I am about to make a bold statement, but I stand by it 100%. The white wines of Alentejo, Portugal are some of the most exciting ones produced today. Though the sunshine-filled, arid region is best known for crafting robust but approachable red wines from native varieties at incredibly affordable prices, the white wines will keep you coming back to the area for more.
Like its neighbor to the east (that would be Spain), I have a deep love for the wines of Portugal. For generations, the fruity, spritzy white wines of Vinho Verde in the north were the key exports from the country.
Thankfully, white wines from the southern region of Alentejo are actively being imported, allowing us to get our hands on these beauties. Lying inland from Lisbon, just to the west of the border of Spain, Alentejo covers almost 1/3 of the country. It is the home of most of the cork production in the country, as well as fragrant, spicy olive oil. The region is flat and filled with granite, schist, marble, and limestone soils, giving distinct minerality to the structure and complexity of these well-rounded wines. White wines are crafted from a mix of varieties, led by Antão Vaz, Arinto, and Roupeiro.
Don’t let the fact you may not have heard of most of these varieties, much less can pronounce them. You don’t have to. Most of the wines are a blend. Just look for the word “branco” meaning white, on the bottle. Serve each very cold and and within the first few years of release. Pair each selection with seafood, shellfish, summer pasta, roasted vegetables, and white meats. Trust me, the wines are delicious.
One of the region’s largest and most reputable producers of both wine and olive oil is Esporao. I had a chance to visit the winery years ago, and falling in love with the wines produced from organically farmed soils then. Happily, the wines are relatively easy to find and incredibly accessible (many selections under $20.) Herdade do Esporão Colheita Branco ($18) is racy, clean, and fresh with layers of white flowers, golden citrus, tropical fruits, and crushed stone.
From a blend of Verdelho, Arinto, andAntão Vaz, Adega de Redondo Porta da Ravessa Special Edition White ($14) is clean, racy, and vibrant. Citrus and soft herbs open the palate of the energetic wine, followed by refreshing white fruit cocktail notes. Crisp and clean, the wine has a nice balance of structure with easy-going style.
Marques de Borba Colheita White 2021 is a complete steal for $13 a bottle. Crafted from an Arinto, Antão Vaz, and Viognier blend, the wine melds bright yellow citrus with soft stone fruit flavors of golden peach and apricot. There is a subtle crushed stone mineral note from the limestone and schist-filled soils, making it perfectly quaffable on its own or with food.
From old vines of Arinto, Ferano Pires, Siria, and Bical, sitting at 2100+ feet elevation, Adega de Portalegre Winery Conventual DOC Reserva White 2018 ($25) is a richer, more full-bodied selection aged in a combination of French and American oak. Though the oak adds complexity and toasted spice and creaminess, the wine remains clean and fresh. Flavors of lemon-lime, honey, and spice meld with crushed stone and marzipan throughout the well-rounded wine.
From the Symington Family of Wines (i.e. the famed Port producers of Dows, Graham’s, and Cockburn’s) ($30) blends 75% Arinto with 25% Verdelho to create a structured, textured wine with orchard fruit, fresh cream, and toasted brioche. The wine balances freshness and acidity with ripe, sun-drenched fruit, and complex style.