February Wines of the Month: a Tejo Alicante Bouschet & what Carlos Raposo did next

Cinched at the waist – an elegant Alicante Bouschet

Homegrown talents are the focus of my February Wines of the Month.  Having already made their marks in the Douro, Joana Pinhão and Carlos Raposo are making excellent wines in their regions of birth, Tejo and the Dão.  I’ve selected an elegant red from each for my February Wines of the Month.

For my work updating the Portugal entries for the 5th edition of The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson & Julia Harding, Tejo’s wine commission very kindly sent a selection of premium Tejo wines, providing a window on developments there.  One producer really stood out, especially for the reds (a Pinot Noir and Alicante Bouschet).  The packaging and detailed label signals quality and attention to terroir/detail at Casal das Aires.  And the winemaker is Joana Pinhão whom I first met at Q Vale d. Maria in the Douro.  I’d already come across Joana’s own Douro label, Somnium.  Great to see her skills brought to bear in Tejo.

Carlos Raposo’s winemaking talent has graced The Wine Detective pages many times before.  He was Dirk Niepoort’s right hand man in the Douro for some years and launched his uber-premium Vinhos Imperfeitos label in 2018, somewhat taking my breath away (you can read my review here).   Raposo sent me his latest ‘World Wild Wine’ label releases which, whilst falling a little closer to earth in price point, are no less heavenly.

The wildest in terms of region and style (Rhonish) is a pale, mid-weight Tinta Mole red from the Algarve with delicious whole bunch lift and spice (out in March/April).  From his region of origin – the Dão – Ideal and Definido White (both 2019) are complex and quite Burgundian.  He uses Puligny Montrachet barrels but I’d say they’re more on the classic Meursault side (they have a butteriness/texture, touch beurre noisette).  Ideal and Definido reds (both 2018) have great finesse in terms of fruit purity, tannin structure (so very fine) and freshness.  Ideal Red 2018 strikes me as great value and is already sold out!  With a good dose of Baga in the blend, Definido has tremendous tension.  It is my other February Wine of the Month.

Casal das Aires Vinhas Velhas Alicante Bouschet 2019 (VR Tejo)

From poor ‘charneca’ clay/loam soils, this spritely take on Alicante Bouschet is lighter-bodied, more lively, than examples from Alentejo (which I also love)  – it’s an exciting point of difference.  This artisanal, old vine wine (just 1,056 bottles produced) was vinified in lagares and aged for 18 months in used 500l and 225l barrels.  It is (as you would expect from this teinturer variety) a very deep black/purple hue.  But ever so bright too, with a sense of lightness/fluidity in the glass as you swirl it.  And in the mouth (not that it is low in alcohol).  Classic Alicante Bouschet china ink to the nose, which smacks you as fresh, foreshadowing the bright acidity in the mouth.  Tobacco as it opens up.  In the mouth, it has smoky charcuterie undertones to the blackberry and bramble fruit (lovely purity/definition), with some sweetness – blueberry, fig/pomegranate syrup/membrillo notes – building as it opens up (without detracting from the overall liveliness).   Fine and sooty, the tannins allow the fruit to fly.  A delicious, elegant take on Alicante Bouschet.  14%

World Wide Wines Definido Red 2018 (DOC Dão)

Sourced from 60 to 100+-year-old field blend vineyards at 400-700m elevation planted to Tinta Pinheira, Tinta Carvalha, Baga, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Feminino, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Jaen, among others. The grape were harvested (selected) bunch by bunch and sorted again prior to natural vinification in old cement vats.  Part of the wine was transferred to age in in French oak barrels for 20 months; the balance aged in (the same) cement vat.   This is a precise, taut red, with a terrific sense of minerality/dry extract and freshness.  Like Baga on chalky clay soil in Bairrada it has a wispy smokiness to the well defined ‘rail’  of black fruit, with hints of white pepper and smoked meat.  Saturating mineral acidity and a shower of fine, powdery tannins lend dynamism, great length, to the fruit.  Elegant, with beautiful poise and finesse, Definido definitely has time on its side.   13.9%
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