Wine of the Week: A Delicious Portuguese Quaffer

This weekend found us at Canyon Lake where Tracie P's family (they're from Orange) takes their summer vacation every year. The menu at the lake varies very little and the fare is invariably lip-smackingly delicious. This year my favs were Tracie P's King Ranch Chicken and my mother-in-law Mrs. B's crock-pot pulled pork.

With the many flavors going on here -- some intense, like Buc-ee's sweet pickled jalapeños, some more muted but equally distinct like Doritos Cool Ranch chips -- I needed an approachable grapey and easy-going red wine. So I reached in my cooler for a bottle of the 2008 Crasto by the Crasto winery in Douro, Portugal, which I had picked up at the Houston Wine Merchant for under $20.

Portugal is best known for its production of Vinho do Porto, Porto, or Port Wine -- the fortified red wine, (spirits are added to red wine to stabilize it before long-term aging). But, as any young wine professional will tell you, Portugal has increasingly been gaining recognition for its production of wonderful and wonderfully affordable red table wines, like this one, which uses the same principal grape varieties used in Port -- in this case, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca, and Touriga Nacional.

Tinta Roriz is Portugal's name for Tempranillo, and as for Spain's perhaps more famous appellations where Tempranillo is grown, the Tinta Roriz gives this wine some tannic structure while the other grapes impart grapey and black cherry flavors. Slightly chilled (don't be afraid to chill down your reds during the hot Texas summer!), the wine was the perfect complement to our family vacation's main attractions, as well as all the other side dishes, like red beans cooked with a ham bone, sautée green beans with onions, potato salad, and corn pudding.

But the thing I liked the best about this wine -- beyond its excellent price-quality ratio -- was the fact that it didn't taste like California, France, Spain, or Italy for that matter. It tasted like an honest wine made by honest folk, using native grapes grown in vineyards suited for their cultivation (as opposed to international grapes, grown in vineyards better suited to local varieties) -- an earnest and happy wine that spoke to me of its "place" and the people who made and drink it.

That's what I look for in wine when it's for sharing with people I love.

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