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.
It's easy to picture Lisbon as sunny and blessed with great beaches, but there is also quite a bit of wind and maritime coolness in the climate here that sharpens the aromatics and acidity. The Arinto grape is not known widely, but Sandra Tavares made something special and undeniable here. Look for scents of ripe yellow plum and summer stone fruits mixing with a citrusy core of ruby grape-fruit citrus, lemon, and kumquat in a mineral style. There is an electric zip to this wine that reminds us of Chablis or the best New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.