White nuances of Portugal
I attended a Portuguese tasting earlier this week and was reminded that Portugal is an infinite source of well-priced characterful wines. Though the country is small, one can find incredible diversity. This is the result of more than 250 indigenous grapes and around 200 microclimates. While some regions are climatically influenced by mountains or by their continentality, others are impacted by their proximity to the Atlantic or Mediterranean oceans. Within just a few kilometres, you can go from an appellation known for light delicate whites to another one highly regarded for big rich reds.
Despite this heterogeneity in style, most wine lovers associate Portugal with port and rich reds. However, one of the best kept secrets of the country is the white wines. Have you heard of Arinto, Avesso, Encruzado, Bical, Rabigato or Gouveio? Those are just some of the white native grape varieties worth seeking out. While most wines are a blend, there are a growing number of bottlings singling out a grape which offers the opportunity to get acquainted with their unique profile.
To welcome the spring in style and explore the nuances of Portugal, here are three whites from the regions of Vinho Verde, Douro and Beira Interior. This is just a start. There is so much more to discover!
A&D Wines, Monólogo Arinto P24 2021, Vinho Verde $22
Known for its high acidity and citrus profile, Arinto is getting increasingly popular as a stand-alone. With its salty tang, delicate body and stone fruit notes, this dry white offers a great example of the modern style of wine found in the region of Vinho Verde. A great partner for sushi, summer salad and steamed clams simply cooked with lemon and garlic.
Niepoort Diálogo, 2020 Douro $16
Just a few kilometres east of the Vinho Region, the whites from Douro offer a completely different experience. The Serra do Marão mountains block all the Atlantic influence and as a result, the Douro has an extreme continental climate. The contrast between scorching hot days and cool nights combined with some vineyards planted at altitude produce rich full-body whites balanced by a surprising refreshing acidity. Dirk Niepoort has done so much to elevate the profile of the table wine of the region. Diálogo is his entry-level white but it sure over delivers for the price point. An equal blend of Codega, Doña Blanca, Gouveio, and Rabigato, the wine is richly textured with notes of orange peel, guava, citrus and pastry. Equally suited to white fish served with a cream sauce as it is with seared scallops or veal served in a lemon and sage sauce.
Castelo Rodrigo 2021, Beira Interior $15
Lesser-known, Beira Interior is one of the most mountainous and continental regions of Portugal. The whites from this appellation are known to be fresh and fruity. Castelo Rodrio is a long-standing favourite. Organic and made from 70-year-old vines, the wine is dry, light, and juicy with vibrant notes of citrus, passion fruit and subtle fresh-cut grass notes. Stock up! This is a crowd pleaser that can serve as an ongoing wine for the aperitif. Delicious with goat cheese or asparagus salad.