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Mauro Azóla, winemaker for Portugal’s Vidigal Wines, which produces the popular Porta 6 and Júlia Florista brands.​Vidigal Wines/Vidigal Wines

It’s cliché to say we live in a golden age of wine because there has never been such a wide array of well-made, enjoyable bottles that are relatively affordable, too, despite the level of tax we pay in the country. Cheap and cheerful wines, with reliably fruity characters, are widely available wherever alcohol is sold.

Scientific advances have led to a wide assortment of colour- and flavour-boosting additives and ingredients, often to compensate for substandard quality grapes, which help wineries bring their red, whites and rosés to market for inexpensive prices. For instance, inexpensive reds from North American wineries often rely upon a product called Mega Purple, a sweet concentrate based on a red-fleshed grapes that dials up fruity flavours and residual sugar for a more easy-to-appreciate style of wine.

There’s also been a wave of technological developments that help winemakers elevate the quality of their wine. Various pieces of equipment can assist winemaking teams during production, by reducing astringency and other bitter elements to make for a more supple and appealing style. Depending on the brand and the location where the grapes are coming from, winemakers have myriad options available.

What’s rare is hearing a winemaker discuss how they use these tools to achieve a desired style, quality and price for their wines.

“We work a lot with technology, instead of adding other things to the wine to make them more commercial,” explains Mauro Azoia, winemaker for Portugal’s Vidigal Wines, which producers the popular Porta 6 and Júlia Florista brands.

Azoia explains how effective use of thermovinification, a process that heats grapes or freshly crushed juice to near-boiling temperatures to add with colour and tannin extraction while removing undesirable underripe flavours, and micro-oxygenation, which introduces oxygen into wine during fermentation or aging in a controlled manner to achieve desirable changes in colour, aroma and texture, helps to create the crowd-pleasing character of the Porta 6 red blend.

A blend of native Portugese grape varieties, namely aragonez (a.k.a. tempranillo), castelao and touriga nacional, Porta 6 has long been a standout on the quality for price ratio. Azoia explains the consistent quality starts with partnerships with local grape growers which means he has access to around 450 hectares of vineyards across the extensive Vinho Regional Lisboa area.

For the 2021 vintage, Azoia says he used thermovinification on 12 per cent of the castelao grapes to get the desirable fruity character for the finished blend. “The texture is round and soft without having to rely on sugar content,” he explains.

The Porta 6 brand was launched in 2007 and continues to be a massive success in the United Kingdom and Israel, with good distribution in parts of Canada and the Nordic countries. Part of its appeal is its colourful, graphic label, which is based on a painting by an expat German artist that was purchased by the winery’s owner on the street of Lisbon. The label includes the popular red wine, an exciting white blend and a rosé.

The wines need to reflect the playful charm of the label, while offering drinkers a well-balanced, ripe and expressive dry wines to enjoy with or without a meal. The white and red wines from Porta 6 are featured this week with some other value priced selections that offer appealing personalities and character.

Château les Pins de Bossuet 2015 (France), $16.95

Rating:88 /100

Here is a great value, maturing Bordeaux Supérieur that’s roughly two-thirds merlot with equal parts cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon from the exceptional 2015 vintage. This is a ripe and nicely balanced red wine, with appealing cherry and plum fruit flavours. Drink now-2026. Available in Ontario.

Demazet Réserve des Armoiries Tradition Côtes du Rhône 2020 (France), $14.95

Rating:88 /100

Côtes du Rhône continues to be a source of enjoyable red wines at affordable prices. This concentrated and complex example is a blend of grenache noir, syrah and other traditional grape varieties, which offers nice structure and youthful tannins on the finish that make this a solid bistro style red. Drink now-2026. Available in Ontario.

The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2021 (South Africa), $11.95

Rating:89 /100

Produced by Boschendal, this inexpensive chenin blanc shows a touch more concentration and richness in the 2021 vintage. The mix of tropical fruit, green apple and citrus notes made for an enjoyable fruity style, which is rounded out by some honeyed and waxy notes that add weight and depth to this refreshing white wine. Drink now-2025. Available in Ontario at the above price, $16.98 in British Columbia, 11.90 in Quebec.

The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (South Africa), $12.95

Rating:87 /100

This dry and spicy red shiraz cabernet blend offers a complex array of dark fruit and peppery notes as part of its robust, medium bodied character. The intensity of ripe fruit flavours is balanced by fresh acidity, which makes this a red wine that’s best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now-2026. Available in Ontario at the above price, $18.98 in British Columbia.

Vidigal Porta 6 Vinho Branco 2021 (Portugal), $12.95

Rating:90 /100

Wines made from chardonnay and viognier grapes are blended with ones produced from native Portugese grapes, arinto and viosinho, in this refreshing aromatic white wine. Each of the grape varieties contributes to the character of this stylish white, which offers layers of floral and peachy fruit flavours on top of a fresh citrusy note that carries through from start to finish. While flavourful enough to enjoy on its own, this would be a nice match for grilled fish or seafood dishes. Drink now-2024. Available in Ontario.

Vidigal Porta 6 Vinho Tinto 2021 (Portugal), $13.95

Rating:89 /100

Made in an approachable and balanced style, this is a juicy and fruity red wine with smooth texture and enough tannins for structure and character. Impressive concentration and refreshment, especially given the price. The balanced style makes this an enjoyable pizza, pasta or burger wine. Drink now-2025. Available at the above price in Ontario, various prices in Alberta, $14.49 in Manitoba, $16.48 in Nova Scotia.

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