Exploring the Portuguese region of Alentejo with Wine52
By Master of Wine, Christopher Burr
Wine 52, seems to be getting better and better, and on a number of fronts. Firstly, this month's wine selection from Portugal's Alentejo region is a first rate selection of what this region can now do. More of that later. But also their little snacks are a real palate teaser, different, spicy, but not to overpower any wine, and a bit of a bonus. But their magazine, Glug, is really well worth a read for anyone interested in wine.
This month is the 20th issue of Glug, and as well as giving background to all the winemakers and the region, the indigenous grape varietals grown there, there are also some excellent articles challenging often mis-judged consumer attitudes.
A very good piece about the value of blending to gain complexity and balance in a wine. In fact two articles, one about the practice of blending more than one vintage, to get the best out of each year, be that ripeness in one or fresh acidity in another for instance. Then a second piece about the skill and reasons behind why these historic regions have many indigenous grape varietals, each offering character and added complexity, and the skill of the winemaker in putting together the optimum and best blend.
There is also a very good piece about scoring wine and wine points. It argues the pros and cons and takes opinion from a lot of knowledgeable people. I myself am a great sceptic about scoring. It is often one persons view (and opinions differ), but importantly it can and does skew to a huge extent, high or low, the pricing in the market. It can make or break profitability for a wine, if it gets a bad or good score. Scores for this reason often tend to be better than are deserved, pumping up the price! I prefer to do my own evaluation of quality, but then I have had lots of practice, doing evaluation for nearly fifty years.
That said, I do use simple scoring, 1 to 5, where 1 is poor or even faulty, 2 is disappointing for the type, 3 is "par for the course" or exactly as the wine should be, 4 is good, better than most and 5 is exceptional or outstanding in its category.
...this month's wine selection from Portugal's Alentejo region is a first rate selection of what this region can now do
I use this scoring when I have a tasting panel, simply to make sure we are all on the same page and agree about a wine's quality. If one of the team is at odds, it raises a valuable and interesting debate, which is often resolved one way or another, up or down, by re-tasting.
Anyway, I would seriously recommend studying the Wine52 magazine Glug. It is a valuable adjunct to their wine offer.
So, now to the three wines I tasted from the Alentejo. Firstly, there is little doubt that in recent years Portugal has been producing excellent table wines, moreover, they provide in my view, the best value from anywhere.
Secondly, I am lucky enough to have spend a good deal of time in Portugal, and in the Alentejo region in the middle of the Country.
So I have watched the developments and improvements over some thirty years. Ancient vineyard sites, back to Roman times, fascinating and interesting grape varietals in the Alentejo like Trincadeira, Periquita and Aragonez, reds, and Arinto and Antao Vaz whites. And now lower yields, better viticulture and better wine making producing excellent wines.
The first wine, a white in the Wine52 pack, was Cova da Marinha 2021, made from the two local white varietals mentioned above. The Aristo giving bright fresh citrus flavours, whilst the Antao Vaz giving more aromatic luscious tropical fruit flavours. A very enjoyable and easy drinking blend.
Then two reds. From the same winemaker as the white, Parras, a juicy blend with bright fruit, almost Village Beaujolais-like lightness, elegance and succulence, a lovely summer wine, can be served slightly chilled or fresh with salads and pasta dishes.
The second red is far more weighty and serious. A big complex Portuguese blend, 2020 Coccinela, including in the blend the classy Touriga Nacional grape varietal, the core of great Port wine, as well as French varietals Petit Verdot, a spicy number, and Alicante Bouchet, which has almost died out in France, but thriving in Portugal as a warm climate red grape that keeps good acidity. This is very good wine, which will age and develop for a few years, but very good now with roasted or grilled/barbecued red meats.
Bravo Alentejo and bravo Wine52.