Tasting Notes

Introducing Rotie Cellars – Fine Rhone-Inspired Wines from Washington State

12 May 2017 by Alex

Rotie Cellars Line-upWinemaker Sean Boyd of Rotie Cellars set out in 2007 to make the best possible wines from Rhone varieties in Washington State. ourcing fruit from his base in Walla Walla as well as the Rocks district, his mission statement is encapsulated in his ‘Old World Wines from New World Vines’ tag line. The aim is to make the wines with moderate alcohol and ripeness levels and to pay homage to his favourite Rhone valley wines. We found these wines to be a breath of fresh air in a world of North American wines dominated by California, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. In fact, we liked them so much that we decided to import them directly and become their sole representative in the UK.

Bottle-SouthernThe Southern Blend is inspired by the likes of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and contains a majority of Grenache alongside varying proportions of Syrah and Mourvedre. This is a bright, raspberry scented wine with hints of peppery spice and leather achieving a great balance between power and elegance.

The Northern Blend is a ‘savoury companion’ to the Southern, based on Syrah co-fermented with around 5% Viognier. The bold blackberry fruit and black pepper from the Syrah are enlivened by the aromatic florality of the Viognier giving way to a generous, silky texture.

To celebrate the arrival of these beauties, we will be pouring the Southern Blend and Northern Blend for free in store on Wednesday the 17th of May 2017 from 5pm to 9pm in Chiswick, and on Thursday 18th of May 2017 in Kew. There may even be a couple of surprises to taste in the form of some limited edition single varietal bottlings!

Rotie Cellars Vineyard

Producer Profile – Fabio Motta

1 November 2016 by Alex
Fabio Motta

Young winemaker Fabio Motta

After studying agriculture, Fabio Motta went to work at the Michele Satta winery in the beautiful Tuscan coastal area of Bolgheri. After working here for five years and marrying Michele’s daughter, Fabio acquired 4 hectares of his own vineyards. Planted to Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, these vineyards are now nearly 20 years old. Fabio believes that ‘a good wine grower lives and works close to the earth, humbly’, his role is as a facilitator, allowing the land, the weather, and the grapes to shape the wines. In an area like Bolgheri with its large, aristocratic estates, this approach is as refreshing as it is unusual.

Fabio Motta’s range includes two excellent ‘Super Tuscan’ reds, ‘Le Gonnare’ and ‘Pievi’:

Fabio Motta, ‘Le Gonnare’, Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy, 2013

Gonnare Bottle ShotThe clay rich soils of Fabio’s vineyards are particularly suited to Merlot. All grapes are destemmed before being fermented with wild yeasts. The wine then ages for 18 months in French barriques, one third of which are new. The wine ages for a further one year in bottle before release. This full and gutsy red incorporates 15% Syrah alongside the Merlot and shows enticing spicy, herby complexity with plenty of well-rounded tannin. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has recently awarded 96 points to this vintage of Le Gonnare – second only to Tenuta dell’Ornellaia’s Masseto (which carries a three-figure price tag!): “This is the first Bolgheri Superiore ever produced by young talent Fabio Motta. He used 85% Merlot and 15% Syrah to make his 2013 Bolgheri Superiore Le Gonnare. In terms of an inaugural wine, this red blend hits all the high marks. This is a delicious rendition that showcases the soft and elegant side of Merlot with the sassy spice and savory notes of Syrah at the back. Pretty mineral etchings give the wine definition and focus. The combination is beautiful. Only 3,500 bottles of this biodynamic wine are produced. Congratulations” – Monica Larner, the Wine Advocate, October 2016.

Fabio Motta, ‘Pievi’, Bolgheri Rosso IGT, Tuscany, Italy, 2013

FMotta PieviA blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Sangiovese. Fermentation of each variety is done separately with only natural yeast in 33 hl. oak barrels. The cap is pushed down manually twice a day and delestage is used to let the must breathe. Fermentation takes two weeks for each variety, after which time the wine is blended. Malolactic fermentation takes place in second and third year barriques. The wine is aged in barriques of the same age for 12 months before bottling without fining or filtration. Notes of fresh red fruits, interwoven with balsamic notes and a rich minerality. The tannins are ripe and silky and the balance between alcohol and acidity creates a fresh and fragrant mouth feel.

Make sure you try Fabio’s wines this winter, Le Gonnare in particular is bound to be even more sought after having received such critical acclaim!

Elemental Bob – a South African Gem

18 August 2016 by Alex
A picture of winemaker Craig Sheard

Craig aka Elemental Bob

The wines of Elemental Bob are made by a man named – you guessed it – Craig. These carefully made South African wines are making a bit of a name for themselves among sommeliers and in the best wine bars. Winemaker Craig Sheard studied agriculture in school and college and originally worked on farms. This led his brother to give him the nickname ‘Farmer Bob’. Craig later studied winemaking and began working as a winemaker on larger estates before founding his own side project in 2004. Wine is made as much by the elements as by man and this gave rise to the name Elemental Bob.

A picture of the Elemental Bob winery with decorative gargoyle

Craig’s barrels, overlooked by gargoyles

Craig rents space in a small corner (overlooked by decorative gargoyles) of a winery in Somerset West about 30 minutes outside of Cape Town where I was lucky enough to visit him in May of 2016. Here he vinifies the best parcels of fruit he can lay his hands on from wherever he can get hold of it, relying on tip offs from various friends and local winemakers as to what interesting grapes are available. A true one man band, Craig drives the truck to collect the fruit himself and brings it back to the winery. The wines are made with minimal intervention using wild yeasts and only the lightest filtration. A small amount of sulphur is added to prevent spoilage. Until the 2015 vintage all the wines from the Elemental Bob stable were literal ‘one-offs’ with production of between one and three barrels – too small to think of exporting. In 2014 Craig began to pursue the Elemental Bob project full time and now has sufficient access to fruit to make the core range of two wines currently available, although in 2015 only 17 barrels of white and 10 barrels of red were made.

elemental-bob-whiteThe Elemental Bob My Cosmic Hand White Blend changes proportions depending on the conditions of the vintage and the grapes available. It is blended by ‘feel’ rather than laboratory analysis: Craig sees the different parcels of different grape varieties as ‘colours’ and blends them until the wine matches the vision he has in his mind’s eye. In 2015, the blend is 34% Viognier (from Durbanville and Elgin), 29% Chenin Blanc (Durbanville and Swartland), 20% Verdelho (Bot River) and 17% Semillon (Upper Hemel en Aarde Valley). 60% whole bunches are included and some parcels of grapes undergo around 7 days skin contact. This is a wine of great complexity showing citrus, orchard, and stone fruits with subtle, pleasant vegetal character and smokiness. There is a wonderful balance to the elegant and saline palate that has some weight but no heaviness and gives plenty of refreshment.

elemental-bob-pinot-noirThe My Cosmic Hand Pinot Noir is a blend of two parcels grapes (60% is from the Hemel en Aarde Ridge, with the remainder coming from Overberg) and is made with 40% whole bunches, giving a pleasant savoury character that is often missing from many ‘New World’ Pinots while still being full of enticing ripe fruit. As with the white blend, this is aged for 10 months in old French oak barrels and made with minimal intervention. There is real complexity here alongside plain and simple deliciousness and drinkability, a rare combination at this modest price point.

A closer look at the label reveals that these two wines carry the moniker ‘Crystal Edition’ and we noticed that some of Craig’s barrels had various crystals strategically placed around them. One of our group curiously asked him ‘are they decorative or functional?’ to which Craig replied – with an enigmatic smile – ‘definitely functional’. Perhaps this IMG_7207goes some way towards explaining the uniqueness of these brilliant wines.

Much is made in the wine world of ‘small production’ wines, but in there is no hyperbole here: our stock of these wines is sadly extremely limited. Contact the Chiswick or Kew stores to secure your bottles.

Find out more about Elemental Bob, or follow Craig on twitter @Elemental_Bob

Click here to view the rest of range of South African wines.

Fine Wine Focus: Chateau Mouton Rothschild

9 March 2016 by Derek

Series of bottle shots in a Mouton vertical

Personally, I have a bit of a ‘see-saw’ relationship with the top wine from Chateau Mouton Rothschild.  The prestigious First-Growth Chateau from Pauillac is responsible for some of the most profound wine experiences of my life, and also the most disappointing.  I suppose when such lofty expectations and price-tags are placed upon some wines, it is easy to be underwhelmed.

1982 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton RothschildChateau Mouton Rothschild 1982

The 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild is one of the most iconic and inspiring Bordeaux I’ve had the pleasure to taste.  The legendary vintage collected many trophies, but perhaps this 100 pointer from Robert Parker is the most iconic of the class.  The wine seemed eternal.  If, as a child, you were fortunate to meet one of your sports heroes, you may recall the overwhelming sense of power and almost godliness that loomed over you in their presence.  To be so awe-struck by a larger than life character is one of the most memorable sensations I experienced as a child.  There are few times in my life since that I have been overcome with the same emotions as an adult.  Once was at the feet of Michelangelo’s David in Florence, another was after tasting the 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild.  (Average price £1400 per bottle)

2000 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2000

At an almost identical retail price (Average price £1,300-£1499), the 2000 Chateau Mouton Rothschild has been lauded by many critics and merchants as a trophy worthy of lofty comparisons to its iconic older brother.  The memorable design of the unique bottle only adds to the mystique of the wine and the elevation of its already sky-high prestige.

Imagine then the disappointment when I tasted a wine that fell a bit heavily and flat.  It felt slightly over-ripened, over-oaked, and lacking the structure and tension to truly demand one’s attention. While there were plenty of appetising flavours and aromas, overall it lacked the posture needed for an impressive evolution deep into the future. Fairly or not, when a wine’s price climbs into this category, the expectations for profoundness surely climb with it.  And with this price-tag, I will recommend my clients put the money elsewhere 10 times out of 10.

So this is my personal Chateau Mouton Rothschild spectrum.  I am the proudest ambassador of one trophy and the harshest critic of another.  Between both ends I have found much pleasure and delight.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1996

1996 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild

When considering relative value of this great estate, I am constantly amazed that whole vintages are often overlooked.  At about one third of the price of the 2000, the 1996 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (£525 in stock at The Good Wine Shop) shines powerfully.  It has all of the classic, masculine aromas you would hope for including cedar, tobacco, & cooked meat; countered with voluptuous, seductive black fruits and currants all on top of a captivating structure and fine, gripping tannins.  I not-so-shyly expect the ’96 to age longer and more gracefully than the ’00.

2004 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Chateau Mouton Rothschild

For even greater value, the 2004 Chateau Mouton Rothschild (£399 in stock at The Good Wine Shop) flies well under the radar.  Admittedly, this is not the Mouton to lay down in the cellar for decades to come.  But for an impressive drinking experience, there are few Bordeaux First Growths which you will find at this price and perhaps none which will deliver the same pleasure or value.

Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2004

At Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 2004 was the first vintage under Philippe Dhalluin who persuaded the late Philippine de Rothschild to institute a stricter selection with respect to the wine. They produced far fewer bottles than had been released in previous vintages, focusing instead on the highest level of quality.  In a somewhat challenging vintage, Mons. Dhalluin crafted a great wine with restraint and uncompromised integrity by limiting what he allowed to go into their top label.

I have been shouting to anyone who will listen that 2004 is my favourite current drinking vintage of Left-Bank Bordeaux since the turn of the millennium, and this is certainly one of the best of the lot.  Dense fruits, seductive tannins, and wonderful hints of cedar and tobacco.  The wine has a bit of a forest-y character which contrasts beautifully against the soft fruit aromas and smooth but structured mouthfeel.  A true pleasure to drink now.

There is a chance you are reading this and the 2000 Chateau Mouton Rothschild is your “Michelangelo’s David”.  And I love that. I love how unique the experience is and how individual everyone’s palates are…

But it does seem like a good excuse to cook some lamb, crack open a bottle of Mouton and discuss our disagreements until the glasses are empty. Cheers!

The Wonderful World of Whisky

1 December 2015 by Ben

With the price of some single malt Scotch reaching dizzying heights, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the best whiskies must be the most expensive….in fact nothing could be further from the truth!

Whisky lovers around the world are now routinely searching for great quality drams that offer better value and incredibly unique flavours.  This demand has been met by some seriously innovative whiskies from traditional whisky producing nations such as Canada, Ireland and the U.S.  In addition, you may have noticed English, Welsh, Swedish, Indian & Taiwanese whisky slowly appearing in shops and bars across the UK as horizons broaden. The growing popularity of these whiskies is no fluke. They’re gaining accolades from top critics and scooping up numerous awards along the way.

Excitement builds each November ahead of the publication of Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, which last year famously named Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 as their winner.  This year not one Scottish whisky made the top 5. The coveted top prize was taken by Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye from Canada, followed closely by whiskies from the U.S, Ireland & Japan.

Here at The Good Wine Shop we like to keep our ear to the ground and seek out the best offerings from the ever evolving world of Whisky.  Below are just a small selection of some of the ‘new kids on the block’ who are making a stir in the whisky world

Mackmyra Brukswhisky, 41.4%, Gävle, Sweden
MackmyraSwedish whisky may be new to most of you reading this article but for a number of years now it has been gaining a fantastic reputation internationally.  Awarded a gold medal as ‘Best in Class’ at the annual International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in 2010, Mackmyra has been making waves ever since.  This is a wonderfully light and fruity style of whisky reminiscent of Speyside.  The nose is clean with light, spicy notes of Swedish peat and juniper. On the palate there are hints of butterscotch, citrus and pear.  Mackmyra is very approachable and great for those who like their whisky on the lighter side.

Nikka Coffey Grain, 45%, Miyagikyo, Japan
Nikka CoffeyNikka operate two coffey stills (both of which were imported from Scotland in 1963). They reside at their Miyagikyo distillery and are used to produce grain whisky for their house blends. This coffey still yields a greater depth of flavour than modern column stills used by other distilleries. As a result Nikka coffey grain has an exotic, fruity characteristic which has caught the imagination of whisky drinkers around the globe.  Nikka coffey grain is distilled mainly from corn and is a unique dram if ever there was one.  Whisky Advocate voted this dram as #9 in their recent 2015 whisky review with a score of 92/100. It’s a great example of Japanese whisky making at its finest.

High West Whiskey, Double Rye, 46%, Park City, Utah, U.S.A.
High WestHigh West is Utah’s first distillery since 1870 and opened its doors in 2007.  Rye whiskey has become increasingly popular over the past few years and this Double Rye certainly doesn’t disappoint.  A blend of mature 16 year old rye and a fresher, spicier 2 year old rye, High West is surprisingly light, floral and honeyed on the nose yet driven by dry and spicy, peppery flavours on the palate.  There is a small proportion of corn in the mash bill which adds some sweetness to balance the blend.  If you have enjoyed Rye whiskey in the past and are looking for something unique then look no further!

Teeling Whiskey, Small Batch Rum Cask Finish, 46%, Dublin, Ireland
TeelingIrish whiskey has been going through a bit of a renaissance in recent years, perhaps in part due to its major stylistic difference to Scotch.  Irish whiskey is mostly triple distilled and peat is rarely used, resulting in a style which is lighter and smoother in nature.  Irish whiskey is now the fastest growing spirit in the world with numerous distilleries opening in the last decade.  Teeling Whiskey, with a heritage stretching back to 1782, have recently opened Dublin’s first distillery in over 100 years.  This is a wonderfully smooth whiskey with a rich palate of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon and orange blossom.  This small batch whiskey is incredibly versatile and is great for mixing in long drinks.

These are exciting times in the whisk(e)y world and we’re constantly tasting, scoring and exploring the latest arrivals on the scene so that we can offer our customers something unique.  So, the next time you’re looking to pick up a winter warmer we invite you to be adventurous and spread your whisky wings.

New Rioja range from Bodegas Bohedal

27 July 2015 by Sarah

We’d like to introduce you to some new arrivals on our Spanish shelves – the Riojas from Bodegas Bohedal. You might have spotted them already because of their striking packaging – more on that later! You won’t find the Bodegas Bohedal wines anywhere else in the UK. They are exclusive to The Good Wine Shop – and we’re delighted as not only are they top quality but they also provide great value for customers.

A black and white photo of Great-Grandfather Pepe of BohedalBodegas Bohedal is a family run winery based in Cuzcurrita de Río Tirón on the westerly extreme of D.O.Ca Rioja (they are in fact near neighbours of one of our other favourite Rioja producers Urbina). Bohedal’s wines are made exclusively from the grapes grown in their own vineyards. These are the usual Rioja varieties of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano for the reds and Viura for the whites.

There’s a real focus on quality, getting the best fruit possible from the small plots of well established vines – some of which are 120 years old. All the harvesting is labour-intensively done by hand. The vineyard traditions handed down to the fourth generation, who are now involved, are married to modern technology and know-how in the winery.  We think you’ll like the results! You’ll probably want to try the wine yourselves but here are my brief tasting notes:

Bohedal Blanco, Rioja, Spain 2014
An easy drinking dry white made from 100% Viura. Crisp, citrus and apple flavours. Meant to be drunk young with light dishes such as summer salads or grilled fish. Surprisingly long length! £9.00 or £7.50 in a mixed case of six.

Bohedal Tinto Joven, Rioja, Spain 2014
100% Tempranillo. Bright, juicy fruit and very soft tannins make this dangerously gluggable. Soft strawberry and blackberry flavours. Again, not meant for aging…drink now! £9.00 or £7.50 in a mixed case of six.

A photo of a bottle of Bohedal Barrel Ferment BlancoGran Bohedal Barrel Ferment Blanco, Rioja, Spain 2014
I can see why this has won awards. Quite complex with lovely balanced vanilla-y oak flavours alongside stone fruits. 100% Viura again. Good texture and acidity means this would go great with roast chicken or a fish pie. £12 or £10.50 in a mixed case of six.

Gran Bohedal Crianza, Rioja, Spain 2011
Now we’re getting more grown up! The 12 months this wine spends in oak and the further 12 months in bottle means that the fruit flavours are a little darker and the oakiness gently spicy. Relatively soft tannins. 100% Tempranillo. It’s ready for roast lamb! £12 or £10.50 in a mixed case of six.

Gran Bohedal Reserva, Rioja, Spain 2009
This wine has darker fruits and even more intensity. Notes of tobacco and leather are present alongside the fruit. The toasty oak is there but well integrated. Again it is 100% Tempranillo. The tannins seam a little more prominent. I’d drink this with a hearty stew or roast beef. £15 or £13.50 in a mixed case of six.

A photo of a woevn patchworkAnd a final note on the wines’ striking labels. They take their inspiration from the woven patchworks or “almazuelas” which the Bohedal women were famous for producing in the 19th century. In their own words they say:

“We believe that both winemaking and weaving are crafts that share some essential characteristics; such as the importance of good base materials, a painstaking attention to detail and a truly artisan approach to production.”

How to Match Food and Wine

1 April 2015 by Jackie

Pairing wines and food together is one of life’s great pleasures…and skills.

A great match will enhance both the wine and food – with the whole surpassing the sum of the parts.  There isn’t always just one answer to matching a wine with a dish, but know the basic rules and the world is your oyster – or should that be seafood salad or moules marinières?!

The principal aim is to try to get a balance that neither the food nor the wine overpowers the other.

The main elements of food and wine matching to consider are:Wine

  • Flavour Intensity: Match full flavours together, like Sauvignon Blanc and asparagus, mild flavours like Muscadet and oysters. Flavour intensity, although similar to weight, is not the same thing, which brings us onto….
  • Weight: Match the actual robustness of the food with the weight of the wine. A rich casserole with a juicy red wine or an elegant unoaked white with delicate, soft sushi.
  • Saltiness: Salty foods are enhanced and balanced by a hint of sweetness; the same thing can be achieved with wine. Whilst salt clashes with tannin (it makes tannin seem bitter), it works miracles with acidity. Whites are a more obvious choice but some reds can work too.
  • Sweetness: The wine should always be sweeter than the food. Sweetness in wine also acts as a foil to rich foods. Sweet foods make dry wines seem over-acidic and tart. Sweetness also balances salt so remember you can serve things like white Port as an apéritif, depending on the nibbles you choose.
  • Acidity: High acid wines complement fatty foods in the same way that lemon cuts through the greasiness of smoked salmon. Food and wine can both have acidity. Think about where the wine originates, not just the character of the grape – cool climate wines will have more acidity than those from hot climates.
  • Tannin: The more textured the food is -whether chewy or fatty – the more tannin you need in the wine. Wine tannins are attracted to fatty protein, they attach themselves to the protein molecules and strip them from your mouth, leaving it feeling refreshed and cleansed and ready for the next mouthful.
  • Don’t know where to start with a match? Head to the roots of the dish or wine……The flavours of foods and wines that have grown up together over the centuries—Tuscan recipes and Tuscan wines, for instance—are almost always a natural fit.
  • Some foods just don’t go with wine very well: Where there are high levels of umami, acid or heat sometimes it’s very difficult to get a good match. Well known tricky ingredients include artichokes, capers, tomatoes, horseradish, olives, yoghurt and truffle. But don’t fight it – there is always beer, cider or a cocktail that might be a good option!

T-Bone Steak

Here are some examples we’ve tried recently to show these rules in action, alongside some suggestions from our range!

Champagne is perfect with anything salty.

Try our Gallimard NV with cheese straws, moreish pre-dinner!

Sauvignon Blanc goes with tart dressings and sauces.

Grilled asparagus spears dipped in lemon vinaigrette with Seresin Sauvignon Blanc is delicious.

Seafood needs “coastal” wines like Albariño or Muscadet.

The “Hare and Tortoise” from Galicia is our number one choice with fruits de mer.

Choose Chardonnay for fatty fish or poultry in a rich sauce.

Classic Cannonball Chardonnay from Sonoma with grilled salmon or chicken fricassee. White Burgundy also always an option…oak is necessary though!

Off-Dry Riesling pairs with sweet & spicy dishes.

We think Schloss Vollrads is perfect with Thai fishcakes, tofu pad thai and chicken in pandan leaves.

Moscato d’Asti loves fruit desserts.

Fruit filled crêpes or apple tart with our Moscato d’Asti is superb.

Pair a dry rosé with rich, cheesy dishes.White Wine

Gruyère soufflé and Whispering Angel….seconds please!

Pinot Noir is great for dishes with earthy flavours.

Think mushroom risotto or lentils with slow roast pork – either classic Austrian Göttweiger Berg or New World Shaw+Smith.

Old World wines and Old World dishes are intrinsically good together.

The Reverdito Barolo and a slow-cooked wild boar sausage ragu with polenta is a no-brainer.

Chocolate and Port work together with the sweetness.

Choose either LBV with fruit and dark chocolate combos, or Tonel 12 with a milky chocolate/ caramel pud.

Lamb and Tempranillo go hand-in-hand.

Depending on a garnish, go for classic Bosconia Rioja for roast lamb, or Conceito Contraste from the Douro Valley if its tagine-style.

Chargrilled red meat like steak needs wine with “oomph”.

Choose between Château de Pez, Frog’s Leap or Warwick Trilogy depending on your mood!

We’ll be running a food and wine matching sessions in all the shops in April and May. Watch out for more details. Drop by to find your perfect match!

Bon appétit!

The Wines of Portugal – Character and Quality

2 June 2014 by

Throughout my short(ish) career in the wine trade I’ve always had a soft spot for the wines of Portugal.  I enjoy the richly fruited and complex reds and whites at a fraction of the price of their equals from the rest of Europe. What I hadn’t realised, until recently, was the incredible variety of wines that this country can produce.

pic of douro vineyards

In the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to taste some wonderfully individual wines from all over Portugal that have really illuminated the sheer diversity on offer. I’ve put them all together in a case of 12 which you can buy throughout June for £175 – at a saving of £31.

One of Portugal’s historical problems has been a lack of knowledge of regions and grape varieties (very few international grapes are used here) by wine consumers. To help you discover some of Portugal’s outstanding wines I’ve put together a brief profile of several of the key areas.

Vinho Verde is one of Portugal’s more familiar regions, particularly famous for its fresh, spritzy and low-alcohol whites that are made from a variety of local grapes including Arinto, Loureiro and Avesso.  In the very north of the region the Alvarinho grape (known as Albariño across the border in Spain) gives much more full-bodied, intense whites with flavours of peach, apricot and citrus. Two to try: Quinta da Raza Arinto, Vinho Verde, 2013, Quinta do Feital Alvarinho Auratus, 2011

Portugal’s best known wine region, the Douro Valley is world famous for port but also uses the same grapes varieties to produce some fantastic unfortified wines that share port’s lush texture and rich fruit. Most reds are blends that major on Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). These produce dense, textured, full-bodied reds with rich flavours of blackberry, dark plum and liquorice. Excellent with richer red meat dishes but such is their softness that they can be very enjoyable alone. Whites from this area are rarer but just as enjoyable and tend to marry full-bodied, textured mouthfeel with wonderful perfume and acidity – almost a cross between white Burgundy and Riesling!  Two to try: Quinta do Crasto Branco, Douro, 2012, Passadouro Tinto, Douro, 2011

A map of Portugal's wine regions

Map: Courtesy Wines of Portugal

My current favourite region is the Dão. Here cold, damp, winters and long, dry but not overly hot summers combine with granite and schist soils to produce superbly balanced and elegant wines. The reds typically blend Touriga Nacional’s lush, powerful textures, Alfrocheiro’s rich fruit and structure and Jaen’s delicate, balanced aromas. The end result can often be compared to more masculine styles of red Burgundy such is the delicious elegance and perfume of the wine. For whites the most successful grape is Encruzado which can make well-balanced, full-bodied whites with an appealing mineral character that respond well to oak ageing – reminiscent of white Burgundy but a little more tropical in fruit character. Two to try: Encruzado, Quinta dos Roques, Dão, 2012, Elfa Tinto, Casa de Mouraz, Dao, 2010

Bairrada lies just to the west of Dão and uses the Baga grape to produce fairly robust, structured wines with generous flavours of blackberry and blackcurrant that can evolve to cigar, honey and spice with proper ageing.  Fans of Barolo and Barbaresco should definitely not miss these.  One to try: Vinhas Velhas Tinto, Luis Pato, Bairrada, 2010

Just south of Lisbon is the Península de Setúbal where wine styles can vary greatly and many different grapes, both native and international, are used.  Some of my favourites blend native Portuguese varietals with international grapes such as Chardonnay and Syrah.  There’s some amazing value to be had here and the wines are often a little more approachable than others so it may be a good place to start exploring the wines of Portugal.  Two to try: Adega de Pegoes VR Branco, 2012, Colheita Seleccionada Tinto, Adega de Pegoes, 2009.

Hopefully this will have gone some way towards demystifying this hugely rewarding corner of the wine world.  If you’ve been inspired do consider my Perfect Portugal Case or come in and browse our Portugal shelves.