A Lively, Easy-Drinking Serbian Red
Portuguiser — not exactly a common grape found on wine labels. But one can assume that, given the name, it probably has some tie to Portugal, right? Wrong — in fact, Portuguiser (more commonly spelled “Portugieser” or “Blauer Portugieser”) has no proven tie to the Iberian Peninsula and is usually found in Austria, Germany and in this case, Serbia. Misleading? Perhaps, but there’s nothing confusing at all about the fresh, fruity juice inside this bottle.
The 2012 Agrina Portuguiser ($14.99) comes from a family-owned winery that has been making wine in the Fruŝka Gora region of Serbia since the 1800s. Vineyards are located on the gentle slopes of the Fruŝka Gora Mountain, south of the Danube River, where local winemakers grow varieties such as riesling, traminer, and of course, portugieser. Though the grape can have the tendency to produce unexciting, low-acid wines, when managed properly, portugieser can be quite lively, with a bright, ruby color and good body.
In line with the winery’s mission to produce unpretentious, easy-drinking wines, Agrina uses Beaujolais-style methods to make their portuguiser. Grapes are harvested in August and fermented using carbonic maceration before being bottled in November, just three months later. The result is a fruit-driven wine that smells of freshly picked cherries, cranberries, and raspberries. Medium bodied, the palate is dry but still juicy, with a bit of tart fruit and spice present as well. It’s exceptionally easy-drinking, with low tannins and good acidity; don’t be surprised if you find that the bottle is empty before you even realize it.
When it comes to food pairing, the lack of aggressive tannins makes the Agrina Portuguiser extremely versatile. It would be excellent alongside strong cheeses & meats and could work with spicy food — the fruit and acid will balance out the spice. It even stood up to a hearty, bold-flavored Polish meal of kielbasa and sauerkraut. But more than anything, this wine is the perfect everyday sipper, with food or without. As the winery’s local slogan says, “Znati piti, znati ziveti” — “To know how to drink, to know how to live.” With that being said, drink up!
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