It’s but a hop over the border to sunny, friendly and generally lovely Portugal. It’s not all Cristiano Ronaldo and Sardines though, or Port for that matter; Portugal has a wealth of delicious red and white still wines and what’s more they’re relatively inexpensive and offer tons of easy drinking pleasure for your money.
For a wonderful introduction to the wines of Portugal you should head straight to the website of the brilliant Sara Ahmed. She’s hugely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Portuguese wines (and those from Australia which regular readers will know chimes with my number one wine love). She is The Wine Detective and the article on 50 great Portuguese wines is essential reading for anyone with even a passing interest in this hitherto unexplored area of the wine world.
But for now I have a few choice cuts for you to try and yes, there are a couple of Ports in there too, to miss them out would be like doing the still wines of Champagne or something.
Asda Extra Special (ES) Dao (Asda £5)
This wine illustrates prefectly my point about big flavour delivery at an absolutely laughable price. Five quid? Yes you did read that properly and with barbecue season approaching (well I bloody well hope so anyway) this is a perfect al fresco drop for meat loving tong jockeys.
The well-drained soil, rainy winters and sun-filled summers equal excellent conditions for ripening grapes to perfection. This example is a double medal winner and although full of rich blackberry and plum fruit it has a gentle acidity which balances the wine out perfectly. Although you can enjoy this on its own I would pair with a chargrilled burger loaded with cheddar and crispy bacon.
Sainsbury’s Portuguese Vinho Verde (Sainsburys £5)
Another Decanter Bronze Medal Winner at the price of a London pint? Yes, but this one is a very different proposition form the Dao above. If you’re barbecuing some fresh fish let’s say sardines, this will wash them down a treat but is also an easy aperitif to get the party started and at a low 9% alcohol you can enjoy it without falling asleep in the sun and looking like a lobster when you wake up.
Vinho Verde means ‘green wine’ but this is a pale straw colour and fresh as a daisy with its crisp acidity, lemon and lime tang and slight fizz on the tongue or ‘petillance’ if you want to use the posh French word. And I do. Pinot Grigio fans might enjoy this too so introduce them to something new.
Graham’s Crusted Port (Sainsburys, usually £20 but currently on offer at £15)
And on to the Port we go! You can get pink and white versions of Port now and they represent pleasant, flavoursome refreshment served over ice, especially in your back garden with some posh crisps. However I’m a he lover of the classics so will kick you off with an absolute legend.
I remember, many years ago, the inestimable Oz Clarke waxing lyrical about the deliciousness and superb value for money offered by a crusted port. I, like many others had never seen yet alone tried this so off I went to get some for my Dad’s birthday. Of course thanks to the ‘Delia effect’ (well before its time) I couldn’t find any for love nor money, thankfully now I’ve found a belter and it’s on offer at the moment too.
Crusted Port, as Oz rightfully pointed out, is a great way of enjoying some of the wondrousness of Vintage Port at an affordable price. This one is like a fruits of the forest juice bomb wrapped up in silk and enlivened by spices from the ancient trails of the East. Drink it on kits own or, if you want to take you tastebuds to heaven, pair with a mature Stilton and caramelized onion chutney on a Ritz cheese cracker. Trust me.
Tesco finest* 10 Year Old Tawny Port (Tesco £12)
I love the silky red berries and warm spice of a ruby Port but for those who prefer a mellower affair, an aged Tawny Port will not steer you wrong. Like its red cousin, it’s a belter with a cheeseboard but has an altogether softer feel to it.
This one form Tesco is aged for 10 years, has a Bronze Medal from the International Wine Competition and comes from Symington Family Estates who are responsible for pretty much every readily available Port in UK supermarkets so the pedigree is faultless. There’s warm mellow dried fruits throughout; think dates and mince pie filling and a lush envelope of toffee wrapping things up nicely. If it was around in ancient Egypt I’m pretty sure Cleopatra would have bathed in it.
Quinta de Bons Ventos (Oddbins £6.75)
To finish things off I’ve picked a ripe, juicy and typically Portuguese blend of four grapes which come together in a burst of flavour. If you ever crammed your mouth with red and black fruit pastilles as a child you’re in the right area (of pleasure and fruit wonderment at least).
This is another great food wine and would not only go with the usual meaty fare from the grill but would wash down a pepperoni pizza a treat and after all, isn’t that one of life’s simple pleasures? Like its buddies above it’s also stupidly good value. Dive in.