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Wine Review: Portugal makes more than sweet wines

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Portugal has been making wine for centuries, but most of the wines have been little-known outside of the Iberian Peninsula. Port wine is the exception – the sweet, after-dinner drink popularized by the country.

I believe the popularity of port wines has cast a sweet wine shadow over the dry wines of that nation. Another problem is that, more often than not, the grape varieties used to make the wine are unfamiliar to anyone outside of Portugal. I hope to rectify that unfair situation here and now.

The wine grape-growing districts of Portugal are very old. They are so old that plowing a field or even digging in the garden often can result in uncovering dinosaur bones.

I doubt there was any serious winemaking being done back then, but that is an interesting thought to ponder. Even back then, there were grapes growing wild and I am sure that somehow, some way, a bit of grape juice fermented on a leaf and was sampled by a passing thirsty hunter. I leave the rest to your imagination; however, the idea of an inebriated Neanderthal does intrigue me.

Stones & Bones 2019 Dry Red Wine ($18)
This red wine is made from not one, not two, but four different grape varieties, two of which are purely Portuguese. The composition is 35% touriga nacional, 25% tinta roriz, 25% syrah and 15% alicante bouschet. The resultant wine is as dark in color as any wine that I have ever encountered and the name, Stones & Bones, harkens back to the ancient age of the district. The aromas of summer berries, dark plums and oak rise from the glass when the wine is poured. These follow through to the flavor and then on to a long and complex finish. This wine is an excellent accompaniment to heavier cuts of meat and is a good friend of anything off of the barbecue. It’s an affordable way to experience the charm and quality of Portuguese red wines.

Aluado 2020 Alicante Bouschet ($14)
Alicante Bouschet is a red wine, made from a grape variety with a French name that has been grown in Portugal. If that isn’t enough to stir the curiosity, nothing else is, except perhaps for its very affordable price tag. A dark wine in color, this wine almost could be called a classical red wine even though it was not made with the usual classical grapes. Raspberries, cranberries and black plum are presented in the aroma and in almost obscene amounts. That’s backed up by a hint of cherry and, of course, oak. This is an affordable red wine that offers far more quality and flavor than many more expensive wines.

Casa De Vila Verde 2020 Vinho Verde ($16)
I certainly hope that I have stirred your interest in the red wine of Portugal because, bringing up the rear is a white wine whose name reflects the Portuguese sense of humor. Vinho Verde translates as green wine. To clear this up, the color is not green but golden, and the name also does not indicate that it has been made from unripen grapes. The first taste of this wine will excuse the labeling by offering a drink with a bright color and an excellent flavor and aroma. Pineapple and grapefruit are the most obvious aromas and are balanced by that telltale Portuguese mineral element. The pineapple continues onto the flavor and then to a very fruity finish. This wine does not have the same old white wine flavors and aromas but cuts new trails of enjoyment that are rarely found in white wines. If you have grown tired or are just bored with the copycat white wines, the Casa De Vila Verde 2020 Vinho Verde may just set you on to a new path.

Wine columnist Bennet Bodenstein can be reached at frojhe1@att.net.

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