Past Port

Put Portuguese reds on your wine radar

Portugal is finally getting its well-deserved time in the wine limelight. While its port and Madeira have capped our meals for years, Portugal's dry reds are now becoming mainstays on wine lists across the country.

The country has thousands of indigenous grapes–some with names that vary by region–so breaking into Portuguese wine can be a bit overwhelming. Start your quest by investigating the regions of Douro and Alentejo.

Most of these regions' best reds are blends of grapes that include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz/Aragonez (both are names for Tempranillo), Touriga Franca and Trincadeira. Each grape adds something different to a blend, but the common result is wine that steps away from the homogenous, fruit-forward style of New World wine and reveals something uniquely Portuguese.

And because Portugal is still somewhat off the radar, you'll reap huge values with bottles that taste as though they should cost much, much more. Here are a few favorites for the soon-to-be converted:

2005 Esporao Red Reserva (Alentejo; $15) Juicy with smooth tannins, this complex pomegranate-colored red will please the Cabernet Sauvignon-loving crowd (winelibrary.com).

2006 Quinta Do Crasto (Duoro; $12) With flavors of baked cranberries and savory spices, this wine has unmistakable Old World origins and an easygoing personality (winex.com).

2006 Aliança Terra Boa Tinto (Douro; $9) Aged in stainless steel, this everyday bottle is composed mostly of Touriga Nacional and features medium tannins, dark fruit flavors and a pleasing minerality (pourwines.com).

2004 Xisto Roquette e Cazes (Douro; $60) A joint venture between France's esteemed Lynch-Bages family and a classic port producer, this intense, rich red shows its pedigree with portlike flavors and concentrated black fruit (garnetwine.com).