Penada Wines from Portugal's Trás-os-Montes exude character and delight the senses

The traditional terracing of the hillside vineyard offers greater sun exposure to the hot-weather-friendly grape varietals. (Image copyright Penada Wines)

A delightful Portuguese wine arrived in the United States for the first time this year. Born of grapes found in the obscure Trás-os-Montes winemaking region of northern Portugal, Penada wines exude character and delight the senses. Here in the Montez family vineyard high on the Penada hill that rises above the village of Loivos, winemaker Marco Montez has labored to produce three wines from distinctly local grape varieties that thrive in the hot weather and drink well in the scorching summer.

Take one look at the traditionally terraced vineyard, "geios" the technique is called, and you instantly know that you're observing the work of vintners with a plan. Attention to detail runs the gamut: Marco mentioned to me that he had personally made sure the name of each Penada varietal was properly entered in the Cellar Tracker website. If Marco's name sounds familiar, that may be because you've read about his Massachusetts winery blending Old and New World, Travessia Urban Winery headlines downtown New Bedford, MA, part of an increasing trend of urban winemaking in America that seems worlds away from what's to be found in Loivos. Indeed, the wine world is filled with incredible variety.

Sadly, we can only confirm that the three Penada wines (priced this year at a fantastic $14.99 per bottle) we tried are available in Massachusetts, and it is distinctly likely that this year's crop is completely gone. We'll consider this post to be encouragement to our readers to seek out all manner of wildly under appreciated Portuguese wine, and to Penada to broaden its distribution so more of us can enjoy next year's vintage.

2013 Penada Vinho Regional Trás-os-Montes Ensaio Branco

Also featured in our Top five wines for August, this lightly colored white blend of Fernão Pires, Malvasia Fina, and Moscatel-Galego-Branco grapes is truly summer in a bottle. The nose of apple and pineapple sticks with you in the palate, where distinct lavender notes mix with an absolutely luscious honey quality. There's a bit of a sour bite in the finish of your first sips, but after just a few minutes it mellows into something very smooth. This wine is all about pineapple, lavender, and honey.

2014 Penada Vinho Regional Trás-os-Montes Ensaio Rosé

We popped open a bottle of 2014 Penada Ensaio Rosé as we sat by the water. A delicious three grape blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), and Tinta Amarela (common in Port), the wine is well structured with a dry finish that is perfect for sipping by the ocean. Notes of peach, ripe cherry and raspberry predominate with a clean yet creamy finish that satiates the palate with a slight effervescence. The medium body and acidity make this wine ideal for enjoying with food. 

2013 Penada Vinho Regional Trás-os-Montes Ensaio Tinto

We loved the deep, lush, dark fruit and bit of pepper in the nose of this red blend of the Touriga Nacional (Portugal's premier varietal) and Tinta Amarela grapes. There was also some earthiness and iron, and hints of raisin and dried black fruit. It tastes much as it smells, but with more of that great black fruit. The mouthfeel is plush and velvety with a little tannin at the back. Little hints of chocolate, clove, and plum emerge as it breathes over several hours.