• By: Kate More

The hunt for great value wine is easy in Portugal

Above: The historic terraced vineyards along the Douro River in Portugal. (PHOTO: RIU CUNHA)

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (yet let’s face it, the Ontario Lockdown is akin to a rock), you probably know that Portugal doesn’t only produce Port, a sweet and fortified wine typically enjoyed for dessert, Portugal also produces excellent still wines of outstanding value.

The issue with finding a great Portuguese wine in the LCBO, is that it can be tricky to spot on the shelf — almost all wines in Portugal are blend of native grapes, like Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz, that most consumers have never heard of. Portugal is one of those wine regions that will often require a leap of faith. Lucky for Portuguese wine lovers, it’s an easy jump.

Great-value white wines are the norm in Vinho Verde, Portugal, a region that makes both white and red wines, yet white Vinho Verde wines get most of the clout. Vinho Verde whites are crisp, food friendly and spritzy. If you are like most wine drinkers in Ontario this past year, and have been imbibing more than usual, Vinho Verde is also a smart compromise, with typically 9-10 per cent alcohol.

Casel Garcia Vinho Verde, $9.25 in the LCBO, stands out with impressive depth and creaminess for the price point, alongside subtle citrus and floral character. This wine is great on its own as an after-work sipper, or paired with a chilled shrimp salad.

If a dirt cheap but delicious red wine is what you’re after, Portugal will once again not let you down.

JP Azeitão Red, $8.95 at the LCBO, a blend of Syrah, Castelão and Aragonez, is a pleasant surprise. Produced in the coastal vineyards of the Setúbal Peninsula outside Lisbon, the wine refreshes with blackberries, herbs and pepper. Sip this no-fuss red with some pork tacos or grilled chicken enchiladas.

The Loios Red, $9.45 from Alentejo, in Southern Portugal, is another thrifty winner. This wine is a blend of Aragonez and Trincadeira. Alentejo is known for its jagged coastline, seafood cuisine, and of course, affordable wine. The Loios Red is clean, a little herby and versatile with food. Try it next to a bowl of stir-fry beef and noodles.

To find an affordable fine wine in Portugal, your search can stop in the Douro. Arguably the world’s most beautiful wine region, the Douro region is much more than a pretty face. The Poças Junior Vale de Cavalos Red 2018, $17.95 (released Feb. 6 in LCBO Vintages) tastes like a splurge. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, and Tinta Roriz, the Vale de Cavalos Red is a shockingly good wine for under $20. In the glass, the wine shines with notes of blueberries, blackberries, bay leaf, black tea, mint and licorice. Although most of us can’t enjoy a fancy meal in a restaurant these days, why not get out the good china, light some candles, and pour next to your slow-cooked beef stew? With a wine like this, is as good as it gets.