Wine insiders have started clamoring for an untapped and underappreciated wine region of Western Europe. Say hello to Portugal, recently featured at the Colorado Springs Wine Festival.
“The wines of Portugal are very reasonably priced for their quality,” says Chelle Mason, manager at Coaltrain Wine & Spirits and a key contributor to the festival. “We hope this year’s festival will open people’s eyes to Portugal’s still wines and the truly unique qualities of ports and Madeiras.”
Portugal is best known for three of its manifold wines: The magnum opus port wine, the crowd-pleasing and sparkling Vinho Verde and its resurgent classic, Madeira wine. Although it lacks the global reputation of its European neighbors, such as France and Spain, Portugal proves to be a stalwart wine origin.
An ongoing goal of the 28-year-old Colorado Springs Wine Festival has been the oenological education of participants, says Jim Little, Coaltrain owner. “This festival is distinct from other Colorado wine festivals because of our focus around a theme or region.” Previous festival themes have focused on biodynamic wines, women in wine, and other wine regions such as southern France, South Africa and Washington state. The regional theme continued this year with Portugal.
This year’s festival included eight breakout seminars for attendees to take a deeper dive into the fortified wines of Porto and Madeira or sample from Portuguese’s 13 viticultural areas such as the Douro Valley—the world’s first regulated and demarcated wine region. As always, there was a wealth of wine to imbibe at the festival. However, with Portugal’s 250 or more indigenous grape varieties, even this multifaceted festival only skimmed the surface—leaving good reason for wine lovers to explore on their own.
The choice to focus the festival on Portugal was far from arbitrary. Consumer demand for Portuguese varietals has been on the rise. And domestic sales of wine in generally have followed an upward trajectory.
“General market trend in the United States is of growing wine and liquor consumption, and shrinking beer consumption,” explains Gregor Huesgen, owner of Downtown Fine Spirits and Wines.
And Portuguese wine? “We have seen an uptick in demand for Ports and Madeira,” he says. “This category [of fortified wines], while still very small, is growing. The consumer is switching to more of a cocktail culture, especially here in the downtown area where we have many independent restaurants and bars opening up with more extensive cocktail menus.”
Huesgen says bartenders are using Portuguese fortified wines as ingredients in cocktails. And it’s the Portuguese ports, Madeiras and Vinho Verdes that are seeing a jolt in popularity. Demand for dry wines (those not fortified and with larger percentages of residual sugars) appears to be flat. “While we have seen a demand growth in Vinho Verde from Portugal, both white and rosé, other Portuguese wines have seen sales growth in line with our general sales growth in the store,” Huesgen says.
Huesgen says some form of marketing and brand-recognition would benefit the Portuguese wine sector. “I would think that Portugal could do a better job in educating the consumer about their wines and grapes,” he says. “This could lead to higher demand, especially as the quality versus price point would be in their favor.”
Whether unearthed at the Colorado Springs Wine Festival or simply at your local wine shop, the discovery of Portuguese wines is a boon for any wine lover. From the fortified beauties to the drinking-beyond-their-price-point reds, it’s best to stock your collection before the rest of the world figures out the same.
Watch for next year’s Colorado Springs Wine Festival at coloradospringsconservatory.org/wine