Lisboa: Quinta do Montalto, a Portuguese Story
Earlier this year I wrote up a trio of wines from Quinta do Montalto, a Lisboa producer who stands out from the crowd. Indeed, I suspect Montalto’s range of wines from certified (since 1997) vineyards is truly unique encompassing, as it does, bag-in-box, talha and DOC Medieval de Ourem Encostas d’Aire wines.
Last week, UK importers Portuguese Story launched an exclusive new wine at Sager+Wilde – “Não Condenado” 2017 (meaning Uncondemned). It was made for them by Montalto along the lines of DOC Medieval Ourém wines, which Montalto’s André Gomes pioneered. Whereas a DOC Medieval Ourém wine must be 80% Fernão Pires and 20% Trincadeira, Uncondemned is a 50:50 blend of Trincadeira and Fernão Pires.
You’ll find my notes on Uncondemned and other Montalto highlights below. Fruit is sourced from the Gomes Pereira family’s 15.5ha of vineyards on chalky clay soil in based in Lisboa’s Encostas d’Aire DOC sub-region.
Quinta do Montalto Filas Fernão Pires (Lisboa)
I reviewed this impressive bag-in-box white in June here. It still strikes me as a great everyday bag-in-box for people who like their wines dry, firm (a touch textural/phenolic) and stonily mineral, with a touch of earth on the finish. In other words, it’s not your average bag-in-box wine. The fruit (principally Fernão Pires with a splash of Siria and Arinto), all harvested in 2017 and all certified organic, is de-stemmed, crushed and cold settled before being naturally fermented with temperature control in stainless steel tanks. 12% You can find it at Londrino, Cafe Route, The Old Abbey Tap House and More Wine. 12%
Quinta do Montalto Amphora Vinho de Talha Fernão Pires 2017 (Lisboa)
Montalto have just two amphorae – one for white, one for red. These small, 300l vessels were made for Montalto by an Alentejo-based potter with whom they are trying to revive talha production. Hand-harvested grapes were both fermented and aged on skins and lees in talhas/amphorae lined with natural tree resin. Bottled unfiltered. Though mineral, with a granular sandstone quality to the palate, this (100%) Fernão Pires is more concentrated and fruitier than Filas, with some candied citrus – pith and fruit, so balanced and textural. Lovely intensity with incisive acidity for length and focus. Wears its 13.5% alcohol lightly. Londrino.
Quinta do Montalto Sedimento ‘Cepa Pura’ Fernão Pires 2017 (Lisboa)
Also 100% Fernão Pires but the grapes for this wine were de-stemmed, pressed then settled for 24 hours prior to fermentation in French and Amercian oak barrels. The wine aged in barrel for six months on lees with batonnage. Whilst the greater part of the wine was then bottled filtered, Portuguese Story asked for 500 litres to be bottled specially for them without filtration, hence the ‘invert before use’ label and name, Sedimento. Sedimento (then transferred to stainless steel tank) spent longer on lies and was only bottled in mid-July. It put me in mind of Gruner Veltliner – not the first Fernão Pires to do so. It is chalky of texture with a grapey perfume to nose and palate, with ripe citrus (more grapefruit than lemon). Dry, firm and intense, it is well-structured, with a crystalline quality. Had I not known, I’d have guessed that it had seen some skin contact. It has the coolness and cleaness of phenolic/grape-derived, not oak derived phenolics. Holds its ground well and, once again, wears its alcohol lightly. 14%
Quinta do Montalto Não Condenado 2017 (Encostas d’Aire, Lisboa)
This is the red made exclusively for Portuguese Story along the lines of the Medieval de Ourem red I wrote up in June (here). Uncondemned is a 50:50 Fernão Pires/Trincadeira blend (the other was an 80:20 split) and the white started fermenting first (in a 550l used barrel) prior to addition of the (already fermenting) red wine, the latter on skins. The wine remained in stainless steel until it was bottled in July. Just 500 litres were made and, with good reason, it refreshes the parts others reds cannot reach. The Fernão Pires lends a refreshing juiciness to an open knit but fresh, lively palate, very succulent, with lifted cinnamon, dried fig, violets and tobacco notes to its blackberry and plum fruit. Gently mouthcoating, chocolatey (catering chocolate) tannins remind you this is a red wine. Refreshing with spice and tannin, this truly hybrid wine neatly expresses white and red qualities. Greater than the sum of its parts. A Portuguese Love Affair, Vinarius . 14.5% (worn lightly).
Quinta do Montalto Amphora Vinho de Talha Touriga Nacional 2017 (Lisboa)
Hand harvested and completely de-stemmed, this Touriga Nacional was fermented and aged in resin-lined amphorae in contact with skins and lees and bottled unfiltered. It shows off both variety and clay well, with an iodine powder edge I sometimes pick up from talhas. Bergamot-edged, succulent black cherry fruit is entwined with the tannins, which striate the fruit, making for a textural, less fruit-driven style – as if the fruit is knocked back, lending restraint. No bad thing for single varietal Touriga Nacional! Nice. 14.5%
Quinta do Montalto Vinho de Malhada Vinho Tinto Reserva 2007 (VR Lisboa)
Wow. This wine was made to celebrate Gomes’ wedding and, quite frankly, it’s amazing there is any left. Not just because the double magnums were bottled for a winemaker’s wedding, but also because it is so impressive. There and again, great some double magnums survive to showcase the quality and longevity of this blend of Tinta Roriz, Baga, Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouchet. It reminded me of mature examples of Quinta da Serradinha’s Baga; Lisboa-based Serrandinha similarly grow Baga (organically) on clay/limestone soil. Perfumed, with a ripe, vinous, complex nose, it reveals dried fig, black currant and cherry jam, violets, cured meat and chalk notes, which follow through on the palate. Chalky tannins and fresh, lively acidity make for super persistence. Fresh and lingering. Really enjoyable. No longer made, the winemaking was more conventional. The grapes were de-stemmed, crushed and fermented on skins in stainless steel tanks, then aged in second use French and American 225l oak barrels, followed by six months in stainless steel before bottling. 13.5%