General List Gem - Not So Little Portugal
Aliança Bairrada Reserva 2015
Friends! I can’t believe it – I’ve found a real winner for under $10. But it’s true! This wine is great. None of those highly confected artificial tasting wine-products that you typically find at this price point. It’s tasty and definitely comes across as more expensive than it is.
Not sure why I’m so surprised, though. I mean, it’s from Portugal. And wines from Portugal punch so far above their weight, it’s almost unfair.
Seriously – my husband and I spent our honeymoon there and we drank so much incredible wine for so little money it felt like we were stealing.
This particular bottle is from the Bairrada region of Portgual, where the main grape is Baga. It’s native to Portugal, with dark berry fruit and spicy chocolatey notes that always stays light and fresh thanks to its natural acidity. It’s super unusual to find a Baga in Ontario, so I was thrilled when I heard about this wine. Now, it’s not 100% Baga – it’s blended with other local grapes, Touriga-Nacional and Tinto-Roriz (more commonly known as Tempranillo, the grape of Rioja) – but it’s got those lovely flavours, delightful tannins, and bright acidity that I fell in love with in Portugal.
It’s also unoaked, so any smokiness, spiciness, and tannin comes entirely from the grapes. I’m not positive, but I would say that the wine is slightly acidified – you can tell, because when you swirl the wine in the glass you’ll see little crystals stick behind before dropping back into your glass. And that’s probably because 2015 was a hot year (I know, because I was there – you should go, too) and the grapes probably got a bit riper than they should’ve. It’s not ideal, no. But the acidity doesn’t stick out or seem out of place (and those crystals do sometimes show up naturally), so it seemed like a good teachable moment. And you want those, right?
Anyway, go out and grab a couple. Grab 10. I think there are something like 3,000 in the LCBO right now, so finding it should be pretty easy. I paired it with a mushroomy pasta and it was amazing (seriously, the thyme in my dish brought out something really special in the wine) but it’d go really well with all the stews, lamb chops, and heavier fare we’re about to indulge in.
And did I mention it’s a screw top?
Nose: Dark berries, tar, leather, anise, prunes, and mint. It kinda sorta reminded me of a Mencia on the nose.
Palate: Lush, dark fruit with supple, plush tannins. It’s super juicy and delicious, with dark plum and black cherries and blackberries covered in dark chocolate with a savoury herbaceousness on the mid-palate. The acidity is pretty high, so it makes the heavier flavours feel more refreshing than they might otherwise be. This is a food wine, and it definitely needs a bit of a chill (especially if you’re going to drink it on its own). But it’s so good – and so well priced – that opening a bottle with dinner will make any ol’ weeknight feel special.