Adega Co-operativa de Portalegre Tinto 1989

Tasting Adega Co-operativa de Portalegre reds with Joao Afonso (l) & Rui Reguinga (r)

During my January visit with João Afonso of Cabeças do Reguengo and Rui Reguinga of Terrenus, we tasted a mini-vertical of red wines from the Adega Co-operativa de Portalagre (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992 & 1997).  Reguinga had consulted there alongside João Portugal Ramos and, he told me, the 1989 won lots of awards and commanded Alentejo’s highest price tag – 25€ – a fair whack back then!

But if the proof of the pudding is in the eating, it showed its mettle.  This, the oldest vintage of the mini-vertical, soared above the rest.  Interesting when the oldest of the Tapada do Chaves reds (the 1977) also impressed the most.  So what’s the message in a bottle?

I think it’s a combination of less is more winemaking (of which we are seeing a return), together with a greater appreciation of structure tannin and acidity over gobs of fruit and oak (the alcohol level – 12.5% versus 14% for the 1997 – is instructive).

Although the ’89 was the first vintage to see new oak (previously the wines were made in amphorae/talhas), Reguinga told me that the barrels (400l) were made from “very tannic” Portuguese oak.  “Still alive now!” he said.  Or “dynamic,” as Afonso observed – a great description.  Though few people have cellars these days, perhaps we should also try stashing away a few more bottles?

Here is my note on the excellent 1989:

Adega Co-operativa de Portalagre Tinto 1989 (DOC Portalegre)

The 1989 to the left of the 1990, 1991, 1992 & 1997

The first bottle impressed but showed a little t.c.a. It whittled away at the fruit and, as became plain from the comparison with the second bottle, diminished it.  Lucky there were two bottles because the second bottle was in great condition!  Though the rim was bricky, the core retained good colour.  It revealed sweet spices, pine needle and dried fig/leather to the nose, which followed through on the palate together with red berry and cherry conserve and richer, riper dried fig.  With lovely freshness and a persistent pulse of acidity, there was not a jot of bagginess or a hair out of place.  This perfumed, sleek wine had a long, very balanced, fluid finish with a hint of iodine.   The tannins, ripe but present, cradled the fruit going through, suggesting that there are some years in it yet.  But it’s lovely now!  12.5%

As for the other vintages in the line up, though the 1990 (also 12.5%) retained sweet strawberry and dried fig fruit, it was more savoury – less bright – in expression than the ’89, lacking its predecessor’s length, focus and finesse.     The ’91 was past it – sweet, sour and vegetal.  The ’92 (13%) was madeirised.  As for the ’97, Reguinga remarked that it was the first from the modernised winery.  And, it would seem, a new regime of later picking???  I don’t know if that was the case but, at 14% abv, I really appreciated the lower, less intrusive alcohol of the ’89.  And the brighter fruit; the ’97 seemed dense and a bit cooked.

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