Portugal, not the man nor the band, but the country, flanking the western border of Spain, a nation with too much history to only be mentioned in passing—once thus far on my countdown to five hundred wines–is a place that I really need to pay more attention to. Aside from Port wines, which I drink with frequency, I generally pass over the red (and white) wines alike, for the neighboring Spanish wines when I am looking to drink hearty earthy offerings. However, on a whim, I decided it would be best to shake it up and grab a seven-fifty from Central Portugal as a warm-up to a Port.

In my mind there was nothing special about the “Saes” wine from Quinta de Pellada (#167). For about eleven dollars I had a bottle of unassuming red with simple packaging, nothing declarative, and I was certainly unaware of the contents. I opened the bottle quickly, once home, pouring a little into my stemware to encourage a transformation to take place—a kind gesture to any wine. While preparing dinner I would give the nose a sniff, intermittently, detecting a mixture of red berries, worn leather and polish. Not bad and certainly not funky like I had imagined. It seemed slightly more “old world” based on nasal impressions because the fruit was present but not overly expressive. When it came time to taste it, I was relieved; the wine was medium-bodied, with an oily texture as I swooshed the liquid in my mouth to parse out the particulars. I detected a bit of dusty fruit, a little earth and some slight wood and the wine left a surprisingly long finish with smoother tannins. The blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Jaen and Alfrocheiro was new to me yet agreeable. It was like meeting someone that you know you would be forging a relationship with down the line. I got my money’s worth and then some with the Saes, and it was onto the Port.

The Smith Woodhouse “Lodge Reserve” Port (#166) was another effort representing good value–roughly twenty dollars for a bottle of fortified wine. I poured a miniscule amount of the wine to get the gist. The viscosity was mild and the nose was moderately powerful of fruit, raisins, nuts and caramel. The usual fragrances but on the palate it was a changeup, lighter and less goopy in style. The wine was medium body with persistent fruit that stayed with me long after putting the glass down. The delicious factor was way up, not too sweet or viscous, this Smith Woodhouse Lodge Reserve Port was unique.

I was pleased with my excursion via the bottle to Portugal; the value was there in two extremely different wines, one savory and one sensibly sweet. I am positive my Portugal awareness will increase exponentially since this was just the jumping off point.