The Lisboa wine region has been compared to that of Chile and California in that it is a long, thin coastal zone with fresh wines made close to the cool Atlantic while more heavily-textured, deeper wines are made in the drier more protected inland areas. Picking a dozen of the top, most representative Lisboa wines our drinks editor Peter Dean tastes and rates them according to quality and value and assesses their potential for the on-trade.
“This would give any wine list of wine-pairing menu real stand-out and a real point of difference,” Dean writes about the Villa Oeiras Vinho Generoso Superior.
If, like me, you need to brush up on some of your Portuguese wine regions away from the Douro, then Lisboa is as good a place to start as any. This is the wine region around the capital Lisbon that stretches 150km up the coast and includes nine quality DOCs.
The Buyer has been conducting a series of masterclasses with members of trade body Vinhos de Lisboa and key wine buyers and sommeliers in the UK, looking at the wines’ potential in the premium on-trade. If you want more detailed info about the region click here for Part One of our buyers debate and for sommeliers putting Lisboa wines to the test click here.
This piece, however, is looking in-depth at 12 wines from Lisboa, looking at their quality and value which, like many Portuguese wines, delivers a healthy amount of both. This 12-selection contains some real jewels, and a combination of wines around £10 retail that punch way above their weight and some more pricey wines that can stand toe-to-toe with the great wines of the world.
In every case the wines that delivered the most for me were the ones that used indigenous grapes or a larger percentage of local varieties rather than international varieties. It is in these wines that you get the true spirit of Lisboa, a wine region that definitely deserves to be on your radar.
Quinta do Monte d’Oiro, Branco 2020, Lisboa
Viognier, Marsanne, Arinto, 13% abv
A refreshing blend of indigenous and international white grape varieties with a lot of complexity for the price and a good deal of versatility as an aperitif wine or as a wine to accompany seafood, vegetable or rich sauce dishes. The naturally high acidity of the Arinto, with its fresh, crisp salinity is nicely balanced with the weight of the Marsanne and Viognier, the latter adding notes of peach blossom to a fresh, appealing, fruity nose that has citrus, green apple and an earthy note. On the palate the wine is medium bodied, dry but refreshing with decent breadth and depth of fruit flavours – Braeburn apple and citrus with a lovely balance. (buy direct)
Quinta de Chocapalha, Tinto 2016, Lisboa
Touriga Nacional (45%), Tinta Roriz (20%), Touriga Franca (15%), Castelão (10%), Alicante-Bouschet (10%). Fermented in lagares and steel then aged for 18 months in French oak. 14% abv
Fresh, gravelly red, that mixes Old World structure with New World ripe fruit and approachability – a vin de soif with a lot of class. Deep violet to look at, the nose is intense, complex and attractive mixing ripe black fruit (blackberry, plum), hibiscus with spice, oak, vanilla and a red liquorice note. The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied, intense and structured but approachable with a fresh, blueberry-tinged acidity giving a lovely balance to the wine, with bright, lifted black fruit, plum and milk chocolate flavours to the fore. (hic-winemerchants, £14.25 RRP)
Chocapalha, Vinha Mãe, Tinto 2016, Tinto 2016, Lisboa
Touriga Nacional (65%), Tinta Roriz (35%). 14.5% abv
From the estate’s oldest vines, fermented in lagares, aged for 22 months in French oak, this is a refined, textured wine with a lovely balance between elegance and heft. This has deeper, more refined aromas than the previous 5-grape blend – with black fruit, spice and chalk on the nose. In the mouth the wine is medium to full bodied, rounded and polished, red and black fruit with a lovely spine of mineral, the acidity holding the ripe tannins and full flavours in place. A fine, dry texture on the finish. (hic-winemerchants, £19.96 RRP)
CH by Chocapalha, Vinhas Velhas, 2018, Lisboa
Touriga Nacional. 15% abv
Described by winemaker Sandra Tavares da Silva as a ‘Tribute to our Swiss roots’ this is a hedonistic 100% Touriga Nacional that offers the grape’s intensity and smoothness but with the estate’s uncanny ability to match power with finesse and balance. To look at, the wine is deep purple; on the nose you find intense, heady aromas of blackcurrant, bramble, cedarwood mixed with a distinctive and attractive salami note. In the mouth the wine is medium to full bodied, this is rich, finely textured and rounded with ripe, vibrant tannins, framing bags of fresh red and black fruit. There’s a real energy to this wine which belies its high alcohol. (hic-winemerchants, £34.25 RRP 2016 vintage)
Quinta da Gradil, Colheita 2020, Tinto, Lisboa
Tannat and Touriga Nacional. 14% abv
Unusual blend of indigenous and international grapes in this quality quaffer – the Touriga Nacional smoothing the strong, tannic structure of the Tannat. The fruit has been fermented in steel with 20% aged in oak. On the nose you pick up the influence of wood (I was getting cedar); on the palate the wine is medium bodied with juicy black fruit, cassis, liquorice, rounded and ripe, very approachable with the fine, powdery tannins well integrated by washes of fruit; the wine has a nice, tidy, dry finish with delicious ripe, fresh blackberry flavours. This is a wine that would work well with a gripping movie or good book rather that with the on-trade I feel. (WineLab NI, £8.10 RRP)
Quinta do Monte d’Oiro, Tinto 2018, Lisboa
Syrah 100%. Fermented in steel, followed by ageing for 16 months in 2nd year French oak. 13.5% abv
Located an hour’s drive north of Lisbon, the winery in its current form was established in 1990 by José Bento dos Santos, who wanted to replicate some of the Rhône wines in Portugal and, to that end, employed the expertise of Chapoutier’s chief winemaker Grégory Viennois. This is a medium to full bodied wine which, like the estate’s Branco delivers a lot of bang for your buck. Cherry red, the bouquet is intense and reasonably complex with fresh blackberry and black cherry fruit, hints of salami and mocha; the wine is rounded and approachable on the front palate and then shows its structure and acidity, the latter quite citrusy and pronounced. A value ‘house red’ if ever there was one, although it’s sort of a shame that the grapes used are not indigenous. (Amathus; £16 RRP)
Quinta do Monte d’Oiro, Reserva 2016, Lisboa
Syrah 96%, Viognier 4%. 14% abv
As with the previous wine, the winemakers Graça Gonçalves and Gregory Viennois are big fans of the Northern Rhône, so this is very much a Portuguese version of a Rhône-style blend with Viognier added for fleshiness and floral aromatics – the wine aged in new French oak for 18 months and 15 months in bottle. The aromatics are refined and alluring, with summer pudding (red and black berry fruit), toasty oak, cracked black pepper; in the mouth the wine is medium weight, fresh and elegant with velvety tannins, micro-fine texture and a pleasing redcurrant edge to the raspberry, plum and wild bramble fruit. Great balance, lovely acidity with a mineral drive at its heart and a dry river stone finish on the tongue. The wine is a big step up from the Tinto. (Amathus £39.50 RRP)
Quinta do Espirito Santo, Tinta Roriz & Castelão 2019, Lisboa
Tinta Roriz, Castelão. 15% abv
Winemaker Diogo Sepulveda has worked in Pomerol, Napa and the Barossa Valley and is now the vigneron at this 19th century family property near Lisbon, ageing this red blend for six months in a mix of American and Portuguese barriques. This is a medium to full bodied red, with bags of intensity, concentration, and a good deal of complexity that will appeal to lovers of big, Argentinian Malbecs. The nose offers dark plum, cherry, spice, toasty oak, currants, fig and chocolate; the palate is remarkably fresh and vibrant given its 15% abv – it is rich but balanced with dense, ripe tannins, heaps of blackberry fruit, and a long, dry finish. Textural and pretty punchy. (buy direct; £10.49 RRP)
Casa das Gaeiras, Tinto 2019, Parras Wines, DOC Óbidos
Touriga Nacional 35%, Tinta Roriz 35%, Syrah 30%. 13.5% abv
The Óbidos DOC is located near the Peniche Peninsula and, as such, benefits from cool maritime breezes, giving this wine a spine of fresh acidity and moderate alcohol. The estate Casa das Gaeiras was founded in the 18th century and was one of the first Portuguese producers to bottle their own wines, this red being vinified and aged in steel. There’s an attractive bouquet to this medium bodied wine which has dark cherry fruit, black pepper, a savoury character (grilled meat) and hints of liquorice. The palate is fresh, open, fruity, with decent structure and great balance between ripe, firm integrated tannins and acidity. Feels very Portuguese and true to where it comes from, what with the indigenous grape varieties. Pairing wise the wine would be great with meat dishes and will work very well with the on-trade. (Amathus; £12 RRP)
Stones & Bones 2019, Lisboa
Touriga Nacional 35%, Tinta Roriz 25%, Syrah 25%, Alicante Bouschet 14% abv
Made by Quinta do Espirito Santo’s winemaker Diogo Sepulveda, this medium to full bodied red blend of indigenous varieties and Syrah won a ‘Best Portuguese Red Wine’ award last year. Deep crimson, the aromas feature soft, stewed dark berry fruit, toast, vanilla, oak; the mouthfeel is rich and rounded with the Touriga Nacional giving it that Port-like depth and intensity, with tightly-packed tannins and a mouthwatering, dry finish – the balance is also good. Flavours are rich, with wild bramble, blackberry jelly, and a blood orange acidity which appears on the finish. (buy direct; £10.49 RRP)
Villa Oeiras Vinho Generoso, DOC Carcavelos Vinho Licoroso
Arinto, Galego Dourado and Ratinho, aged for 7 years. NV 18.5% abv
A growing number of producers are reviving the almost forgotten Carcavelos style of fortified wine that was for so long the region’s biggest calling card and has been made in the area since 1908. Thankfully Villa Oerias is one such producer, that ever since it was established, saw the Carcavelos DOC as a key part of its business strategy, ageing barrels of the fortified wine in the traditional cellars of its old Marques de Pombal estate in Portuguese and French oak for seven years (15 years for the Superior). It mainly uses Galego Dourado and Ratinho to make its own distinct style thanks to celebrated fortified winemaker, Pedro Sá. The wine’s fermentation is stopped halfway through by adding brandy from Lourinhã, Lisboa.
Medium deep amber gold; the nose is familiar and yet quite distinct. Blind, you would imagine it is a sherry with age, an Oloroso perhaps or a very old white Port, you pick up walnut, polished furniture, caramel, saline; the palate is like liquid gold, velvety, sweet, sun-kissed, plump sultanas, complex, the heat of the alcohol coming through. Stunning with a capital S and with a whole array of gastronomic possibilities. (Raymond Reynolds; £32 RRP)
Villa Oeiras Vinho Generoso Superior, DOC Carcavelos Vinho Licoroso
Arinto, Galego Dourado and Ratinho, aged for 15 years. NV 18.5%
Wow, this is extraordinary. The extra eight years gives this Carcavelos a deeper hue, the nose has much older wood, a greater intensity, it is very sherry-like, more saline, with the dried citrus peel, caramel, polish notes of the previous wine; the palate is even more oleaginous, terrific depth, and so pure, clean and VERY moreish. Like the ‘regular’ seven year-aged Carcavelos from the same producer, this is well worth checking out – the seven-year-old tasting slightly more primary and sweeter by contrast. This would give any wine list of wine-pairing menu real stand-out and a real point of difference. (Raymond Reynolds)