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Portugal's Douro region is very well known for its bold, luscious dessert wines, but curious wine drinkers would do well to try its dry reds. These wines, typically blends of multiple indigenous varieties, are often rich and dark-fruited, making them good drinking companions for a good piece of grilled meat. Today's selection provides a glimpse at what Douro has to offer, in a range of styles and prices.
QUINTA DO PORTAL Douro Reserva 2016
WS review: An elegant red, with integrated layers of raspberry, cherry, licorice and floral flavors seamlessly infused with mineral, black tea and spice box details. Plush, full tannins frame lingering finish. Drink now through 2028. 500 cases imported.
Why it's of note: There is a strong sustainable-winemaking movement in Portugal. With Paulo Coutinho as its winemaker, Quinta do Portal is an adopter of these practices; their goal is to maintain their historic estate—and its partridge population—for the future. This aromatic Touriga Nacional–based blend is aged nine months in French oak.
QUINTA DO VALE MEÃO Douro Meandro 2016
WS review: A muscular red, with olive and dried meat aromas flanking the dried raspberry and cherry flavors. Accents of spice, dried rosemary and iron detail the tannic finish. Best from 2020 through 2027. 2,000 cases imported.
Why it's of note: Many Douro estates have long histories, often with old vines that yield concentrated reds. Quinta do Vale Meão dates to 1877, and the vines that produced this Meandro bottling were planted in the 1980s by the Olazabal family. Fermented in stainless steel tanks, it is ageworthy and will show nicely with a little more time in bottle.
QUINTA DE LA ROSA Douro 2017
WS review: Ripe raspberry, plum and currant notes are bold and up front in this juicy red, with licorice snap, spice and slate details. Plush finish. Drink now through 2023. 5,000 cases imported.
Why it's of note: Douro producers have attempted to reinvigorate interest in the region's dry reds in recent years. The Bergquist family of Quinta de la Rosa, an estate established in 1815, was at the forefront of this revival. This juicy red is made partly from the estate's Lamelas vineyard, which was planted in 1985.
QUINTA DO VALLADO Douro 2016
WS review: Boysenberry, plum and mineral notes have a nice purity in this medium- to full-bodied red, with spice and dried herb details on the crisp, clean finish. Grippy tannins. Drink now through 2024. 2,000 cases imported.
Why it's of note: Douro producers traditionally co-planted several grapes in their vineyards, harvesting "field blends," but some have recently replanted sites to single varieties. Quinta do Vallado is one that has undertaken this, while maintaining some older plots. This red is made from a combination of those younger replanted vineyards and vines that are around 70 years old.
CASA FERREIRINHA Douro Papa Figos 2017
WS review: Concentrated blackberry tart and red plum notes fill this full-bodied red, with herb, slate and olive details adding depth. Black pepper elements edge the moderately tannic finish. Drink now through 2024. 3,000 cases imported.
Why it's of note: Casa Ferreirinha can trace its history back to 1751, when the original Ferreira estate was founded; the wines' quality was furthered under the direction of Portuguese businesswoman Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira in the 19th century. Today, winemaker Luís Sottomayor oversees the estate. Papa Figos, named after the golden oriole, a rare regional bird, is sourced from the Quinta da Leda estate in the Douro Superior subregion, as well as from the high-altitude vineyards of some local growers.
ADEGA DE VILA REAL Douro Premium 2015
WS review: A broad red, with dried raspberry, orange peel and roasted plum notes matched with cured meat, licorice and herb details. Chewy finish. Drink now through 2025. 4,500 cases imported.
Why it's of note: Adega de Vila Real is a cooperative of over 1,200 grapegrowers, overseen by winemaker Rui Roboredo Madeira. This 2015 has a few years on it, showing dried fruit but with an accessible profile. It would pair nicely with smoked sausage, like Portugal's farinheira or chouriço.