^ Many of Portugal's most popular red wines come from the Douro Valley
For a relatively small country, the range of red wines produced in Portugal is remarkable. If you want powerful showstoppers, head to the Douro Valley. For rich, fruity styles, the Alentejo is your best bet; and for softer reds with plenty of refreshing acidity, try the Dão.
The Douro in the north of the country is Portugal’s flagship red-wine region, but while it is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, its fame has historically been due to it being the home of Port. But the past 20 years has seen the Douro's red table wines achieve huge popularity worldwide – and without relying on the big-hitting red grapes such as Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. No, in the Douro you’ll find intense, characterful wines with an almost inky richness made from local varieties such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. An excellent example is IWSC silver medal winner Vinhas do Sabor Tinto 2017 from Vale D. Maria, which displays hefty black fruit and a hint of cedar.
Other regions are making their presence felt, however. There’s been a shift in recent years towards wine drinkers looking for more freshness and elegance, and few regions do this better than Dão, which boasts a dramatic landscape of granite mountains and pine forests. Dão is where Touriga Nacional originated, and it plays a starring role in IWSC winner Cova do Frade Reserva 2017 from Ferreira Malaquias.
The area around Portugal’s capital is getting in on the act, too. The Lisboa region was previously more about quantity than quality, but this is starting to change, with pockets of producers making wines comparable to anywhere else in the country.
Portugal is one of the most underappreciated wine countries, given the value and quality on offer. Here is the pick of Portuguese reds from the 2020 IWSC Northern Hemisphere tasting.
Quinta de S. Francisco 2017
Attractive sour cherry and wild strawberries with floral hints. The fresh, wonderfully delineated palate enjoys a long fine finish with a charming lead pencil and savoury fruit character. 13.5%
Quinta Da Cidadoura Reserva 2016
Santos & Santos
An enthralling and flamboyant nose of dark berries, violets and Chambord liqueur. A perfectly framed finish that exudes ripe blackberries, chocolate, and oaky spice, with depth and concentration. 14.5%
Vinhas Velhas Reserva Especial 2016
A smashing expression of the sort where intense raspberry, vanilla and graphite perfume direct to a significantly satisfying palate. Broad, structured, with lots of promise ahead. 14%
Monsaraz Touriga Nacional 2018
Tremendously drinkable, this has masses of coconut, spiced bramble, dark berries and touches of mint on the finish. Juicy, supple, lifted and well textured it shows great typicity. Outstanding. 14.5%
Stones & Bones 2019
Casa Santos Lima
Enticing soft stewed dark fruit aromatics with lifted violet nose. Well-integrated oak gives an attractive sweet spice creating a balanced finish. 14%. Available from Averys; £10.49
Cova do Frade Reserva 2017
A striking sweet and savoury aromatic performance absolutely crammed with violets, plum and damson on fine grained tannins. Brooding, dense and delicious. 13.5%
Vinha Maria Premium 2017
Opens with leather, cassis, mocha and blackcurrant flavours that continue unto a plush, vibrant, elegant palate with good grip and a long finish. A luscious, juicy food wine. 13%
Baga Reserva 2015
Marquês De Marialva
Beautifully defined oaky and spicy aromas, with pink peppercorns and damson fruit, leading to a concentrated and mouth-watering finish with a fine structure. Classic. 13.5%
The Best 2017
Ripe black plums and juicy black berry fruit combine with some peppery spice and a delicious umami, mineral edge. Well crafted with tannic structure that's elegant and restrained. 13.5%. Available from Morrisons; £7.50
Quinta Vale D. Maria
This is a wine with great concentration and depth, dark fruits leading to a heady blend of spice and floral notes showing an elegance with the weight and impressive complexity. 15.5%. Available from Tanners; £47
Guarda Rios 2018
Sociedade Agrícola D.Diniz
A myriad of flavours of rosemary, thyme, blackberries, vanilla, clove and cedar, with a touch of orange peel. A well-balanced and fresh savoury finish with dark juicy fruit. 13.5%
Herdade Do Peso Grande Trinca Bolotas 2017
Huge, big and bombastic from fruit to structure that belies a refined, sensual core. Substantial dark chocolate, sweet blackcurrant and spice throughout yet remarkably balanced. Salsa in a glass. 14%
Herdade Do Peso Reserva 2017
Classic, mature and enchanting, this imposing wine is awash with flowers, red and black fruits. Uniquely well structured, the palate is smooth, full and moderately grippy. Will only get better. 14%
Herdade Do Peso Trinca Bolotas 2018
Terrific geographic expression displaying concentrated red and black fruits, fig and sweet spice carried to the end on a clean, seamless, textured mouthfeel. Faultless charisma. 14%. Available from Vinvm; £23.35
Vinhas do Sabor Tinto 2017
Vale D. Maria
A supersized wine with enormous fruit and a fantastically integrated massive tannic structure offset by wonderful acidity. Prune, black fruits and a whiff of cedar. Divine. 14%. Available from Alexander Hadleigh; £10.95