WHEN was the last time you picked up a bottle of Portuguese wine?
While you may still have that bottle of Dow's Late Bottled Vintage kicking around (that Uncle Winston brought last Christmas), chances are it's been a while since you wrapped your chops around a good Portuguese red. But that could be about to change.
While port continues in the doldrums, Portuguese table wine sales in British Columbia are growing as people are rediscovering the value from Spain's smaller neighbour.
Although Barb Philip (Canada's first female Master of Wine and BCLS European portfolio manager) suggests it's time we stopped lumping Portugal in with its Iberian big brother.
"Portugal's niche, food-friendly wines in fact have more in common with Italy," says Philip.
As New World wine drinkers, we've become accustomed to identifying everything by variety. But when it comes to Portugal that can challenging, especially if you're intent on knowing (let alone pronouncing) what's in the bottle.
With a history of viticulture that dates back to Roman times, Portugal is home to some of the oldest vineyards in the world. Many wines are still made from "field blends" where varieties are grown, harvested and fermented together.
Last week's tasting presented by Philip and her husband Iain (senior instructor at The Art Institute) yielded plenty of evidence why Portugal's on the rise, and not just for reds.
Here's a few worthy picks to help stock the holiday cellar.
? Dao Sul Cabriz Espumante Bruto
If you just remember Cabriz Bruto you'll be doing fine. Plenty of sparkle, with soft fruity notes and a clean fresh finish. $14.99 BCLS 87 pts
? Casa das Gaeiras Branco, Lisboa (formerly Estremadura)
Citrus and grapefruit with tropical undertones, mineral hints and good length. BCLS $14.99, 90 pts.
? Quinta do Crasto Branco 2010, Douro
Citrus and floral notes on top followed by a well-balanced palate with pleasing fruitiness and clean acidity. $24.99, 89 pts
? Quinta do Chocapalha Arinto, Lisboa.
Vibrant zesty notes on top followed by clean and juicy lemon lime and mineral hints. Oysters please! BCLS $17.99 88 pts.
? Parras Cavalo Bravo 2009, Tejo
Fresh 'n' fruity, up-front red berry intro but follows through with definite grip that cries out for something hearty like pork 'n' clams or chorizo, maybe? BCLS $12.98, 88 pts
? Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita Reserva 2010, Setubal
Vibrant berries plus quite perfumed top followed by fruit-forward, gently peppery palate wrapped in easy tannins and juicy acidity. 89 pts. BCLS $15.99 (on special through December)
? Capitao Rayeo Reserva 2009, Alentejano
This modern style red blend epitomizes the new face of Portuguese table wines. Juicy dark fruits such as black cherry and mulberry with easy tannins and a plush mouthfeel. Tastes more than BCLS $14.99, 89 pts.
Tim Pawsey covers food and wine for numerous publications and online as the Hired Belly at hiredbelly.com. He is also a frequent judge for competitions. Follow him at rebelmouse.com/ hiredbelly, Twitter @hiredbelly or email email@example.com.