A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at the local liquor store, stocking up for…well…the Apocalypse. With the new social distancing measures in place, the line-ups at the cash had customers snaking up and down the aisles. Taking my place in line (2 metres behind the person in front of me, of course), I found myself in the Portugal section and perused the shelves while waiting for my turn. My eyes quickly darted from price tag to price tag. Were these prices for real?? Was I dreaming? Everything was under $15! In the name of research, I grabbed a bottle of Portuguese red wine on the lower end of the price range, thinking to myself it would probably be undrinkable.
I was wrong.
Sunday turned out to be my evening dedicated to
wining “research”. We were having magret de canard, grilled duck breast, which we sourced from our local butcher. I read the back of the label of the Portuguese Loios Red I had brought home, which boasted that it was an “interesting wine”. That made me nervous. It felt a bit like saying someone has a good personality. Setting my fears aside, I cracked open the bottle anyway (thanks to the handy screw top) and poured myself a smidge.
In the glass, the wine was medium ruby red. I was pleasantly surprised when I brought it to my nose: the aromas were quite complex, showing cherry, spice, eucalyptus, raspberry and red licorice. At first sip, it was super grippy with tannins, but these mellowed out nicely over the course of the evening, especially when paired with the medium-rare duck, since fats and tannins are a perfect pairing. Similarly, the refreshing acidity cut right through the deliciously greasy duck fat. On the palate, red fruit was the main flavour in this medium-bodied offering, but there was also a pleasant underlying vegetal note, making for a nicely balanced wine.
In fact, it was so nice I ended up pouring myself more than a few smidges that evening.
The Alentejo region
This wine hails from the gorgeous Alentejo region, located in southern Portugal, north of the Algarve.
We visited the region in 2017 and absolutely fell in love with its rugged Atlantic coastline and seafood-based cuisine. And of course, its incredibly affordable and food-friendly wines!
The Loios Red is made by winemaker João Portugal Ramos, who owns vineyards all across Portugal but is based in the Alentejo, where the home vineyard is spread across a vast plain of schist and limestone soil. The area’s continental climate offers excellent grape growing conditions, with warm, steady temperatures during the summer and very little rain in the fall during the harvest (when rain can have disastrous diluting consequences on ripe grapes rich in the sugars that will ferment into alcohol).
The Loios Red is a blend of distinctly regional grapes, namely aragonez and trincadeira. Aragonez is the most widely planted red grape in the Alentejo, and goes by many names depending on where you are. For example, in the Douro Valley further north, it is known as tinta roriz and is one of the staples in port wines. In Spain, it is better known as tempranillo, the main grape in Rioja wines.
Besides its easy drinkability and high food pairing potential, the best part of this wine is its price, coming in at under $10 ($9.45 to be precise) at the LCBO.
For me, the Loios was an excellent reminder that:
a) When it comes to wine, Portugal is more than just port and vinho verde.
b) Wines can’t be judged by their price tag.
c) Portugal is a superb wine region for food-friendly wines at affordable prices.
Have you tried any Portuguese wines? What did you think of them? Leave your impressions in the Comments below!