine is a real disappointment: it is clearly not in the same league as the previous vintage, even though the same oenologist, Jose Nevia, is behind it. Muted nose of damp stones. Moderate tannic structure, with some cherry fruit and not much else. Lacks the seductive nose and rich texture of the previous vintage. Could this be down to poor oaking? It is not a bad wine, it is just very ordinary and rather unappealing. (£4.99 Tesco) 02/00

Dão Dom Ferraz 1997
Touriga Nacional/ Jaen. Deep purple red. Distinctive nose of smoky, herby cherries. On the palate this is soft and rounded, with an attractive herbiness, more cherries and a touch of blackcurrant and chocolate. There must be some oak in there too. Very nice wine: modern, but still authentic, and quite like a new wave Southern French red in character. A bargain, too. (£4.99 Tesco, Thresher) 10/99

Dom Ferraz 1996 Dao Reserva
Light ruby in colour, this has a muted nose of herbs and wet stones. There is soft, ripe cherry fruit, moderate acidity, no oak and a medium concentration. A little plonkish, but for the price this is well made. Again, lots of similarity with low end burgundy.(Thresher, £2.99) 07/99

Quinta das Maias 1996 Dão
Red purple colour. Leafy, herby nose is followed up on the palate by soft red fruit (cherries) and moderate tannic structure, some of which is no doubt contributed by a touch of new oak. Hints of spice, olives and coffee contribute to what is a fairly complex, burgundy-style wine that is nicely put together. I like it. (Bentalls, £7.15) 07/99

Quinta Dos Roques Tinto 1997
Blend containing 50% Touriga Nacional. Aged in 100% new Limousin oak. Purple/black colour. Intense nose showing some new oak. Highly seductive, with firm tannins: a concentrated wine in a modern style. Very good+ 05/00

Quinta Dos Roques Reserva 1997
A single vineyard blend aged for a year in new Limousin oak. Interesting herby, funky nose, with caramel, herby, medicinal complexity on the palate. Fascinating wine of real character and less up-front appeal than the regular bottling. Very good+ 05/00

Quinta Dos Roques Reserva 1997, Dão, Portugal
A single-vineyard wine from this superstar producer. Dense, rich and tannic, with a nose of licqourice and caramel. Has a complex sweetly fruited, baked quality to it. This is a fascinating, complex wine with real potential. Very good + (La Vigneronne £13.99) 07/00

Douro back to top

See also: The Douro wine revolution, a multipart series looking at the new generation of table wines from the Douro

Quinta do Vale D. Maria Vintage Port 1999 Douro, Portugal
Deep coloured. Ripe, sweet rich fruit with smooth, spicy tannic structure. Good concentration of flavour and lots of tannic structure. Impressive and quite elegant, and with some promise for the future. Very good/excellent 91/100 07/03

Poeira 2001 Douro
A new ‘cult’ wine from the Douro, made by the talented Jorge Moreira who is winemaker at Quinta de la Rosa. It’s the inaugural vintage, and it comes from a 4 ha vineyard at his property Terrafeita de Cima in the Douro. Deep purplish–red colour. Intruiging hauntingly perfumed nose of violets, red berries and liquorice: quite taut with some spiciness. The palate is concentrated with good acidity and smooth but firm tannins. Very savoury with lovely red fruit complexity, this is well structured and elegant, and is starting to show brilliantly now. Multilayered complex red fruits with a touch of herbiness dominate. A brilliant wine with potential for development. Excellent 95/100 05/03

Dourosa 2001, Douro, Portugal
Developed by Waitrose and Sophia Bergqvist at Quinta de la Rosa, part of this blend is aged in barrel, but most sees no wood. Really appealing nose with ripe, inky, liquoricey fruit. The palate shows lovely herbal fruit characters with plenty of Douro personality. Ripe and tasty. Very good+ (Waitrose £6.99) 12/02

Grahams Crusted Port, bottled 1998
From Malvedos and other properties in the Douro Superior, this crusted port spent 2–3 years in cask and then was bottled unfiltered. It’s ripe, sweet and herby with some structure: a satisfying style and quite serious. Not for keeping for too long, but a real step up from most late-bottled vintage Ports. The only slightly negative aspect is that there are some old woody notes on the palate. It would be hard to find a better port at this price. Very good+ (£9.99 Majestic)

Passadouro 1995, Douro, Portugal
Quinta do Passadouro is an estate run by Dirk Niepoort (although he doesn’t own it), and this is a wine I’d had cellared for a few years. Quite an evolved tarry, spicy nose with some leathery, earthy complexity and medicinal, herby fruit. The palate is drying out a little: very savoury with a taut spicy character and high acidity. Concentrated, intense and quite challenging. Fascinating, but verging on the austere. Very good+ 12/02

Rui Madeira Castella d’Alba Tinto 2001, Douro, Portugal
From a co-op in the Douro Superior, this shows bright cherry fruit in a forward, almost Beaujolais-like style: juicy and well made this is good commercial winemaking. Very good (£4.99 for availabilty contact Raymond Reynolds, UK agent) 05/02

Altano 2000, Douro, Portugal
Tight herbal fruit dominates this wine, which shows good acidity and some Douro character. A bit light. Good/very good (£4.99 Waitrose) 10/02

Dourosa 2001, Douro, Portugal
Developed by Waitrose and Sophia Bergqvist at Quinta de la Rosa, part of this blend is aged in barrel, but most sees no wood. Really appealing nose with ripe, inky, liquoricey fruit. The palate shows lovely herbal fruit characters with plenty of Douro personality. Ripe and tasty. Very good+ (£6.99 Waitrose) 10/02

Taylor LBV Port 1997
Rich, caramelly herby fruit with soft, sweet palate. Attractive for the price. Very good (£9.99 Majestic) 10/02

Croft Quinta da Roêda Single-Quinta Port 1983
Mature and soft, this is drinking well now. Quite a pale colour. Intriguing liquoricey herby nose is almost liqueur like. Mature, soft open palate with some spicy character. Very good+ (£13.99 Majestic) 10/02

Taylor Quinta de Terra Feita Single-Quinta Port 1988
Quite deep coloured. Mature, rich, soft, sweet palate is seamless with a good concentration of liquoricey fruit. Very good (£17.99 Majestic) 10/02

Taylor Quinta de Vargellas Single-Quinta Port 1987
Some spicy fruit on the nose. Rich, liqouricey herby palate with good concentration and some spicy backbone. Striking and rich, this is drinking well now. Very good/excellent (£21.99 Majestic) 10/02

Niepoort Redoma 1997, Douro
Very deep red/purple colour. Intense nose shows rich herby blackcurrant and plum fruit with just a touch of new oak. The palate is concentrated, chewy and herby with rich fruit and some tannic structure. There’s also an attractive medicinal edge. Quite classy stuff. Very good/excellent 05/02

Tuella Tinto 1997, Douro, Portugal
Made by port house Cockburn from indigenous Port grape varieties. It's a dense, serious-looking red/purple colour. The distinctly Portuguese nose is a little rustic and perhaps a tiny bit volatile. The rounded, herby palate shows good concentration and a caramel edge. Good/very good (£4.99 Majestic) 10/01

Gouvyas Reserva 1997 Bago de Touriga, Douro, Portugal
The Bago de Touriga winery was set up in 1995 by João Roseira and oenologist Luis Soares Duarte, and this reserva wine is made from a blend of Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesca. Aged in new Portuguese oak for 10 months, just 5000 bottles were produced. A bright red/purple colour, this wine is full of personality. It has a complex nose of ripe cherries, spice, herbs and tar, with some high-toned floral elements. The palate is full, spicy and mouthfilling, with high acidity and firm tannins. The Portuguese oak is evident: there's no doubt about where this wine came from. This is lovely stuff that will probably age well for many years. Very good/excellent (£10 Reserva y Cata) 06/01

Niepoort Redoma Rosé 1999, Douro
Very small quantities of this, the inaugural vintage of the Redoma Rosé, were made. It's an unusual wine: a wonderful orange/red colour, it has a spicy, herby nose with a rather wild edge to it. On the palate it's a little bit spritzy and very spicy, with high acidity and a bit of tannin underneath. A full flavoured Rosé, good with food, but a little odd. The 2000 incarnation is a bit more mainstream, and a better wine in my opinion. Very good (£8.50 La Vigneronne) 05/01

Altano 1999, Douro, Portugal
With a modern-style label, this Douro red obviously has some ambition. A deep purple/black colour, it has a bright, cherry-fruited nose with some faint herby notes. The palate shows savoury cherry and herby fruit with a bit of tannic structure. It's a bit tight and simple; a nice glugger in a modern style. Good/very good (£4.99, UK agent is John E Fells) 04/01

Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port 1996
Unfiltered and bottled in 2000, this is a traditional style of LBV that has the potential to develop in the bottle after release. A dense purple/red colour, this clearly has plenty of stuffing, and the sweet spicy nose has some attractive herbal elements. The palate is sweet with firm tannins and good concentration and density, showing exotic herby and spicy notes with a touch of caramel. A bargain at £9, and much better than most LBV ports. Very good+ (£8.99 Oddbins) 04/01

Quinta do Crasto Reserva 1996 Douro, Portugal
Fascinating, chunky wine. The lovely savoury/herbal nose is followed up on the palate by complex, savoury plummy fruit, firm tannins and high acidity, with a dry, dusty, spicy finish. Tasted blind, I might well have placed this in Italy. Concentrated but very savoury and dry. Very good 04/01 (Bought a couple of years ago for £7.99 at Fullers; current release is £9.99 at Odbbins) 04/01

Sandemans Vau Vintage Port 1997
Sandemans has had a mixed reputation in recent decades, but signs are that they are getting back to top form. The Vau Vintage port is quite controversial: it's a proper Vintage port, made from the very best grapes and only in a good vintage, but in a style more approachable in its youth (apparently they had the American market in mind). This is a thick purple/black colour. Terrifically dense on the palate with masses of sweet, liqouricey plum, cherry and damson fruit and notes of tar and spice. Firm, spicy tannins provide plenty of structure, and although this isn't as unapproachable as traditional vintage styles would be at this stage, it's a huge wine that will age well for a decade or so. However, it's no crime to drink this now because it is so delicious. Excellent, and a sensational bargain at £4.99 for a half bottle (Oddbins) 04/01

Redoma 1994, Niepoort, Douro
I’m a great fan of this serious, densely structured Portuguese table wine. It displays an exotic, herbal nose with a full, complex palate with high acidity and firm tannins, which combine to make this an intensely savoury wine. The dark, herby fruit is underpinned by a core of well-balanced oak. Superb and quite individual, but perhaps a bit much for those not used to the combination of acidity and tannin found in many Portuguese wines. 01/01

Foral, Grande Eschola 1997, Caves Aliança, Douro
A concentrated purple/black colour, this is a big wine, but perhaps a little unsubtle. Big blast of vanilla from the oak barrels is followed by a complex, salty palate with notes of olives and chocolate, firm tannins and a juciy acidic finish. It is good and hearty, but the oaking is a little clumsy. Best matched with robust food. (£6.99 Oddbins) 01/00

Bright Brothers 1996 Douro, Portugal
Vibrant red colour. Bright cherry fruit, with peppery and herby notes on palate. Smoky and savoury, refreshing and juicy. Apparently this has had 6 months ageing in new oak, but this is hard to detect. Good food wine but a little simple. OK. (£4.99 Tesco) 11/99

Quinta do Côtto 1998, Douro
Includes 20% Touriga Nacional, 20% Touriga Francesca, 10% Tinta Roriz, matured in old Portuguese oak. The 1998 was only bottled the previous week, but wasn't showing any ill effects from this. A concentrated purple win with dense cherry and herby fruit. Pretty tannic at the moment, but very attractive stuff. V. good. 05/00

Quinta do Côtto 1997, Douro
Much more open on the nose than the 1998, with ripe red fruits. Complex with a pleasant herby/medicinal edge. Still tannic, but really attractive. Very good+ 05/00

Quinta do Crasto Reserva 1996, Douro, Portugal
Made from a mixed varietal planting of 60 year-old vines, aged for 9 months in French and American Oak barrels. Vibrant purple/red colour. Lifted, slightly stinky herby nose. On the palate the oak is hard to pick out among the intense flavours of bitter cherries and herbs. It is a tight, still-youthful structured wine with the potential to age well but already showing some herby, earthy interest. Savoury and dry. Very good. (£7.99 Fuller's; 1997 is £9.99 in Oddbins). 4/00

Quinta do Crasto Reserva 1996, Douro
Another in the line of Portuguese wines that I have recently been exploring. This is a blend of old vine varietals that has spent 9 months in French and American oak. Purple black with a concentrated nose of bitter cherries and a hint of olives. Immediately after opening it is a little reserved, with a palate dominated by tart bitter cherry fruit. The high acid and bitter fruit, coupled with the firm tannic structure make it hard to sip casually (i.e. without food), but after about half an hour the wine begins to open out beautifully, revealing a pleasant herbiness/gaminess, and complex spicy fruit character. Quite a complex package, and one that will reward some cellaring. The oak is not really noticeable. Very good. (£7.99, Fullers) 11/99

Quinta do Crasto 1997, Douro
A blend of 50% Tinto Roriz, 25% Tinta Barocca, 15% Touriga Nacional and 10% Touriga Francesca. Red/purple in colour, this juicy herb and cherry-laced red has enough spicy complexity (perhaps from the partial new American oak treatment) to maintain interest. Rich and medium bodied, soft and ripe, there is a smoky edge to the berry fruit. Pretty good, but I recommend paying the extra for the Reserva. (£5.99, Fullers) 01/00

Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port 1994, Douro
Deep, rich, spicy and concentrated, this is a sensational wine. Still pretty tannic, and not too sweet. Hints of licqourice. Although still young, and with a bright future ahead of it, the wine is already nicely balanced. Excellent and a bargan. (£9.95, Oddbins) 01/00

Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port 1992, Douro
Don't be put off by the LBV tag: this is a traditional, unfiltered wine with a real cork (not one of those stoppers found in inexpensive ports). It is a concentrated purple/black colour. Quite spirity on the nose, with hot alcohol-like notes, but on the palate the strong tannins combine well with bitter cherry fruit hidden under a layer of sweet chocolate and raisins. Delicious stuff: perhaps still a little wild (this will probably age well) but very good. (£9.45 Fuller's) 11/99

Quinta do Crasto Traditional LBV 1992
Softly fruited with a ripe, spicy tannic structure and good concentration. Liquorice and bitter cherries feature on the palate. It's a very good wine and well worth the price (cost £10 a year ago from the now defunct Fullers): a step above most LBVs. Very good. 10/00

Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage Port 1995, Douro
A traditonal, unfiltered LBV of considerable power and charm, made from grade 'A' fruit and attractively packaged in just the same way as a vintage port (with a real cork and a high quality bottle). Deep red/purple. Powerful nose of licqourice and cherries. On the palate, tannic and concentrated with complex, dense fruit. Not too sweet or alcoholic. Very good. (£9.99, Oddbins) 12/99

Quinta da Crasto 1996 Douro, Portugal
This is an unremarkable wine: light with some cherry and plum fruit, and a bit of spice. Quite closed on nose. At least it is clean. A real disappointment; perhaps I need to try another bottle of this well regarded wine to give it a fair chance. (£5.99, Fullers) 03/99

Grahams 1985 Vintage Port, Portugal
This is a superb, beautifully integrated port that is currently drinking very well. Ripe and concentrated with noticeable tannins and sweet licqouricey fruit. Lovely balance and complexity. Excellent. 04/00

Niepoort, Redoma 1994, Douro
This Douro red from Niepoort is made from Tinta Amarela, Touriga Francesa and Tinta Roriz vines with an average age of 55 years. It was bottled unfiltered in July 1997. An opaque purple black, this has a powerful nose of cherries and olives, with some garrigue-like herbal notes, some chocolate and some coffee. On the palate it is concentrated, with firm, dry tannins. This is a massive wine! Huge and savoury, dark and brooding, with bitter cherries and herbs coming to the fore, the oak it has seen is virtually undetectable. Imagine a bone dry, young port. Sensational stuff, distinctly Portuguese, and one of the most memorable wines I have had in recent months. (£13 Bentalls) 10/99

Niepoort Redoma Tinto 1996
Fourth release of this wine. A blend of Tinta Amarela, Touriga Francesca and Tinta Roriz. Some of the wine is aged in barriques. Red/black colour, this is concentrated stuff. Firm, complex, earthy and mineral notes combine with a strong structure and great complexity. Lovely stuff. 05/00

Niepoort Redoma Branco Reserva 1997
Made from the Rabigato grape fermented in new French oak barrels. A richly textured white with an intense, nutty flavours. Very good. 05/00

Passadouro Vinho Tinto 1995, Douro, Dirk Niepoort
Old vine Tinta Roriz, foot trodden and fermented in lagares. Made from old vines. Foot trodden and fermented in Lagares, it is a blend dominated by Tinta Roriz and Touriga Francesca. Opaque purple/black colour, this is a monster of a wine, with rustic, herby fruit and awash with firm tannins. Excitingly complex, this is a superb, wild wine. 05/00

Quinta do Passadouro LBV 1995, Niepoort
A lovely, premium unfiltered LBV, 100% foot trodden and fermented in lagares, and bottled unfiltered in 1999. Concentrated and herbal, with spicy tannins and notes of coffee and chocolate. There are also mineral, licqouricey elements. Complex and unlike most LBVs needing a few more years to show its best. Excellent. (Bentalls £14) 05/00

Quinta do Noval LBV Traditional Port 1991, Douro, Portugal
This wine was apparently trodden by foot in granite Lagares, and is unfiltered. Deep red colour, showing some slight signs of maturity at the rim. I should have decanted this wine, as it had a slight sediment. Sweet nose and spicy, soft flavours on the palate. Concentrated, smooth and rich, all the elements of this wine have come together well. It is excellent stuff, and drinking well now. Quite different to the tougher, more youthful Quinta do Crasto LBV 1992, but equally good. (£9.99 Sainsbury) 11/99

Duas Quintas Douro 1996, Ramos Pinto
A blend of Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. The palate is dominated by berry fruits with a touch of pepper. Firm tannins, good concentration and nice balance, without noticeable oak. This is a good table wine, but nothing special. It is not noticeably Portuguese. Apparently the Reserva is very good, but it is considerably more expensive. (£6.75 Bentalls) 09/99

Ramos Pinto Urtiga, NV, Porto
This is an oddity: a single quinta 'vintage character' port. It is smooth, rich, fairly complex, with good concentration, but lacks the structure and size of the Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage, for example, which is the same price. Moderately sweet, and still has detectable tannin. It is certainly by far the best 'vintage character' port I have had, but although it is good for its genre, it is not too memorable. (£9.49 Bentalls) 11/99

Tuella Douro Tinto 1997, Portugal
Concentrated purple/red with a muted nose. Soft, rich, full flavoured palate with a touch of caramel and ripe fruit. Good/very good, and at a nice price. (£4.99 Majestic) 10/00

Quinta do Vale D. Maria 1996 Douro DOC, Portugal
Another heavyweight red from the Douro valley, made by Christiano van Zeller, formerly of Quinta do Noval. Concentrated deep red purple colour. Full nose of herbs, coffee and spice. The palate is dry, tannic and with good acidity, with hints of tobacco and cedar. This is not a wine with instant appeal, but it is substantial and authentic: if you give it the attention and thought it deserves, it will reward you. No doubt this will improve with some bottle age. Good. (£9.49 Oddbins Fine Wine) 11/99

Estremadura back to top

Manta Preta Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz 1999, Vinho Regional Estremadura
The meeting of two wine cultures: traditional high-acid Portuguese and new world fruit-driven styles combine to good effect. This youthful wine shows deliciously juicy, ripe, chocolatey berry fruit, fresh lemony acidity and noticeable new oak. Modern but not lacking character, this is a great food wine. Very good (£5.99 Waitrose) 04/01

Quinta de Bons-Ventos, Vinho Regional Estremadura Tinto 1999, Portugal
A bit of a beast, this one. A blend that includes Periquita, Camarte, Tita Miúda and Touriga Nacional, this is a deep purple/black colour. The nose displays vanilla and creamy berry fruits, which are followed up on the palate by an intriguing mix of coffee, chocolate and dark berry fruits. Quite oaky, this is dense and chunky, with juicy lemony acidity. It's quite modern, yet retains an attractive rusticity. Great value. Very good+ (£4.79 Sainsbury) 03/01

Palha-Canas 1997, Vino Regional Estremadura, Companhia des Vinhas de S. Domingos
Dense purple-black with a slightly port-like nose. Soft black cherry fruit without any harsh edges, and a touch of chocolate. Distinctively Portuguese, and very good. (Bentalls £6.99) 05/99

Pahla-Canas Tinto 1998 Estremadura
A blend of Periquita, Camarate and Touriga Nacional, with a smaller contribution from Touriga Francesca and Tinta Roriz. The Quinta is located on seven sunny slopes with clay and limestone soil. This is a deep purple red. On the nose, cherry, herbs and damp stones predominate at first, but this opens up nicely with some air to give more sweet herbs. On the palate there is attractive peppery/cherry fruit, good concentration and reasonably firm acidity and tannins. Overall a very good, authentic wine. (£6.99 Bentalls) 12/99

Forgotten Field Red 1999, Vinhas da Quinta, Estremadura, Portugal
A blend of Periquita and Cabernet Sauvignon. A bright red colour, this shows fresh, bright cherry fruit. An easy drinker. Good. (Adnams £4.95) 11/00

Palmela back to top

Aliança, Palmela VQPRD 1994, Portugal
Made from Periquita this has a herby, port-like nose. Slightly tart with black cherry flavours. The pleasant bitterness gives it good food compatibility, but there is little worth dwelling on here. (£4.99 Oddbins) (3/99)

Moscatel de Sétubal 1988, Adega Cooperativa de Palmela
Deep brown/orange, with distinctive sweet grapey fruit, nicely matched with Tawny-like wooding and rich honey and nut overtones. Very unusual, I prefer to serve this chilled as an aperitif than to use it as a dessert wine. (Bentalls £8.50) (6/99)

Ribatejo  back to top

Quinta da Lagoalva 1994, Ribatejo, Portugal
Red purple. Porty, smoky nose. Bitter cherry and damson fruit with strong tannins and high acid. A touch of oak gives some spice-like character. It is nicely balanced, but still distinctively Portuguese. (£5.99 Oddbins) (4/99)

Terra de Lobos (Quinta do Casal Branco) 2000 Vinho Regional Ribatejo, Portugal
From the Castelão Frances grape. Ripe, slightly confected nose with sweet herby fruit and a touch of bubblegum (carbonic maceration?). Fruity, herbal palate is quite light: Portugal's answer to Beaujolais? It's a bit confected but there's enough herbal complexity to keep it interesting. The next day the bubblegum has gone and a chocolately richness has developed. Good acidity. Very good (£4.99 Waitrose) 12/01

Minho back to top

Paço de Teixeiró 1998 Vinho Verde
A really unusual Vinho Verde, which has been fermented in Portuguese oak and given full malolactic fermentation: virtually unheard of for wines from this region. It has a big nose of boiled sweets, and on the palate is richly textured with some fatness. Bone dry finish. Worth a try. 05/00

Madeira back to top

See also: the wines of Barbeito; spotlight on Madeira

D’Oliveiras Reserva 1968 Boal, Madeira
Brown/orange colour. Striking, articulate nose of lifted acid, caramel, toffee, tar and smoke. The palate is rich with raisiny sweetness brilliantly balanced by the slightly bitter high acid finish. A remarkable complex old wine full of character. Excellent (£49 Waitrose) 10/02