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A Bargain Portuguese Red

Elin McCoy's Wine of the Week

2008 Prazo de Roriz Douro DOC red

Price:  $17
Region:  Douro Valley, Portugal
Grape:  35 percent Touriga Nacional, 35 percent Tinta Roriz, 28 percent Touriga Franca, 2 percent Tinta Francisca
Alcohol: 14 percent
Serve with:  Steak, barbecued chicken, pizza

Northern Portugal’s Douro region, noted for rich sweet fortified ports, is fast becoming a hot spot for excellent dry reds too, and the soft, ripely fruity 2008 Prazo de Roriz is a great example of the growing trend. Its plush texture, smooth tannins, and dark cherry and mineral flavors are balanced by a tangy acidity that makes this red incredibly food friendly, especially with smoky, spicy grilled foods.

Summers are scorching in the Douro, where vines are planted on rocky slopes in steep terraced vineyards that look like steps down to the 475-mile long Douro River, which originates in Spain. A vertigo-inducing dirt track through the amphitheater of vines leads down to Quinta de Roriz, one of the region’s oldest estates.

The vineyards are a mix of local grape varieties with names few had heard of until recently — Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and several dozen more — as well as Tinta Roriz, known in Spain as Tempranillo.

Since 2009, the estate has belonged to a joint venture of Bordeaux’s Bruno Prats (formerly owner of Cos d’Estournel) and the Symington family of Port fame (the region’s largest landowner with more than 20 quintas). Prats & Symington, also known as P + S, makes three dry reds, including one very expensive cuvée, but Prazo de Roriz is the only one made entirely from grapes grown at Quinta de Roriz.

The delicious balance of fruit and acidity in this wine owes plenty to the cooler-than-usual temperatures of the tricky 2008 vintage. But it also helps that the vineyards are cool north-facing slopes and that the wine is aged just seven months in oak barrels. The blend of grapes gives distinctive tastes and aromas that you get from no other region — and the wine’s a bargain too.

Zester Daily contributor Elin McCoy is a wine and spirits columnist and author of “The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr. and the Reign of American Taste.”