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With so many wine bottles lining the retail shelves it can be easy to miss new or emerging underrated wines. It's easy to stick with the familiar, but there are so many wines out there to explore. Some are made with grapes you may not have heard of.

Portugal may be the most underrated wine region in the world. For centuries Portugal has been famed for its Port style wines. But this southern European country has a 300-year history of winemaking and boasts 250 indigenous grapes including touriga nacional, tinta roriz and touriga francesa. In the past, wines made in Portugal, other than Ports, rarely made it to the export market. Port producers considered the valuable grapes as worthy only to be made into luscious, sweet fortified wines. The grapes of lesser quality or those left over were used for local consumption. Today, Portugal's wine industry is bringing unique value-priced and quality-driven wines to the world market.

THE VALUE

2015 Silk and Spice Red Blend, Portugal (about $13 retail)

THE SPLURGE

2015 Twisted Douro Tinto, Portugal (about $16 retail)

When it comes to obscure wines, I'm not sure you can top the distinctive aspects of the Nero d'Avola, a grape indigenous to Sicily. Talented producers are proving this grape's quality and potential. Sicily has an ideal climate and geography for growing grapes, mountains for hillside plantings, low rainfall, poor soils and the intense summer heat ideal for ripening grapes. The Nero d'Avola undoubtedly has the potential to become a rising star in the wine market. It is capable of offering wines with great richness, texture and longevity, and has an easy drinking style that many wine drinkers seek.

THE VALUE

2015 Stemmari Nero D'Avola, Sicily (about $10 retail)

THE SPLURGE

2015 Planeta la Segreta, Sicily (about $16 retail)

Cremant de Limoux can easily rival the world's best Champagne house and is a best kept secret for those who enjoy bubbly but are looking for a value. Cremant is made like Champagne with the "traditional method" using a second fermentation taking place in the bottle. The dry style is my favorite, with its rustic yeasty characters. Some of the styles made from the indigenous grapes of mauzac are also known as blanquette. The remainder of the blend generally uses the more known grapes, chardonnay and chenin blanc. For all of those celebrations or just the craving for bubbly, Cremant de Limoux will not disappoint.

THE VALUE

NV Calvet Cremant de Bordeaux, France (about $17 retail)

THE SPLURGE

2015 Thomas Jefferson Gerard Bertrand Cuvee, France (about $24 retail)

Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits. Contact her at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, Ark. 72203, or email:

uncorked@thewinecenter.com

Food on 01/17/2018

Print Headline: Port isn't the only wine from Portugal

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