Wines of the Week: Feb. 25-March 3
Everyday: Portugal doesn’t seem to export any plonk; it’s rare on these shores to come across a Portuguese wine that disappoints. But few provide the whoa-Nelly value of the 2010 Montes Claros Alentejo Reserva ($11), which tastes like it could sell for twice the price. The tannins seem soft at first but kick in at midpalate for a swell mouthfeel and firm but velvety finish. Dark red fruit and a touch o’ chocolate play nicely with the characteristic dustiness of Iberian reds. Braised beef or pork (or, what the hey, chicken) were meant for this rustic red, but burgers, brats and pizza are fine options as well.
Occasion: I’m a sucker for wines that start off like simple fruit bombs and then jolt the palate with energetic minerality. The 2008 Rudera “Robusto” Chenin Blanc ($23) is just such a mouth-brightener, with the very ripe, slightly sweet fruit-cocktail flavors quickly leavened by just-taut-enough acidity. Robusto, indeed. And clean, cool, refreshing. The vines are 30 years old, but thankfully the wine no longer is dunned with the name “Steen” (which is what South Africans used to call chenin). Try it with soft cheeses, creamy soups, salads with shrimp or chicken or barbecued anything.