4th of JULY:
Portuguese Table Wines
CASA SANTOS LIMA
in Portugal's Estremadura region, Casa Santos Lima goes by a variety of
names, so take your pick:
Companhia das Vinhas de San Domingos
- Quinta da Boavista
Adega Galega de Merceana.
But while the estate and its labels go by a variety of names, there are
two interesting "constants" to this equation:
1. Good quality.
2. Sensible pricing.
At the helm of this growing enterprise is José Luis
Oliveira da Silva, whose great grandfather had owned extensive acreage in
the town of Alenquer. The old fellow sold tons of wine in
bulk, mainly to Brazil. In fact, Great Grandpa married the daughter
of his Brazilian importer!
José spent his early years in the banking business. His mother and
three aunts owned the estate and were considering selling the
place. José's mother-in-law had some financial resources and
so did José, so they took control of the property and it's turning into a
major success story.
The Quinta comprises some 280 hectares of land, with about 200 hectares
under vine presently. José's great grandfather had something like
twice as much land, but his cousins sold some parcels and today Casa
Santos Lima buys grapes from the neighbors.
José Luis Oliveira da Silva shows off his
The estate provides about 60% of the fruit, with 40% coming from
neighboring vineyards. Though we saw some older parcels of vines,
many of the vineyards were planted since 1990. The actual
winemaking under José's watch started in 1996. A combination of
great vineyards, competent winemaking and reasonable prices have the
demand for these wines skyrocketing.
Touriga Nacional in the "Lost Valley"
of the estate. This is row L-8 and there are 116 vines in the
row. José Luis is a big fan of Touriga Nacional, saying it's one
of the most popular grapes in Portugal, "especially on the back
labels of the bottles."
Each row of vines is catalogued and monitored...that's how fanatical the
focus on quality is here.
- The cellars are well-maintained and they're working to
expand the tank capacity.
There's a barrel cellar, but though they age some
of the red wines in wood, we did not find oak to be a prominent characteristic
in the wines.
The range of wines and varieties they produce is
remarkable. But even more impressive is that each wine tasted like the
grape named on the label. You could actually taste the Chardonnay in the
Chardonnay and the Arinto in the Arinto. Santos Lima makes a blend of
these two white varieties and, remarkably, in the glass one can find the
elements of Arinto and the characteristics of the Chardonnay.
Each bottle is inspected before being placed, by hand, in a case box.
Presently we have two of their wines to offer.
bargain basement department, there's a wine called Quinta das Amoras.
It's a blend of Castelão with Tinta Miuda, Camarate and Touriga Nacional.
Four weeks of skin contact during and after the fermentation, followed by a
brief pass in small oak.
There's a berry and spice quality here and for
$5.99, this is remarkably good.
Portuguese wines, I found numerous citations for this Quinta de Bons Ventos
In Portugal, this wine is quite popular in a 3 liter "bag in box"
format. We have it in regular 750ml bottles.
We know what a "good value" this is in Europe and yet here in
California, a terribly inefficient distributor asks a remarkably
"high" price for the wine. And it gets great reviews as being a
bargain when it's being sold for $10-$12.
The San Francisco Chronicle praised this wine in an article on "good
values," in local wine emporiums, saying: "...at
$12.50 it was a total score...This larger-production red from central Portugal
has a vivaciously juicy, high-acid palate of red fruit, meshed with scents of
huckleberry, dried currant, cigar wrapper and loam. It's surprisingly
broad-flavored and full, with chalky tannins bulking out the finish."
The latest bottling is here and passed muster...it's a well-made, medium-bodied
is a new arrival. It's a blend of Touriga Nacional, Cabernet
Sauvignon, Syrah and Trincadeira. The grapes are left a bit longer on the
vine to achieve slightly higher sugar levels in a effort to make a more robust
wine. Still, it's nothing like the fruit bombs from California.
After the fermentation, this sees maybe six months in American oak...just enough
time to take the edge off the wine, but not so long as to impart much
It's also well-priced and easy to drink. Medium bodied with some dark
fruit notes. Best consumed at cool cellar temp with all sorts of foods,
from lighter fare to well-seasoned dishes.
is from grapes grown in the southernmost part of Portugal, the
Algarve. It's a region which, ages ago, was probably important for wines
and winemaking, but over the past decades it's fallen to sleep.
Today, though, there's a bit of activity and there are a handful, or more, of
wineries there. It's about 2 to 3 hours' drive away from Casa Santos
We have the 2015 vintage of Al-Ria. The grapes are destemmed and crushed,
as they leave the juice to macerate a day, or so, at low temperatures to inhibit
the fermentation. Then they let it warm up so it can ferment, but they
actually keep it regulated so as to not get too warm. They want it to
ferment at 80 degrees or less.
Once the juice is fermented, some of the batch goes into French and American oak
barrels for a short pass (less than half a year) before bottling. It's a
bit bigger and deeper than the Bonavita (above) with more dark fruit
notes. It's a blend of Touriga Nacional and Syrah, Portugal meets the Rhône.
But it's more Portuguese than French.
- Currently in stock:
QUINTA DAS AMORAS $5.99
QUINTA DE BONS VENTOS SALE $5.99
BONAVITA 2014 Vinho Regional Lisboa $7.99
AL-RIA 2015 Vinho Regional Algarve $8.99
QUINTA DA AVELEDA
Producers of Charamba and the famous Casal Garcia
- CHARAMBA Douro Valley Red
SALE PRICED $5.99
- You probably thought Charamba was some sort of Latin dance. Nope.
It's a reasonably-priced, modest red wine from Portugal.
- Coming from the Douro Valley, this is made of some of the same principal varieties as
Port. We've had Charamba wine in the shop for a number of years and it is a
surprisingly nice, slightly rustic red. There's a spiciness to this which
recalls some Southern Rhone reds. The grape varieties for this include Touriga
Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz. Matured for less than a year
- The 2011 is the current vintage. It's a medium-bodied, mildly
spicy red. Much like its predecessors, this is a great little wine
at a most affordable price.
Here's an inexpensive, everyday red wine with some soul! We
get calls for this from all over the countryside. These are even
more prevalent since the San Francisco Chronicle printed an article on
"Bargain-Priced" wines in late 2006.
W. Blake Gray wrote seven years ago...The current exchange rate has
caused a mild increase in its price...
|Aveleda Charamba Douro ($4.79) This is the best under-$5 bottle I've had this year. It's made by Aveleda, a large Portuguese company best known for Vinho Verde. Weimax wine buyer Weisl says it's a store favorite, and no wonder, with its flavors of cherry, berry, earth and spice. Consider buying this one by the case.
We are amused that so many people would, actually, buy 12 bottles of this
wine without tasting it! We do sell it by the bottle, of course,
making it possible to buy a single, go home and taste it to see if it's a
wine of any appeal.
One person called from 50 miles away to inquire about buying a case...they
will spend, at 40-cents a mile for their auto expense, $4 for bridge toll
and at ten-bucks-an-hour for their own time, $64 to buy a $60 case of
We suggest decanting it and letting it breathe for about an
They recently "updated" the label. You can decided for
yourself if it's an improvement.
CASAL GARCIA VINHO VERDE
Garcia is one of Portugal's most popular wines. It's quite simple
and uncomplicated, so it's not a wine which will appeal to fans of
The brand has been around since 1939 and it's found on most wine
lists all over the Portuguese countryside.
Best consumed immediately (cellaring this is a bit like aging a
carton of milk), the wine is dry, relatively low in alcohol and bottled
with a bit of residual CO2.
It's not overtly fizzy, but there's a subtle "buzz" on the
palate. The grape varieties in this little wine are Trajadura,
Loureiro, Arinto and Azal.
We enjoyed a bottle at a fancy seafood palace and the wine was
thoroughly delightful with the prawns, percebes (barnacles...if
you're on the Iberian Peninsula, don't miss these delectable treats!)
A Rosé was launched recently and this is a delightfully fresh basket of
strawberries that's fairly dry, low alcohol, bright and crisp.
It's not a complex wine...it's not intended to be a grand vin,
but merely delicious.
- Currently in stock:
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Branco (white) $6.99
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Rosé $6.99
QUINTA DA AVELEDA
- A bit more spiffy in terms of intensity and quality is the
"Quinta da Aveleda" bottling of Vinho Verde.
This is made of Alvarinho (30%) and Loureiro (70%). It's nice and
dry and, of course, light. You'll detect that faintly fizzy
quality to this fresh bottling...
This is not the most complex white wine you'll put on the table, but
it's one of the most satisfying. No oak, low alcohol and high
acidity make for a crisp, snappy little white wine.
The 2015 is in stock presently...Well-priced, too. Some
customers have told us they think this is the best little dry white in
the shop in its price category...
And you'll see it in some other shops in the Bay Area at the same
price. But we offer a 10% or 15% discount if you're buying this as
part of a 12 bottle case.
Currently in stock: 2015 QUINTA DA AVELEDA $8.99
The Aveleda property is remarkable...there's a small wine shop and
tasting room. They maintain a remarkable garden which makes for a
delightful stroll, should you find yourself in Porto (it's about a 30
"Here's looking at you, kid!"
I checked...no Vinho Verde in the fountain.
- A sign pointing to the tasting rooms...
If the weather is nice, you can sit on the balcony and enjoy the
view...and a sip of wine.
- QUINTA DO BACALHÔA
brand is but one label of many produced under the proprietorship of one of
the most wealthy man on the planet. His story is an extraordinary
José Manuel Rodrigues Berardo was born in Madeira and, as a kid, worked
at the Madeira Wine Company, his first introduction to the world of
wine. He was an ambitious, hard-working fellow and ventured to South
Africa in search of his fortune. And did he ever hit the jackpot!
His South African adventure began as he was a field worker on vegetable
farms. This led to his selling produce to mining company
kitchens and this led to his buying abandoned mines in hopes of extracting
gold. His hunches proved correct and remarkably lucrative and today
this fellow is insanely wealthy.
- Visit the Quinta do Bacalhôa winery a half-hour's drive (if there's not
road construction and heavy traffic) and you arrive at a gated, security
guarded entrance. This is not so much to protect the vinous
"gold" made at this winery, but to look after the impressive art
works displayed on the grounds and in the cellar.
- We had heard there was a garden and impressive display of Portuguese
tiles at this estate, but we had no idea of the enormity of the
collection or of Mr. Berardo's active role in the art world (especially
in Portugal). Nor did we know of his enological interests in
Canada and Australia. Or the depth of his holdings in the
Portuguese wine industry...
Berardo, in addition to the numerous wines made by his Bacalhôa estate,
owns the Caves Alianca brand, has recently bought the Rothschild's share
of Quinta do Carmo (to become the sole proprietor of that estate), owns
33% of Sogrape (the humungous firm which makes Mateus Rose and other
notable wines), 50% of a Canadian wine company called Colio and he's the
majority stockholder in an Australian wine company called Cumulus.
And I didn't mention he owns a significant percentage of the prestigious
Madeira winery called Henriques and Henriques. We suspect Donald
Trump or Bill Gates might appear impoverished in comparison to
In addition to the impressive showplace-of-a-cellar and bottling
facility, there's a very curious "garage" cellar where they mature the
famous Moscatel called Setúbal.
This is a "cellar" where Mother Nature "controls" the
temperature. It can be quite cool in the winter and hotter-than-hell in
the summer. We were told these conditions contribute to the particular
character of their various Moscatel wines.
We tasted three different bottlings of Setúbal Muscats and the wines were
excellent from the entry-level bottling to the deluxe, rare "Roxo"
Berardo was born on the 4th of July and he's a fan of the American president,
These olive trees, relatively recently transplanted here, are said to be well
more than a thousand years old...maybe two-thousand.
Ana Isabel Leitão offers a taste of Moscatel, amongst others.
Quinta do Bacalhôa's famous red wine comes from mature vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and
Merlot. The wine sees extended skin contact following its fermentation
as they're trying to obtain every last nuance from the grapes. The
wine then goes in oak, half the barrels being brand new. After a year
or so in wood, the wine is bottled and left to mature in the cellar...
The 2008 has recently arrived through a new, local importer. This is a deep, dark colored
wine and it has intense red and black fruit aromas and a wonderfully woodsy
bouquet. It's still a bit clumsy and we found decanting or aerating
the wine for an hour is extremely beneficial. The wine is complete on the palate, showing nice fruit and
wood with modest tannins. It can probably be held for another few
years, but drinking it tonight with red meats or game is ideal, too.
There's a dynamite bottle of white...it's a sort of Portugal-Meets-Bordeaux
wine. Semillon is the base and part of the Semillon portion is
fermented in oak. In keeping with the Bordeaux theme, the wine is 25%
Sauvignon Blanc. But wait! There's more. To give it a
unique flair, the Iberian grape, Alvarinho, comprises 25% of the
blend. What's remarkable is, if you're familiar with each of these
three grapes, you can actually detect all of them playing their own tune in
this little symphony.
Don't be scared off by the notation of wood. Oak is barely detectable
in this medium-bodied dry white.
Currently in stock: 2008 Quinta do Bacalhôa Red $29.99
2010 Quinta do Bacalhôa White $22.99
- Here's a simple, inexpensive and brilliantly-made little dry white from
south of Lisbon.
It's made of Fernão Pires and Moscatel de Setúbal but vinified dry in
stainless steel tanks, cold-fermented and bottled young.
It's got a lovely fragrance as you might expect from the aromatic Moscatel
The flavors echo the aromas...notes reminiscent of pineapple with a touch
of orange and grapefruit...light...no oak...great cocktail wine...consider
this with some Melon and Prosciutto/Jamon/Presunta Iberico.
Also works nicely with shrimp or crab dishes...Sea Scallops...
- Currently in stock: 2012 JP AZEITÃO WHITE $6.99
QUINTA VALE D. MARIA
this is a rather new wine and few people have heard of the estate, most fans of
Portuguese wines know the name of Cristiano Van Zeller. That's who's
behind this producer of table wine and Ports.
For one thing, it turns out he's virtually everyone's cousin in Portugal!
We spent a couple of weeks touring around the various wine regions of
Portugal and it seemed like everywhere we went, someone told us they had a
cousin named Van Zeller from the Douro.
Van Zeller's family owned and operated the Quinta do Noval port house
before selling it in 1994 to an insurance investment group.
Ellen & Cristiano Van Zeller
- This property has been in Cristiano's wife's family for about
200 years. It was rented or leased by the Symington family, who had
it as the home base for their Smith Woodhouse brand of Port. Since
1996 the Quinta Vale D. Maria has been operated by Van Zeller.
It's a 43 hectare estate with 20 hectares of 60 to 80 year old
vines. The other 23 hectares range from 5 to 30 years of age.
The cellars are small and well-maintained.
Joana Pinhao does a lot of the cellar work.
- Sandra Tavares da Silva is the head of the enology crew at this
property. She and her husband also make some top wines in the Douro
and her parents own a wonderful property in the Estremadura region, just
north of Lisbon.
We especially like the 2012 vintage of the Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro red.
Part of the wine was fermented in stone lagares and part in stainless
steel tanks. The wine comes from 60 to 70 year old vines and spent
roughly 20 months in oak, a high percentage being brand new. It's a medium-full bodied red, comparable to top
Napa Cabernets or upper level Rioja.
The wine labeled CV is a killer!
It comes from seriously old vineyards which are north-facing! (Most
northern hemisphere vineyards face the south to get afternoon sun...more
- About half of the wine is trodden in lagares and fermented in
those "swimming pools." The other half goes into stainless
The wine is remarkable and on par with top Bordeaux or Napa Cabs and
flashy, modern Spanish wines.
They call it CV, as in Curriculum Vitae, the wine being sort of a résumé
for both Cristiano and winemaker Sandra Tavares.
We view this as a bit of a benchmark for Douro Valley red table wines and
it's upper-echelon by any measure.
We found the Port here to be quite good, as well.
- Currently in stock:
2012 QUINTA D. VALE MARIA Douro Red $49.99
2012 CV (list $100) SALE $89.99
are certain most people looking for Portuguese wines are hoping to find
something inexpensive and drinkable.
For many people, the idea of spending more than ten bucks on a bottle of
wine is crazy.
So, if you are one of those people, please scroll down the page to some of
the other wines featured here, because this is definitely not for you!
The Symington family owns tremendous properties in Portugal's Douro Valley,
producing a great range of prestigious Port wines. Graham's, Dow's and
Warre's are their leading labels, amongst others.
Some years ago (decades ago, actually) we stopped in to pay them a visit and were graciously invited
to stay for lunch. I recall them serving a pork chop alongside a
carafe of "house" wine, a table wine made for their own enjoyment
but nothing terribly fancy. The wine tasted good, but was certainly
simple. The Douro was known solely for Port wines. Table
wines, dry reds, were pretty much non-existent.
I wondered why they didn't consider, given the warm climate of the Douro,
making something more interesting or noble.
Years later, they embarked on a collaborative effort with Bruno Prats, the
former owner of a top Medoc property, Château Cos d'Estournel in St. Estèphe.
They have really come up with something exceptional, the wine being called
Chryseia. "Douro" is Portuguese for "golden" and
"chryseia" is Greek for golden, which is what your credit card
needs to be if you're going to buy this wine.
The first vintage of this wine was uniquely Portuguese, though you'd find a fair contribution
from French oak barrels on the nose and palate. The fruit
character, though, is exceptional. Touriga Nacional is the main grape,
augmented with Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo elsewhere) and Tinta
They substantially increased the price of Chryseia, lending some measure of
credibility to its "goldenness." We've tasted this off and on
over the years...some vintages are quite good and others make you think how
they can ask a premium price for a wine which, to our tastes, doesn't merit
make a second wine called Post Scriptum, P&S (Prats and
It's usually been a rather nice bottle. We tasted the 2013 Post
Scriptum alongside the current vintage of Chryseia and, frankly, the P-S
bottling was more attractive, not to mention (but we will anyway) it's less
than half the price.
It's 59% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca and the rest split evenly
between Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca. It's less than 14% alcohol,
too, which is remarkable and shows some Old World winemaking sensibilities.
The fermentation was done with the idea of producing a wine with less tannin
and earlier drinkability. Add in 14 months of aging in some sort of
French oak puncheons and you've got a really nice bottle of wine.
Currently in stock: 2009 CHRYSEIA
2013 POST SCRIPTUM (List $27) SALE $22.99
QUINTA DA LEDA
- This is
a wine now made under the Sogrape umbrella from the Casa Ferreirinha.
It's a Douro Valley wine and is produced from fruit grown in the "Douro
Superior" region. It's an important red, vinified from Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta
Their most famous wine has been "Barca Velha," the "Penfolds
Grange Hermitage" of Portugal, if you will. Whatever major league
wine you compare it to, (Vega Sicilia of Spain, BV Private Reserves of Napa
from the late 1950s or 1960s, top Bordeaux, etc.), it's expensive. I
put a bottle on my dinner table along with the less costly Quinta da Leda
and we found the Leda wine to be quite good and the scarcity tax was less.
We had a few bottles of the 2004 in stock. It's a magnificent red,
cedary, woodsy and complete.
Currently in stock: 2004 Quinta da Leda Sold Out
VALE DO BOMFIM
- Since the
price of a bottle of wine has climbed to dizzying heights all over the
planet, it's little wonder we are now seeing hugely expensive wines coming
from various regions of Portugal.
Though the Douro is firstly famous for its Port wines, the region is
certainly capable of producing world class red wines. Some are hugely
expensive and some are actually priced within the realm of reason. We
have noticed, of course, that the price does not always correlate to the
quality of a wine.
Many of the really expensive bottlings seem to carry a scarcity tax or a the
costs of a marketing campaign. We have trouble pouring those
"features" into a wine glass.
The Symington family makes quite a range of wines, owning extensive acreage
in the Douro.
Their Dow bottling of table wine from the 2013 vintage, the sixth year this
is offered commercially, I think. It's a blend of 45% Touriga Franca,
Nacional, 5% Tinta Amarela and 20% mystery grapes. Well, they're not
exactly a mystery, but in the old days, growers would plant a few of these
and a few of those, having a 'field blend' of numerous varieties. Some
of this wine comes from older vineyards and so it's a mystery.
What's not a mystery is the quality of the wine. It is good.
The wine does have a bit of tannin, so pairing it with red
meat actually softens one's impression of the wine. If you can decant
it an hour, or so, before dinner, that's all the better.
- Currently in stock: VALE DO BOMFIM 2013 DOURO $10.99
- LAVRADORES DE FEITORIA
the turn of the century (as 1999 slipped into 2000), a group of grape
growers (lavradores) began a collaborative winemaking project in
the Douro Valley.
One of the people involved in putting this together was winemaker Dirk
Niepoort, who's already got a lot of projects he's working on.
Today there are 18 vineyard sites scattered around the Douro, with a range
of terroirs, elevations, exposures and grape varieties. Baixo Corgo,
Cima Corgo and Douro Superior...And from these there is a range of wines
being produced: blended wines from various sites and various
varieties and a few single vineyard wines.
- Four vineyard sites have white grapes and they're making some nice,
fresh, dry, crisp table wines.
There's even Sauvignon Blanc growing in the Douro (better that than
We had a nice little, inexpensive bottling from this producer, but today
there's a single vineyard bottling in the shop which is remarkably good.
It's a 2008 Quinta da Costa das Aguaneiras and it comes from a
south-facing vineyard site which is predominantly a mixed planting of red
grapes. We understand they fermented this in traditional lagares
where the grapes are crushed by a team of "foot soldiers"
At the cellar we visited, we saw normal fermentation tanks and standard
We had included this wine in a blind-tasting of Portuguese reds and I was
knocked out by it (along with a wine from Cristiano Van Zeller). The
wine has a beautiful fragrance, showing some sweet wood spice tones and
bright red fruit aromas. It's a medium-bodied wine and the tannin
level is moderate. During our tasting, this wine got better and
better as it aired, too.
For the price of a good bottle of Zinfandel, you can enjoy a really top
wine from Portugal...pair this with roasted or grilled red meat, roasted
Currently in stock: 2008 QUINTA DA COSTA DAS AGUANEIRAS Douro Red
few miles from Lisbon is the Bucelas region and it's long been associated
with the white grape called Arinto.
This is not a wine for kids, as it tends to be quite dry and rather
Arinto is said to have been the grape used to make a wine called Charneco
back in the days of writer Bill Shakespeare (we know him as
"Bill," but most called him William) and the Duke of
We're fans of the wine called Prova Regia, a fairly well-known brand in
Portugal and relatively unheralded here.
It's not sweet, it's not buttery or creamy and it has no oak. The
wine is light, dry and very crisp, so it's a great bottle to open when
you're serving some sort of seafood, be it fried calamari, sautéed fish,
a bowl of steamed clams or these "percebes" as seen in the photo
to the left (they're some sort of barnacle and can be absolutely
The grapes are grown in chalky soil and the wine is simply vinified to
make this tangy little wine. The winery describes the wine as
showing notes of lime and pineapple...we can detect a hint of lime and
tangy citrus, but are unsure about the more tropical aspects of this.
- Currently in stock: 2010 PROVA REGIA Arinto Sold Out
- MORE PORTUGUESE TABLE WINES
By the way...we also have Sagres Beer from Portugal, as well as some brandies and