Blue collar Pinot? Pegos Claros 2010
I’ve been prepping next week’s Wine Australia Grenache masterclass this week. Described as warm climate or blue collar Pinot Noir, I reckon its Portuguese equivalent might just be Castelão. Like Grenache, it’s sweeter, richer and more rustic than Pinot, but it shares the red cherry and berry fruit, velvety smooth palate and chocolate notes which you can find in easier going examples of the Burgundian one.
Mind you, I am talking about modern examples of Castelão. Not the ones Creighton Churchill cautioned his readers “to beware of tasting until it has attained a hoary old age” in “The World of Wines.” Published in 1963, his book makes me feel very lucky to be writing about Portuguese wines now, especially the reference to wines which when “swallowed give rise to incipient ulcers [!]”
Pegos Claros was my introduction to Castelão at its rich and velvety best. It was a mainstay of Oddbins’ wine range back in the day and, during the 1990s, established a reputation as an approachable but ageworthy wine which offered great bang for buck. Under new ownership the brand has returned to its roots.
The 2010 vintage which I tasted in December was the first in a decade to be made the old fashioned way and foot trodden in lagares. In another echo of great Australian Grenache, the fruit came exclusively from the estate’s dry grown 90 year old vines. Incidentally, it was made by Frederico Falcão, who is now the president of Portugal’s Instituto da Vinha e do Vinho.
Herdade Pegos Claros Pegos Claros 2010 (DOC Pamela)
Castelão thrives in this DOC’s ancient, mineral-rich sandy soils. This example, 70% of which was aged for 7 months in oak barrels, reveals sweet raspberry ripple, chocolate and a hint of Kahlúa to nose and palate. Soft, velvety tannins and persistent, juicy acidity make for a lingering finish. On day two, the raspberry fruit really flies, bringing lovely amplitude to its moreish milk chocolate edged mid-palate. The acidity both tempers and tapers the finish; attractive now but has the concentration and structure to develop nicely (gamily, I’ll wager) over the next 5 years. Still a smart entry level buy, especially in Portugal at €5/6! 14%