Portuguese wines to lift the spirits | David Williams

Rich and rewarding, these complex wines from Portugal will add a touch of brightness on the gloomiest of daysNo 1 Douro Red, Douro, Portugal 2019 (£11.99, Waitrose) For many of us, Portuguese wine begins and ends with the Christmas port. This feels somewhat unjust. Quite apart from the fact that I reckon port is –or should be – a January wine par excellence (its force, sweetness and dark-fruited flavoury riches ideally suited to warming and brightening winter-darkened hearts and minds), Portugal is the source of some of the most deliciously different, good value table wines around at the moment. The Douro Valley, a couple of hours inland from the city of Porto and the home of port, is a logical first port of call. Red wines made from the same grape varieties as port – touriga nacional, trincadeira, tinta roriz and others – carry something of port’s forest- fruited bounty and ample full-bodied succulence, but are dry and significantly less powerfully alcoholic. Waitrose has a beautifully fragrant but deep, textured example from the excellent Quinta de la Rosa, a smaller producer that is also behind some of the region’s most refined ports.Niepoort NatCool Bairrada, Portugal 2020 (£19.50, 1 litre, buonvino.co.uk) Another Douro producer that is a dab hand at both the fortified intensity of port and wonderfully expressive table wines is the mercurial Dirk Niepoort. The scion of a port dynasty with Dutch heritage, Niepoort’s multifaceted portfolio of Douro wines ranges from the exceptional, citrus pithy, dry-herby, mineral, barrel-fermented, laser-guided dry white Redoma Branco 2019 (from £23.25, thewhiskyexchange.com; cambridgewine.com) to the seriously fine, feline-slinky, yet plumply fruited high-altitude red Batuta 2017 (£69.95, uncorked.co.uk) and the textbook vivaciously plummy and chocolatey Niepoort Late Bottled Vintage Port 2016 (£11.95 for a sensibly sized 37.5cl bottle, slurp.co.uk). As well as tending to his ever-growing Douro collection, the restless Niepoort’s interests have expanded across central Portugal, to the Dão and Bairrada regions. In the latter Niepoort has become a committed fan of the local red baga grape, which he uses to make his snazzy light, refreshing, berry-sappy and very pretty Nat Cool Bairrada: the kind of thirst-quenching red that goes so well with a plate of charcuterie. Continue reading...

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