50 Great Portuguese wines 2008 & travels 2007/2008

I contribute to the Portugal copy for Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book so last year spent a month in Portugal all told, covering it pretty much from head to toe. It’s a country that excites me on account of its wonderful diversity of native grape varieties and terroir, so lots of new flavours, textures and aromas to savour and commit to memory, not to mention enjoy!   And if you think Portugal is all about red wines, think again – there is a growing band of premium whites and some really great value everyday whites too.

Below you will find highlights of my travels plus my favourite wines from fellow wine journo Simon Woods’ Top 50 Portugal tasting of this year and a very special lunch with leading Bairrada producer Luis Pato at London Portuguese restaurant Portal (which has a great Portuguese wine list).   Wines are listed by region, north to south with Port and Madeira wines to finish.

Find out more about Portugal at http://viniportugal.pt – a great source of information about the regions and varieties and if you’re visiting, check out The Wine & Food Lover’s Guide to Portugal by Charles Metcalfe & Kathryn McWhirter.

Vinho Verde

It’s not all big brands like Mateus Rosé – if you like Spain’s Albarino then you will find it in Portugal’s top Vinho Verdes which are made from Alvarinho and/or Loureiro – fresh, aromatic, delicate wines to enjoy with shellfish.

Anselmo Mendes Loureiro Escolha 2006 – nicely modulated acidity to this delicate wine with its limeflower and fresh cut pear.

Casa do Capitao-Mor Alvarinho 2006 – bone dry with a briny, tangy nose and palate fleshed out with green apricot on a nicely textured palate.

Quinta da Aveleda Vinho Verde 2006 – bone dry with prickly pear, a prickle of gas (spritz) and gun flint – well-balanced with whistle clean finish.  Textbook stuff.

 Aveleda Follies Vinho Verde 2006 – the Guedes family, owners of Quinta de Aveleda, this uses bought in fruit and is a well made, user-friendly wine with an attractive depth of lemon and citrus fruit.

Aveleda Follies Alvarinho 2006 – rich, approachable style with green apricots and prickly pear fruit with lifted floral and white pepper notes and a flinty undertow.

The Douro: whites

 Red Douro table wines have deservedly achieved world-wide recognition so that’s fortifieds and reds covered – what about whites?  You can be forgiven for thinking that the Douro’s heat makes premium whites a non-starter but you’d be wrong – deep rooted old vines avoid hydric stress, varietal field blends provide balance and higher altitude vineyards – up to 800m – help maintain freshness.   What’s more, like Douro reds, native grape varieties make for distinctive wines, so what’s not to like?

Niepoort Tiara 2006 – this comes in a flute shaped bottle so expect and discover an aromatic white from those well known varieties not Codega, Rabigato, Donzelinho, Viosinho, Arinto among others.  Floral with orange and lime notes backed by good concentration of flavour and length.

Niepoort Redoma Branco 2006 – a smoky nose with lemon oil and custard creams on the palate give away the oak but this has a mineral undertow with sweet talc notes to its citrus and stone fruit palate.

Niepoort Redoma Reserva Branco 2006 – richer and yet more tightly focused with pronounced lemon and lime, citrus peel and a touch of honeycomb; long, powerful wine.

Quinta Vale D. Maria VZ Douro Branco 2006 – lovely limpid lemon, grapefruit and lime peel flavours supported by discrete oak; lovely purity and elegance.

Quinta da Gaivosa Alves de Sousa Reserva Pessoal 2005 – exotically perfumed nose and palate with lychee and rose water; lovely clarity to this wine.

Wine & Soul Pintas Guru 2006 – a change of cooper makes for greater elegance and vivacity to this ample wine: white peach and prickly pear cut with citrus acidity and delicate vanilla bean notes.

The Douro: reds

World famous for port wine, the Douro is increasingly recognised for wines of outstanding quality and individuality, fortified or not.  The secret to its success is an enviable combination of deep, friable schist soils, diurnal temperature variation (hot days and cool nights), low yielding, old vines and a wealth of indigenous grape varieties, notably Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. In the glass, this translates into sumptuous, powerfully built table wines, the best of which have a tight, sinewy mineral core.

Aveleda Charamba 2005 – good Douro typicity for around a fiver with fruits of the forest, earthy raspberry and grainy tannins.  Very sound.

Quinta do Vallado “No Name” 2005 – Vallado produce some of the Douro’s best value reds.  This is the new flagship and significant step up in gear using oldest vines (+90 years old) and best barriques.  Very tight knit with concentrated red and black fruits as yet clasped by firm tannins.  Nonetheless sports hints of liquorice and a sinewy, mineral core.  Bags of potential.

Niepoort Vertente 2005 – lively red and black fruits with juicy acidity and a cool, mineral undertow; nice ripe powdery tannins.

Niepoort Redoma Tinto  2005 – beautiful structure and fruit purity this is very refined, more groomed than the youthful Vertente with which it shares that cool mineral undertow and powdery tannins.

Niepoort Batuta 2005 – this is my favourite of the Niepoort reds – and it’s a tough choice!!  My goodness this is a tightly packed, tensile wine, chiselled with minerals – you visualise the roots pushing through the schist.  Super-intense with great freshness.

Niepoort Charme 2005 – couldn’t contrast more with Batuta, this almost slides off the palate it’s so silky and svelte before mineral and chocolate notes remind you this is a deeply serious wine.

Quinta do Crasto Tinto 2006 – always cracking value – darks damsons, liquorice and plum – substantial wine for £6.99.

Quinta do Crasto Vinha Maria Teresa 2005 – very intense with dark, dark chocolate and spice to its coal black fruit firmly supported by ripe but present tannins.  A real keeper.

Quinta Vale D. Maria 2005 – a sweet vanilla nose leads onto a seductive palate with flashy, succulent black cherry, dark chocolate and svelte tannins; good length – a moreish wine.

Quinta Vale D. Maria Casa de Casal de Loivos 2005 – a different vineyard gives a very different style – a well balanced but hedonistic blast of cherry, raspberry and chocolate with warm earth.

Quinta do Vale Meao 2005 – situated in the hotter easternmost part of the Douro this estate’s wines are distinctive and in a distinguished way!  I usually pick up lovely floral and exotic dried orange peel notes in the table wines and their Single Quinta Vintage Port.  This beautiful inky wine shows rich crème de cassis with lifted violet notes and lots of minerality; super long, intense finish.

Chryseia Post Scriptum 2005 – stylish second wine from the Symington family and the former owner of Cos d’Estournel, Bruno Prats.  Perfumed red and black fruits with attractive coffee notes and svelte tannins; good length.

Chryseia 2005 – very spicy berry nose, lots of depth of flavour to its coal-edged, minerally fruit; beautifully managed tannins – a great vintage.

Quinta do Roriz Reserva 2005 – rich, dense and spicy with lifted eucalyptus notes and well balanced acidity.

Duas Quintas Reserva 2005 – really svelte wine with a ripe frame of tannins surrounding concentrated but elegant red and black fruits.

Quinta da Gaivosa Abandonado 2005 – this is one of my favourite Douro reds and in 2005 my great expectations were far from misplaced – wild, wild nose with a savoury, smoky mocha edged palate and tight mineral core – well flavoursome and a bit funky in an exciting way.

Quinta do Vale da Raposa Touriga Nacional 2005 – wild flowers and black cherry with svelte tannins and good freshness – lots of pleasure here.

Quinta de la Rosa 2005 – chunky richness while maintaining balance and florality.  Seductive wine.

Quinta da Terra Feita de Cima Poeria 2005 – this usually tops my list of Douro reds and winemaker Jorges Moreira reckons the 2005 is his best yet – I agree – wonderfully elegant, poised and finesseful, really draws you in rather than coming at you.  A beauty.

Quinta da Terra Feita de Cima “J” 2005 – the debut baby is aimed at more everyday drinking and it certainly hits my spot! Bright pomegranate and ripe black fruits on the nose and palate with a slightly creamy hit of cassis/kirsch and a lift of violets.  Delicious.

Quinta do Noval 2004 – elegant red with a kick of lively sechuan pepper to its red and black fruits plus more Douro’esque dark chocolate; good vinosity and minerality – very fine.

Quinta do Portal Colheita 2005 – plenty of interest here with fruits of the forest, wild raspberry, liquorice, chocolate and eucalyptus.  Nonetheless makes for a very balanced, satisfying whole with its savoury acidity and ripe tannins.

Quinta do Portal Touriga Nacional 2004 – benchmark Touriga with pure black cherry, dark chocolate and violets underscored by a seam of minerality and supported by a ripe but firm backbone of tannin.

Wine & Soul Pintas Character 2005 – fresh picked red and black fruits with violets.  Lovely vinosity and purity to this; long mineral finish – lots of finesse.

Passadouro Red 2005 – great structure, very poised with good concentration of black fruit, violets and a long, mineral finish.

Passadouro Reserva Red 2005 – riper fruit for the reserva gives a cassis warmth and depth to the fruit but, as with the baby wine, this has superb structure and balance – very long and mineral.

Dão

If you like Italian wines, chances are you’ll love wines from the Dão  – top wines are structured, food-friendly, ageworthy wines with sour berry and plum fruit, sometimes with a balsamic edge.

Dão Sul Quinta de Cabriz Encruzado 2006 – the Encruzado grape gets the full Burgundian treatment her fermented and aged in new French oak, lees aged with batonnage, natural yeast and very good it is too – smoky with fresh poached pears undercut with a lively seam of acidity.

Casa de Santar Reserva White 2006 – a richly fruited blend of Encruzado, Cerceal-branco and Bical with candied pineapple, cream and spice; well balanced acidity keeps it in trim.

Casa da Insua Encruzado 2006 – old vines lend plenty of concentration while lees ageing and batonnage give an attractive note of struck match; long, well-balanced wine with good acid drive.

Pedra Cancela Malvasia Fina/Encruzado 2006 – toast and smoky oak to the fore but underneath a good concentration of ripe, candied citrus with steely grapefruity acidity.

Dão Sul Quinta de Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada 2005 – intense, smoky, silky blend of Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional; juicy blood plums give a bite which reminds me of Italian reds – very good.

Dão Sul Quinta de Cabriz Four C 2003 – very refined blend of four reds with lively red and black berry fruits, a mineral core and lovely vinosity/mouthfeel.

Quinta de Saes Reserva White 2006 – intriguing blend of red and white grapes from the mercurial Alvaro Castro which dances over the palate in a wash of guava, citrus, pineapple and prickly pear; a hint of resin is quite typical of Portuguese whites, especially the Encruzado grape.  Very good.

Quinta de Pellada Primus Reserva 2006 – this is the debut vintage from Alvaro Castro’s other vineyard and another stunner; mostly Encruzado with Bical and Cercial.  Old vine fruit lends power, balance and pedigree while barrel fermentation (not ageing) in new French oak gives finesse.  Taffeta layered with honeycomb, apple, melon, a lick of vanilla/custard creams and well balanced acidity – ambrosial.

Quinta de Pellada Red 2005 – 60% Touriga Nacional, the balance being an old vine field blend – I loved Alvaro’s reds for their intensity not density, this is lithe and lifted with violets, dark chocolate, fine grained tannins and black fruits.

Quinta de Saes Red 2006 – pure seam of fresh raspberry with pomegranate; supple yet fresh, lovely.

Quinta de Pellada/Saes Red 2006 – lively, peppery, grippy and lithe with red and some black berry fruits – comes in under a tenner so a nice buy – www.laymont-shaw.co.uk

Quinta da Vegia 2005 – a little rubbery and reduced at the off but this quickly blows off to reveal super fresh, slightly tangy black cherry fruit surrounding a tight mineral core; pleasantly grippy tannins.

Quinta do Correio Red 2005 – the baby wine from the Quinta  dos Roques’/Maias team – svelte, tangy and fresh black fruits; good example of modern Dao at a budget price.

Quinta das Maias Jaen 2005 – smooth, succulent and delicately spicy, Barry White in a glass!  Jaen is the same grape as Bierzo’s Mencia which is reputedly Cabernet Franc which explains the red and black cherry fruit and, in a good vintage, svelte structure.  Delish.

Quinta dos Roques Garrafeira 2003 – classic Dao, marked by tannin and acidity in almost equal measure so intense, firmly structured, long and ageworthy – will be well worth the wait.

Quinta de Falorca Reserva 2001 – showing some attractive development with its smooth tannins and plum fruit gently nuanced with incense spice and gamey notes; elegant and long.

Casa de Mouraz Private Selection 2005 – single vineyard Touriga Nacional with fleshy black cherry, dark chocolate, pepper and violets; good persistence and depth of flavour.

FP Ensaios Tinto 2005 – a blend of Dao and Bairrada vineyards and grape varieties (Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Baga) from Baga master Luis Pato’s talented daughter Filipa (see Bairrada region below) – black cherry mingled with violets and radicchio; ripe but firm tannins with lovely freshness – great food wine.

FP Lokal Silex 2005 – Dao vineyards produce this firmly structured blend of Touriga Nacional and Alfrocheiro; fresh black cherry with that radicchio note supported by ripe powdery tannins.

 Bairrada/Beiras

Luis Pato Sparkling Touriga Nacional Rosé 2007 – well I reckon this debut wine is a first for Luis in a highly unusual sense – he told me one customer had said “it’s too commercial”  – so un-Luis!  Pretty pink with fresh cherry, cranberry and violets it’s certainly easier going than the Baga wines, but very well made.

Luis Pato Sparkling Baga Rosé 2007 – same dosage but leaner, meaner Baga makes for a steelier, drier wine with delicate cranberry and herbal/bitter chocolate hints.

Luis Pato Maria Gomes 2007 – ripe citrus with the floral white pepper and shredded cabbage notes I associate with Austria’s Gruner Veltliner balanced by sappy acidity; a textured mouthfeel adds pleasant grip.

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Branco 2007 – a thrilling, mouth-sluicing acidity cuts through this youthful blend of Bical, Cerceal and Sercialinho, an element of which is cask aged in chesnut barrels; smoky grapefruit lies beneath.  Fab.  The 2005 enjoyed over lunch shows lime and toast cut with pebbly, mineral acidity; dried honey on the finish.

Luis Pato Vinhas Velhas Tinto 2005 – forward style of Baga with great depth of cinnamon-edged cherry and pomegranate and a mineral core; chalky tannins so plenty of go.  The 2004 shows succulent black cherry, berry and plum fruit with a stony minerality and savoury tannins.  The 95 shows savoury, warm gravel notes, gum cistus, cinnamon and a sweet balsamic edge to its red and black fruits supported by ripe but present tannins.

Luis Pato Vinha Pan 2005 – a cracking vintage, and typical of the Pan vineyard with its younger vines, relatively open compared with Barrosa (see below) though this is very relative!  Tight knit palate with suggestions of plum, beetroot, cinnamon bark and vanilla sugar.  Firm but ripe tannins.  The 95 has a gorgeous nose and palate: plummy, gamey and spicy with liquorice and star anise both and a tight mineral seam – the rewards of patience!!!

Luis Pato Vinha Barrosa 2005 – old vines (plus 80 years old) give structure and sweetness; very tightly focused with those plum and beetroot flavours here augmented smoke, also a cool, tangy clay (something I pick up in good Burgundy).  Fine grained tannins – first rate.

Luis Pato Pe Franco 2005 – this gets a phwoar – 100% new oak impresses on the attack with vanilla sweetness and mocha before giving way to a swathe of concentrated ripe but bright black fruits beneath which lies a fine frame of sinewy tannins.  Very long mineral finish.  Terrific – first growth territory.

P Ensaios Branco 2006 – this citrus driven blend of Arinto and Bical is chiselled with minerals; fine food wine.

Quinta do Encontro Preto Branco 2004 – this innovative blend of Baga, Touriga Nacional and (white grape) Bical comes from the Dão Sul stable – seductive velvety mouthfeel, great purity of juicy, sharp but not tart, bilberry fruit with a peppery edge; long, fine tannins on the finish.

Casa de Saima Rosé 2006 – bright red cherry nose and palate with violet notes (10% Touriga Nacional augments the local Baga); layered, persistent palate. Very good.

Casa de Saima Baga Garrafeira 2001 – classic aged Baga sour cherry and chinese five spice with balsamic and camphor notes; firmly structured, intense wine – I’m veggie but I get why the region’s spit roast suckling pig is the food match here.

Campolargo Vinha do Putto Tinto 2005  – well defined briary fruits with plum, blueberry, tobacco and balsamic; long, precise finish.

Campolargo Vinha da Costa 2004 – lively palate with juicy blueberry and mulberry fruit, a lick of cinnamon and seamless tannins.

Campolargo Diga Petit Verdot 2005 – this grape variety is sneaking into many a country’s vinous repertoire and to good effect – lifted violets wed to black berry and currant fruit show good varietal typicity; svelte tannins make for a velvety mouthfeel.  Good.

Estremadura/Bucelas

Some exciting wines emerging from this previously humdrum area.  With input from talented winemakers like Sandra Tavares da Silva and France’s Michel Chapoutier this is a region to watch.

Quinta da Murta 2006 – a favourite of Portuguese tastings which I’ve presented for its scintillating lime and citrus drive, this vintage a touch honeyed – a great example of Arinto and brilliant value for money.

Quinta de Chocapalha Branco 2006 – talented winemaker Sandra Tavares da Silva divides her time between this, her parents up-and-coming Estremadura estate and the Douro where she makes Pintas wines with her husband and also at Quinta do Vale Dona Maria – the quality of each and every wine is terrific.  This the baby unoaked white has the zesty lime undertow and floral notes which make Arinto one of my favourite Portuguese white grapes – Riesling’esque.  Here it’s  blended with Viosinho and Vital for a bit of body.

Quinta de Chocapalha Branco Reserva 2006 – Chardonnay and Viosinho dominate this blend, giving greater fruit weight with stone fruits as well as citrus, sweet talc and nicely integrated oak; long, well-balanced and persistent.

Quinta de Chocapalha Red 2005 – brambly blend of native varieties with succulent black cherry, dried herbs, eucalyptus and chocolate; present but ripe tannins and juicy acidity lend structure, balance and length.

Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva Red 2005 – Exotic nose of black cherry and orange peel.   Portugal’s star varieties Touriga Nacional (75%) and Tinta Roriz (25%) plus new french oak lend gravitas – dark chocolate and savoury meaty notes mingle with ripe black fruits – needs time but very promising.

Quinta de Monte d’Oiro Aurius 2002 – another leading light of Estremadura, best known for their Syrah, this focused estate belonging to serious foodie José Manuel Bento dos Santos is converting to biodynamics under the expert guidance of Michel Chapoutier.  This unusual blend of Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Petit Verdot is an attractive bright pomegranate colour despite age and shows lively red fruits cut with sechuan pepper; persistent finish.

Quinta de Monte d’Oiro Reserva 2003 – beguiling exotic orange peel and violet notes on nose and palate with a vibrant blurt of raspberry; seductive  texture.  Lovely.

Quinta de Monte d’Oiro Madrigal Viognier 2006  – fresh greengage with apricot and honeysuckle on nose and palate; maintains elegant house style.  Very well done.

Bento & Chapoutier Ex Aequo 2006 – I tasted the debut joint venture wine shortly after bottling.  It shows immense potential  – all became clear as to why M. Chapoutier raved to me about Touriga Nacional when I bumped into him at a tasting last year – it makes up 25% of this blend, the balance being Syrah, all grown at Monte d’Oiro.  Poised, polished and, as yet tight-knit, it promises to unfurl a deep seam of fresh black fruits accompanied by dark chocolate, liquorice, spice and violets; gorgeous super-fine tannins…a beauty.

Ribatejo

This fertile region used to be focused on high yield commodity wines, but leading producers have switched to poorer sites and better quality grape varieties and are harvesting by hand and using selection tables to good effect.  Prices are still moderate so some good value for money here.

Pinhal de Torre Quinta do Algeve 2006
– Fernão Pires is the main grape here and it reminds me a bit of Austria’s Gruner Veltliner – floral, with white pepper, citrus bite and a bit of texture.  This wine also has an attractive hint of aniseed plus 10% Arinto adds a limey zestiness.  Great summer drinking for around a fiver!

Pinhal de Torre Quinta do Algeve Ancestral 2003
  – this blend of Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Periquita has a lovely perfumed nose.  Svelte with brambly fruit and a dash of balsamic.

Quinta do Alorna Portal d’Aguia White 2006 –  I was told this sells for around £4 and it must be one of the best value wines I’ve come across at the price – a great 50:50 Fernão Pires/ Arinto blend, focused, whistle clean wine with zesty lime and lifted white pepper notes.  Yum.

Quinta do Alorna Rose 2006 – 100% Touriga Nacional rose with a good body of creamy but peppery cranberry and cherry fruit and just noticeable residual sugar (5g/l).  Well done.

Falua Conde de Vimioso Reserva 2003 – eucalyptus edged ripe blueberry fruit with dried figs and an earthy minerality makes for a satisfying mouthful, nicely supported by tannins.

Casa Cadaval Padre Pedro 2005 – attractively structured blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with flavoursome fresh fruit, dried fruit, spice and warm earth.

Quinta Lagoalva de Cima Talhao 1 2006 – unusual super floral blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho; the latter and several grams of residual sugar gives plenty of ripe fruit/mouthfeel but the whole remains lissom and fresh.

Quinta Lagoalva de Cima Alfrocheiro 2005 – lovely succulent black cherry and sweet fruits of the forest make for a balanced, intense wine.

Quinta do Casal Branco Falcoaria White 2006 – this estate draws on old vine Fernão Pires and Castelão which lend pedigree to its very good Cork Grove brand where these grapes are blended with “international” varieties, but they really strut their stuff when given all the glory in the Falcoaria range.  At around £7 this is a complex Fernão Pires with smoky french oak giving subtle spice to its concentrated lemony fruit and delicate fennel and mineral notes.

Quinta do Casal Branco Falcoaria Red 2004 – Trincadeira gets a look in with the Castelão – rich, good depth of red berry and plum fruit and spice with lifted violet top notes and a mineral core.

Quinta do Casal Branco Falcoaria Reserve Red 2005 – the best of the best Castelão goes into this flagship wine which now sees a little Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah – poised, classy red.  Very good.

Quinta do Casal Branco Capucho Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 – good depth of blackcurrant fruit with savoury dried green peppercorn and cedar spice.  A well-balanced wine with fine tannins.

Quinta do Casal Branco Monge 2005 – my one and only to date methode tradionelle fizz from Castelão and, despite the rather unattractive name (actually it means monk) it showed good autolytic complexity and a nice tight palate.

Palmela/Terras do Sado

Vinha Bacalhoa Catarina 2006 – nicely weighted blend of Fernão Pires and Chardonnay with fresh pear, citrus, spice and hints of crème caramel; good persistence.

Casa Ermelinda Quinta da Mimosa 2005  – single vineyard, old vine Castelao shows in rich, concentrated raspberry ripple and dried fig fruit underscored by an attractive dusty minerality.

Alentejo

Azamor Petit Verdot 2004 – another Petit Verdot and, from Azamor’s relatively northerly (within Alentejo), elevated (350m) vineyards, another good example with violet/floral notes and nice intensity of spicy berry fruit.

Herdade dos Grous Moon Harvest 2006 – the name derives from a fascinating technique which involves assessing optimal harvesting times by reference to the impact of lunar phases (which dictate flow of vine sap) on the specific longtitudunal and latititudunal co-ordinates of the vineyard.  Winemaker Luis Duarte  – one of Alentejo’s leading winemakers – told me more sap flow translates into less green flavours and more fruitfulness.  I can’t comment on the science but this svelte single varietal Alicante Bouschet had excellent fruit purity (succulent black cherry and plum) and very soft, seductive tannins, both a hallmark of Luis’ wines anyway but a triumph in a straight Alicante Bouschet which can be quite firm/tannic.  Here its structure played out as freshness.  Very good!

Herdade dos Grous 23 Barricas 2006 – a darkly flavoured Touriga Nacional/Syrah blend with pronounced liquorice and chocolate notes to its raspberry fruit; powdery tannins lend support.

Herdade da Malhadinha Red 2005 – the Soares family are experienced wine merchants and Luis Duarte consults so, although the vineyards were only planted in 2001, this is a savvy operation and most definitely one to watch!  This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Aragonez is powerful, precise and persistent with blackcurrant, tobacco and spice; long finish with good balancing acidity, especially given that the vineyards are in the southerly, hotter part of Alentejo.

Herdade da Malhadinha Marias da Malhadinha 2004 – this new flagship blend of Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Touriga Nacional spends 26 months in new French oak – not necessarily a good thing.  However, it has excellent concentration of fruit wed to good balancing acidity as well as the tell tale oak-derived mocha notes.  More firmly structured than the previous wine it tastes drier with a pronounced mineral character.  Very promising.

Monte da Cal Reserva 2004 – from the Dao Sul stable a lively acidity, good grip and damson and dark fruit flavours avoid the tendency towards over-sweetness of some Alentejo wines.  Lots of spice.

Bacalhoa Tinto da Anfora Grande Escolha 2005 – the baby wine is great value but this Touriga Nacional, Aragonez and Cabernet Sauvignon blend has lots to offer.  Deep purple with a rich core of cassis on nose and palate fleshed out with mellow dried fig notes; well-judged tannins and oak give good backbone.

Herdade do Mouchão Tinto 2003 – this famous Alentejo estate bases its reds on Alicante Bouschet which, in the more moderated northerly Portalegre region with its granite/schist soils, produces intense, fragrant, structured wines.   Intensely floral with ripe blueberry and a caramel edge, gravitas comes courtesy of sinewy, chalky tannins – needs time.

Herdade do Mouchão Tonel No. 3-4 2003 – gorgeous perfumed nose of blueberry and violets.  Lovely weight, depth and complexity in the mouth: fresh, floral notes on the attack, a mid-palate chock full of rich spicy fruits followed by a resoundingly tight mineral finish.  Fabulous.

Quinta do Carmo Reserva 2004 – part owned by Lafite Rothschild, oak tailors and buffs Alentejo’s rich red and black fruits lending a note of Bordelais restraint; it’ll benefit from a couple of years ageing.

Quinta do Carmo Dom Martinho Rosé 2006 – a slick rose with floral top notes and creamy red fruits; finishes spry and dry.

Herdade do Esporao Reserva Red 2005 –  a fantastic value for money blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez and Cabernet Sauvignon with textured tannins and red and black fruits surrounding a mineral core.

Herdade do Esporao Torre de Esparao 2004 – the first vintage of this new Touriga Nacional flagship is a densely structured, powerful wine which repaid re-tasting the following day and the day after such is its heft of fruit.  Fine-grained tannins and a succulence of fruit bode well – lots of potential.

Cortes de Cima Tinto Reserva 2004 – creamy generous palate of red and black fruits, with some succulent black cherry and dried herbs for balance; svelte tannins add to the pleasure quotient.

Cortes de Cima Aragonez 2004 – very well made glossy wine with red and black fruits and not an edge in sight – a real smoothie with heart.

Cortes de Cima Touriga Nacional 2005 – a great smooth ‘n svelte Alentejo expression of this variety with fleshy black fruits, dark chocolate and violets and ultra-fine tannins.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
2007/2008
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