Inflation has everyone thinking twice while shopping, right? Well, when it comes to wine, I’ve got some suggestions for excellent wines that over-deliver on quality for the price. Each of these beauties was featured this morning on WGN-TV’s “Daytime Chicago,” where we talked about how to find great wines for great prices.
These three wines are all from the Lisboa region of Portugal, which, as you might surmise, is where the capital of Portugal – Lisbon – is located. Lisboa is a VR – Vinho Regional – which is like a French AOC or Italian IGT level of quality. Within Lisboa, there are eight subregions that each carry the DOC designation.
But overall, I have never met a Portuguese wine that wasn’t delicious! From Vinho Verde up north – those light, bright, every-so-slightly fizzy white wines — to big, bold Douro reds to beautiful white and red wines from the Alentejo – you really cannot miss by choosing Portuguese wine! If you’re in the Chicagoland area, these are available at World Market, Sal’s Beverage World, Famous Liquors and Gene’s Sausage Shop in the Lincoln Square neighborhood
QSS Rare Red 2021 ($13) This Vegan red is made from three grape varieties: Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. It’s medium-bodied and very fresh and juicy. You’ve got juicy cherries and berries going on, and a slight savory element, like black olives, which makes this wines sing with vegan dishes like baked acorn squash or sweet potatoes filled with farro and roasted vegetables or any kind of mushroom dish. QSS Rare was created to bring attention to endangered animals and on the back of each bottle, you’ll find a QR code which you can scan to learn more about how they support this cause.
Forte Do Cego 2021 Red ($12) This blend of Syrah, Castelão and Touriga Nacional is a sensational red, that drinks like a much more expensive wine! It’s really well balanced, sporting a touch of oak and intense blackberry, currents and cassis notes. I’d pair this with pizza, any kind of tomato-y pasta dish, chili or meat (even roast chicken).
12 Knights Opulent Red Wine 2019 ($12) Another winner featuring Touriga Nacional, Tina Roriz (also known as Aragonez in Alentejo and Tempranillo in Spain), Syrah and Alicante Bouschet. “Opulent” is a perfect word for it; this wine unleashes a tidal wave of juicy, ripe raspberries, blackberries and currents and has a fair amount of oak, lending an appealing vanilla note. It’s almost like a black cherry Pop-Tart in a glass and I like it! Try it with a burger, classic beef stew, sausages and creamy cheeses.
Tiny Wine Loving Country The entire country of Portugal is about the size of Indiana (138 miles wide and 575 miles long), but it ranks as the eighth largest vineyard acreage in the world. And it is #1 in wine consumption per capita, with an average of 51.9 liters of wine being consumer per person, per year! Rock on, Portugal – you know how to live! (Comparatively, the U.S. #16 in wine consumption per capita; we gotta work on that.)
Blend Like You Mean It Most Portuguese wines are blends of grapes. Some wines will feature three or four grapes and others will feature up to 12 or 15 grapes! To me, this makes Portuguese wines so intereting – there’s unlimited diversity in the wines!
There are more than 250 native grape varieties being grown in the country, and sure, a lot of them can be hard to pronounce, but don’t let that stop you! Head to the Portugal section of your wine star and start exploring. I mean – what have you got to lose? $10? Low investment; high return! Here are a few tips:
You Like White Wines? More than 30% of Portuguese wines are white. Look to Vinho Verde, Tejo and Alentejo for whites. If you like Chardonnay, try wines featuring Antão Vaz grapes. If you like Sauv Blanc or Pinot Grigio, try wines featuring Arinto grapes.
You Like Red Wines? You’ve got lots to choose from in regions like Lisboa, and going into Alentejo, and up to Bairrada, Dão and the Douro Valley. Aragonez is Portugal’s to red grape, (aka Tempranillo or Tina Roriz), but you’ll also meet Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca (big, bold grapse leading to intense wines) and Alicante Bouschet (I always pick up blueberries and black olives from this grape) as well as Castelão and Trincadeira.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to drink like royalty with Portuguese wines! Let me know what you think if you try these wines, or find others that make you go, “More, please!”