Portugal is an important supplier of everyday wine to the world – and will become increasingly so as French and German wines continue to escalate in price and become, relatively at least, less available in the cheaper price ranges.
White, rose and red wines are all pro-duced in Portugal, and abundantly. Of the three, the roses seem to be most important at the moment although that may change as wine-drinking habits become more sophisticated (most wine experts consider rose to be the drink of the non-wine drinker!). Whatever might happen, the fact remains that, at the moment, Matcus Rose, the single biggest seller among the Portuguese roses, is one of the three or four most popular wines in the British Isles. In the United States, its considerable popularity is almost rivalled by Lancer’s Rose, a wine, like Mateus, which is pleasant, sparkling and light to taste. Both are attractively packaged in the sort of bottle that looks pretty, makes an attractive lamp after the contents have been drunk and contributes nothing at all to the storage powers of the wine. A third Portuguese rose wine, gaining in popularity and considerably cheaper than cither of the two mentioned above, is Isabel Rose. It is described on the label as being light and slightly sparkling – and the label does not lie.
Portugal also makes great quantities of both white and red wines – the best of which, unfortunately, do not seem to travel well. Which may, of course, be an excellent excuse for incipient wine tasters to visit Portugal! Most Portuguese wine is blended, either at source or by shippers, and is sold abroad under brand or shippers names. When the shippers consider a wine to be of particularly good quality they label it reserva or garrafeira and give it a ‘vintage’. Any wine so marked will be an excellent buy and an enjoyable wine to drink – and will still be markedly less expensive than an equivalent
French, Italian or German wine.
Vinho Verde, or green wine, (a descrip-tion which applies less to the colour of the drink than to the fact that it is bottled young, when it has barely fermented) is weak alcoholically and seems to have a slight ‘fizz’ to it. Although it comes in white, rose and red, the whites are by far the best and, at their best, can be very delicate and lovely to drink.
The Dao region of Portugal is perhaps best-known to Portuguese wine drinkers outside the country. It produces both red and white wines of somewhat varying quality but again even the cheap wines are a good buy. The Dao reds, at their best, are big, full wines which age very well indeed. The whites are dry, clean to taste and should be drunk fairly young.
The province of Estremadura produces perhaps the best single wine of Portugal, Colares – if you can find a Colares
Reserva, or even better, a Colares Garra-feira, it is something to be snapped up and treated with respect.
Portuguese white wine, especially vinho verde, makes an excellent summer thirst quencher or goes well with a salad and picnic foods. The roses make marvellous accompaniments to chicken and veal dishes and to cold salads or buffet plates. The reds go well with almost any of the more highly spiced Iberian foods, and biscuits and cheese.