Is there something else apart from Porto?
Portugal?s wine is, above all, heterogeneous. There is nothing similar between a vinho verde and an Alentejo, nor between a Portuguese alvarinho and a Galician one, least of all between a Madeira wine and all the other wines.
The North of Portugal is mostly known for the production of white wines, especially on the rivers of Minho and of Douro (Miño and Duero), with some references to Galician wines, even if just because of the climate and the way of working the grapes. The most acknowledged varieties of grapes are Verdelho, Avesso, Muscat of Alexandria and Alvarinho. Vinho verde and Alvarinho set apart from the rest.
The most important difference between them is the time of grape harvest and the aging. Vinho verde is from an early grape (that?s why its name), with a lower alcoholic strength and a higher natural carbonic concentration; this is why this wine is usually watery (but not excessively). Such as Quinta do Ferro Avesso, a low price gem . On the other side, the alvarinho is from a mature grape and it?s oaked, generally giving the wine a golden color and a less honey-like taste if compared to Galician albariño.
In the center of Portugal there?s an area which distinguishes itself for the quality of its red wines. It?s the region of Alentejo. It is becoming more and more famous, in part thanks to the investments made around the area by some of the greatest wineries in the world (Chateâu Lafitte were the first, more then ten years ago), and in part because Portugal is more and more conscious that wine doesn?t means just Oporto.
A producer of wines in Oporto knows that it?s only concern is in producing good wine, because it is almost cerctain that somebody will approach its property in order to buy something. When Alentejo?s producers realized that it would not be so easy in their case, they started showing their wines at more open markets, starting with Lisbon and London, more receptives, and enlarging marckets step by step. There are some wines that achieved to enter in the list of the ?indispensables?, such as Esporao, Quinta do Carmo o Marques do Barbo, but in general wherever Alentejan wine is fount, it?s ready to surprise us nicely. The most common grapes are the Trincadeira and the Aragones ones, better known in Spain like Tempranillo, even if produces peculiar aromas in this region, it is more aromatic, full-bodied, and gourmand.
And now we move down to the South, more specifically Madeira. In Madeira a lot of different grape varieties are cultivated, such as Negra Mole, Bual, Malvasía, Verdelho, Sercial and Terrantez. They all are called ?mute? wines, because of the addition of alcohol.
This practice started during the Hundred Year?s War, between France and United Kingdom. In England they ran out of the wine coming from Burgundy (because of the war) and they had to find an alternative, especially in Jerez, in Porto and in the above mentioned Madeira. To allow to the wine to stand the long transfer on boat they decided to add some alcohol as preservative, and it was this tradition that made them into the special wines they are today.
These wines also have a peculiar toasted taste because of the fact that fire was employed to warm up the oaks where they were aged. Even if wines could be utilized in the preparation of sauces, there are some wines of Madeira that would be considered a sacrilege to put use them in cooking. For example the extraordinary Henriques & Henriques Finr Rich Harvest 50cl 1995.
This is all without speaking about the famous Porto…