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!
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…
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!
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
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.
Uvas Douradas 2007
Continente brand Alentejo.
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?