Portuguese rosé - Gastronomic rosés from the Atlantic

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Sumi @sumiliertasting and Liz @elizabeth.gabaymw meet up this time to present wines from three different regions of Portugal 🇵🇹 (Vinho Verde, Douro and Tejo). High quality rosé wines that show brilliance and vibrancy of fruit, searing acidity and equally the power of fruit that can take on exotic mix of unusual fragrant spices and flavours- be it pungent, smoky or savoury. Watch this full episode to see the varied spices, garnishes, coconut based and vegan steak dishes that beautifully match these understated wines. Only on #iloverocknrosé! Recipes and availability coming out soon on the website rocknrose.wine. It’s rosé wines all the way! 😊 Wines presented in this session are @quintabarca @quintadocasalbranco @andremiranda2967 #casalventozela @nick.oakley.7186 @teixeirajustina . . . #wine #roséwine #winesofportugal #winetasting #sumiliertasting #elizabethgabaymw #masterofwine #foodandwine #mwstudent #wineexperts #asianspices #goanfood #vegan #winestagram . @winesofportugaluk @anasofiaoliveira

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Portuguese wine is strongly associated with Mateus Rosé, once the biggest selling rosé in the world. Created to have mass market appeal, it brought attention to Portugal’s table wine – and income – and has remained for many the face of Portugal’s rosés. Sadly this means that many consumers are not trying other Portuguese rosés, which, as we found, are not only excellent - good with food - but also remarkably good value.

Portugal is a long narrow country with a strong maritime influence and a wide variety of terroirs. These lend themselves to extra freshness despite their southern latitude and traditionally some residual sugar has been left in the white and rosé wines to counter the high acidity. Unique varieties add to the unique character of these wines.


I originally tasted the wines of Quinta da Barca in 2018 and was very excited by their beautiful character (see my blog post Strawberry Fields on Schist… forever), so was very excited to try the latest vintages (2018) and the new premium wine, and to match them with food.

The wines come from relatively young vineyards, around 20 years old, in the westerly Baixo-Corgo region of the Douro, on the border of Duoro and Vinhos Verde. With plenty of sun and the cooling influences from the Atlantic the wines have great concentrated ripeness and amazing acidity. The vineyards are planted with 50% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Francisca, 20% Tinta Roriz and 10% Touriga Franca (all varieties used to make red Port) on schist slopes. The percentage in the blend varies from vintage to vintage.

Justina Teixeira, the owner and winemaker decided to not produce a paler, more international style, but aimed at a more gastronomic rosé with 24 hours skin contact for a darker, intense fruit style with good structure and acidity. But it was not until Piotr Wolkowski came with a group of journalists and tasted a vertical of the 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 vintages that she realised her rosé had the potential for ageing. I also tasted her older rosés – the 2014 is still vibrantly youthful, showing how well these wines are able to age.

Busta 2018, Quinta da Barca, (unoaked) With its pale red colour and 13% alcohol, promises lots of body and structure, and it does not disappoint. Full of ripe cherry and watermelon fruit, mouth wateringly high wild berry fruit acidity, long dry finish and velvety tannins whispering through on the finish. Rich, intense, fresh and vibrant, the complete antithesis of a pale swimming pool rosé.

I matched this with some canapés on little rounds of toast: one with black olive paste with sweet black olive fruit and a salty tang – sweeter than the more pungent tapenade – made by a local olive grower in the hills above Nice; the other a beetroot hummus flavoured with pickled ginger, lime juice and garlic. I aimed at a mix of sweet fruit and saltiness to match the wine.

Beetroot Hummus

After considering the success of how well their rosé aged, Justina and her team decided to experiment and try and ferment some rosé in new, French oak barrels with medium toast, that they also use for their white wines. So, in 2017 they fermented some rosé in a barrique and made 400 bottles of rosé. The barrels used were new with medium toast, I was able to taste one of the 400, which is still very oak dominated. The wine was bottled in May 2018 and quickly sold out with the market appreciating that this wine would age well and go well with food, including quite spicy food.

The Busta Premium 2018, Quinta da Barca is the second vintage of this barrel fermented rosé. A pale cherry red with beautifully integrated oak, the creamy, strawberry fruit is lifted by the oaky sweetness. Long fresh acidity, full bodied ripe fruit structure and a subtle tannic finish, the silky creaminess of the wine reminded me of white Burgundy with red fruit

Check out the recipe for my spicy bean stew

I took up the challenge to match this with a full bodied meal of saffron rice, watermelon steaks and a spicy bean and pepper stew. Watermelon steaks are my new discovery, which when I first came across I first thought was a crazy idea. When fried they take on a gently seared tuna steak character. With flavours of orange, chilli, peppers and spice in the stew and the red fruit of the watermelon I managed to match the complexity of the rosé.

Check out the recipe for my watermelon steak

Both wines showed beautiful fresh elegance for drinking on their own and plenty of weight, structure and character to be excellent gastronomic wines.

Thanks to Justina Teixeira for supplying the wines.

A number of Port houses are now making dry table wines, including rosé (and pink Port). Several different styles are emerging, following the different terroirs, ranging from the cooler western vineyards to the hot eastern end of the appellation. As yet there is no distinct Douro style emerging, ranging from pale, unoaked through to oaked and darker styles. The local varieties seem to give good structural wines. These wines from Quinta da Barco are amongst the most fruity and complex examples.


Casal de Ventozela is a relatively new winery founded in 1983 in DOC Vinho Verde and now run by André Miranda the son-in-law in the current family. over the last 20 years they have progressively grown into a 45 ha vineyard, making wines from their own vines and producing over 300,000 bottles.

Vinho Verde is the northern-most belt of Portugal, very close to the Atlantic coast facing cool breezy maritime climate and heavily influenced by the Gulf stream that moderates the temperatures adding heavy rains, upto 1100 mm a year. Espadeiro, their rosé wine (pronounced as shpa-dey-ro) is a red grape, key to the region and because of cool growing season produces wines with soft tannins and therefore best known for producing delicate rosé wines. This rosé wine is made by gentle direct pressing of no more than 0.6 bars and fermentation is carried on in steel tanks at 14-16C. The winery is in the process of modernising its site and technique which should be ready by 2021. They have invested in digital temperature monitoring equipment and modern pneumatic presses to control the quality of pressings and surrounding temperatures during and post fermentation.

I visited the estate in 2019 after a trip to Douro and it was a total contrast to the terroir of Douro wines being much cooler and flatter in landscape. The estate grows most of its grapes on degraded granitic soils (as opposed to schist soils of Douro). Granitic soils are key to retaining fresh acidity and creating taut, minerally driven wines that are aromatic but also accessible when they are young. Espadeiro rosé wine has zesty lemon, peach, redcurrant and strawberry notes and is light bodied at 11.5% abv showing high searing acidity that makes it vibrant and lively on the palate. Pedro Campos has been the winemaker who also takes a lot of interest in viticulture and together with the viticultural team, has worked hard to improve sustainability and structure of soils using minimal herbicides, adding cover crops where needed and changing to sylvoz style of training and increasing density of vines to promote competition and gain sustainable and focused yields.

To pair with this fresh, fruity and light wine, I decided to challenge the wine if it can take higher levels of spices. So, I prepared a simple Four Bean Salad but with a complex mix of spicy and savoury garnish of Black Salt and Chaat masala.

Check out Sumi's four-bean salad recipe

Black salt, a garnish used commonly in North of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan is a Himalayan derived mineralised salt that has been heated in a furnace inside a closed ceramic jar with wood chips, herbs and charcoal. The resulting salt takes on savoury smoky and highly pungent notes on account of Iron Sulphide in the rocks that get reduced to Hydrogen Sulphide giving off strong eggy notes..

Chaat masala traditionally made at home in families, can also be bought from a store. In essence it’s a mix of varied spices such as cumin, coriander, mace, cardamom, cloves but with a strong core of dried raw mango powder that makes it a sour based spice mix.

Both these make a salad intensely spicy, savoury, smoky and sour and it was this array of complex flavours in the salad that I wished to test against the Vinho Verde rosé wines. Amazingly, the pairing was lip-smacking with the freshness and fruitiness of the wine quenching the sharpness and savouriness of spices. Most importantly the low alcohol of 11.5%, off dry 9g/l residual sugar was supremely balanced with the wine’s crisp and refreshing acidity that helped to balance off spiced flavours adding cooling vibes. The wine was subtle and played the role of a remarkably understated and hence a firm supportive base to this intensely nuanced food. Vinho Verde rosés can elegantly take on such intense savoury, mineral, sour and sweet flavours. Their versatility should not be undermined!

These wines are imported by Peter Osborne Wines in the UK through partnership with Oakley Wine agencies and available through independents such as Slurp.

Quinta do Casal Branco) an established producer of IGP Tejo, produces a large range of wines from their 140 ha vineyards. The winery owned by the family Braamcamp Sobral Lobo de Vascolences who started this winery at the end of 18th century and José Lobo de Vasconcelos has been running it since 1986. The family moved their vines twenty years ago from high yielding alluvial soils to sandy and limestone soils to improve the quality of production.

Tejo has warmer summer temperatures than Vinho Verde, although it still enjoys maritime climate due to cool coastal Atlantic influences. Red grapes take more prominence as a result in this region and common reds are Aragonez, Touriga Nacionale and Alicante Bouschet.

Capoeira brand is directed to supermarkets of the UK and has a big market in Brazil. Terra de Lobos is exactly the same brand but directed towards independents. In the UK, it is sold by Merchant Vintners Group and available through Tanners, Adnams, Weavers of Nottingham, Portland wine company and made available through Oakley Wine agencies. The winery make rosé as a very small part of production under its production.

The 2019 vintage Capoeira rosé wine by Casal Branco is a deep salmon colour and is mix of 60% Touriga Nacionale and 40% Syrah. Syrah adds crisp red fruit, lifted acidity and peppery notes giving a good balance to the otherwise tannic grippiness of Touriga Nacionale. Touriga Nacionale has a high skin-pulp ratio and adds density of fruit and colour to the blend. The resulting wine has candied strawberry and cherry flavours with notable mid palate weight and the wine finishes slightly off dry at 4g/l of residual sugar that balances well with the acidity and moderate alcohol of 12%. Dina Luis is the winemaker and has been responsible for steering the winemaking giving it a modern style but retaining some of the traditional flavours.

To pair with this wine, I prepared a Goanese dish Vegetable Xacuti (pronounced as Sha-gu-ti). There are heavy Portuguese influences on West Indian traditions as a result of colonisation of the northern parts of Malabar coast by Vasco Da Gama in the 1500s. Introduction of spices from India has hugely influenced Portuguese cuisine as well. Xacuti is one such staple curry distinct to Goanese cuisine.

This is a rich and creamy gravy that pairs beautifully with the fleshy and fruity style of Casal Branco’s rosé wine. As the tannins are mild and soft, this dish would go smoothly with the fragrant and lifted aromatics of Casal Branco rosé . If you wish you may add fish or prawns to it. But as a vegan curry this is rich and creamy on its own.

Check out my Vegetable Xacuti recipe

Portuguese rosé wines are multi-dimensional and depending on the grape varietals, regions and wine making techniques, can take on diverse cuisines – rich, light, starchy as well as spiced dishes. This can make them slightly confusing to pair and therefore knowledge of the regions can be a great starting point to get acquainted with these wines. The common theme for rosé wines from Portugal is their refreshing and fruity attributes. To this, the attributes of diverse landscapes, soils and climate creates multiple expressions in these wines, that is a huge strength to Portugal but also one that can be misconstrued as a weakness if consumers are not aware of them. Our episode aims to clarify and bring out these hidden secrets and nuances of Portuguese rosé wines.