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Alentejo Magic

Dylan here! Yesterday, still energized after seeing an outstanding New York based artist and DJ play in a little bar in the Haight over the weekend (definitely not Simon's cup of tea), I grabbed our recent box of samples and headed over to Simon's for Mozart and a tasting. With my ever-growing knowledge and curiosity of wines, tasting samples with Simon and Vanessa has become more and more exciting to me, and is certainly one of the fun parts of the job. Our exchange of ideas, notes, and impressions continues to deepen and evolve. This week, we even talked of starting a Wine Friends podcast. Can you imagine? Simon and me ranting about wine? That's something I'm looking forward to, hopefully in the near future, so stay tuned.

The vineyards and old cork oak trees of Alentejo, which produce corks used in wine bottles around the world.

We came upon two Portuguese wines this week that are mind-blowingly good. And both are under $20, which is something we love about this wine region. The producer is Terra d’Alter and comes to us from Alentejo, which is about two hours inland from Lisbon. The oenologist, Peter Bright, is an Australian winemaker who has worked all over the world, including Europe and South America, and fell in love with Portugal and it's indigenous varietals. Working with the unique terroir of the flat plains and rolling mountains of Alentejo, he crafts delicious wines full of life. The climate here is dry and hot, and the varied soils are nutrient scarce, creating wines that are wonderfully concentrated, as the vines have to work that much harder to thrive. It also happens to be home to many of the cork trees that are used in wine bottles around the world.


Already aged more than a decade, this white is deeply complex, golden with age and layered to no end. When first opening the bottle you are hit with a saline character that immediately transports you to the seaside. This effect slowly lifts and reveals the wine's concentrated flavor, crisp acidity, and a mouth-watering character. Notes of honeycomb and ripe fruits combine with great structure and intriguing complexity. Alvarinho is more known for regions such as Vinho Verde and Galicia, so this aged expression from Alentejo really surprised us. A glass of this wine goes perfectly with sushi, smoked salmon, oysters and lobster. It is a gift that keeps on giving at $15 - phenomenal!


While the Alvarinho conjures up a beach picnic in the sunshine, this Alicante Bouschet has the opposite effect; a bold, yet easy-drinking red, perfect for the fireplace on a rainy day. You’ll notice the ripe notes of rich black plums, cherry stones, fresh laurel, licorice and tobacco with bold tannins and a great concentration of fruit.

Alicante Bouschet is a cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache, and has been cultivated since the 1800s. Unlike many varietals that are born of chance and environmental need, this grape was thoughtfully and intentionally crafted. Alicante Bouschet experienced a boom during the Phylloxera epidemic, which devastated many competitor vineyards in France, yet to this day it remains somewhat under the radar, despite offering unbelievable value.

Perhaps a Wine Friends trip to Portugal is on the horizon considering the amount of gems we continue to find from this region. For now, these wines and our imaginations will have to suffice. ;)


Simon, Vanessa and Dylan

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