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great wines under 2 euros!

One of the reasons I really like Portugal is that the wine is good and cheap. But I’ve been wondering, just how cheap can you go? And is it good, or am I just drunk on the vista of olive trees and vines and the sweet sound of trickly rivers and fresh air?

So I put the question out there to the experts – OOPS I mean expats. As non-Portuguese, I felt, expats have a home-country standard to compare to, and therefore an appreciation of the price-value of these wines, that a native might take for granted.

And as it turns out – (see expatsportugal.com) the expats are veritable connoisseurs of the 2 euro wine!

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I took their recommendations to the supermarket and bought 10 of those available. The random selection broke down into regions like this:

Six from the Alentejo, two from the Dão, one from the Bairrada region and one from Setubal. The Alentejo is a hotter, drier region and the Dão is a cooler, wetter region. The Bairrada is slightly less wet and cool and Setubal is slightly less hot and dry. See Map.

As in France, wines are defined by region rather than grape variety, as each region has a profile of grapes specific to that region.

So that the judges would not be tempted to downgrade all the wines indiscriminately, I threw in a 2007 Marques de Borba, a very well respected drop from the Alentejo that retails for about 6 euros. Posh.

I presented the 11 wines to a carefully selected panel of portuguese friends, who instead of turning up their noses at the whole process as I expected, took to the project with sincerity and conscientiousness. We got quite pissed.

The wines were tested blind. Without labels, that is… I don’t mean blindfolds.

On with the results, which I’ve listed in tasting order, as I do think this had an influence on the results…

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1. Encosta da Estrela 2005. Vila Nova de Tazem. Dão D.O.C.
This wine has a transparent chestnut colour and a sweet, fruity aroma. Lots of red fruit especially strawberries, quite acidy and young in flavour. Overall: Bom!
20.5/50

2. Dão Monastico 2007. Dão.
A strong magenta in colour, velvety and fruity in the mouth, but probably a bit too acidy. Maybe good with chocolate. Overall: Bonito! 25/50

3. Porta da Ravessa. Alentejo.
Same intense pinky colour of the last one. Big berries, but a bit rough and not very inspiring… 20.5/50

4. The wild card. Marques de Borba. 2007. Alentejo D.O.C.
Getting boring, nice smell but unimpressive. Overall: Rough! 21/50

5. Almocreve 2008. Alentejo.
Looks like red wine, tastes like red wine. Overall: Forgettable 20/50

6. Continente brand. 2007 Alentejo.
Strong ruby colour, very fruity smelly, young, lots of bang, pretty smooth. Overall: Punchy! 29/50

7. Terras del Rei. 2007. Alentejo.
Smells like dirt and poo, and tastes a bit of overripe red fruit and tomatoes. “Good cooking wine”, “good with bolognese or burgers”. Overall: Slug glug. 23/50

8. Terras do Xisto 2008. Roquevale, Alentejo.
A cheesy smell, a bit dirty, robust flavour, quite woody and a little acidy. Chewy. Bordering on complex. Overall: Agradavél! (nice) 25/50

9. Uvas Douradas 2007. Bairrada. WINNER!
Transparent with a rosy perfume. A young wine, lots of zing, kind of freshy and lighter than the others, not overpowering, very drinkable. Smooth and velvety. Overall: More! 33/50

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10. Alandra. Esporão.
Perfect colour for lipstick. Nice smell, more mature, meaty, lots of flavour, busy, yummy! 31/50

11. JP Azeitão. Terras do Sado, Setubal.
Red, alcoholic, sweet berry wine. Rich, bitey and willing. Yes, quite sloshed. 28.5/50

Notice how the scores got higher as we went on? And the Bairrada wine has a completely distinct Baga grape, so it stood out from the others. But why did the expensive one not rate? Interesting!

Overall, the judges felt that none of the wines were truly terrible, but that only some compared better to the others. The standard was considered very good. The judges also commented that while they normally didn’t buy wines this cheap for quaffing, they couldn’t immediately claim that more expensive wines were actually any better. In fact, it’s not uncommon to be disappointed in a more expensive wine.

And that’s the bottom line: for two euros, disappointment isn’t really a factor.

To recap,

The Best:

Uvas Douradas 2007
Alandra
Continente brand Alentejo.

The Worst:

Almocreve 2008
Encosta de Estrela
Porta da Ravessa

And this is only a tiny sample of what’s available in Portugal in this price range. The quest to find a Truly Great Wine Under 2 Euros could go on, and I feel pretty confident that we can find a cheapie that can beat a 10 euro wine. And then, who knows, maybe a 20? A Grange Hermitage?

I wonder whether it’s possible in anywhere else in the world? A quick glance around the net and I think not… but at least people are testing the idea! Thanks winestar… anyone else game to try?

8 Comments

  1. tessa May 14, 2009 4:17 am Reply

    Spain can boast a similar great experience in the 2 to 3 euro range. Buying a 5 euro bottle was a luxury. I shall look for your 2 euro selection here an the ‘hole in the wall’ in Ajman.

    [Reply to comment]

  2. tessa June 1, 2009 4:21 am Reply

    We just enjoyed an Alianca Bairrada which was delicious and cost 5 euros (30 AED) . In honour of your Project Portugal we shall now search out more Portungese Wines when we visit the hole in the wall in Ajman to stock up on wine in our monthly visit.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: June 24th, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Hey tessa, now it’s officially summer so I’m buying whites… look out for vinho verde… it’s a slightly sparkling white unique to portugal, from the north, quite light and yummy. Like a sav blanc with bubbles. I’m still wobbly, so drinking aint a good idea, so have one, or several for me…

    [Reply to comment]

  3. Antonio M July 7, 2009 2:56 am Reply

    Now that Summer is here try a portuguese white wine called “Fado”. You will find it ao Continente for 2,99. It is delicious and from an area of Portugal much better known by other remarkable Portuguese product: the horse.
    But at this time of the year there is nothing quite like an aperitif at 12 o’clock. Please get a tall glass,some chunks of ice, a slice of lemmon, a slice of orange, a generous portion of Pimm’s No.1 Cup. Fill it up with 7up, and top it up with a tip of mint. Be sure the glass is big enough for your nose to get. Enjoy, and remember Oporto.
    Sincerely,

    Antonio M

    [Reply to comment]

  4. Anon January 5, 2010 7:38 am Reply

    Pedra Do Urso was the only wine I drank for about 3 years here – partly because it was above average quality, and partly because it was the only wine sold in 25 litre boxes (for 22 euros if memory serves). Can’t find it anywhere now, and there’s really nothing to replace it in the bargain section, but I rarely buy supermarket wine anyway. Best to ask around locally who produces the best stuff – there’s usually one or two people who are really into it and will sell if they trust you.

    If you’re ever down near Abrantes, there’s a good adega in Tramagal that has a superb white and a good red for a euro a litre if you take your own garrafao. The red could do with aging 6 months or so if you’re buying this time of year. They sell quite an expensive brand name one in the shops, but I forget the name.

    [Reply to comment]

    Emma   Reply: January 14th, 2010 at 6:51 am

    Off to Abrantes tomorrow! Thanks for the tips.

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    anon likes his privacy   Reply: January 14th, 2010 at 9:32 am

    @Emma, I’ll be near tramagal on friday. If you need a guide let me know

    [Reply to comment]

  5. Sílvia March 15, 2012 10:18 pm Reply

    I am not a wine expert, but I find this very cheap wine to be quite nice: http://www.udaca.pt/vinho/vinho_tinto_dom_divino/
    (1.79 euros in the Continente supermarket)

    [Reply to comment]

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