I’m on a Grand Jury this week, which has a soap operatic ring to it. In fact, I’m one of a panel awarding ‘Grand Golds’ at Wines of Portugal at the Concurso Vinhos de Portugal in Alentejo. Results to follow. Meantime, this wine from the Cooperativa Agrícola de Granja-Amareleja gave me pause for thought about Moreto….
It’s a traditional grape, heavily associated with the Granja-Amareleja sub-region of Alentejo – one of Portugal’s hottest, driest wine regions. I really enjoyed the heady, spicy, floral examples from Piteira which I tasted a couple of years ago on a talha (amphora) focused trip (written up here).
And was intrigued to discover that Herdade São Miguel used a dash of Moreto for freshness in their 2015 talha red – another goody. It’s good to see such contemporary producers doffing their caps to traditional grapes (and techniques) which have fallen foul of fashion. This red grape’s juiciness certainly shines through in the wines I’ve encountered.
Cooperativa Agrícola de Granja-Amareleja Moreto 2013 (Alentejo)
The eagle-eyed among you will have spotted the phrase “Pe Franco” on the label, which tells you that this unoaked wine comes from un-grafted vines. It’s a deliciously heady yet balanced red with spicy, slightly medicinal (think cough sweets) layers to its hedonistic squelchy plums/plum skin, red cherry jam and blueberry fruit. Going through, I loved its drip-feed of dried lavender, coltsfoot, red liquorice, clove, catering chocolate and honeyed fig. Gifts to the palate as it unravelled in the glass. Deep and lingering. Plenty of bang for your buck. 14%
NB Since writing this post I showed this wine at an Alentejo masterclass in London where, leaving aside problems with bottle variation (random oxidation) with some bottles, it impressed me and others. Here’s what I learned from an email exchange with Luis Bio about the very specific conditions in which this ungrafted Moreto flourishes:
Moreto is being abandoned in the rest of Portugal and Alentejo, even on the right bank of the Guadiana river, but is being heartily embraced by wine producers on the left side of the river. The left bank of the Guadiana River has unique characteristics.
- It is the sunniest and hottest region of Portugal, creating optimal conditions for the maturation of Moreto.
- The hot weather generates smaller bunches and berries.
- The land is sandy and poor so the production is low, which is perfect for the maturation!
Over time, it was recognised that small producers with old vineyards made better wines than the modern vineyards on the right bank. Why? Because they have planted “Moreto Pé-Franco” – ungrafted. The wines from these vines are better with better aromas, deeper colour and higher alcohol degrees.
Planted on clay, to resist phylloxera, vines on the right bank produce much more vegetation making it difficult to ripen the grapes. According to Bio, on the right bank of Guadiana, Moreto wines only reaches 11º alcohol versus 14% on the left bank.
I also learned that the Co-op has also recently introduced an oaked Moreto and an example aged in amphora/talha.