The other day I met up with my girlfriends for a much needed catch up session. These are always fueled by wine of course, but for one of us (not me obviously!) who had just spent two weeks in the field in Africa, a glass of good red wine was just what she needed. As we’ve been friends for quite some time, I know her palate almost as well as I know mine. She prefers reds, but they must be soft wines, with smooth tannins, light acidity, and lots of fruit. Luckily we were at Cul de Sac, a great little wine bar with a huge wine list, so there were plenty of choices to suit her. Since this wine bar is one of the few places in Rome with a good selection of foreign wines, I chose a red wine from the Douro region of Portugal. The area was made famous by one of the great fortified wines of the world, which is Port. Though I personally am a big fan of the rich, inky, chocolatey deliciousness in a glass that is this iconic dessert wine, its reputation has suffered with modern wine drinkers, perhaps because of the images of stuffy British gentlemen’s clubs the drink conjures up. At any rate, what has wine industry people buzzing lately are the dry wines from this area. Based largely on the same grapes that go into Port, they offer excellent value with the fruit and concentration of the fortified wine, without the weight and sweetness. We drank the Duas Quintas 2008 from Ramos Pinto. Over 100 grapes are officially sanctioned by the governing body for winemaking in the Douro, but the Duas Quintas blends together three that are considered amongst the best: Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Touriga Nacional. The wine is reminiscent of young Port, with spicy and black fruit flavors and silky tannins. Only 20% of the wine is aged in oak, the rest in stainless steel, so the wine feels modern and sleek without being overpowered by the wood. For those of you in Rome, this wine can be had for less than 20 euros at the bar, less if you take it away. For those of you elsewhere, if you can’t find Ramos Pinto, ask your favorite wine shop or restaurant for their favorite Douro non-fortified wine. And if you’ve got a sweet tooth, give Port another try too.