Wine Quotes of Alentejo
Surfing the net this morning, I stumbled across this great bit of detective work pieced together by Jo Diaz (Wine Blog) in her role as advocate for Alentejan wines. Thank you Jo! Jo is a wine marketing and PR specialist based in Sonoma, but recently doing some PR work in Alentejo for some wineries here. I have had the pleasure of meeting her at the recent European Wine Bloggers Conference in Lisbon as well as the American Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma. I will reproduce the essentials from Jo’s article here -
Wine Blog ‘Juicy Tales’ by Jo Diaz
Parker’s Wine Bargains: The World’s Best Wine Values under $25 (published, 2009). “Portugal is full of fine values that manage to make it to international markets despite the exchange rate fluctuations that wreak havoc on retail pricing here… Plus, they come in distinctive blends that are hard to replicate elsewhere… s well as reasonably priced for the most part… Alentejo’s wines are immensely popular in Portugal. Transitionally, it is one of the go-to regions for value wines. The wines here are frequently called “international” for their tendency to blen red grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with local grapes like Trincadeira, Alicante Bouchet (French, but perhaps at its best in southern Portugal), and others.”
Today, Portugal is a source of distinctive wines. More than anything, these wines struck me as honest. They do not try to imitate flavors and styles that are popular elsewhere.
Portugal’s advantage in wine terms – its isolation, which has kept its inheritance of indigenous vine varieties intact and virtually unaffected by Chardonnay- and Cabernet-mania – has also been its disadvantage. The Portuguese have had this strange habit of… making wines to suit the palates of other Portuguese rather than making the sort of fruity, juicy-yet-structured wines that appeal to the majority of the world’s wine consumers. The wines that have traditionally been most respected within Portugal are incredibly tough reds that have typically spent rather too long in storage before being bottled and some slightly tired whites whose unfamiliar flavours may strike some outsiders as slightly rank. In fact Portugal has some first-class raw materials and is increasingly demonstrating the will and skill with which to transform them into exportable wines.
It is so sad that top-quality Portuguese wine is not has much widely known and appreciated. Admittedly, the fact that Portugal now has such a vibrant wine culture (I’m told that something like seven annual wine guides are published in Portugal) has meant that prices for wines most highly regarded by the Portuguese have escalated, but these wines have such a strong personality, I don’t think any interested drinker should deny themselves the Portuguese experience.
Portuguese wine is well placed to take advantage of current fashion for “heritage varieties.”
1999… “The Alentejo Region, hot and dry, in the southeast, is perhaps the most promising source of accessible table wines, full-bodied, with intense colours… and this is without a doubt one of the most promising wine growing regions in the world.”
I believe that if Portugal puts its strengths first, if producers follow the lead of the great partisans of their regional wine, the artisans working with ancient vines, the curators of old mixed varietal plantings, the growers producing astonishing and graceful single vineyard wines, if commercial producers creatively build on these regional traditions rather than model their wines after the New World, the long term growth of Portugal’s wines in the US market is assured.
Few countries, if any, can compete with Portugal’s treasure of varietal diversity and the territorial diversity that sustains it. Certainly, the production of single variety wines is part of the process of understanding that diversity. But the real asset, the value in that varietal diversity, is the complexity of the blend.
American wine drinkers are more likely to find consistency buying regional blends than varietal wines from range of different Portuguese regions. Top quality regional blends as well as entertaining, creative riffs on these traditional wines will educate consumers and serve to build brand Portugal. My advice: Sustain the priceless diversity in your vineyards and use it to produce the refined and elegant wines that have made Portugal famous for centuries. The 21st century will be better for it.
“I’m addicted to Portuguese wines, as a whole, as a movement. I think Portugal is bringing the best dollar for dollar value play in the US wine market, today.”
Portuguese White Wines: Long On Flavor, Short On Price (Originally published Oct. 21, 2008. Reposted: Tuesday, March 9, 2010)
“The south of Portugal is producing wines with clearly defined fruity flavours that are delighting the international palate without sacrificing their own identity.”
“The Alentejo led the way in the revolution of Portuguese wines. It is a region that has enjoyed an extraordinary success in the last decade.”
Dionísio Chaves (Brazil, 2009)
“The wines from the Alentejo have a fine balance between production, quality and price, thus providing a pleasure that is unique.”