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The Root of Portugal

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Located in the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula, indeed the southwesternmost of the European continent, Portugal is practically the only Atlantic country in the Old World. Viticulture was introduced variously by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks and Romans. During Pax Romana, ancient Lusitania began exporting wine to the other provinces of the Roman Empire. Due to the often turbulent Franco-British relation, Portugal used to be the main supplier of wine to Britain whenever wars broke out between the neighbours across the Channel. Conversely, British influence in Port and Madeira has been substantial, which can be vividly felt to this day.

Since becoming a full member-state of the EU in 1986, with the influx of assistance and investment, Portuguese viticulture has seen nothing less than a renaissance. Tough reds and oxidised whites of the bygone era have given way to modern styles better suited to the international market. Curiously, thanks its previous isolation, Portugal has preserved such an abundance of indigenous grape varieties, most of which are unique to the country, with the notable exception of Albariño (Portuguese: Alvarinho) and Tempranillo (Portuguese: Aragonez or Tinta Roriz).

Situated in the southeast of Portugal, the dry and warm region of Alentejo is sparsely populated. Production of cork and crops has traditionally been important, but the region has been a driving force of the Portuguese renaissance in past decades. Insisting on using only indigenous grape varieties, Paulo Laureano and his characterful wines are an embodiment of tradition and modernity, offering an interesting snapshot of the very diverse ampelography of Portugal.

Paulo Laureano Dolium Escolha 2011

A single varietal Antão Vaz, indigenous to Alentejo, matured in new French oak barrels with 8 months of bâtonnage. Glossy lemon-yellow with bright sunglow reflex, the lifted and tropical nose offers yuzu peel, pomelo, peach and mirabelle, butterscotch and pistachio. Boasting vibrant acidity and palpable minerality, the concentrated and tropical palate delivers pomelo peel, bergamot, apricot, guava, starfruit and dried herbs. Medium-full bodied at 14.5%, the succulent entry evolves into a rounded mid-palate, leading to a nutty finish. Best served at 12 degrees Celsius.

Paulo Laureano Dolium Reserva 2009

An authentic Portuguese blend of indigenous Aragonez, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet, matured in oak barrels for 18 months. Dark garnet with carmine crimson rim, the aromatic and redolent nose presents black cherry, damson, eucalyptus, allspice, tobacco and leather. Possessing generous acidity and chunky tannins, the herbal and potent palate supplies prune, dried plum, dark chocolate, coffea arabica, bouquet garni and game. Full-bodied at 14.5%, the fruit-driven entry carries onto a grippy mid-palate, leading to a persistent finish. Best served at 16 degrees Celsius.

To discover the charm of traditional Portuguese varieties, contact Ms Bianca Oliveira of Paulo Laureano; W: www.paulolaureano.com; E: bianca.velez.oliveira@gmail.com; T: +853 6201 9306

Jacky I.F. Cheong is a legal professional by day and columnist by night. Having spent his formative years in Britain, France, and Germany, he regularly writes about wine, fine arts, classical music, and politics in several languages.

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