The Wines from the Setubal Peninsular
When I first came to live here rather a long time ago I spent quite some time in the wine department of Intermarché. I ended up buying half a dozen bottles of totally unknown wines.
By the time a month had gone by I had made two discoveries. First, that Alantejo wines were a mixed bunch, and there were so many of them that it was going to take a lifetime to sort out the good from the average, and that didn’t even allow for the bad.
Secondly, quite by accident, I had chosen three wines from the Peninsular de Setubal, which is an area just south of Lisbon. One was really cheap, €1.99, and although it was not a class wine (at that price would one expect it to be?) it was perfectly drinkable as a table wine. I decided to explore this area more thoroughly.
On the back of one of my bottles was a short introduction to the area. It went like this.
“It all started when the big landlord and beer magnate Jose Ravisco Pais donated his Pegoes estates to the Lisbon State Hospitals. On these properties the government initiated the largest ‘colonisation’ project ever made in Portugal, donating the land to 205 agricultural families which led to the plantation of 850 hectares of vineyards.
The wines from one of these estates was from a company called Pegoes, and the bottle I am looking at right now is called Ravisco Pais, after the original landowner.
I am not about to say this is a top quality wine. What it is, at €3.99, is a perfectly good table wine, which wont let you down.
I drank a few bottles and decided to try a few more from the same region.
Another wine company that I like from the same region is Vinha da Valentina. This company was founded in 1920, and claims to have won 1000 awards.
One of the local grapes used for a lot of these wines is Castelao, which produces a wine similar to that produced by the French grape variety Cabernet Sauvignon. The other well-known grape is the muscat, and the sweet wines of Setubal are known and loved worldwide.
Pegoes, also produces an excellent Muscatel de Setubal. This company was founded in 1958, and I really must take a trip up there and tour the vineyard. When I do, I will definitely write about what I find.
Here is a wine map of Portugal. I cant possibly write up all the regions, or the most drinkable wines. It would take a lifetime to go through the various styles and the multiplicity of vineyards that fill several aisles of the average local supermarket.
I said I was going to start this brief excursion into Portuguese wine by listing some of the Algarvian wines, but realise that I have not enough material to do such a survey. I will spend some time during the week looking at and buying a few assorted bottles and letting you know what I think. One of the most complex wines I have ever drunk comes from the Algarve, and is made from a combination of 18 different grape varieties, which seems unduly complicated, but I seem to remember the wine tasted quite nice.
Next week I’ll uncork a few more bottles.