Star attractions from Portugal’s Alentejo region | Food

Star attractions from Portugal’s Alentejo region | Food

Quinta do Carmo Bacalhôa Dom Martinho Tinto, Alentejo, Portugal 2017 (£11.99 Waitrose) The Alentejo wine region is often described as Portugal’s answer to the New World. And while the setting – vineyards interspersed with cork oaks, whitewashed houses, vast wheat fields under wide blue skies – couldn’t feel more Iberian, it’s true that there is a feeling of newness in the wine business here. It expanded massively in the late 20th century, with a willingness to experiment (driven by Australian winemakers) and a preponderance of ripe, fruity wines. That flexibility extends to grape varieties: there’s an undogmatic blend of local and international that can make for engagingly open, rich but succulent reds, such as Quinta do Carmo’s dark berry-scented mix of aragonez (aka tempranillo), trincadeira, alicante bouschet and cabernet sauvignon.

Susana Esteban Aventura Tinto, Alentejo, Portugal 2016 (£18.50, Bottle Apostle) Australian David Baverstock has been in charge of winemaking at the consistently impressive Esporão since the early 1990s, and his skill (working with Sandra Alves) is apparent in the remarkable bargain that is the suave but generous Esporão Monte Velho Tinto, Alentejano 2018 (from £7.75, Wine Society). Fellow Aussie Peter Bright is fashioning appropriately bright-fruited wines, such as the crisply easy-drinking, tropical fruit salad of Terra d’Alter Branco 2018 (£8.95, Lea & Sandeman). Another star of the region is also an expat: Susana Esteban hails from Tui, across the Spanish border in Galicia, and her wines, including the Aventura Tinto, combine southern sunny intensity with a fragrant liveliness reminiscent of wines from her birthplace.

Herdade do Mouchão, Alentejo, Portgual 2013 (£36.50, Fareham Wine Cellar) Although much of what is exciting about the Alentejo is new, there is plenty of tradition in the region, too. Perhaps the single finest wine in the Alentejo, for example, is the work of an estate that began making wines in the early 20th century, and which had its first vintage in the early 1950s. It’s a hymn to the undervalued virtues of alicante bouschet, a red-fleshed grape variety (most red grapes have white flesh) with roots in France’s Languedoc-Roussillon that is generally a colour-giving ‘makeweight’ in blends. Mouchão, particularly in its eponymous top-of-the-range red, takes things to a whole other level, adding a bit of the local trincadeira for a wine of formidable dark depths and spicy complexity that can age for decades.

Follow David on Twitter @Daveydaibach

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National News Jon Cartu

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