Júlio Bastos: red hot single varietal Petit Verdot & Alicante Bouschet

It’s a good long while since I visited Júlio Bastos/Dona Maria’s beautiful estate and converted old winery with its marble lagares in Estremoz, Alentejo.  We recently  exchanged emails about Dona Maria Grande Reserva 2010 – a blend of Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and Petit Verdot – which I showed at last month’s Decanter World Wine Awards’ masterclass at The Yeatman Hotel, Oporto.  Bastos was there and was as keen for me to taste his latest single varietal releases of Alicante Bouschet and Petit Verdot as I was to taste them.

I well remember tasting a very exciting 2009 tank sample of Petit Verdot during my visit that year and his 2004 Alicante Bouschet.  When we were discussing the masterclass, Bastos told me about his admiration for these two grapes, the former of which he reckons is “is going to be the Alicante Bouschet of the 21st century.”  Which in his book is good news.

The producer explained “I am so fond of Alicante Bouschet because this grape was brought to Portugal by my family during the 19th century….Since I was a child I grew up listening to those stories about Alicante Bouschet and that makes me go on with the tradition together with Mouchão wines that belong to the same family.”

In fact, he added, this fondness for the grape was also “one of the reasons I sold my shares of the joint venture [Quinta do Carmo label] with the Rothschild (Lafite) in the 2000 – because they wanted to uproot the first vineyard of Alicante Bouschet planted in Portugal, a pre-phylloxera vineyard!!!” 

Here are my notes on the wines, which are imported into the UK by Portal Wines & Spirits.

Júlio Bastos Dona Maria Petit Verdot 2013 (Vinho Regional Alentejano)

Bastos’ dry farmed vineyards are located at around 450m on deep clay/limestone soil, which explains why both wines are so beautifully structured and balanced. The Petit Verdot vines are now 16 years old, so that helps too.  And with typicity.  This is a spicy wine with an edge of bay leaf to its ripe but well defined dark berry and currant fruit, juicy acidity and ripe, fine grained tannins.  The well-integrated oak serves to buff the fruit to a high polish, though the overall impression is not of fruit per se, rather of vinosity, which makes for a reassuringly dry (in flavour profile).  Lovely persistence, length and line is well maintained into day two.  This finely tuned palate has not an ounce of fat.  It was aged for one year in new French oak.  14.5%

Júlio B. Bastos Grande Reserva Alicante Bouschet 2012 (DOC Alentejo)

As you would expect from a teinturier (red fleshed) variety, this flagship red from 60 year old vines is a deeper hue.  Aged for 14 months in new French oak, the oak is more evident – initially showing vanilla pod and, with air, a more complex, savoury burnish of toasted spices and chocolate – very perfumed – which follows through on a spicy palate of considerable depth and power.  Juicily persistent yet plush and velvety blackberry fruit is interwoven with layers of crushed coriander seed, liquorice, tobacco and dried mint.  Despite its evident polish, being Alicante Bouschet (a crossing of Grenache/Petit Bouschet) this wine cannot (and should not) escape its DNA.  It has a warm, earthy ruggedness about it – a palate presence and heft – which is foreign to the Bordeaux born-and-bred Petit Verdot.  With powerful, sinewy tannins and impressive, gravelly back palate resonance,  it put me in mind of Penfolds Bin 389 – a favourite from the iconic Australian producer’s range. Terrific.  14.5%


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