More Than Port

Perhaps, perchance, per-maybe it was my Vinho Verde trip last year…who is to say? But I love Portugal. And its wines. From the Douro to Dão to that charming lil’ archipelago Madeira (gonna be a topic soon)—I am enamored. Not just because the price point on Portuguese wine is still over-delivering. Or because beyond the wine, my memories of the country include bread and cheese on the table at like, every meal. And mushrooms at breakfast. But I have observed that when people think of Portuguese wine (if they think of it at all) they most oft think of Port (logical conclusion), or Vinho Verde, which I was happy to share, is more than green grapes and white wine. Check out this column: More Than Green Grapes . But much like I wanted to unseat your Vinho Verde expectations, I’d like to upset your Port perspective and show off some of the lovely dry wines from the region, aka the Douro Valley . The Douro is just inland of Vinho Verde , and from what I hear is also full of romantic hillsides and terraces, green lushness and rivers and cobblestones. Oh—about the terraces! Here’s a bit of goodly wine nerdery: originally the Douro terraces were built with stone walls in between them ballasting the hillsides. These were called solcacos. UNESCO protects the ones that still exist. Then, a new, less-costly terrace was devised supported by slopes that tractors could run between levels on. These were called patamares. Then there was a vertical-orientation planting pattern called vinha ao alta but this doesn’t work on slopes over a 40% incline and has a host of other problems. I digress. But I find terraces fascinating because the slopes of the region are unseemly steep, and it astounds me the ingenuity of the human desiring delicious wine. Just so you know I also adore a good Port proper, but since I am the malcontent who wants to upset your expectations in this calm and easy going year we’ve been having, I will save Port (and Madeira!) for other columns. And the still wine I want to introduce you to isn’t just leftover juice not deemed good for Port. Particularly as sweeter styles of wine are less en vogue these days, there are producers making top tier dry vinhos as a choice. I must also tell you what wine is the best Portuguese shower wine. A lot of those heady brews were a bit much to compete with the heat, so my shower wine was a white—and when it comes to Portuguese varietal whites, I am super into Arinto. My shower pick is actually also the wine not from Porto, but it is from a subregion of Alentejo called Portalegre by the Symington Family who mostly make wine in the Douro so….close enough I say! The Quinta da Fonte Souto rubbed me all the right ways—take that to mean what you will. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 2018 Quinta da Fonte Souto, Bronco DOC Alentejo Portalegre At 75% Arinto and 25 % Verdelho this was so much acidic fun. And there is some oak on this, new and old, plus lees stirring (bâtonnage, baby) giving it just a kick of cream. Can cream kick? Yah. There are salt and herbs and a hint of flowers all lifted by lime. This is fabulous, equal parts refreshment and fullness. 2018 Maçanita Douro Touriga Nacional Em Rosé The color of rosé I like to crush. On the nose I got flowers and dried fruit on the palate. Peppered flowers and dried flowers. Because lordess knows that if you eat flowers you have to pepper them. The right measure ripe and rife and not too too. Nectarine juice and pebbles abound. 2017 Casa Ferreirinha Callabriga Red This wine is just a stunner. I liked all the Ferreirinha bottlings I tried, but this was a favorite. Black fruit, blue plums, a hint at herbs and baking spices. I gotta say this is the ideal autumnal wine with its silky tannins. Get it for now. Lay in a stock for Thanksgiving too, methinks. 2017 Quinta do Vale Meao Douro Meandro So much huckleberry fun! It is berry rich plus violets and spices, and I think this may be the shortest write up of this article, but this also may be my top pick. Yum. Yum. Yum. 2018 Luis Seabra Vinhos Xisto Ilimitados Tinto 30% Touriga Franca, 20% Tinta Amarela, 20% Tinta Roriz, 10% Rufete, 10% Tinta Barroca, 5% Malvasia Preta, 5% Donzelinho Tinto. Shout out to this wine having two grapes I’ve never heard of: Rufete and Donzelinho Tinto. Oh the Douro, you mysterious creature, you. This wine, however, is neither mysterious nor obvious. Rather, I think of it as, I dunno, an açai bowl? It had the taste of red cherries and blackberries with this backdrop of violets. And like blueberry pancake syrup, but not artificial or sweet so maybe not like that stuff at all. I dunno. It is silky, it is energizing, it is lovely. 2016 Wine & Soul Pintas Character Red 4 years old but rather jumpily vibrant with acid and fresh cut flowers and purple and maybe a couple red plums—it is so good. And there is a touch of anise. Woo-ee. A rich red blend with enough cola underneath to enliven me. Apparently a feat of foot-treading and a smidge of new French oak, so it toes the line between technical and…well this is just harsh and gentle enough to be velvet with character. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Want to read more from Ellen? Check out her recent articles: It’s a Can-demic Ellen in Lalaland Pandemic-Style Pink Velvet, If You Please: Old World Old World vs. New World: Sauvignon Blanc Fast Food Slow Wine: Let’s Support Local Pizza! You can also listen to Ellen's podcast , The Wine Situation here . Check out her recent transcripts of the Final Five questions: Wine Situation Final Five! With Lydia Richards Wine Situation Final Five! With Kiersten Dolbec

Symington Family Estates

Quinta da Fonte Souto Arinto Verdelho 2018

This is the right parts everything in terms of acid and rich and just a little of all. All good. — a year ago

Severn, Mario and 15 others liked this

Quinta do Vale Meão

Meandro Do Vale Meão Douro Tinto Red Blend 2017

Huckleberry flowers?! Fresh, soothingly soft but refreshing, like slathering on a lotion that energizes you which, if you respect your skincare game, surely you have energizing balms to soothe your limbs. So it is with this wine and your mouth. if this doesn't make sense just get a bottle and try it. — a year ago

Paul, Paulo and 11 others liked this
Trixie

Trixie

Intriguing! 😃 Cheers!🍷
Ellen Clifford

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@Trixie hope you can try it, cheers! 💕

Maçanita

Douro Touriga Nacional Rosé 2018

Rosé with interest. Peppered dried flowers sprinkled on me as I stand in a pebbly brook of nectarine juice rapids but there are orchids floating by and a tangerine sky. — a year ago

Filip, Paul and 12 others liked this
Paul T- Huntington Beach

Paul T- Huntington Beach

Are the Trout biting this time of year in your pebbly brook?
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T- Huntington Beach so far I’ve avoided the angry trout

Casa Ferreirinha (Sogrape Vinhos)

Callabriga Douro Red Blend 2017

Beauty in a bottle. Give it a nice decant and also don’t be scared of giving it just a tiny chill. It is quite plush with all the fruit, blackberries and red currants. It’s heavy but also silky. It gives good tannins. — a year ago

Paul, Eric and 9 others liked this

Luis Seabra Vinhos

Xisto Ilimitado Douro Red Blend 2018

Quite the blend I feel like if an açaí bowl, with all the fun garnishes, including flowers, was made wine, it would be this. — a year ago

Paul, Ron and 10 others liked this