Discovering the Wines of Portugal Sixty Stories Up!


The Wines of Portugal Commission held its annual Wines of Portugal event at Manhatta Restaurant in New York City’s Financial District on October 2, 2019. When it comes to determining the attributes of a wine during the planting and production process, elevation is an important factor. Given the high caliber of some of the wines poured at the event, maybe sampling them 60 stories up while taking in views of Downtown New York City through floor to ceiling windows also has a bearing on the quality of the wines.


Portugal, adjacent to its prominent wine producing neighbor Spain, is often overlooked. This is unfortunate given the fact that Portugal has a centuries old wine making history and produces indigenous as well as international varietals of distinction. If Portugal is known for any particular grape it is undoubtedly the Touriga Nacional. This red grape tends to produce rich, full bodied, ripe, and complex wines, that make a bold impression on the nose and the palate.

When it comes to Portuguese white wines it is the Vinho Verde that usually comes to mind. It is made from a blend of indigenous grapes including Alvarinho, Arinto, Trajadura, Loureiro, Avesso and Azal. Most of the Vinho Verde that comes to The United States market is light and crisp, with a hint of effervescence. Some feel Vinho Verde lacks complexity. Nevertheless Vinho Verde is a refreshing and very versatile wine with balanced acidity, orchard fruit aromas and ripe green apple notes, as well as considerable adaptability to a varietal of cuisines. Vinho Verde aside, Portugal’s white wines are often overlooked.


Nevertheless, Portugal makes a variety of sparkling (vinho espumante) and white wines (vinho branco) using international grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier, as well as indigenous selections like the naturally acidic, and citrus and mineral driven Arinto, the floral and full-bodied Encruzado, and the major Portuguese white grape Fernao Pires that recalls the flavor profile of Muscat. Many Portuguese white wines are blends; they can be light, crisp and mineral driven, with floral aromas, bright lemon and green apple notes, and balanced acidity. They can also be more full bodied, with vanilla, honey and grassy aromas, and ripe orchard fruit and herbaceous notes.

When I go to a tasting event I usually begin with sparkling wines if any are available. I like to begin with something light and crisp before hitting more full bodied wines. Sparkling wines are also a great apertif. On this occasion I also wanted to try a vinho espumante because I had never had one before. There are not many vinho espumante available in the U.S. market. Meanwhile Spanish Cavas can be found everywhere. Initially I thought it might have been because vinho espumante are not very good. Another reminder that I should not make determinations about something before I tried it because my first crack at a vinho espumante turned out to be a wonderful discovery. There were only two sparkling wines at the event but it did not take me long to locate them. You just had to follow the “pop.”


The tasting table for Mingorra Vineyards, one of the two wineries to feature a sparkling wine at the event, was located by the entrance. The exporter was knowledgeable about both the region and the producer’s wines and she explained that the Mingorra Espumante Brano Bruto is a blend of Antao Vaz, Arinto and Verdelho, three indigenous Portuguese grapes. This vinho espumante undergoes fermentation in stainless steel vats and stays in contact with the lees for 3 months, before 9 months of secondary fermentation in the bottle takes place, a process known as the “traditional method.” This is the same method by which champagne is produced. Sparkling wines crafted using the traditional method usually offer a more concentrated and longer lasting effervescence. The Mingorra Espumante Branco Bruto is a brut, meaning it measures at around a 12 percent dosage or residual sugar.


The Mingorra Espumante Branco Bruto was full of delicate mousse and refreshing acidity, and it presented with floral, honeysuckle and orchard fruit aromas, and bright apple, peach and apricot notes. The other vinho espumante, a Cabriz Espumante Bruto, is a brut with fine bubbles as well, but it was sweeter on the palate than the Mingorra Espumante Branco Bruto. It was characterized by bright apple aromas, ripe lemon and pear notes and a citrus driven finish.

Now that I had had my sparkling wines, it was time to try the whites and then the reds. Portuguese producers like to blend grapes when making their wines and with over 250 indigenous varietals to experiment with who can blame them?  International varietals like Viognier and Chardonnay are also planted in Portugal and some producers add these international grapes to their blends for an extra touch of acidity, to round out flavors, and to add complexity if and when they feel the addition will be welcome. Below is a list of whites and reds that I thought stood out at the event:

Herdade Da Mingorra

  • Terras d’ Uva, 2018 (Antao Vaz, Verdelho, Viognier)
  • Mingorra, 2018 (Antao Vaz, Verdelho)
  • Vinhas da Ira, 2014 (Alfrocheiro, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional)

Santos & Seixo

  • Rotas de Portugal Vinho Verde, D.O.C. (Arinto, Loureiro, Trajadura, Avesso)
  • Santos da Casa Reserva Duoro, D.O.C., 2015 (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz)

Santa Vitoria

  • Versatil, 2018 (Arinto, Antao Vaz, Viosinho)
  • Santa Vitoria, 2018 (Arinto, Chardonnay)

Wines and Winemakers by Saven

  • Toucas Vinho Verde, 2018 (Arinto, Loureiro, Trajadura)

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