June Wines of the Month: fresh & freshly launched Caracol & Baga
I am just back from hectic but highly productive travels to Bairrada to celebrate International Baga Day (21st May), Porto Santo in the Madeira archipelago and Pico in the Azores. Right off the bat, let me share two exciting new finds I cannot keep to myself. Both bring a broad smile to my face.
Caracol. Never heard of it? Neither had I until last week. It is the other grape from Porto Santo being interrogated by António Maçanita and Nuno Faria whose Listrão (one of two) made the cut for my March Wines of the Month. I am amazed how swiftly the duo have polished this diamond in the rough, although I guess I should know better. Maçanita has serious form in the Azores, where I just tasted Azores Wine Company’s phenomenal 2020 releases. The Tinta Negra he is making with Faria on Madeira island is also something to behold. These boys are on fire!
Niepoort’s pioneering track record is second to none. A succession of first releases from Quinta do Baixo has impressed. Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Baiju 2011 (August Wine of the Month 2013), then Niepoort Poeirinho 2012, which I raved about the following year. I’m not sure if the latest release – Lote D – derives from a ‘Dirk barrel’ (chalked with a curly hair tag), but a sample from one such barrel came to mind when I tasted Lote D. Perhaps I have sampled from the previous releases (Lote D was also released in 2014 and 2015, but the 2017 marks my first taste of this label).
Companhia de Vinhos dos Profetas e dos Villões Caracol dos Profetas Vinho do P. Santo 2021 (DOC Madeirense)
Gee, that name is a mouthful. So is the wine. Not exactly rich, but round with intense ripe lemony acidity and mango close-to-the-stone. Yet at the same time, it is immensely mineral. Did you ever put sand in your mouth when you were a child? During kayaking misadventures I have bitten sand (fortunately not dust) and this wine evokes memories of sand, sea and shells on nose and palate. Which of course places it 100% in Porto Santo – a small island with plentiful beach sand – limestone-derived mind, not silica. Fresh and lingering with a piquant ‘spicy’ (perhaps more salty), earthy/sandy finish. Brilliant with another taste of the sea – local lapas (limpets). Just 4,000 bottles produced. 12.5%
Niepoort Lote D 2017 (Bairrada DOC)
Sourced from a 1.8ha 100-year-old plus parcel of Baga on a deeply calcareous south-facing slope at Quinta de Baixo in Cantanhede, itself in Bairrada’s south. In a dry, hot, low yielding and early year Lote D 2017 has a powerful, perfumed nose, all spice and chalky smoke with intense notes of wild shrub and violets which follow through on the palate. A clean cut of acidity – saline, laser beam – brings precision and length to the firm red cherry, berry and pomegranate fruit. The tannins, pithy, chamois-like, are present (savourily so) but yielding. Tremendous staying power, yet oh so drinkable on first pour. When I go back to my glass, the tannins are building. This will age for a long, long time. A brilliant wine. Very much itself. After 4-5 weeks fermenting in stainless steel, it finished fermenting in a large 2,500l wooden barrel where it completed the malolactic fermentation and aged for 21 months. It was bottled (2,350 bottles) unfiltered. 12.5%