I suppose the first sign that I knew nothing about Portuguese wine was that I misspelled “Portuguese” when I Googled information for this post. It has a second “u”! The second sign that I was in over my head at last Friday’s wines-of-Portugal tasting (obligatory plug for my favorite local wine bar/shop, Everyday Wine) was that I turned to my Spanish-speaking roommate to ask the meaning of a word, and as she stared at me in “You. Idiot.” disbelief, I said, “Oh, that’s right! They speak Brazilian in Portugal!” — and I wasn’t trying to be funny. It had been a long week.
The good news is that Portugal offers more than just Vinho Verde and Port (delicious, delicious Port). The distributor rep at the event patiently explained to me a bit about Portugal’s different regions, and the fact that it offers a lot of great-value table wine. Portugal has scores of varietals (here are some major ones), most of which are native to the region and thus somewhat obscure to those of us in the New World. No matter — the wines I tried were fruit-forward, bright, delicious — and inexpensive ($10-15, generally). The reds had depth, but weren’t overly heavy, and the whites were round and rich (maybe owing to a lot of oak in the particular example I tried). Nothing was overpowering, and all of them seemed like an easy match for a variety of dishes.
If you’re getting a bit bored by inexpensive wines from Australia, Chile and Argentina (not that I’m knocking those), give Portugal a look if your wine shop offers any.