I had read they were either greenish white wines (vinhos verde) produced with unripe and unflavoured grapes or dense, thick, excessively heavy reds. With the exception of Port, Portuguese wines didn't seem to be that appealing to me.
Then I tasted some of them. And I changed my mind.
Probably everything started that night of 3 years ago in Evora, an inland old Roman city not far from Lisbon, in the 'O Fialho restaurant where a great dinner was paired with a fantastic wine.
My first experience with a wine from Alentejo. The fact that I can't remember the name is due only to my increasing age and the consequent bad effects on my memory but the wine was impressive and perfectly matching the dish of pork with clams (yes you got it right, with clams! And yes it was absolutely ultra-delicious!) I was greedily enjoying.
Curiosity brought me to read a bit more about Portuguese wines. Similarly to the other European countries that have gone through a fascist regime in the last century, such as Spain and Italy, Portugal wine production has been strongly affected by Salazar's dictatorship. His program of cooperativization has certainly been one of the major causes of the country backwardness in viticulture and vinification techniques until recent times.
But, as most experts say, in the last decades there has been a proper revolution thanks to some audacious winemakers.
And even if, for a while these wines have struggled to get the deserved attentions the move to stick to indigenous varietals instead of choosing the 'easily approachable' international ones have proved to be the right one. Nowadays Portuguese wines are not anymore `the next thing`, they are THE thing.
They offer very good quality, competitive prices and a unique sense of place.
And here are a few snapshots of some of my Portuguese favorites...