A Land of Opportunity – The Wines of Portugal

Town hallLast night Mr ru13 and I braved a stereotypical Manchester downpour to attend a Wine Society tasting of Portuguese wines at the Town Hall, a beautiful Grade 1 listed building. My adventures started before my husband arrived, as my visit to the ladies’ room took me along labyrinthine corridors decorated with beautiful Victorian floor tiles and wood panelling.

As we’ve come to expect from Wine Society events, all the wines were of a high standard and most represented excellent value for money. I tasted 32 of the 35 wines on offer, so I won’t recount them all one by one, but I’ll share my standout selections, including a grape variety two grape varieties I hadn’t previously heard of.

PatoMy first smiley face of the night went to Luis Pato Vinha Pan, Beiras 2009, a punchy wine made from 100% baga grapes. The nose hinted of coffee, but on the palate it tasted of red cherries, raspberries and menthol. This was a really beautiful wine – I could imagine getting quite addicted to it, although the price (£29) means that I’ll have to keep it for a special treat rather than everyday drinking.

Old vines in young hands

Speaking of everyday drinking, I’d be hard pushed to find a better buy than Co-op Vila Real (I thought that was a football team?) Old Vines in Young Hands Tinto 2013. This is a blend of tinta roriz (aka tempranillo), touriga franca and touriga nacional from what the tasting notes describe as “gnarly old vines grown on ancient terraces”. The result is a smooth and creamy wine which is an absolute steal at £5.95.
My favourite producer of the evening (in terms of charm and wine) was Sr Lourenço of Quinta das Maias and Quinta das Roques, who was pouring 3 of his wines.

The first was Quinta das Maias, Dão 2013, a blend of organically-grown malvasia and encruzado. This was very fresh and clean with flavours of yellow plums (£8.50).

RoquesThe second was Quinta dos Roques Encruzado, Dão 2013. Ok, I admit that before last night I’d never heard of Encruzado. Own up, have you all been enjoying it for years and keeping it to yourselves instead of sharing it with the wine blogging community? If not and you’re yet to discover it, then try it immediately – it’s a revelation. This was quite acidic, with hints of tropical fruit (jackfruit?). Sr Lourenço said that he recommended drinking it with spicy seafood. Now that’s my idea of a good meal.

His third wine was Quinta dos Roques, Dão 2011, a blend of touriga nacional and jaen (ok that’s another one). This is amazing – it won a gold medal and the Portuguese Red Trophy at the 2014 International Wine Challenge. I can taste why – it’s bursting with divine perfume and flavours including bergamot and orange peel. It reminded me of ruby port, but in a lighter and dryer style. At £10.95, I think it’s a real bargain for a wine of such quality.

We rounded off the evening with the fortified selection, which we found a little challenging. I tried a Moscatel de Setύbal which tasted like distilled marmalade. I’m confident that Paddington Bear would have loved it, but it wasn’t for me.


The Society’s LBV Port 2009 is an excellent buy at £12.50. The Society’s Exhibition Vintage Port 1983 is brimming with class and would make a fabulous Christmas treat (£49.00).

I tried a few Madeiras and just didn’t get it. To me, they tasted like essence of coffee flavoured Quality Street. The original Madeira is wine that went off on a ship. Most winemakers try to avoid damaging their wine, so why do it deliberately? I’m sure that I’m missing the point, and I will continue to taste Madeira to try to find one that suits me, but I have to admit that I’m sceptical.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable and educational (2 new grape varieties discovered!) evening. I just wish that the Wine Society would hold more events in Manchester. Last night’s event was well-attended, so there’s clearly a demand. I’ll certainly be there!



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