Wine On

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 May, 2004, 12:00am


Segada 2002, $98

The wine industry in Portugal received a kick in the collective backside when the country joined

the European Union in 1986. Apart from the well-organised port-wine sector and a few famous vineyards, winemaking was very Portuguese - casual and relaxed but not known

for modern efficiency. The European community rules changed this.

Gone are the days of affable reds

in large jars without labels: winemakers now have to play

by the rules that govern their French and German counterparts. The country has recognised demarcations and all the other trappings of the modern wine business. More than 2,500 years after the Phoenicians first planted vines in the Alentejo, Portuguese wines are suddenly trendy. This one - a blend of trincadeira, preto and castelao - is very drinkable. The price is right and so is the flavour, a tingly mixture of vanilla and natural juice. Like a lot of the good wines of the Ribatejo region, this accompanies spicy foods with aplomb.

Watson's (tel: 2147 3641)

Quinta do Carmo 1999, $212

The dominant fruit in this highly appetising red is the classic Portuguese grape, trincadeira. There is also alicante bouschet, periquita and aragonez, and certainly some cabernet sauvignon and shiraz.

The result is an elegant wine that is worth its price for a special occasion. The estate was once owned by the Portuguese royal family and is in a beautiful location on prime grape-bearing soil. The Basto family owned the winery for generations, but in 1992 Domaine Baron de Rothschild (owners of Chateau Lafite) bought

50 per cent of the estate. The partnership has elevated this drop to glory. Don't just drink this wine: take it with you to a nice restaurant, pay corkage and enjoy it with your favourite roast meat.

Omtis (tel: 2333 0241)

Cortes de Cima Chamine 2000, $188

In the late summer the plains and gently rolling hills of the Alentejo region bake under relentless blue skies. The grapes love it, maturing to full ripeness. The owners of this 50-hectare estate are leading winemakers who marry Portugal's ancient traditions with modern techniques. The blend of two distinctive Portuguese grapes - aragonez and trincadeira - makes for a stunningly perfumed bouquet of cherries and berries. It has a rare intensity of taste and there is ample tannin from the oak to balance the powerful fruit. I drank it at a Sichuan restaurant while enjoying a fiery chilli chicken dish - terrific!

Appellation Wine Cellar

(tel: 2866 6335)