It’s something of a paradox. How can a region as hot as Portugal’s Douro Valley, home of full-throttle Ports, also produce elegant, graceful white wines? The answer lies in site selection, picking dates and the acidity of the local grapes. This cuvée of Rabigato, Gouveio, Viosinho and Arinto is a delicious example from winemaker Rodrigo Martins. It’s both lightly tropical and refreshing, with notes of caramelised pineapple, pear and green apple, fresh, almost salty acidity and a hint of kerosene that’s reminiscent of an aged Riesling. Remarkable at the price.
2020 Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande, Douro Valley( £14.00, 13%, Hedonism, The Old Bridge Wine Shop )
Portugal’s Douro Valley is best known for Port, of course, and increasingly for the quality of its dry reds, but its best whites can be every bit as exciting. This brilliant value blend combines four local grapes – Viosinho, Arinto, Rabigato and Gouveio – from vineyards at over 600 metres and is a stony, tangy, aromatic delight. Gracefully wooded in 500-litre barrels, it has notes of honeysuckle, lime and citrus peel, with a dusting of vanilla spice and a zingy finish.
2018 Marquês de Borba Vinhas Velhas, Alentejo( £11.99, 14.5%, Majestic )
It’s something of a paradox that the best winter reds often come from warm climates that produce throaty, full-bodied wines. This old-vine cuvée from the Portuguese Alentejo region is a case in point. Made with Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelão and Syrah, it’s spicy, intense and textured, unfurling bramble, fig and blackberry flavours in the glass, with a patina of sweet cinnamon oak.
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2020 Mimo Moutinho Portuguese Loureiro, Vinho Verde( £6.49, 11.5%, Aldi )
Vinho Verde gets a bad rap sometimes, deservedly so in its sweeter iterations, but can be wonderful if it’s made in a pithy, dry style. This great value Loureiro from Aldi is appealingly fresh and focused, with low alcohol, lime and lemon zest flavours, a hint of carbon dioxide and a pure, tangy, Atlantic Ocean-influenced finish. Just the thing for a seafood supper.
Douro Valley Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas Reserva White( £31.30, 13.5%, Wine Buyers )
For local grape varieties make up the blend here – Arinto, Folgazão, Rabigato and Viosinho – sourced from vineyards on the southern side of the Douro Valley in their Quintas de Ervamoira and Bons Ares. An appealing counterpoint to the more powerful reds and fortifieds of the region, this has lovely freshness, aromas of fennel, citrus and oatmeal and a youthful, tangy, deftly wooded palate. Should develop further in bottle.
2017 Quinta do Ameal Loureiro, Ponte de Lima, Vinho Verde( £17.50, 11.5%, The Good Wine Shop, Vin Cognito, Vinatis, Vinoteca )
At its most basic, Vinho Verde is Portugal’s quaffing white, but it can also aspire to more profound things. This is a case in point. Made solely from the Loureiro grape, it combines freshness and lightness of touch with concentration and profundity. Crisp, saline and wonderfully aromatic, with notes of fresh pine, gala melon and lemon zest, no spritz, and a long, chiselled finish. The perfect drink for a hot summer’s day.
2018 Tapada de Vilar, Vinho Verde( £7, 10.5%, Marks & Spencer )
One of a number of wines at Marks & Spencer to have benefited from a new lower price, this is just the thing for the warmer weather: a light, tangy, spritzy white made from three local Portuguese grapes – Loureiro, Arinto and a splash of Trajadura – and showing lip smacking flavours of green apple, citrus peel and white pepper. Wonderfully crisp and refreshing.
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1998 Fonseca, Guimaraens Vintage Port, Douro Valley( £27.99, 20.5%, Waitrose )
Mid-way between a single quinta and not-quite-a-vintage Port, this is rich, sweet and easy to drink, but with more structure and concentration than is immediately apparent. Spicy, peppery and showing a little bit of fiery spirit, this has dark, creamy fruit flavours and a complex, chocolatey finish.
NV Taylor's, 20-Year-Old Tawny Port, Douro Valley( £35, 20%, Amazon, Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, The Wine Society, thedrinkshop.com )
Taylor’s isn’t as well known for its Tawnies as some houses are – its LBVs and Vintage Ports are up there with the very best – but it should be, based on the quality of this 20-year-old release. Figgy, sweet and complex, with beautifully integrated spirit and notes of umami and orange zest. One of those Ports that you don’t want to pass to your neighbour.
NV Quinta do Noval 20-Year-Old Tawny Port, Douro Valley( £54, 21%, H2Vin, Soho Wine Supply, The Wine Society )
Tawny Port doesn’t get a whole lot better than this incredible elixir of a wine. Fig, Christmas cake and rancio notes combine beautifully in this savoury/sweet delight. The fortifiication is perfectly judged, while the finish lingers enticingly on the tongue.