The Tasting Room has
Please be Double-Vaxxed!
Portuguese Table Wines
QUINTA DA AVELEDA
Producers of Charamba and the famous Casal Garcia
Reserva Douro Valley Red SALE PRICED $7.49
- You probably thought Charamba was some sort of Latin dance. Nope.
It's a reasonably-priced, modest red wine from Portugal.
- Coming from the Douro Valley, this is made of some of the same principal varieties as
Port. We've had Charamba wine in the shop for a number of years and it is a
surprisingly nice, slightly rustic red. There's a spiciness to this which
recalls some Southern Rhone reds. The grape varieties for this include Touriga
Francesa, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz. Matured for less than a year
- The 2015 is the current vintage. It's a medium-bodied, mildly
spicy red. Much like its predecessors, this is a great little wine
at a most affordable price.
Unlike the bottling we have had for many years, this is their
"Reserve" level red. It is different from the bare-bones,
Here's an inexpensive, everyday red wine with some soul! We
get calls for this from all over the countryside. These were even
more prevalent when the San Francisco Chronicle printed an article on
"Bargain-Priced" wines in late 2006.
W. Blake Gray wrote a dozen years ago...The current exchange rate has
caused a mild increase in its price...and the wine we currently have is a
|Aveleda Charamba Douro ($4.79) This is the best under-$5 bottle I've had this year. It's made by Aveleda, a large Portuguese company best known for Vinho Verde. Weimax wine buyer Weisl says it's a store favorite, and no wonder, with its flavors of cherry, berry, earth and spice. Consider buying this one by the case.
So the current Charamba is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa,
Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz.
The juice is fermented in stainless steel tanks at controlled temps.
Once the fermentation is finish, the wine is racked into small oak barrels
where it spends about a year developing and smoothing out the
tannins. It's not especially tannic, though.
There's a little bit of a woodsy note, one of the main differences between
the Reserva and the no-longer-available regular bottling.
It's still a remarkable value, as eight bucks doesn't buy much in
California wine (for example).
Put this on the dinner table with red meats or cheeses...heck, even a
pizza can be a good accompaniment..
CASAL GARCIA VINHO VERDE
Garcia is one of Portugal's most popular wines. It's quite simple
and uncomplicated, so it's not a wine which will appeal to fans of
The brand has been around since 1939 and it's found on most wine
lists all over the Portuguese countryside.
Best consumed immediately (cellaring this is a bit like aging a
carton of milk), the wine is dry, relatively low in alcohol and bottled
with a bit of residual CO2.
It's not overtly fizzy, but there's a subtle "buzz" on the
palate. The grape varieties in this little wine are Trajadura,
Loureiro, Arinto and Azal.
We enjoyed a bottle at a fancy seafood palace and the wine was
thoroughly delightful with the prawns, percebes (barnacles...if
you're on the Iberian Peninsula, don't miss these delectable treats!)
A RosÚ was launched recently and this is a delightfully fresh basket of
strawberries that's fairly dry, low alcohol, bright and crisp.
It's not a complex wine...it's not intended to be a grand vin,
but merely delicious.
- Currently in stock:
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde Branco (white) $6.99
Casal Garcia Vinho Verde RosÚ $6.99
QUINTA DA AVELEDA
- A bit more spiffy in terms of intensity and quality is the
"Quinta da Aveleda" bottling of Vinho Verde.
This is made of Alvarinho (30%) and Loureiro (70%). It's nice and
dry and, of course, light. You'll detect that faintly fizzy
quality to this fresh bottling...
This is not the most complex white wine you'll put on the table, but
it's one of the most satisfying. No oak, low alcohol and high
acidity make for a crisp, snappy little white wine.
The 2017 is in stock presently...Well-priced, too. Some
customers have told us they think this is the best little dry white in
the shop in its price category...
And you'll see it in some other shops in the Bay Area at the same
price. But we offer a 10% or 15% discount if you're buying this as
part of a 12 bottle case.
Currently in stock: 2017 QUINTA DA AVELEDA $8.99
The Aveleda property is remarkable...there's a small wine shop and
tasting room. They maintain a remarkable garden which makes for a
delightful stroll, should you find yourself in Porto (it's about a 30
"Here's looking at you, kid!"
I checked...no Vinho Verde in the fountain.
- A sign pointing to the tasting rooms...
If the weather is nice, you can sit on the balcony and enjoy the
view...and a sip of wine.
- QUINTA DO BACALHďA
brand is but one label of many produced under the proprietorship of one of
the most wealthy man on the planet. His story is an extraordinary
JosÚ Manuel Rodrigues Berardo was born in Madeira and, as a kid, worked
at the Madeira Wine Company, his first introduction to the world of
wine. He was an ambitious, hard-working fellow and ventured to South
Africa in search of his fortune. And did he ever hit the jackpot!
His South African adventure began as he was a field worker on vegetable
farms. This led to his selling produce to mining company
kitchens and this led to his buying abandoned mines in hopes of extracting
gold. His hunches proved correct and remarkably lucrative and today
this fellow is insanely wealthy.
- Visit the Quinta do Bacalh˘a winery a half-hour's drive (if there's not
road construction and heavy traffic) and you arrive at a gated, security
guarded entrance. This is not so much to protect the vinous
"gold" made at this winery, but to look after the impressive art
works displayed on the grounds and in the cellar.
- We had heard there was a garden and impressive display of Portuguese
tiles at this estate, but we had no idea of the enormity of the
collection or of Mr. Berardo's active role in the art world (especially
in Portugal). Nor did we know of his enological interests in
Canada and Australia. Or the depth of his holdings in the
Portuguese wine industry...
Berardo, in addition to the numerous wines made by his Bacalh˘a estate,
owns the Caves Alianca brand, has recently bought the Rothschild's share
of Quinta do Carmo (to become the sole proprietor of that estate), owns
33% of Sogrape (the humungous firm which makes Mateus Rose and other
notable wines), 50% of a Canadian wine company called Colio and he's the
majority stockholder in an Australian wine company called Cumulus.
And I didn't mention he owns a significant percentage of the prestigious
Madeira winery called Henriques and Henriques. We suspect Donald
Trump or Bill Gates might appear impoverished in comparison to
In addition to the impressive showplace-of-a-cellar and bottling
facility, there's a very curious "garage" cellar where they mature the
famous Moscatel called Set˙bal.
This is a "cellar" where Mother Nature "controls" the
temperature. It can be quite cool in the winter and hotter-than-hell in
the summer. We were told these conditions contribute to the particular
character of their various Moscatel wines.
We tasted three different bottlings of Set˙bal Muscats and the wines were
excellent from the entry-level bottling to the deluxe, rare "Roxo"
Berardo was born on the 4th of July and he's a fan of the American president,
These olive trees, relatively recently transplanted here, are said to be well
more than a thousand years old...maybe two-thousand.
Ana Isabel LeitŃo offers a taste of Moscatel, amongst others.
Quinta do Bacalh˘a's famous red wine comes from mature vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and
Merlot. The wine sees extended skin contact following its fermentation
as they're trying to obtain every last nuance from the grapes. The
wine then goes in oak, half the barrels being brand new. After a year
or so in wood, the wine is bottled and left to mature in the cellar...
The 2013 has recently arrived through a new, local importer. This is a deep, dark colored
wine and it has intense red and black fruit aromas and a wonderfully woodsy
bouquet. It's still a bit clumsy and we found decanting or aerating
the wine for an hour is extremely beneficial. The wine is complete on the palate, showing nice fruit and
wood with modest tannins. It can probably be held for another few
years, but drinking it tonight with red meats or game is ideal, too.
There's a dynamite bottle of white...it's a sort of Portugal-Meets-Bordeaux
wine. Semillon is the base and part of the Semillon portion is
fermented in oak. In keeping with the Bordeaux theme, the wine is 25%
Sauvignon Blanc. But wait! There's more. To give it a
unique flair, the Iberian grape, Alvarinho, comprises 25% of the
blend. What's remarkable is, if you're familiar with each of these
three grapes, you can actually detect all of them playing their own tune in
this little symphony.
Don't be scared off by the notation of wood. Oak is barely detectable
in this medium-bodied dry white.
Currently in stock: 2013 Quinta do Bacalh˘a Red $27.99
2010 Quinta do Bacalh˘a White Sold Out
- Here's a simple, inexpensive and brilliantly-made little dry red from
south of Lisbon.
The appellation is "Vinho Tinto Regional Peninsula de Set˙bal."
The wine comes from the grand Bacalh˘a winery and though they make a lot
of more pricey wines, this one is hard to beat for value.
It's a blend featuring Syrah with CastelŃo and Aragonez. They
employ a fairly short maceration so as to not pick up much tannin.
Each variety is harvested individually according to the maturity of the
It's a terrific red for six bucks and it's not a wine made at the
direction of a marketing department which demands inky color and some
residual sugar to make it appealing to people who don't drink wine.
- Currently in stock: 2016 JP AZEIT├O RED SALE $5.99
QUINTA VALE D. MARIA
this is a rather new wine and few people have heard of the estate, most fans of
Portuguese wines know the name of Cristiano Van Zeller. That's who's
behind this producer of table wine and Ports.
For one thing, it turns out he's virtually everyone's cousin in Portugal!
We spent a couple of weeks touring around the various wine regions of
Portugal and it seemed like everywhere we went, someone told us they had a
cousin named Van Zeller from the Douro.
Van Zeller's family owned and operated the Quinta do Noval port house
before selling it in 1994 to an insurance investment group.
Ellen & Cristiano Van Zeller
- This property has been in Cristiano's wife's family for about
200 years. It was rented or leased by the Symington family, who had
it as the home base for their Smith Woodhouse brand of Port. Since
1996 the Quinta Vale D. Maria has been operated by Van Zeller.
It's a 43 hectare estate with 20 hectares of 60 to 80 year old
vines. The other 23 hectares range from 5 to 30 years of age.
The cellars are small and well-maintained.
Joana Pinhao does a lot of the cellar work.
- Sandra Tavares da Silva is the head of the enology crew at this
property. She and her husband also make some top wines in the Douro
and her parents own a wonderful property in the Estremadura region, just
north of Lisbon.
We especially like the 2012 vintage of the Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro red.
Part of the wine was fermented in stone lagares and part in stainless
steel tanks. The wine comes from 60 to 70 year old vines and spent
roughly 20 months in oak, a high percentage being brand new. It's a medium-full bodied red, comparable to top
Napa Cabernets or upper level Rioja.
The wine labeled CV is a killer!
It comes from seriously old vineyards which are north-facing! (Most
northern hemisphere vineyards face the south to get afternoon sun...more
- About half of the wine is trodden in lagares and fermented in
those "swimming pools." The other half goes into stainless
The wine is remarkable and on par with top Bordeaux or Napa Cabs and
flashy, modern Spanish wines.
They call it CV, as in Curriculum Vitae, the wine being sort of a rÚsumÚ
for both Cristiano and winemaker Sandra Tavares.
We view this as a bit of a benchmark for Douro Valley red table wines and
it's upper-echelon by any measure.
We found the Port here to be quite good, as well.
- Currently in stock:
2012 QUINTA D. VALE MARIA Douro Red $49.99
2012 CV (list $100) SALE $89.99
are certain most people looking for Portuguese wines are hoping to find
something inexpensive and drinkable.
For many people, the idea of spending more than ten bucks on a bottle of
wine is crazy.
So, if you are one of those people, please scroll down the page to some of
the other wines featured here, because this is definitely not for you!
The Symington family owns tremendous properties in Portugal's Douro Valley,
producing a great range of prestigious Port wines. Graham's, Dow's and
Warre's are their leading labels, amongst others.
Some years ago (decades ago, actually) we stopped in to pay them a visit and were graciously invited
to stay for lunch. I recall them serving a pork chop alongside a
carafe of "house" wine, a table wine made for their own enjoyment
but nothing terribly fancy. The wine tasted good, but was certainly
simple. The Douro was known solely for Port wines. Table
wines, dry reds, were pretty much non-existent.
I wondered why they didn't consider, given the warm climate of the Douro,
making something more interesting or noble.
Years later, they embarked on a collaborative effort with Bruno Prats, the
former owner of a top Medoc property, ChÔteau Cos d'Estournel in St. EstŔphe.
They have really come up with something exceptional, the wine being called
Chryseia. "Douro" is Portuguese for "golden" and
"chryseia" is Greek for golden, which is what your credit card
needs to be if you're going to buy this wine.
The first vintage of this wine was uniquely Portuguese, though you'd find a fair contribution
from French oak barrels on the nose and palate. The fruit
character, though, is exceptional. Touriga Nacional is the main grape,
augmented with Touriga Franca, Tinto Roriz (Tempranillo elsewhere) and Tinta
They substantially increased the price of Chryseia, lending some measure of
credibility to its "goldenness." We've tasted this off and on
over the years...some vintages are quite good and others make you think how
they can ask a premium price for a wine which, to our tastes, doesn't merit
make a second wine called Post Scriptum, P&S (Prats and
It's usually been a rather nice bottle. We tasted the 2013 Post
Scriptum alongside the current vintage of Chryseia and, frankly, the P-S
bottling was more attractive, not to mention (but we will anyway) it's less
than half the price.
It's 59% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca and the rest split evenly
between Tinta Roriz and Tinta Barroca. It's less than 14% alcohol,
too, which is remarkable and shows some Old World winemaking sensibilities.
The fermentation was done with the idea of producing a wine with less tannin
and earlier drinkability. Add in 14 months of aging in some sort of
French oak puncheons and you've got a really nice bottle of wine.
Currently in stock: 2009 CHRYSEIA Sold
2013 POST SCRIPTUM (List $27) Sold Out
QUINTA DA LEDA
- This is
a wine now made under the Sogrape umbrella from the Casa Ferreirinha.
It's a Douro Valley wine and is produced from fruit grown in the "Douro
Their most famous wine has been "Barca Velha," the "Penfolds
Grange Hermitage" of Portugal, if you will. Whatever major league
wine you compare it to, (Vega Sicilia of Spain, BV Private Reserves of Napa
from the late 1950s or 1960s, top Bordeaux, etc.), it's expensive. I
put a bottle on my dinner table along with the less costly Quinta da Leda
and we found the Leda wine to be quite good and the scarcity tax was less.
We had a few bottles of the 2011 in stock. The wine usually a blend of
Touriga Nacional with Touriga Franca as the base and then there's a small
percentage of Tina Roriz. The wine spends about a year and a half in
French oak, with 50% of the wood being brand new.
Though it's 7 years of age, this is still a rather young wine. It's a magnificent red,
cedary, woodsy and complete, with moderate tannins suggesting it can be held
for 5-20 more years.
Currently in stock: 2011 Quinta da Leda SALE $74.99
VALE DO BOMFIM
- Since the
price of a bottle of wine has climbed to dizzying heights all over the
planet, it's little wonder we are now seeing hugely expensive wines coming
from various regions of Portugal.
Though the Douro is firstly famous for its Port wines, the region is
certainly capable of producing world class red wines. Some are hugely
expensive and some are actually priced within the realm of reason. We
have noticed, of course, that the price does not always correlate to the
quality of a wine.
Many of the really expensive bottlings seem to carry a scarcity tax or a the
costs of a marketing campaign. We have trouble pouring those
"features" into a wine glass.
The Symington family makes quite a range of wines, owning extensive acreage
in the Douro.
Their Dow bottling of table wine from the 2015 vintage, the seventh or
eighth year this
is offered commercially, I think. It's a blend of 40% Touriga Franca,
25% Touriga Nacional and the rest is a field blend of mixed-plantings from
two vineyard sites, so it's a bit of a mystery. Well, they're not
exactly a mystery, but in the old days, growers would plant a few of these
and a few of those, having a 'field blend' of numerous varieties. Some
of this wine comes from older vineyards and so it's a mystery.
What's not a mystery is the quality of the wine. It is good.
The wine does have a bit of tannin, so pairing it with red
meat actually softens one's impression of the wine. If you can decant
it an hour, or so, before dinner, that's all the better.
- Currently in stock: VALE DO BOMFIM 2015 DOURO $10.99
- MORE PORTUGUESE TABLE WINES
By the way...we also have Sagres Beer from Portugal, as well as some brandies and