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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
5 May 2009

From €7.27, £7.99, 16.40 Swiss francs, $14.98, Aus$26.29, Ca$23 crastobottle

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This week's wine is a seriously fine offering from Portugal at a knock down price that is widely available around the world. Quite how they manage to produce such high quality in what must be very substantial quantity I do not know, but I have chosen it to coincide with Portuguese week on this site.

Today we publish tasting notes on as many as 200, mainly fine, Portuguese wines and on Thursday we'll publish Julia's notes from an historic tasting of Dãos back to the 1950s, but this an example of the sort of table wine now being produced in the Douro valley, the home of port. According to www.winesearcher.com, it is currently on sale in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Germany, Portugal, Switzerland, Poland, Belgium and chez both Swedish and Norwegian monopolies.

Typically for a good Portuguese wine, it is more expensive in its homeland than in some key export markets, notably Germany; Portugal's newfound wine culture has served to inflate domestic wine prices. In the UK you can find it at a wide range of independent merchants and at both Booth's and Majestic (though you have to buy two bottles at Majestic to bring the price down to the standard £7.99 a bottle offered at Booth's).

Fuelled by Portuguese demand, or at least reclame, many of the new breed of table wines from the Douro are pretty eye-wateringly expensive nowadays, but this is a delightful exception. It may not last as long as some of the more expensive examples but it already drinking well. Yet, like any decent Douro red, has a reassuring structural framework, filled in with spicy, ripe, engaging fruit with a whiff of warm minerals about it. No shortage of character – and one to drink at the table rather than without food.

Quinta do Crasto is a widely admired wine farm (quinta) on the north bank of the Douro just south of the town of Pinhão that has been extensively renovated by the Roquette family, descendants by marriage of the owners since the early 20th century of a property with a long history, as the picture shows. Although they make a series of varietal wines, a couple of single-vineyard bottlings and Xisto in conjunction with the Cazes family of Ch Lynch Bages, Quinta do Crasto, Crasto 2007 Douro Red is their main product and the Roquettes are busy replanting and acquiring new vineyards. According to these production details on the very effective www.quintodocrasto.pt, 450,000 bottles of this 2007 were made, from a vintage that is about to unleash a series of vintage ports on us (I will be tasting and reporting on them later this month). Vines are at least 20 years old, planted on the Douro's characteristic schist (doubtless responsible for those warm mineral flavours), and varieties are the classic port grapes Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional fermented together.

This wine is remarkably similar to the Sainsbury's Taste the Difference 2007 Douro made at Quinto do Crasto that stood head and shoulders above most of the rest of the table wines I tasted from that UK supermarket group last September and yet was soon delisted by them. Although Sainsbury's claimed an extra half per cent of alcohol for their blend which they said was made from 35% Tinta Roriz, 25% Tinta Barroca, 25% Touriga Franca, 15% Touriga Nacional fermented separately and blended only just before bottling.

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