Sweeney’s in Glasnevin (Dublin) have just started listing several new Portuguese wines brought into Ireland by importer Kevin O’Hara. Kevin was in the shop today showing the wines which were all from the Alentejo, hence the post title *cough* Alan Tay Jo which is a rough approximation of the pronunciation. It is the largest wine producing region of Portugal and occupies pretty much all the southern half of the country except for the Algarve.
Just as in other European countries there are appellation laws, so some bottles here have the DOC Alentejo mark, equivalent to AOC in France. For producers wishing to use more foreign grapes not permitted by DOC laws (e.g. Syrah) there are the more forgiving regulations of Vinho Regional Alentejano . I can understand why Portugal would like to preserve its heritage and not have it swept away by a Tsunami of Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz, but equally having international grapes in the blend does serve as an introduction to Portuguese wines for those intimidated by the unknown.
Officially, these are two different quality levels, but the reality is that one particular VR might actually be superior to a DOC – the producer isfar more important. You may notice that, very handily for producers, the 2 labels look quite similar – something that Italian Super Tuscan and French Vin de Pays producers might well envy.
With the major disclaimer that I was tasting with a head cold, here are three of my favourites from today:
Pato Frio DOC Alentejo 2012
This is the new house white of Michelin-starred L’Ecrivain in Dublin, chosen by their Sommèliere Martina Delaney. One of my favourite “everyday” whites Provia Regia has been the house white for the last nine years so it comes with high expectations.
Made with 100% indigenous grape Antão Vaz, this is crisp and refreshing with zingy citrus. It would be delightfully fresh on its own (a great aperitif) or with seafood in particular.
Herdade do Sobroso Sobro Tinto Vinho Regional Alentejano 2011
And it’s a beast! But in a good way! Full bodied with dark black fruit, chocolate and spice, this would stand up to barbecued meat or be a lovely winter warmer. It had three months in American barriques to soften out the edges. Great value.
Herdado de Rocim Vinho Regional Alentejano 2010
This was an altogether more serious wine, smooth and voluptuous in the mouth. Again it is a blend of Portuguese and international grapes – Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet.
This is gentler and more refined than the Sobro with subtle crunchy tannins balancing the red and black fruit. Claret fans should definitely give this a try – far more wine for the money than is usual from Bordeaux.