tiago Teles Gilda Maria Graca

Vins de Soif: Portugal’s on trend super-sophisticated quaffers

Suitably sepia – Tiago Teles’ throw back, nostalgic labels

The wines of Tiago Teles could not find greater contrast than EXPLICIT Red.  It came as no surprise to me that Teles was influenced by his latest travels to Beaujolais and Burgundy. His 2013 red wines, Gilda and Maria da Graça, are as fragrant and feminine as EXPLICIT RED is muscular and masculine.  The alcohol levels are poles apart! EXPLICIT 2012 at 15.5%, Maria da Graça 2013 at 11%.

Which style do I like best?  Actually I like both.  As Dave Powell, founder of Torbreck Wines (producer of high octane bold, but always balanced, Barossa beauties) once memorably told me, “it’s not like you want to eat steak every night.”

For me, one of the most exciting aspects of wine is its diversity of style.  With a dizzy-making number of variables related to terroir, grape variety, vintage and winemaking, wine appreciation is an exciting, never-ending journey.  In fact, come to think of it, I reckon that Teles’ reds are both firsts for me.  I don’t believe I’ve tasted either a Merlot, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Cão blend or a blend of Alfrocheiro and Alicante Bouschet before.

However, as Teles pointed out in my interview with him last year, grape varieties are less important than origin and, without question both reds, as he puts it, “transmit exactly the limestone and cool profile of Bairrada.”  You can almost feel the chill of this coastal region’s northwest Atlantic winds and the damp clay beneath its chalky soils.

In London, Teles’ low intervention, “vin de soif” (light, fresh, thirst-quenching, low alcohol) style is currently all the rage in the independent wine bars and stores which have sprung up in my borough of Hackney.  Should this style appeal to you, when next in London make a bee-line for the likes of Trangallán, Brawn, Sager & Wilde, Rawduck, Primeur, VerdenNoble Fine Liquor, Bottle Apostle and Borough Wines.

Here are my notes on Teles’ 2013 reds:

Tiago Teles Gilda 2013 (Bairrada)

This blend of Merlot, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Cão hails from chalky clay soils.  The grapes were harvested in the second week of September.  The pale crimson/ruby hue gives away the delicate vin de soif style.  A brisk, fresh nose and palate reveals juicy, bright spurts of fresh-picked damson and raspberry – lovely fruit purity and animation.  As it opens up, lifted spice and tobacco notes add interest.  Gently ruffling tannins bring texture and extend a coolly balanced finish.  12.5%

Tiago Teles Maria da Graça (Vinho do Portugal 2013)

Alicante Bouschet famously has deep purple flesh (most red grapes have white flesh).  Its pigment stains the leaves of vines and gives tremendous inky depth to wines and yet this blend of Alicante Bouschet and Alfrocheiro is even paler than Gilda!  Unoaked, it’s more delicate too, very much in a Beaujolais style with its silky smooth (fish-friendly) tannins, peony floral perfume and juicy, wild fruits of the forest.  Delicate and fresh it’s deliciously digestible and weighs in at just 11%.

Here are three more vivacious “vin de soif” reds which   I’d recommend from Portugal:

Campolargo Alvarelhão 2012 (Bairrada)

Made by Raquel Carvalho, who also made Teles’ wines, this rare red grape produces a very fragrant, fruity, fresh red with white pepper, violets and pine needle lift to its sour cherry fruit and subtly meaty, savoury undertones.  A rub of fruit tannins lends an attractive, very gentle grip.  12.5%

Filipa Pato & William Wouters Post Quercus Baga 2013 (Bairrada)

This pale ruby wine is made from exactly the same old vine Baga grapes which go into Pato’s Nossa Calcario.  However, unlike Nossa, which is aged in oak (quercus), this wine was aged underground in two 300 litre amphorae.  Amphorae first because they are made of clay – the soil of the region (indeed which gives its name to the region).  Second because the clay allows for a gentle micro-oxygenation which, together with a hands off approach vis a vis extraction (it simply undergoes a long ferment on skins), accounts for its silkily fine tannins. The fruit is ever so pretty and pure – red cherry, cherry stone and juicy plum and, though delicate, it glows intently, lingering long on the palate.  Just lovely – a joyous summer’s day red in handy picnic perfect half bottles at that.   11.5% abv.

Anselmo Mendes Pardusco 2012 (Vinho Verde)

After de-stemming and crushing, this blend of 40% Alvarelhão, 30% Borraçal, 25% Pedral and 5% Vinhão was cold fermented for 12 hours and pressed after just 12 hours’ fermentation on skins.  It’s fresh, sappy, dry and persistent with red berry and cherry fruit and floral lift to the finish.  Quite rounded in tannin, acid and fruit, it is extremely easy going for a red Vinho Verde. 12.5%

This article was first published in Blend, All About Wine.

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