For a country the size of Indiana, Portugal sure makes a lot of wine.
Despite its relatively small size, the country boasts the ninth largest total vineyard area in the world. And it’s becoming a popular pick for U.S. drinkers, who enjoy the variety and value.
Still, some consumers may need more convincing from sales associates or servers to buy Portugal. As you sell, here are 6 things to keep in mind:
1) Portugal Whites Are Gaining Steam
When some consumers think “Portugal wine,” their mind naturally pictures ports and dry Douro reds. Who wouldn’t? These had long defined the country’s winemaking, and for good reason.
But the country also contains an expanding white wine industry.
This was on display during the 50 Great Portuguese Wines event, held last Tuesday at the High Lane Hotel in Manhattan. The first of these annual conferences took place in 2005 — when the 50 featured wines were all red.
“That’s not necessarily a condemnation of Portuguese whites, but a fair realization of where the category was at the time for Portugal,” said Evan Goldstein, a featured master sommelier at the 2016 event.
While this year’s conference included numerous memorable reds, it also included a flight of complex, tasty whites, symbolic of how far Portugal has come.
“Of all the wine categories, whites in Portugal have undergone the most dramatic evolution in the last decade,” Goldstein said. “Advents in winemaking and increased knowledge about grapes and terroir have made this category among the biggest revelations in wine.”
2) Value is the Key Differentiator
In curating wines for the 2016 event, organizers whittled down 50 bottles from an original list of 400. Of the final 50, 32 were priced $30 or below, while 21 were $20 or below.
They were complex and subtle, far from the flavor bombs that can make up this lower price tier. Although there was a fair share of noteworthy wines priced $60 or above — the vintage Ports in particular — the affordable bottles more than held their own.
Retailers at my tasting table commented that Portuguese wine was popular among their customers for its comparatively lower prices. Even wine-drinkers with less experience, people simply looking to experiment, would pick out a Portuguese bottle for its accessible price point.
You can confidently direct your customers towards affordable wines from Portugal.
3) Syrah is Popular in Portuguese Blends
Part of the problem with selling Portuguese wines can be customers who shy away from unknown varietals. This country is filled with native varietals that make for delicious pours, but unfamiliar words on labels.
Enter Syrah. Portuguese winemakers love blending, and so many of these mixes contain Syrah — that globally recognized grape. “I’m always surprised by how well Syrah plays with Portuguese varietals,” said Peter Granoff, featured master sommelier.
If you can connect a customer to Syrah in a Portuguese blend, you may raise the likelihood of a purchase.
4) Diversity Is Another Differentiator
And if you can get a customer to try some of the country’s native varietals, you open them up to the vast array of flavors and styles.
“Portugal is so broad in terms of what you can sell,” Granoff said. “There is literally something for everyone. Portuguese wines come in all different shapes and sizes, flavors and textures, from reds to whites to rosé.”
5) Portuguese Wines Are Balanced, Food Friendly
If these diverse wines are united in one thing, it’s a shared balance. And that should be a selling point.
Explained Madeline Triffon, featured master sommelier, “When selling a wine you have to make a decision on where to focus — be that on varietal, style, or region — because you have about 15 seconds of that customer’s attention. With Portuguese wine you want to describe the balance between firm tannins and bright acidity. That and the diversity.”
With this balance, Portuguese wines tend not to fight with foods from other cultures, but lie down and play nice.
“Portugal’s wines provide a dynamic strategy — a caldron, if you will — for you to build off of when pairing with food,” Goldstein said. “There are good for the choir-esque approach of laying flavors in food-and-wine pairings.”
6) Americans Should Like Dessert Wines
It’s a wonder more U.S. consumers don’t like Port.
As Triffon argued, “There’s this weird idea among Americans that you don’t drink dessert wines. And yet, Americans really cannot get enough sweet drinks. Think about how much Coco-Cola they drink, how much Prosecco and Roscato.”
“They just don’t want to admit that they like sweet wines,” she added with a laugh.
Point this out to a customer and perhaps they would be more likely to purchase Port.
Kyle Swartz is the associate editor of Beverage Dynamics Magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @kswartzz.