By Rick Riozza

Interesting stuff!—for the new wine enthusiasts around town, trying wines from Spain, Portugal, Greece, and other international wine destinations seem pretty easy to imagine.  But for many of the seasoned vino lovers who just relish their California, Bordeaux, and Burgundy appetites, wine from outside the usual comfort zone, just doesn’t seem to play on their radar.

It’s a brave new wine world out there. And there is nothing to fear!—it’s just wine.  So many reasonably priced “new” label and sexy wines are filling our shelves as we speak—so let’s get on it and talk-about-it-talk-about-it, taste and enjoy!

Out here in the desert, we’re always on the look-out for a refreshing quaff that can match brunch, or lunch, or dinner al fresco.  Patio dining seems the norm to us way into November (actually, we carry on all winter long).  European wines most often fit the bill, as they come from a great vino heritage where it continually plays out on the table with the meal—always complementing each other.  There’s no culinary war going on to out-best the other, as in (spoken with your best Donald Trump impersonation) “Hey—my red Rhone can take down your saddle of beef anytime—anywhere!”


Speaking of seasoned vino-lovers, I’m sure we can all remember at least a couple of Portuguese wines back in the day, notably the rosés, Mateus and Lancers, each in their iconic bottle shapes.  And that squat Mateus bottle always served as the candleholder du jour in the 60s and 70s.  By the way—that same Mateus wine is making a marketing come-back this fall:  It’s the same wine—but of course, the “squat bottle-look” is more modernized chic & sleek!

A new wave of Portuguese wine on our shores include a bright white, a riverside rosé, and a rousing red to meet up with our brunch, lunch, and patio party.  I’ve already mentioned and recommended the white wine in a summer column where we facetiously played with a wine to take on a mountain hike in triple-digit weather!

portugal8You’ll remember of course the white being the crisp Vera Vinho Verde. The name means “green wine”, suggesting not the color but that they are intended to be enjoyed in their energetic youth.  The Vinho Verde region in northwestern Portugal lies flush on the Atlantic Coast—you’ve seen the maps, it juts inland like a left-hand mitten. Porto, the center of port commerce, sits on its southwestern coastal edge, while the spectacular terraced vineyards of the Douro lie to the east of the region.

The wine exemplifies refreshment in a bottle with bright and complex citrus aromas of lime and pink grapefruit, hints of stone fruit, along with some slight effervescence where one seems to offer a toast with every quaff.  It’s the bottle to have around for fun and wine games.  De rigueur for your first-aid kit whenever someone is faint and withered by the heat: fresh, lively, zingy, zesty, at $12 a bottle or less, it’s so much cheaper than calling for the para-medic!

portugal6Our next recommendation is the dry Nortico Rosé, at around $14.   For you geography enthusiasts, this is produced on the south bank of the Minho River in plots so small they are called jardins, or gardens. The area sees a lot of rainfall annually but the inland area is warmer than the coast, allowing for perfect maturation and balance in the fruit. Best known for producing light aromatic reds—locally called Palhete. This rosé evokes that style.

Wonderful aromas of bright red berry and watermelon fruit with wafts of sea-breeze. On the palate, it’s light, fresh and delicate, with mouthwatering red fruit and refreshing acidity. This Nortico Rosé is the wine for all seasons and reasons.  A sexy sipper on its own, it especially complements all manner of shellfish, seafood, and simple cheese dishes.  And really—being a tasty dry rosé, it can pair with anything: hamburgers, chicken and whatever you’re grillin’.

And speaking of “sexy”, the label seals the deal.  Reflective of the classic Portuguese Ceramic Tiles, a couple decorative bottles will energize the party and be the talk of the table: prepare yourself for the onslaught of bottle selfies.

Another traditional Portuguese wine that we aficionados have always pledged an allegiance to is Vintage Port. It was the very first “cult wine” in history. That pricy sweet wine of old where cigar-smoking actors play importance in their fantasy English movies—man, those were the days.

Hey—Vintage Port still exists, survives and revives and is one of the best dessert wines in the world.  Incomparably great concentration of blue, black and brown fruit aromas and flavors, but, clothed with clinging saccharinity.

Now if you were to dare to think of this outstanding wine without sweetness—that’s to say a “dry” wine, well welcome to the world of Pintas Character: made from a field blend of 30 different varieties which include the famed Port wine grapes such as Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, and Touriga Nacional.  Causally speaking, this wine is like enjoying a dry Vintage Port—how wonderful is that!

This $40 2012 red blend vintage is rich, powerful, and delicious with both aromas and flavors showing notes of red, blue and black berries, black cherry, plums, black pepper and licorice. But at the same time it is fresh, velvety, with a balanced acidity and well integrated tannins that continue with a long, persistent finish.  And it’s medium-bodied to pair well with a meal.

So what are we waiting for? Cheers & Bon Appétit!

Rick is your somm-about-town eating and drinking at fun wine events.  Contact

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