Portugal has been making very good sparkling wines in the traditional Champagne method for many years. It was originally all focused on the Bairrada region but recently it has been difficult to keep up with the number of new launches from wine producers all over the country and with the special vintages that have appeared on the market from top producers such as Murganheira and Vértice.
Browsing the sparkling wine and Champagne shelves at Apolónia these days is a rather daunting experience such is the range of choice in all price ranges. In the Portuguese section, bubbles from producers such as Filipa Pato start from around €7 and are difficult to beat in terms of value for money, even when compared with the Cavas on offer from Spain. But let’s up the ante a little and see what is available in terms of real substitutes for mainstream Champagne.
Last weekend I discovered this lovely example from Real Companhia Velha, Portugal’s oldest existing wine producer that comes in a very attractively designed bottle and accompanying gift box for €19.95.
The blend is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the two main grapes used in most Champagne, and it has clearly been created with the aim of appealing to Champagne lovers. The colour is pale golden with fine persistent bubbles, mature white fruit and brioche notes on the nose, and a subtly creamy mouth-feel that ticks all the boxes for anyone wishing to find a less expensive substitute for Champagne that is proudly Portuguese.
Moving up the price range, we have vintages from Murganheira such as the excellent Czar Grand Cuvée Rosé Brut 2005 at €34.95 and others in a similar price range from Douro producer Vértice. Another label to look out for is Hibernus, a small Bairrada producer that makes a superb rosé at €22.95 and an even more impressive vintage brut.
By PATRICK STUART firstname.lastname@example.org