£20, The Wine Society
In view of the weather, I almost changed to a white wine this week, the intense, fragrant, beautifully chiselled old-vine Vinho Verde Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas Alvarinho 2020 (see below), but I was drawn back to the red Zagalos Reserva because, although it's undeniably full-bodied, freshness courses through the rich redcurrant and black fruit, the green herb and graphite notes and the tannins are effortlessly smooth – so much so, that it works well drunk really quite cool, but equally it doesn’t go soupy even if it hits 18ºC.
The blend of essentially indigenous Portuguese varieties, Trincadeira (50%), Aragonez (30%) and Alicante Bouschet with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, is aged for a year in used French and Portuguese oak casks, so there’s no overt oak flavour. And while it’s pretty irresistible now at five years old, it will gain depth and nuance over the next five years.
Quinta do Mouro is an estate in the large Alentejo region in the southeast of Portugal, which was planted with its first six hectares of vines in 1989 by current owner and winemaker Miguel Louro and now extends to 33ha of mostly indigenous varieties.
The 2017 Zagalos goes well with meat – lamb especially – with sautéed chicken livers and with duck, but its easy smoothness and freshness make it a match for vegetable-based dishes, too, as well as hard and semi-hard cheeses (I enjoyed it with Chistéra, a goat’s and sheep’s milk cheese from the Pays Basque). And it would add lustre to any barbecue. 14%. Empty bottle weight: 553g
Quinta do Mouro Zagalos Reserva 2017, Alentejano, Portugal
£20, The Wine Society
If this has whetted you appetite for Portuguese fine wines, I can recommend the Wine Society’s six-bottle mixed case (£128). It shows what distinction and good value there is at higher price levels in Portugal. The other five wines are the Soalheiro Primeiras Vines Alvarinho (see above) and four wines from the stellar producer Niepoort: a red and a particularly thrilling white Dão (in over-heavy bottles unfortunately), a graceful, approachable red Douro and a polished barrel-fermented white Douro).