Most Americans can’t even name a city in Portugal, much less name a grape that the Portuguese use to make red wine. While the country is famous for Port, its fortified dessert wine, there’s a red wine extravaganza awaiting those adventurous enough to dive in. To find one you either have to read a lot or trust Chuck Kanski, the owner of Solo Vino. There are some very complicated labels and a wine tradition that goes back to 600 BC, so don’t try to master it all. Just tell Chuck what you like in a red.
This month’s selections are from Solo Vino Wine Shop, 517 Selby Ave., St. Paul, 651-602-9515
Versatil 2006 (Alentejano, Portugal), $10.99
Grapes: trincaderia, arogonez, alfrocheiro.
The wine is medium-bodied, fresh, bright, and smooth—it tastes and smells like strawberries. Greet guests with it or pair it with some light appetizers.
Grilos 2005 (Dao), $14.99
70% touriga nacional, 30% alfrochiero.
Again with the obscure grapes! This one is big and complex, especially for the money. It has dark blackberry fruit with some nutmeg notes—just in time for the holidays. Try with pheasant or goose; it’s a bit too much for turkey. (Vintage no longer in stock, 2006 is available.)
Quinta do Coa Vinho Tinto 2006 (Douro), $22.99
Grapes: touriga nacional, tinta roriz, touriga Franca.
A bold, rich, full-bodied wine that doesn’t hit you over the head with oak and alcohol. It has a lot to show off: blueberry fruit, spice, soft oak, and a little black licorice. It will hold its own with red meat, and hunters will find it a delicious pairing for venison.
Lavradores de Feitoria Meruge 2004 (Douro), $45.99
Grapes: touriga nacional, tinta roriz
Big, complex, and wow! It needs about an hour in a decanter to open up, and then you are in for a real treat. This is a special-occasion wine and is priced a such. It adds something every time you take a sip and has a finish that goes on and on. It needs big food, like a rib eye or blue cheese, so the acids can go to work on the food and not your cheeks.
Bill Coy runs Vintage U, which organizes wine tastings, classes, and events for corporate groups, wine enthusiasts, and the general public. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.