Good Wine is Uncorked, Even in a Bad Economy

Style News Wire | 3/13/2009, 7 p.m.
In today's environment, wine consumers are looking for greater value for the dollar, and the average price per bottle is ...

In today's environment, wine consumers are looking for greater value for the dollar, and the average price per bottle is falling. U.S. wine sales were down almost 3% in the first month of 2009, after being flat in 2008, according to Gomberg, Fredrikson & Associates.

Seeking greater value, many American wine drinkers are discovering Portuguese table wines according to ViniPortugal, the trade association promoting Portuguese wines in international markets.

And while Portuguese wines are generally priced affordably because the costs of production are less than in other leading European wine regions, American consumers are finding to their delight that for the price of a respectable, but unspectacular table wine from California or Australia they can bring home a truly outstanding bottle that displays more flavor, refinement, and uniqueness than they expect.

"I couldn't believe it," said Brett St. Clair, a fifty-year-old, self-proclaimed "beer drinking wine idiot" from New Hampshire.

"I buy on price and I'm accustomed to drinking wines that are either okay or disappointing. But after I bought a couple of bottles of Portuguese wine, I finally understood why people get excited about wine. They were terrific. Different from what I'm used too. My wife doesn't even like wine and she loved these. We're bringing them to dinner parties now and turning our friends on to them."

Eight Portuguese wines were listed in Wine Enthusiast's 2008 "100 Best Buys." Four of those wines scored 90 or above. Four of Portugal's wines were also listed in Wine Spectator's "Top 100" and all of them scored 90 or above.

These high ratings coincide with a jump in sales. Since 2007, sales of Portuguese table wines have jumped by 40 percent in the United States and Portuguese red wine sales increased 125 percent.

At the same time, The Wall Street Journal's Tastings columnists Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher recommended Portuguese reds to their readers as "comforting varietals."

Having steadily invested in its wine making industry for the past 20 years by adding modern equipment, careful cultivation and improving on techniques, Portugal is making the best wines in its long history.

Eight percent of Portugal's distinctive landscape is devoted to vineyards. The result is a wide variety of quality wines, each with their own personality.

In the Wine Enthusiast "100 Best Buys" list, Quinta do Casal Branco 2004 Ribatejo, at $10 a bottle, ranked #3.

The others in the list were:

#14, Dao Sul 2004 Quinta do Gradil (Lisbon), $12

#16, Companhia das Quintas 2005 Morgado Santa Catherina (Bucelas), $14

#29, Casa de Vila Verde 2006 (Vinho Verde), $8

#33, Aveleda 2007 Alvarinho (Vinho Verde), $13

#55, Falua 2006 Conde de Vimioso (Ribatejo), $12

#75, DFJ Vinhos 2005 Vega (Douro), $10

#95, Dow's 2006 Vale do Bomfim (Douro), $12

In Wine Spectator, Quinta do Crasto Douro Reserva Old Vines 2005, at $40, ranked #3 in the Top 100 list.  Also included were:

#57, Sogrape Dão Callabriga 2005, $16

#90, Churchill Douro Churchill Estates 2006,  $24

#98, Niepoort Douro Vertente 2005, $32

Find more information at www.viniportugal.pt.