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Portuguese wines: Worth the trouble

Portugal’s grapes are difficult to pronounce and remember, but it's worth discovering “a whole new and exciting category of wine.”

Portugal’s grapes are a blessing and a nuisance, said Roger Voss in Wine Enthusiast. The names are impossible to pronounce, much less remember, and they even change from region to region. Yet these are “minor inconveniences” when measured against the high quality of the varietals and blends now being produced from native grapes.

As large parts of the country transition from the 19th century directly to the 21st, now is the time to discover “a whole new and exciting category of wine.” Here are some of Portugal’s best wines, with tasting scores on our 100-point scale:

Reds
Quinta do Crasto 2004 Touriga Nacional (Douro) ($100; 91) The Douro is the “homeland” of Portuguese wines that have achieved an international reputation. Wine of the very highest quality; “a truly world-class variety.”

J Portugal Ramos 2007 Vila Santa Trincadeira (Alentejano) ($20; 88) A medium- to high-quality wine; balanced and spicy.

Luis Pato 2003 Casa Baga (Beiras) ($9; 87) “Best buy.” The Baga grape is “big, tough, tannic,” but makes exceptional wine when handled well.

Whites
Quinta do Ameal 2004 Escolha (Minho) ($25; 92) A magnificent wine in the Vinho Verde style.

Quinta dos Roques 2003 Encruzado (Dão) ($18; 90) The Encruzado grape “makes great, rich, wood-aged wines.”

Companhia das Quintas 2007 Prova Régia (Bucelas) ($10; 87) “Best buy.” An “ultra-crisp,” fruit-flavored wine from Portugal’s “hot south.”

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