Whoa. Last week was a rough one for the ol' economy, huh? And things were looking so good for awhile there... Sorry your houses are worthless and your retirements' are shot and you don't have jobs, America. How about a cheap drink? Don't reach for the Night Train just yet; I got another pair of great ones for ya.
So I love Portuguese Wines. And fortunately for me, no one else does! For a country that has historically been in the top 10 by production and acreage under vine, Vinho Verde notwithstanding, Portugal is pretty poorly represented on American shelves. This is partly because of Port, of course; the vast amount of Portugal's exports consist of these big beautiful fortified wines. The Portuguese also consume an incredible amount of their own wine. When I was over there, it was pretty well impossible to find a bottle of wine that wasn't home grown. But really, the demand is just not there, which absolutely sucks for selection, but is a boon for pricing.
The large Portuguese wine firm Esperao produces a fine range of wines, and I just recently came across their value brand, Alandra, at Potomac Wine and Spirits. Alandra is apparently named for a Moorish princess, with whom a Portguese governor was in love, and the flowers she gave him when they parted ways forever.... or something. It's quite confusing. Esporao's website is really poorly translated, and this ancient, convoluted love story (you can read the rest here) is pretty much all the information they are willing to give up about these wines.
I tried Googling "Alandra," and all I got was an online hen-party shop in Great Britian ("Racing Willies"?! Ack!). Lets just assume that both the red and the white are made with the usual array of unpronouncable native varietals, and take the back label's word that they are "made with love and with yearning, smooth and eternal like the nameless flower which blooms every year in memory of an eternal love."
The Alandra white pours a pale straw yellow with green accents. Lemon and lime notes dominate the nose, with a slightly grassy tinge, and a hint of something creamy. Lots of yellow fruit like apple, pear and pineapple on the front of this very lightly sweet, slightly effervescent wine, which has a surprisingly round and creamy texture. The finish is slightly woody and dry, with a nice acidic citrus zing.
The Alandra red has a beautiful deep, opaque garnet color. The nose is characteristically meaty and gamey, but also redolent of cinnamon and dried berries; very concentrated, and almost port-like. More concentrated berries on the palate with a bit of a musky note. The wine has a quite a bit of tannin considering its light frame, and plenty of tangy acid on the finish.
Both wines are unusually complex, particular given their respective prices, with the red running $5.99 a bottle, and the white an amazing $4.99! American's have grown accustomed to their cheap wines being fruity and sweet, but bland. If you want something a bit more interesting in your everyday drinker, check these iconoclasts out. I know they are carried by Potomac Wine and Spirits, but if you have a favorite local retailer, have them check out the importer Aidil Wines & Liquors, and see what they can do.