Third time in Tejo
Why is Tejo our favourite Portuguese region? The welcome is always warm, the wines are always wonderful – and they’re superb value
There is no shortage of wine regions to visit. Most of us will only see a fraction of them in a lifetime. So why would we return to Tejo for a third time?
Set in the heart of Portugal, a short drive from Lisbon, Tejo is a place that even seasoned trade professionals admit to knowing little about. But its wines seem almost tailor-made for the UK market.
The region is home to more than 80 wineries, many of which have been family owned for generations.
Tejo’s native red grapes include the bold Touriga Nacional, Portugal’s most famous variety, as well as Trincadeira, Castelão and Aragonês. The aromatic Fernão Pires and the lively Arinto, as well as Alvarinho and Verdelho, produce some of Portugal’s most refreshing and characterful white wines.
The region’s indigenous grapes thrive in Tejo’s moderate climate and complex soils, retaining fresh natural acidity while producing balanced wines with bright fruit characteristics.
The region’s promotional body, Vinhos do Tejo, has made a big effort in the UK market, where its value for money is appreciated by a small but growing band of independents.
In February, a group of independents joined us on our third trip to Tejo, and feedback was as positive as ever.
ND John, Swansea
“I was amazed,” says Davies, who admits that Tejo “is not an area I’d really come across at all”.
He was struck by the diversity of producers and styles, from “tiny little producers to larger co-ops” working with international varieties as well as the local grapes.
He adds: “It was an eye-opener and I thought the wines in a lot of places were really good. Definitely the way to go is with the indigenous grape varieties. Fernão Pires and Arinto. I’ve got loads of samples coming from a number of places we visited.”
“For us being on the coast, some of those whites, being fresh and with loads of acidity, they’re perfect seafood wines.
“Don’t get me wrong, the Chardonnay was really good, almost like borderline Burgundy, but all the samples I’ve asked for are either entry-level or the next level up.”
WoodWinters, Scotland and London
“I didn’t know the region at all – I went because we are looking for something from Portugal, and I didn’t have any preconceptions,” says Johnson.
“As for personal highlights: the Touriga Nacional did very well and on the whites and some of the Verdhelos came up pretty good.
“Genuinely I thought the value for money was very good – so I have a couple of wineries ear-marked to go back to and see if they can do our entry-level house wines.
“At the entry level, the wines are actually quite interesting whereas if you go to somewhere like La Mancha you get wine but it’s pretty boring and dull. In Tejo the wines had a lot of character for the price.
“There is definitely a future for Tejo because other areas where you used to get a lot of value are slowly eroding through quite ambitious pricing.”
James Nicholson Wine, Crossgar, Northern Ireland
“I had a fantastic time exploring the region with the group and was taken aback by the hospitality of everyone that we encountered,” says Johnson.
“I really enjoyed the wines too – how different each producer was, how regionality and terroir was expressed by each and by the excellent price versus quality offered across the board. As a result, I’m thoroughly convinced of the potential of Tejo wines in our market and will be liaising with our head buyer Averil [Johnston] as well as our owner James Nicholson with a follow-up report and a list of the producers I’d like to request samples from for the rest of the team to try.”
“I didn’t know anything about Tejo before and thought it was a lovely area,” says Starmore. “I thought it was a fascinating trip. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
“There was a real diversity to what we discovered. Some of the wines had a stewed fruit element and could be quite tannic. The whites were lovely; the acidity harnessed with fruit was excellent, particularly with the Arinto.
“I have an order pending with Alliance for three of the wines out of their portfolio of six from Quinta da Alorna. There were two others we tried, and they said we could also get them through Alliance in the next month or two.
“The group thought we might get a pallet of some things between us and there were certainly producers there that I would like to work with.
“The way Portuguese wines are going to become more available is through people like us hand-selling them and tasting.”
Regency Wines, Exeter
“I started taking some Tejo wines from Alliance about 18 months ago,” says Marks. “They are quirky and fun – nothing complex; a pouring-wine price point, and they’ve been going down really well.
“I’d never been to Tejo so I was interested in seeing what else was out there and finding out what the area was all about.
“We got to see some very, very different producers with a real diversity in styles. At Barbosa, they have a lot of salt in the soil and it was amazing how that salinity came through in the wines. They were beautifully balanced.
“I loved tasting Fernão Pires – that was the star for me, 100%. I’d only ever had that in a blend before it really shone through.
“I completely see that Fernão Pires has a place in the UK market. It is unlike anything else. I would describe it as almost Marlborough Sauvignon meets Rias Baixas Albarino.
“Another bonus of the trip is that I learned how to say all those tricky grape names. By the end of day one, I was expert on being able to pronounce the wines!”