We've been fortunate lately to discover a fresh crop of striking and beautiful wines from Portugal. The appeal is immediate. When we tasted the Chocapalha line-up last month alongside the rest of winemaker Sandra Tavares's ventures we decided our "Wine of the Month 2" on the spot—and added white "Arinto" bottling as a companion, almost a "Wine of the Month 2.5." The wines are layered, aromatic, with balanced alcohols and enlivening acidity, but also show a depth of fruit that is immediately appealing. You probably won't recognize many of the grape varieties in these wines, but the discovery here is half the fun and the prices are amazing for the quality.
This ancient estate is nestled in the sun-drenched hills near Alenquer, just northwest of Lisbon. The Tavares da Silva family has nurtured the vineyards over the years, and today their youngest daughter, Sandra, is making some of the most exciting wines in Portugal. Sandra has built a name for herself as a modern and mindful winemaker in the Duoro Region.
Traditional Portuguese Red wines are rarely single-varietal bottlings, but instead are complex field blends-almost always 5-6 grapes at a minimum, but sometimes up to 25 or 30. Her Tinto is a luscious blend of Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Nacional, Castelao, complimented by small amounts of Syrah, and Alicante Bouschet. The family employs the traditional concrete lagares for fermentation, extracting just the right amount of flavor and color. Aromas of violets, ginger and fine-spices, and serious red fruit by fresh are followed wild berry fruit and a fine-bead of minerality on the palate. The wine is serious enough to be paired with the most elevated meals or age beautifully, but it's also fun enough for burgers on the barbeque this summer.