When I think of Portuguese wines, other then Vinho verde, white wine is not what springs to mind. I'm thinking big, robust, tannic, or sweet, thick and vintage. The Portuguese however are really working hard to change our perceptions and expectations of what kind of wine comes out of their vineyards.
I attended a tasting at the Portuguese Embassy not long ago highlighting the top whites of Portugal. The wines were selected by Charles Metcalfe, Sarah Jane Evans MW and David Lopes Ramos, all authorities on Portuguese wine, sponsored by the Independent Winegrowers' Association. There were 61 wines from 51 producers. It's exciting to learn that there are so many new (to me) white wines coming from Portugal.
The lions share of whites came from the Douro but there were also representatives from most of the other wine producing regions of Portugal, even one from the Azores. What I find most interesting is the sheer exoticness of varietals that are used. Grapes like Antao Vaz, Arinto, Terrantez, Roupeiro, Encruzado, Bical, Cercial, Gouveio, Viosinho, Rabigato, Malvasia fina, and my favourite, if only because of it's name, Maria Gomes. All so alluring and romantic, even more so when said in Portuguese, to these ears that are more accustomed to French or even Italian varietal names.
And overall, the quality was excellent. The wines ran the gamut from light and fruity to full bodied and elegant, with plenty of fruit character but still able to go harmoniously with a meal. Of course, there were wines I didn't particularly care for, but in general all were well made and only the samples at the very low end of the price spectrum were disappointing but then again what can you expect for 2 euros?
For some new and exciting white wines, Portugal is definitely worth seeking out.