simplesmente vinho 2018 photo credit Simplesmente Vinho

Simplesmente Vinho 2018 – over 100 highlights from Oporto’s alternative wine fair

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Simplesmente Vinho 2018 in full swing – photo credit Simplesmente Vinho

With 101 producers showing their wares at Simplesmente Vinho 2018, up from 84 in 2017 (and just 16 in 2013), Portugal’s alternative wine fair goes from strength to strength.  

In six short years, Simplesmente Vinho has become something of a showcase for Portugal’s vinous eco-warriors.  The opportunity to highlight the impact of 2017’s fatal forest fires on families, businesses, municipalities and regions was not lost on the organisers, who partnered with Quercus – Portugal’s National Association for Nature Conservation.  It’s good to see both smaller players and leviathans like Taylor’s Port, a sponsor of this month’s Climate Change Leadership Oporto Summit, raise the red flag about these troubling times for the environment.

In this post, I highlight my picks from the fair itself, having written up the preceding week’s visits with select Vinho Verde and Douro Simplesmente Vinho producers here and provided an overview of Simplesmente Vinho 2018 here.

It’s no secret that, during the fair, I make a bee-line for new names/wines.  Or that my website focuses on wines which I rate – whether on intrinsic quality or because they push boundaries, even if they are work in progress.  I identified and commented on key new trends in my overview post.  I also mentioned that this year’s most exciting new-to-me players were Fio de Terra (Slava Izmailovs’ wines from the Douro, Dão, Bairrada) and Romano Cunha (Trás-os-Montes), which wines are made by Mário Romano Cunha in collaboration with Raúl Perez.  So they seem like a good place to start!

Fio de Terra, Douro, Bairrada, Beira Atlantico, Dão

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Slava Izmailovs of Fio de Terra

Slava Izmailovs, a Latvian, has imported Portuguese wines into Russia since 2007.  In 2013, a couple of producers whom he represented challenged him to makes his own blends.  How could he resist?  In Dão, he works with Quinta dos Roques and Quinta da Lomba; in Douro, with Dirk Niepoort and Wines & Winemakers and in Bairrada with Quinta das Bágeiras and Quinta de Baixo.

It will come as no surprise then that he credits Dirk Niepoort, “my mentor” for helping him come up with the name and vision for his wines.  Or that said vision revolves around “a lighter and finer style of the wines. Wines which would give a lot of pleasure to drink young, and, at the same time, could age and to be even more beautiful with time in the bottle.”  Incidentally, he also collaborates Eulogio Pomares of Zarate, Rías Baixas, Spain.

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Fio de terra

Fio de Terra Douro White 2016 is made from bought in grapes from an old (50+ year old) field blend vineyard in Murca ranging from 200-500m on schist soil.  The grapes were naturally fermented in stainless steel tanks then aged in a fifty year old acacia foudre for around 11 months (Izmailovs imports his own barrels/foudres into Portugal).  It’s a gentle, un-pushed, textural wine, salty and mineral with restrained floral, vegetal and fruit nuances and a lingering finish.  It pretty well sums up the range, which I’d describe as textural, restrained and persistent in profile.  12.5%. 1200 bottles made.

Fio de Terra Bairrada White 2014 is a 50/50 Bical/Maria Gomes blend.  The fruit was sourced from a single vineyard around 15km from the coast in Ancas.  The vines were around 25 year old and planted on sandy and clay soils.  The grapes were naturally fermented and aged on lees in 1000l acacia foudres for around 12 months with no batonnage.  It was aged for a further 3 years in the bottle before release.  A complex nose and palate shows notes of orange peel and beeswax, which flavour profile might suggest a certain broadness to the palate, but not here.  Taut, lemony acidity provides a firm backbone and impressive line and length, drawing out citrus, dried honey, lanolin and oilskin layers. Very much in the style of Quinta das Bageiras’ complex (mineral and savoury), powerful and ageworthy whites.  12.5% 1200 bottles made. With more Bical and 9g/l Total Acidity (the 2014 has 7.5g/l TA), Fio de Terra Bairrada White 2013 is much purer and tighter – to the point of austerity, but the right side of the lean and mean spectrum (IMHO).  Very mineral, very long, with super persistence.  Terrific arrow-straight finish.

Though the fruit comes from Bairrada’s Cantanhede sub-region (home of Quinta de Baixo), Izmailovs’ white wine from here is labelled Fio de Terra Beira Atlantico White 2014.  I suspect it would have failed or did fail to attain DOC Bairrada status because it’s a bit off the wall, albeit bang on trend given it is influenced by flor.  The field blend fruit – mostly Bical, Maria Gomes and Arinto – comes from a 40 year old vineyard 10 km from the coast, on sand and clay soil. The grapes were naturally fermented and the wine was aged on lees in 1000l acacia foudres for 18 months, with no batonnage. It spent a short time under flor (unsurprising given this wine’s high acidity, though it underwent malolactic fermentation).  It was aged for a further 2 years in the bottle before release.  It is bone dry with an aldehydic (flor-driven, sherry-like) inflection to the nose and lemony, sucking stones’ mineral palate.   I think Izmailovs captures it well when he describes it as “a Champagne style without bubbles.” 9.1% 1400 bottles made.

I wasn’t very taken with Fio de Terra Dao whites (I tasted the 2014 & 2015), but liked the Dao reds very much.  Fio de Terra Dao Red 2014 comprises a blend of 50% Alfrocheiro, 20% Jaen, 10% Touriga Nacional and 20% field blend (old vineyard) grapes.  The fruit was sourced from sandy granitic soils – a vineyard in Abrunhosa do Mato at 350-400m and a vineyard near Gouveia – the source of the Jaen – at 550m.It shows classic Dao pine needle/resin notes with perfumed red berry, currant and cherry fruit.  The tannins are beautifully integrated, making for a fluid, lingering finish.  Bags of easy elegance and charm.  The fruit was de-stemmed, naturally fermented, then aged for 18m in old 500l French oak barrels.  It was racked only once and bottled after minimal filtration (like all the range) and spent a further 3 years in the bottle prior to release.  Incidentally, bottle aging is becoming more common again in Portugal – a good thing for regions like the Dao which produced structured wines.  13.3%  1,950 bottles were made. I liked the 2014 very much but the 2013 vintage earned a succession of emphatic ticks (5!) in my notebook.  The blend and winemaking are the same, but the 2013 is very expressive, really singing from the glass with inky, lifted florals, orange peel and a touch of chinato dried herbs.  Fine leaf tannins leverage the flavours and perfume.  Very intense and long.  Just lovely.  8,000 bottles made.   Izmailovs produced just 600 bottles of Fio de Terra Dao Old Vine Red 2014 and it is his most expensive wine thus far.  The palate is tightly woven, with dense-knit but fine tannins.  Very young and inscrutable at the moment, but the ambition is plain enough.  One to revisit.  11.8%

Romano Cunha, Trás-os-Montes

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Mário Romano Cunha of Romano Cunha

Located to the north of the Douro, Trás-os-Montes is one of the very few Portuguese wine regions which I have not visited.  Given its mountainous terroir and old vines, I’ve always been aware of its potential but not encountered many wines that have grabbed me.  Especially when it comes to ambitious wines, which have seem over-extracted/over-ripe.  So I was delighted to taste the wines of Romano Cunha.

Owner Mário Romano Cunha makes the wines in collaboration with Raúl Perez, the famous wild child Spanish winemaker who coined his reputation in Bierzo and also makes wines in Monterrei, Rías Baixas and Ribeira Sacra.  As you may have guessed given these regions, Perez – whose brother planted the younger vineyards – puts terroir and freshness to the fore.

Romano Cunha’s vineyards – around 6ha – are located at 500m on granite soils in Vilar de Ouro, Mirandela.  The vines range from 18 years old young to 80 years old.  The estate makes a white (first made in 2015) and a red (first made in 2008).  White varieties include Malvasia Fina, Côdega do Larinho, Gouveio, Doña Branco and Moscatel Galego Branco.  The red wine is a blend of Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional.

The Moscatel Galego gives Romano Cunha Branco 2015 perfume and lift, which is literally brought down to earth (in a good way) by a granitic (moist/wet stone) minerality – balance.  The palate has lovely freshness and minerality, which brings precision.  There is a creaminess/nuttiness to the palate too, but it never detracts from the precision or freshness of this wine.  I’ve not made any fruit-oriented notes about this wine.  Rather, it’s about everything – the interest, balance and precision.  Very good.  A wine with a strong centre and sense of place. Around 2000 bottles produced.

Romano Cunha Tinto 2010 is of a piece with the white. A perfumed nose and palate is scented with incense spice and has lovely freshness – really elegant, with inky, very fluid and persistent, silky black berry and cherry fruit.  Fine but plentiful tannins offer support; aged for eight months in two year old French oak barriques, this wine benefits from a judicious hand at the tiller, both vis a vis the oak and extraction.  Very impressive freshness and balance for an eight year old wine.  Yes, balance is the word.  Around 8000 bottles produced.  13.5%

Baga de Touriga, Baixo Corgo, Douro

Luís Soares Duarte

Luís Soares Duarte of Baga de Touriga

Founded in 1998, Baga de Touriga is the brainchild of Luís Soares Duarte (winemaker) and Quinta do Infantado’s João Roseira (marketeer). I gather there was something of a hiatus, but the label bounced back in 2016 with new releases, which include older wines.  All, save the Moscatel, are sourced from vineyards in the Baixo Corgo.

With a focus on showcasing Douro terroir and grapes, I was excited to encounter my first single varietal Touriga Fêmea. Gouvyas Touriga Fêmea 2015 is a fresh, lighter red – very much in a style which is on the up in Portugal and well represented by many Simplesmente Vinho producers.  It shows fresh picked red berry and cherry fruit with nice intensity and persistence and a certain crunchiness/saltiness.

In a similar (lighter) vein (also bang on trend), Gouvyas Clarete Seco 2016 is a traditional field blend rosé, made from red and white grapes which were foot-trodden for a week and fermented at low temperature.  It’s pale, bright ruby with bright, fresh cherry and creamier cherry soda notes going through, with a medicinal lick of herbs (it was whole bunch fermented).  The light touch of phenolics/tannin and crunchy acidity makes for vibrant, nicely structured, interesting rosé – a.k.a. Portugal’s palhete – a category well worth exploring.  Very good.

Another style on the up is dry Moscatel, of which Quinta do Vallado and Quinta do Portal have been pioneers and fellow Simplesmente Vinho producers Tiago Sampaio and Pedro Garcias make great examples (see my report here).  Grapes for Gouvyas Moscatel Galego 2016 are sourced from Alijó’s elevated vineyards. With just 11% abv, this pale, fresh, tight example has sucking on a lemon bite, with hints of spice and orange blossom.   Also fermented in stainless steel, Gouvyas 2016 Viosinho is very crisp and fresh if lacking the character of the former.

The single varietal whites markedly contrast with Gouvyas Reserva Branco 2015 and Gouvyas Amber 2010 (poured from magnum) which, themselves, are a contrasting pair.  The former is a little too oak-dominated (smoky lime oil) for my palate, but has good length and acidity.  Amber, as you’ll guess from the name, is an orange wine, which spent three weeks fermenting on skins with no temperature control, then spent 26 months in seasoned French oak and four years in bottle.  It is bone dry, with a strong, spicy frame (tannins/stem architecture), good freshness and the body to balance, with dried apricot and desiccated peach. Powerful intensity, this one.  I suspect it needed time for the tannins to come into balance.

Niepoort, including Nat’Cool, Douro, Vinho Verde, Bairrada, Dão

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Niepoort Nat’ Cool White Mug 2015

Simplesmente Vinho 2018 provided another opportunity to review Niepoort’s first releases under this label – my initial write up hereNat’ Cool Niepoort White Mug 2015 (Vinho Verde) was not made in 2016, but is being made in 2017.  The 2015 – a former wine of the month – still grabs me.  It’s a textural, very sustaining wine with good body/stony fruit, an attractive touch of flinty reduction and lively acidity and (slight) spritz, all of which make for an unusually tactile white Vinho Verde.  Avesso dominates, with Arinto.  Nat’ Cool Niepoort Quinta de Baixo Baga Velha 2016 (Bairrada) is pale ruby, very fresh and pithy with translucent red cherry and currant.  Bright, light and defined, with nice intensity.

The search for freshness and drinkability is by no means confined to Niepoort’s Nat Cool labels.  Niepoort’s range from the Douro, Bairrada and Dão put the emphasis on elegance and precision through earlier picking dates, lighter macerations and large format oak.  Niepoort Bioma Red 2015 (Douro) features whole bunch for the first time. With a touch of carbonic maceration and ageing in 5000l foudres, it features wonderfully juicy, fluid and fresh blackberry, black and red cherry, with fruit spice and velvety (yet lightly worn) tannins, flowers and earth, salt and graphite.  Niepoort Conciso Red 2015 (Dão) is dry and firm, with a charge of fine powdery tannins.  It’s very young and very fresh and, aged in 10,000l foudres and barrels, is in no hurry whatsoever.  Very classical, I’m sure it will bear out Dirk Niepoort’s back to the future vision of wines whose ageability is based on acidity rather than lots of extracted tannin.

Whilst writing up those wines I tasted at Simplesmente Vinho, it makes sense to review those Niepoort releases I’ve recently tasted elsewhere. Just like the new style Douro reds, Niepoort’s Douro whites have become ‘floatier.’  I’m put in mind of my hairdresser of 20+ years, whose modus operandi for my thick hair revolves around “taking the weight out,” so it’s less about changing the style or length.  Niepoort Redoma Branco 2016 (Douro) has a sweet talc nose, white florals, bay leaf and a gently lemony palate (with a touch of ripe apple on day two), green olive and saline nuances to the finish; a lick of vanillin oak brings subtle, balancing sweetness. Principally, the oak gently imparts structure, as does pebbly acidity, and structure. Sapid and long.

The oak is girder-like for the more concentrated, powerful Niepoort Redoma Reserva 2016 (Douro).  A complex palate reveals layers of firm grapefruit, green olive with pops of fennel and a certain nutty, creamy, leesiness going through (incipient brazil nut).  It finishes mineral, pebbly, fresh, firm and very long – as if it has a second wind.  Perhaps those telescopic layers of flavour opening up?  Impressive.

Even the hue of Niepoort Vertente 2015 (Douro) rings the changes.  It is a translucent crimson colour.  An enticing, lifted, violet-laced nose – really pretty – shows black cherry, tangy black cherry yoghurt and wilder pippier bilberry notes, which follow through on the palate together with raspberry.  The florality/perfume is very pronounced – a real Douro thrust of violets with minerals here, peony too, while texturally, it has an involving, waxy petal character to it – a slinky, slow mo tannins feel.  On day two it’s the red fruit, now augmented by pomegranate and redcurrant, which comes to the fore.  Niepoort Redoma 2015 (Douro) is a deeper hue than Vertente but still translucent crimson.  A little reduced on the nose, which makes for a more mineral, smoky (as in flinty) even, character, though it shares Vertente’s gently tactile, waxy mouthfeel.  On day two, it still a little reduced and, when I pulled the cork, it popped.  I do like the damask rose florals, minerals and red fruits – plum, red cherry and raspberry.  One to review.

AB Valley Wine, Vinho Verde, Amarante

Founded in 2016 by António Sousa (winemaker) and Bernardo Lencastre (vigneron), AB Valley Wine is based in the Amarante sub-region, which located inland, is relatively warm and dry.  Wines are made from own and bought in grapes.  Previously, the estate grapes were sold to the co-operative.  I found the wines clean, with good concentration, if somewhat the product of an inoculated cool ferment.   The stand out was a new-to-the-range AB Valley Wine Azal 2017, which is something of a signature grape in Amarante.  It seemed drier and more textural than the other wines I tasted, with crisp applely fruit, so not so reliant on yeast-driven aromatics or residual sugar.   AB Valley Wine Avesso Reserva 2016, which spent nine months in French oak, showed decent concentration and freshness both, with a nutty edge of oak.   Again, the profile drier and truer to the grape.

Quinta da Palmirinha/Mica, Vinho Verde

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Fernando Paiva of Quinta da Palmirinha

Quinta da Palmirinha is located in the Sousa valley, near Amarante.  Owner/winemaker Fernando Paiva has been at the vanguard of organic and biodynamic viticulture.  The three hectare estate was certified biodynamic (Demeter) in 2007.  He is also a pioneer in the use of chesnut flowers – a new one on me!  Added in the press, they are an anti-oxidant, explained Paiva, who uses no or low added sulphites and does not add yeast or enzymes.

Quinta da Palmirinha Branco 2017 is a blend of Arinto and Azal and, with deployment of chesnut flowers, has no added sulphites.  It’s very pure and fresh, with a mineral, stony, dry palate.  Firm.  Very good. 11.5%  Quinta da Palmirinha Loureiro 2017 has a pretty, floral nose.  In the mouth it’s less overtly floral, with good drive and mineral, stony, chalky intensity.  Nuttier, a little oily even – more developed than I’d expect – the 2016 Loureiro was stony and very textural.  Attractive in its own way, but less expressive of the variety.

Quinta da Palmirinha Branco 2016 – a blend of Loureiro and Azal is appley and crisp – like biting into a green apple on the attack; woollier fruited and more textural going through so a touch game of two halves, but interesting/engaging.  Quinta da Palmirinha Tinto 2016 (no sulphur added) features 90% Vinhão, 10% Espadeiro and Azal Tinto.  It’s tight, with very vivid, direct sour black cherry fruit and powdery, iodine inflected tannins.  Good length.  Firm and well-structured – one for the purist.

Paiva also makes a favourite Vinho Verde – Mica, which is the fruit of four organically farmed estates/producers.  Mica Loureiro 2017 dispenses with added sulphur for the first time (chesnut flowers deployed again).  It’s dry and taut – lovely tension – with snappy, applely acidity and nice minerality.  Mica Branco 2017 – a blend of five grapes – is pretty, seemingly sweeter, with ripe grapefruit, applely fruit and blossom notes.

Quinta de Covela, Baião,Vinho Verde

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Rui Cunha of Quinta de Covela

Covela are the masters of Avesso.  Winemaker Rui Cunha confirmed that they are producing more, also of the Touriga Nacional rosé and Arinto. Quinta de Covela Edição Nacional Avesso 2016 is crisp and crunchy, with a chalky texture.  Subtle, slow burn and mineral.  Very good.   Showing more fruit, Quinta de Covela Arinto 2017 nonetheless retains restraint – again, with the emphasis on variety and terroir as opposed to winemaking.  It shows gently lemony, but intense and persistent fruit – nice line – with a mineral finish.  Cunha reckons it will age well; I see no reason why not.

Quinta de Covela Touriga Nacional Rosé 2017 is not as interesting as the Palhete that Cunha made under the previous ownership (you may have noticed I am a fan of palhete!), but dry crunchy and firm, it’s a cut above – “for by the pool or at the table,” said Cunha.

Vales dos Ares, Moncão e Melgaço, Vinho Verde

Established in 2012 by Miguel Queimado, whom I met last year at The Yeatman’s Christmas Fair.  Fruit is sourced from Quinta do Mato, which has been owned by his family since 1683.  Aged in stainless steel on lees, I like the tangy stone fruit of Vales dos Ares Alvarinho 2016.  A good solid example of Moncão e Melgaço’s leading grape from a label.

Nuno Mira do Ó and João Soares, Bairrada, Beira Atlantico, Bucelas, Dão

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Nuno Mira do Ó

I had a fantastic visit with Nuno Mira do Ó in the Dão last November.  His wines are among my favourites from the region, especially the Encruzado Reserva – check out this report of a Druida vertical tasting from 2012-2016.  Thought still taut and mineral, Druida Encruzado Reserva 2016 has since unwound a tad.  It’s now showing the zesty lime characters I so enjoyed in the 2015.

We first met in Bucelas when Mira do Ó worked at Companhia das Quintas.  Drawing on his experience in this Arinto-focused region, he is now making a wine there  – Mira – in his trademark taut style.  After all, it has got his name on it.  For Mira do Ó, Arinto is “a very serious grape” and, accordingly, he has made a very serious wine, albeit with simple winemaking since, he told me, too reductive and you get pineapple and tropical, ferment-driven notes, not terroir.  Sourced from two vineyards, one low, but in a very cool area with deep clay-limestone soils, the other on a chalkier, sunny hillside, Mira Arinto 2016 (Bucelas) is whole bunch pressed in a basket press; 20% of the wine was aged for nine months on lees in old barrels, the balance in stainless steel.  It certainly speaks of chalk soils and the Atlantic.  It is dry, firm and chalkily mineral and salty, with a gentle leesiness – texture and flavour.  For me, perhaps a touch austere.  I’d like to come back to it, but I like the approach and have been keen to see an ambitious Bucelas which focuses on terroir over fruit or oak.

Doravante Branco 2016 (Bairrada) is firm and linear, with plenty of drive and minerality and a bell clear finish.  It is a barrel fermented and aged blend of Arinto (30 year old vines) and Bical and Cercial from centenarian vines. You don’t feel the oak. 12.5%   Alias Branco 2016 (Bairrada) is from a very old field blend vineyard; the principal variety is Bical.  With whiplash acidity and a palate like sucking lemons it is very pure and linear – for me too austere/unforgiving.  Perhaps this young wine needs time to unfurl, so I’m including it here because I like and respect the intention, but I did wonder if it had been picked too early and missed out on some flavour accumulation/palate weight to balance the acidity.  I hope to have a chance to review it with bottle age one day. Alias Rosé 2016 (Bairrada) is sourced from old Baga vines and features similarly bracing acidity, but I like its saltiness and minerality; a touch of perfume/florals to the nose too.

Doravante Tinto 2015 (Bairrada) is a co-fermented blend of Baga (50%) and Touriga Nacional (50%).  It was fermented and aged in foudre following a long, gentle maceration.  It features crunchy pomegranate and lifted florals.  Finely honed, fresh and fluid.  Very good. A medium-bodied, elegant red.  12% Alias Tinto 2015 (Bairrada) is from centenarian vines.  I tasted it the previous year and found it rather impenetrable, with curiously lemony acidity – on my review list.  Coming back to it a year later, it’s still lean and firm, but showing more – delicate if intense. Whilst the acidity is high, I don’t pick up any lemony quality  to the acidity.  Still a tad hairshirt, but I like it more, especially the delicacy and minerality.  Grapes for Alias and Outuro are sourced from the same vineyard.  Alias is from the cooler part and is fermented in lagares with less extraction than Outrora and a small percentage of stems.  It was aged in seasoned barrels.

From the warmer part of the site, extraction times can be extended for Outrora Baga 2013 and it is an imposing, very intense wine.  It was foot trodden in lagares with 20% stems, then aged in oak barrels (50% new) for two years, followed by two years in bottle.  Whilst 2014 was a disastrous year – “we didn’t pick anything”-  the rain came later in 2013, when the fruit was already off the vines.  This is a brooding, intense, mineral wine.  Baga’s smoky, sooty, mineral tannins – fine, very powdery – make their presence known on the back palate, suggesting this is a wine for the long haul.  With an (attractively) sweet and sour quality to its black (mostly) and red berry and currant fruit, it has vivacity and lift too.  My favourite Outrora yet.  13%

Aphros/Phaunus, Lima, Vinho Verde

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Vasco Croft of Aphros/Phaunus

I was introduced to Phaunus Loureiro Pet Nat 2016 at the previous year’s fair and, one year on, it’s still in fine form – tight, applely, lemony and mineral, with lovely energy and tension to its fruit.  Delicious.  Made from 100% Loureiro and with only one fermentation without added yeasts or sugar, it was dégorged after five months. Owner Vasco Croft also showed me a cloudy rosé pet nat from 2017 – a blend of Alvarinho and Vinhấo with a lively bead, floral hints but, overall, a touch of vin gris restraint and minerality about it.

For the still wines, Aphros Loureiro 2016 shows lime blossom, fresh lime and, with bright, persistent acidity and stony minerality, lingers.  With lovely balance and subtly wielded power for Loureiro – no oak histrionics – it spent two months on lees.  Aphros Daphne Loureiro 2016 is a knock out – this is my favourite cuvee from Aphros.  Following 12 hours’ skin contact the grapes were fermented on lees in a combination of inox vats, French oak and chestnut barrels.  Daphne 2016 has a commanding presence on the palate – great stillness, yet it radiates power – Loureiro/terroir vibes!  It is salty, firm, mineral and precise, very long and insistent.  Three ticks in my notebook!

Phaunus Palete 2016 is a blend of 80% Loureiro and 20% Vinhão. The de-stemmed grapes were pressed and naturally fermented on skins in beeswax-lined clay amphorae and aged on lees for three months.  As you would expect given grapes and process, it’s a spicy, textural ‘rosé’, with a light funkiness and stoniness to its tannin tapered cherry fruit. Cliché I know, but this is most definitely a wine to pair with food.  It went down very well with Croquetes de Alheira and Sardines Conserva at an ‘in conversation’ wine dinner I hosted with Croft and Tiago Saimpo at Bar Douro in May.

Casa de Saima, Bairrada

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Graca Miranda of Casa de Saima

While leading producers are returning to tradition, Graca Miranda has maintained it, ageing the estate’s Bagas in toneis.  These days, Casa de Saima has two white wines – a new Garrafeira made its debut at Simplesmente Vinho.  Like the reds, the whites get the traditional toneis treatment.    Made by Paulo Nunes of Casa de Passerella in the Dão, whose white wines are particularly good, I had high expectations.  And was not disappointed.  Casa de Saima Vinhas Velhas White 2017 was super-young – very firm and focused.  Tightly wound and yet to unfurl.   Casa de Saima Vinhas Velhas White 2016, then the current release, was tight and similarly, has time on its side, but it revealed mouthwatering saline and oyster shell nuances.  Fresh and linear with a hint of green, it is a naturally fermented blend of Bical & Maria Gomes.  12.5% New cuvee Casa de Saima Garrafeira White 2016 spent two years in toneis and one year in bottle. It also comes from old (60-70 year old) vines.  It shows delicious nutty, acacia and dried honey nuances to nose and palate.  In the mouth, it is textural but firm, stony and long.  There are layers to unpick here and the best is yet to come.  Good potential.

Casa de Saima Baga Tonel 10 2013 is a lighter style of 100% Baga that was recently introduced.  Grapes come from Vinha da Corga, Saima’s oldest vineyard and are foot trodden and natural fermented in lagares. The wine is then aged in Tonel 10 for a year. Bottled without fining or filtration, the tannins are dynamic – a touch chewy and spicily pithy.  Interspersed with the fruit, makes for a staccato effect – on/off spicy, mineral tannin and crunchy, fresh, sweet-scented red cherry and berry fruit.  I like it very much.  Broachable but a keeper too.  13%  Lighter styles of Baga have a resonance with Pinot Noir and, guess what….Casa de Saima Colheita Pinot Noir 2015 hails from 20 year old vines whose production previously went into sparkling wine – a regional speciality.  This first still effort features the smoky, flinty, mineral character which is associated with Baga on chalky soils, which is interesting.  The tannins are grippy – quite pronounced.  There is a distinct saltiness to the palate.  I didn’t mention the fruit character in my notebook, but crunchiness is mentioned which, for me, is about fresh firm, al dente fruit with high acidity.  This is the most Baga-like Pinot Noir I’ve tasted.  Terroir strikes! Fascinating to put the boot on the other foot, having always compared Baga with Pinot Noir

Quinta da Carolina & Primata, Douro

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Luís Pedro Cândido da Silva

I met winemaker, Luís Pedro Cândido da Silva, last year at a sneak preview of Nat’ Cool wines.  He produces an eyebrow-raising, feather-light, fresh Touriga Nacional with just 9% alcohol.  Following his oenology degree in Tarrangona, Cândido da Silva did a stage at Niepoort in 2013, following it up with vintages in other countries/regions – New Zealand, Champagne, Mosel, South Africa and the United States.

In 2015, he returned to his family estate, Quinta da Carolina, to help make the wines and, the following year, established his own label, Primata.  The wines are quite the contrast – the Quinta da Carolina wines are quite big, whilst the earlier picked Primata wines are at the other end of the spectrum.  I preferred the Primata wines, though sometimes I felt they could do with a little flesh.  It’s early days for both labels.   Cândido da Silva is making changes at the family property, which he plans to convert to organic viticulture by 2020.  He reckons 2017 is the best vintage yet and will signpost a new direction “with a bit more refinement.”

Primata Branco 2017 (Douro) is made from 100% Rabigato and has no added sulphur.  Rabigato seems to be a single varietal rising star (check out my notes on Mateus Nicolau d’Almeida’s trio of single parcel Rabigatos).  It is sourced from Poiares in the north of the Douro and was harvested early.  It is crunchy, salty and sucking lemon vivid.    The grapes were pressed direct to (very old) barrel and the wine was aged on lees. Very young, quite bracing, but promising.

I still like Nat’ Cool Primata Touriga Nacional 2016 very much.  From a vineyard at 600m, it is aromatic, fresh and crunchy but has delicious varietal character with its bergamot scented nose and tight palate. As for Primata Touriga Nacional 2017, in this hot, dry year – very early – the grapes were harvested a month earlier on 20 August.  With less hang time I detect a greenness in this wine that I didn’t find in the 2016.  Cândido da Silva is confident that the stems will integrate with time in bottle.  I do like its sapid, subtly smoky/flinty palate and crunchy fruit/acid profile.  There’s a hint of bergamot too which, doubtless, will dial up with time.

Primata Tinto 2016 is sourced from a very warm site, but one which includes ‘lighter’ grapes such as Rufete, Tinta Amarela and Touriga Franca.  Made with 50% stems and aged in old French oak barrels, it’s quite grippy, with a smoky palate.  The tannins are a little drying on the finish.  I’d be interested to come back to it, but I get the ‘inside out’ approach – a phrase coined by top Cape winemaker Eben Sadie, who likes to see the seams in a wine.  All in all, work in progress, but I reckon this is an estate and a label to keep an eye on.

Conceito, Douro Superior

Simplesmente Vinho 2019

Rita Ferreira Marques of Conceito

Conceito’s wines are well known in the UK and you can read some background to the estate in this report of a visit with Rita Marques Ferreira, a boundary-pusher of the Douro Superior and now, quite literally, with her new Ontem label.  It is from Terras de Beira – an area located between the Douro, Dão and Távora-Varosa.

Marques made her name in Portugal with her white wines and in the UK with Bastardo.  Two vintages of Contraste, her entry level white, impressed.  Conceito Contraste White 2017 has a sweet, nutty, leesy edge and a firmer, balancing greener nutty kernel to the core, which bring texture and tightness respectively. I like the energy between the two – an engaging palate.  Conceito Contraste White 2016 is more immediately expressive, with smoky hazelnut/praline notes to the nose and palate, shredded lime and a really lovely pebbly acidity which refreshes.

Conceito Ontem Branco 2016 – the new label (which translates as yesterday) – is from a very elevated site at 750m on granite soils in the village of Aveloso, in Mêda.  Old field blend vines, which include Encruzado and Fernão Pires, were harvested early and the whole bunch grapes underwent some skin and stem contact in tank before being pressed – for texture and to help protect the wine against oxidation.  It is a nutty, phenolic wine, with red apple skin lifted notes, wormwood (a touch woolly and bitter) and sweet lees. Though I like the idea of rescuing old abandoned vineyards in an overlooked part of the country, I’m not convinced by the execution.  I found it both occluded and pinched/attenuated.  One to review.

I much preferred Conceito Ontem Tinto 2015 to the white.  From the same vineyard, it features Baga, Jaen and Alfrocheiro.  The Baga influences the firm, very mineral, granular tannin structure which (currently) contains this wine.  The juicier Jaen and Alfrocheiro put up a fight going through, which makes for a striated palate, with energetic parrying of tannin, fruit and juice.  The tannins win out on the finish, which is a touch blocky, but I’d be interested to return to this wine in a year or two to see whether they have mellowed.  I liked the underlying acidity and the minerality very much.

A sample of Conceito Bastardo 2017 was in fine form and will have been bottled by now.  Pale ruby, it had very crunchy, red fruit – nice acidity (edgier than juicy) – with a lick of catering chocolate/chinato herbs and sweet red cherry scented resonances to the finish. Conceito Legítimo 2016 had yet to be bottled, but this blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz sees a high degree of carbonic maceration since, observed Marques, “easy drinking wines like this are in demand from everywhere so, more and more, I’m looking at that style.”  It is markedly fresh, a touch reduced now, but with inky florals which I suspect will blossom once in bottle (it should be bottled by now).  Promising intensity, with powdery, fine tannins.  13.5%

Dona Berta, Douro Superior

Dona Berta claim to have produced the first single varietal Rabigato and I wrote up the Dona Berta Reserva Branco Vinhas Velhas Rabigato 2016 & Dona Berta Reserva Tinto 2013 earlier this year, following a tasting at The Yeatman Christmas Fair.  I wasn’t surprised to discover that I liked Dona Berta Tinta Cão Reserva 2012 very much too.  It’s a grape that really comes into its own with bottle maturity and this densely textured but fine tannined example showcases it delicious incense spice.  Nice detail.  Hails from a vineyard between 400-600m, which allows for a long, slow ripening process. 13.5%

Sem Igual, Vinho Verde, Amarante

I first came across Sem Igual a few years ago and wrote up the 2012 and 2013 vintages here.  This concentrated, textural Vinho Verde is a blend of Azal and Arinto, both of which varieties are on the up in Vinho Verde. The wines are very textural and quite weighty for Vinho Verde.

I noticed then that the vintage seemed to have really impacted on the 2012 and 2013 in terms of palate weight and freshness.  More so than I’ve noticed with other producers’ wines.  It was a similar story at Simplesmente Vinho.  Sem Igual 2015 (13.2%, TA 6.3) seemed more developed – savoury, more leesy, even a little nutty and oily compared with Sem Igual 2016 and, tellingly, Sem Igual 2014 (12.8%, TA 6.6), which was markedly fresher and more fruit-focused than the younger wines, showed crisp apple and good persistence.  The 2016 had nice clarity to the nose and classic Azal apple peel, but just felt a little heavy in the mouth.

I asked about the use of lees and batonnage, which can give body and reduce perceptions of freshness, however João Camizão Rocha told me they only do a little batonnage.  I wonder if earlier picking dates would benefit the wines given the 2014 was lighter on its feet?

Pormenor, Douro, Douro Superior

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Pedro Coelho of Pormenor

Having exchanged emails, it was good at last to meet Pedro Coelho, one of the co-founders of Pormenor, whose wines are made in consultancy with Luis Seabra.  You can read my earlier reports on these Douro Superior wines here and here.  At Simplesmente Vinho, I tasted 2016 whites and 2015 red plus Pormenor’s Ports – a new addition to the range.

Pormenor Branco 2016 (Douro Superior) is from elevated vineyards in Carrazeda de Ansiaes, between 600-700m.  It is an unoaked blend of mainly Rabigato, Malvasia Fina and Códega do Larinho.  Lovely freshness and persistence; salty, citrussy and mineral.  Well done.  Pormenor Reserva Branco 2016 (Douro Superior) hails from very old vines (90 years old plus) planted between 600m to 800m, in Carrazeda de Ansiães.  This more ambitious wine, which was aged for 10 months in used French oak barrels, has a little more concentration, structure and line.  It shows lime zest and lime cordial on the palate, with chalky minerality going through.  Lovely line and length.  Very good.

Pormenor Trilho 2015 references the three founding partners and three fermentation parcels for this elegant, lifted wine.  I tasted a sample which will have been bottled by now.  One parcel of fruit was fermented whole bunch, another de-stemmed with 50% of the stems returned to the ferment and the remaining parcel was de-stemmed. It weighs in at just 11.6% alcohol but it’s elegantly fruited, not mean or lean, with lovely perfumed lift.  Worth tracking down, though I understand it’s a limited edition.

Pormenor don’t make Port, but they are buying select Port and bottling it under the Pormenor label.  Pormenor LBV Port 2011 has lashings of fruit, with good juiciness.  Just a touch sweet for me.  Pormenor 10 Year Old Tawny Port is better balanced and, given the average age of the blend is 18 years old, it has a good hit of liquorice and spice to its dried fruit and caramel palate.

Montalegre, Trás-os-Montes

One wine stood out to me in Francisco Gonçalves’ range, which is sourced from granite soils  – Montalegre Tinta Amarela 2016.  A suave, tobacco-laced palate has good fruit intensity, freshness and polished tannins.  He rates the variety at altitude and, incidentally, lays claim to the highest vineyards in Portugal at 1025m (white grapes only).  This wine was fermented in stainless steel and spent 6 months in barrel.

Morgado do Quintão, Algarve, Lagoa

Simplesmente Vinho 2019

Filipe Vasconcellos of Morgado do Quintão

The Algarve has yet to really make its mark on me as a wine region.  My 50 Great Portuguese Wines’ selection back in 2010 included a wine from Monte da Casteleja (see next heading).  Made with quality in mind from traditional grapes, it was not only well made, but also had some ‘soul’ about it, so I was interested to meet Filipe Vasconcellos who, similarly, is working with traditional varieties.  Specifically, Crato Branco and Negra Mole from 60 year old family-owned vineyards.

Vasconcellos, a communications’ man, has lived in Paris and New York and, perhaps with the benefit of distance, saw that there was little point following the crowd and making wines from Touriga Nacional or Syrah.  What’s more, he told me, the family had a recipe for making a palhete and a white wine, a trial batch of which sold out, encouraging him to scale up production from 3000 bottles in 2016 to 10,000 bottles in 2017 (otherwise the family grapes are sold to the local co-op).

The vineyard, which also has some Castelão, was planted by Vasconcellos’ grandparents.  He is planting another 10 hectares this year.  Located just 10km from the ocean, the soils are mostly sandy.

The wines are made by Joana Maçanita, whose name might have a familiar ring for readers.  Her brother is Antonio Maçanita of Fita Preta and Azores Wine Company repute.  They are well made, as I’d expect from this experienced consultant.  What gives them extra interest is that they are not obvious-tasting – they have character, palate weight and texture.  A sample of Morgado do Quintão Crato Branco 2017, partially oaked, had decent palate weight while, if lacking in freshness, the Morgado do Quintão 2017 Palhete – an unoaked blend of Crato Branco and Negra Mole – had nice texture and pick.  Morgado do Quintão Negra Mole Clarete 2016 (an unoaked light red) had the richness and sweet dried fig that I recall from Monte da Casteleja.  It tastes like a wine from a hot place.  Better than trying to bang a square peg into a round hole I say.

Still, it’s early days and I’m more interested by the concept than what’s in the glass. From 2018, Vasconcellos has taken over the maintenance of the vineyard and, given his ambition for the wines, I’d expect them to have a little more finesse going forward.  Let’s see.

Monte da Casteleja, Algarve, Lagos

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Guillaume Leroux of Monte da Casteleja

Since 2011, the vineyard Guillaume Leroux planted on the land he inherited from his grandfather has been certified organic. The vigneron arrived in the Algarve via wine studies in France and a stint of winemaking in the Douro.  He planted 3 ha of vineyard on limestone soil and works only with local varieties, but not Negra Mole, though he confirms that people are coming back to it.  Monte da Casteleja vineyard is located just 3 km from the sea.  The shift to organic cultivation is not the only change since I last tasted with Leroux.  Since 2013, he has fermented wines on skins and stems and has started moving the wines to barrel only at the end of the ferment.  Otherwise he was finding that the wines were getting a bit dry.

A sample of Monte da Casteleja Branco 2017 – a blend of Arinto and Perrum – spent 10 days on skins before it was pressed and completed the fermentation in old casks, with batonnage for four months.  It is spicy and perfumed to nose and palate, with good concentration to its sweet, dried pineapple.  A touch of tannin adds interest, phenolic texture and balance.  Flavoursome and round.  Well done.

Monte da Casteleja Rosé 2017, another sample, is a pale, blush hue.  It is perfumed with a sweetness to its fruit (Algarve sweetness) and is round, balanced and textural.  Nicely done, it is made from 100% Bastardo.  Monte da Casteleja Red 2015 spent a year in 500l Portuguese and French oak barrels (50:50) and was bottled last November.  It is a blend of 60% Bastardo and 40% Alfrocheiro, with a rich, deep, figgy nose and palate and fleshier blueberry bounce.  Good tannin structure and perfumed violets on the finish make for a very complete wine.  I like the style very much.

Casa Altas, Beira Interior

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

José Madeira Afonso (r) of Casa Altas

Casa Altas is aptly named.  The vineyards – three, totally 15ha – are located at 650-700m on sandy, granitic soils.  Having banged the drum for local varieties, I have to admit that here, it was the Riesling that impressed! It’s not the only Portuguese Riesling to tickle my palate this year, I might add.  Check out my notes on Muxagat Riesling from the Douro here.

Casa Altas Riesling 2016, made in a dry style, is sourced from 2ha of Riesling vines, the oldest of which (600 vines) were planted 20 years ago.  Owner José Madeira Afonso told me that he planted it simply because he likes it.  It has a lively, appetising nose and palate with lime blossom, apple and talc notes, a hint of lavender and good freshness.  In palate weight, it’s closer to Alsace than Germany.  Very well done. 13%

As for local grapes, sticking with ‘R,’ Casa Altas Rufete 2016 is a lovely, floral, unoaked example, with good freshness and low alcohol.  Eminently quaffable, it is sourced mainly from Pinhel and, with 60+ year old vines, has good intensity. 12%

Vitor Claro, Alentejo, Beira Atlantico, Lisboa

Vitor Claro & Rita Marques

Since I first wrote up Vitor Claro’s wines in 2013 here, the chef cum winemaker has, with the help of his partner, Rita Marques, focused on making wine full time.  A journey which has taken him beyond base camp – Portalagre, Alentejo – to Beira Interior and Lisboa, where he now also makes wine.

I tasted a vertical of his fresh but powerful, terroir-driven old field blend Portalegre wines, Dominó Monte Pratas and Dominó Salão Frio last year.  The maiden 2010 and 2011 vintages really impressed, especially given Claro is not a trained winemaker.  The red, austere in its youth, really came into its own with age, putting me in mind of mature, elegant Northern Rhone Syrah – the closest I’ve seen to old school wines Tapada do Chaves 1986 and 1977, which really excited me last year.   He has a great feel for making wine and is now also managing the vineyards which he rents.  In fact, this year he is hoping to buy a vineyard in Portalegre.  Meanwhile, home in Lisboa is now also home to a micro-winery.

Dominó Monte das Pratas 2016 (Alentejo, Portelagre) is very textural – a little creamy, with savoury, waxy, lanolin nuances to its firm applely fruit and good acidity.  A baby.  Dominó Celestino 2016 is made solely from Moscatel sourced from old vines.  Claro told me usually he’s not a fan of varietal Moscatels but use of skin contact, he said, “makes it more proper, more serious.”  Indeed.  It has pronounced florals to the lifted nose but the palate is more focused on its spicy, gingery fruit, with firm but ripe pear and succulent lychee.  Serious but easy going; Claro fancies next exploring making an Atlantic-influenced Moscatel from Setubal.  12.5%

As for the reds, Dominó Foxtrot Tinto 2016 (Alentejo, Portelagre) is pale, perfumed, fresh and bright with expressive spice and floral notes.  Lovely sappy summer drinking. 12%  Dominó Salao Frio Tinto 2015 (Alentejo, Portelagre) has a beautiful deep-seated fragrance to nose and palate, with scented red cherry and currant, flowers and  spice.  Mineral-sluiced acidity make for a fine, persistent, very long palate. Lovely purity and joie de vivre.  Dominó Vide Red 2016 (Alentejo, Portelagre) is sourced from a very old, 1/3ha field blend vineyard, planted predominantly to Tinto de Olho Branco.  The fruit was intended for Foxtrot but Claro decided to keep it separate.  It is the driest, firmest of the three Portalegre reds, with sappy fruit.  More intensity than Foxtrot, but lighter than Salao Frio.  Needs time.

Colmeal Tinto 2016 (Beira Interior) hails from a vineyard on granite at several hundred metres’ altitude.  It is a field blend of mainly Marufo, with some Rufete, Baga and Siria.  Complex and textural, it has a saltiness, perfumed orange peel and sandpapery tannins to its scaled back al dente, touch biting red fruits (it did not complete the malo).  It makes up for the biting with a kiss – a peacock’s tail finish, with lovely perfumed resonance to the back palate.  I liked this very much.  Not polished, a little rustic but fine, very sapid, energetic and engaging.  Holds you in its thrall.  11%

Nat’ Cool Pulso 2017 (Lisboa) is a Castelão sourced from Colares’ clay soils.  It is sweet fruited, with red cherry and glace cherry fruit, nice freshness and detail (not just fruit, fruit) and a tapering finish.  Very much in the warm climate Pinot Noir style of Castelão.  And made to drink.  12%

Quinta do Portal, Portal Unlocked, Cima Corgo, Douro

Quinta do Portal’s Paulo Coutinho

Given license to thrill at Simplesmente Vinho 2018, Quinta do Portal’s winemaker Paulo Countinho quipped Portal’s limited edition ‘Portal Unlocked’ range are his “wines from the toy room.”  ‘Portal Unlocked’ revolves around wines “made with less intervention in a more natural way.”

It’s not the first time this well-established Douro producer has gone off piste.  Take Black Pur Malbec, written up here.  Or Quinta do Portal Barroca 2016 which I recently tasted – a rich and velvety take on this high sugar grape, the latter evident in the alcohol by volume, which imparts a (pleasant) warmth to the palate.  It weighs in at 16% abv.  Save that one for the winter months and a stew!

Located in Sabrosa, the Pinhão river valley, with vineyards at elevations up to 600m, Portal’s whites have focused on preserving freshness and fruit (though they can develop well with bottle age).  For the Unlocked 2017 series – a 3-pack comprising a Malvasia Fina, Viosinho and non-vintage rosé – texture and savouriness come to the fore thanks, to lees-ageing, lower sulphur regimes, perhaps natural yeasts and lower fermentation temperatures too?  I realise I’m not sure about these two last points.

Countinho explained that the project kicked off with the rosé, which is made in an oxidative style.  Non-vintage, Quinta do Portal Unlocked Rosé (Douro DOC) is a blend of wines (mainly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional) from the 2008 to 2012 harvests, with fresh lees from the 2013-2015 vintages.  The juice was obtained directly from the press and fermented and aged in a stainless steel vat with bâtonnage, following the addition of fresh lees from the vintages 2013 to 2015.   It is a partridge eye hue, with surprising soft, ripe berry/plum fruit to the nose and palate nonetheless –  a fulsome quality, reflecting its origin.  And subtly creamy lees, a touch saline and all the more interesting for that.  Yet it has a freshness and persistence too and delicate floral and spice notes – that’ll be the Touriga.  More rosehip than my more typical dried roses/rock rose note.  Though, initially it seems a wine of two halves (fulsome then bone dry to the finish), as it opens up, the dots join and it drinks very well.  In the mouth it has an intriguing toasty, autolytic edge which Coutinho brilliantly captures – “like old Champagne” and a touch of vegetality/onion skin and slightly medical herbs.  Though I confess I’ve never tasted it, in my mind’s eye, I can imagine it might also be likened to  an aged Rosado Rioja for its savouriness and soft, persistent mouthfeel.  Languorous and complex, it’s my pick of the 2017 Unlocked Series.  13%  Just 1.020 bottles made.

Quinta do Portal Unlocked Viosinho 2015 (Douro DOC) has nutty, green almondy, saline-edged leesy palate.  The lees drive the flavour profile and mouthfeel, but the vineyard’s and variety’s acidity courses beneath, pulling out from under the pillowy lees, making for a fresh finish, with a very subtle hint of tomato plant. It was fermented in a stainless steel vat “to keep the freshness and the character of the parcel from where the grapes come from, located at 580m of altitude at Quinta do Confradeiro.” This wine retains 5.7g/l residual sugar which might suggest this wine was naturally fermented and didn’t ferment to complete dryness.  It’s part of the mouthfeel and sweet nuttiness of this wine.  13%  Just 1.020 bottles made.

Like Viosinho, Quinta do Portal Unlocked Malvasia Fina 2015 (Douro DOC) is made from a typical white Douro variety, so very much a player in old field blend wines.  Quinta dos Roques in the Dão make one and, like this wine, it showcases the variety’s broad, textural palate.  It has vegetal and/or soft nutty notes to nose and palate that make me think of calisson, the Provence sweet which is made from a paste of candied fruit and ground almonds.  There’s a hint of sweet mandarin or clementine to the fruit, but it is most definitely broad of fruit, not citrussy as such.  Coming from Quinta do Confradeiro, like the Viosinho, elevation accounts for the deftly balanced acidity which gives this wine a certain poise.  It makes for an attractive, food friendly wine for earlyish drinking.  The soft mouthfeel with ripe but present acidity is something of a signature note about these friendly but complex wines.  Clever winemaking. This wine was fermented in a stainless steel vat, followed by bâtonnage in the vat. 1,301 bottles.  13%

Rui Reguinga, Terrenus, Portalegre, Alentejo

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Rui Reguinga at Vinha da Serra

I visited with Reguinga last February, when I was excited to taste his amphora red wine.  Encouraged by its quality and reception, he told me he is doing more – “it makes no sense to put it in barrel.”   A reversal of fortune for this format – when Reguinga first arrived in Portalegre in the 1980s, Talha or amphora were the fermentation vessel of choice!

Terrenus Vinha da Serra 2016 (Portalegre, Alentejo) comes from the region’s highest vineyard at 850m.  The old, field blend vineyards are terraced – quite striking; key varieties include Arinto, Fernão Pires, Bical, Roupeiro, Malvasia and Tamarez.  This wine combines texture with freshness to consensual effect.  Ready to go now, it offers a nutty, oxidative, textural palate, while well-integrated, underlying acidity provides persistence and length. It was naturally fermented in cement tanks, then aged for six months in 500l French oak barrels.  13.6%

Terrenus Amphorae Tinto 2016 (Portalegre, Alentejo) is a lively wine, with herbaceous (dried herb) lift and lovely freshness and juiciness to its al dente, close to the stone black cherry fruit.  Picky tannins add to its animation.  Very good, it is sourced from a 30 year old vineyard  – Vinha da Ammaia – planted primarily to Trincadeira, Moreto and Castelao at 600m in the village of Marvão on schist and clay.  The wine was aged for six months in terracotta amphorae.  13.5%

Adega Viúva Gomes, Colares

Adega Viúva Gomes was established in 1808.  My introduction to this producer in 2014 came courtesy of an extremely fine, mature white – Viúva Gomes Collares 1969 – spelled the old way!  These assertive, acid-driven wines, borne of sea spray and sand, benefit hugely from ageing.

Adega Viúva Gomes was acquired, lock, stock and barrel in 1988 by José Baeta, whose family have been food merchants in Sintra since 1898.  Doubtless the Baetas would have known of Viúva Gomes’ wines.  They were very highly regarded during the peak of Colares’ fame, which came in the wake of the phylloxera crisis.  Colares’ vineyards are planted on phylloxera-resistant, deep, sandy beach soils known locally as ‘Chão de Areia.’

Sadly, the vineyards’ advantageous beachside location in Sintra was to be their undoing.  Many growers succumbed to offers from the architects of Lisboa’s suburban sprawl.  Thank goodness for Baeta and others like Monte Cascas and Casal Sta Maria.  Joining stalwart Adega Colares – the highly regarded co-operative – they are helping to keep this traditional wine style alive.

Barely, says Baeta, who says the younger generation has no interest in working the land.  Not least since, if you have more than one hectare, you can build on it.  He predicts that the region’s native grapes – Malvasia de Colares and Ramisco – will soon be planted elsewhere.

In fact, both Baeta and Adega Colares showed more forward, contemporary wines sourced from Sintra’s hard ‘Chão Rijo’ clay soils, which fall outside the Colares (sandy soils only) DOC.  Viúva Gomes Patrão Diogo Branco 2016 (Lisboa VR) is an unoaked 50:50 blend of Arinto and Fernão Pires.  The grapes are sourced from clay soils, but exposure to maritime winds and cool temperatures year round (Atlantic proximity) produces a soundly made fresh, clean, fruity white.  It doesn’t have the character or tautness of Colares’ terroir or grapes.  Similarly, Viúva Gomes Patrão Diogo Tinto 2015 (Lisboa VR), a fruity, fresh blend of Castelão and Aragonez. But then that’s not the point of these user friendly wines.

A magnum of Viúva Gomes Malvasia de Colares 2010 (Colares DOC) was salty, very fresh, with lively, taut acidity to its ripe lemon, a touch of oiliness/oilskin and kerosene.  Long, penetrating.  Very good.  Viúva Gomes Ramisco 2009 (Colares DOC) is, as Baeta puts it “less claws out” than previous incarnations.  It has lovely red fruit, with good detail/definition to both fruit and tannin, freshness and minerality.  Not exactly velvet paws, but relatively friendly for Ramisco!

Adega Regional de Colares, Colares

Simplesmente Vinho 2018

Francisco Figueiredo of Adega de Colares Regional

Winemaker Francisco Figueiredo’s nickname – Xico Ramisco – speaks volumes of the regard in which he is held.  He is a passionate advocate for Colares and reckons that the region is enjoying an upswing in popularity compared with when he joined the company in 1999.  “Old World wines with more acidity and punch are quite fashionable,” he told me.  Check out these results of a Decanter panel tasting of native Portuguese reds under £25 and you’ll see what I mean. And guess who came top!

Adega Regional de Colares Arenae Branco Malvasia de Colares 2015 (Colares DOC) has classic iodine, kelpy salty notes to brisk nose and palate, with fresh apple core and peel pith and bite.  A bracing slap of a wave, salty finish leaves you in no doubt about this wine’s coastal origins.  Adega Regional de Colares Arenae Ramisco 2009 (Colares DOC) is firm, very tight on the nose but, from a warm year, has a dark fruit profile and assertive but, for Colares, ripe if present long chain tannins. In February, it showed pippy, fresh picked blackcurrant and bilberry and looked a touch mellower and more expressive in April at importer Clark Foyster’s tasting, with cinnamon-kissed plum fruit with iodine, salt and pine nuances.  Finishes firm and mineral.  Very good.  Incidentally, they still have the 2007 Ramisco which came out on top at the Decanter panel tasting.  From a cooler year, it is finer, with emphatically red fruits and plenty of tension and minerality. 12.5%

The Chão Rijo label denotes Lisboa wines from clay-limestone soils of the region a little further away (c. 10km) from the coast.  Chão Rijo Branco 2016 (Lisboa VR) is an unoaked blend of local grapes Malvasia (80%), Galego Dourado, Jampal and Fernão Pires.   It shows succulent, green-edged tropical fruit – prickly pear and star fruit, so it’s not tutti frutti and has a little phenolic interest. And the region’s trademark freshness.  Chão Rijo Tinto 2015 (Lisboa VR), a blend of Castelão (80%) and Tinta Roriz (20%) from clay/limestone soils was aged in big old vats.  It has good fruit and freshness with some attractive green (pine?) nuances; the tannins are ripe but present.

Filipa Pato & William Wouters, Bairrada

Filipa Pato with William Wouters (r) and Max Graham of Bar Douro (l)

Filipa Pato’s name usually leads, but not on William Wouters Roleta Russa de Baga 2015 (Bairrada).  The grapes were sourced from two recently acquired old Baga vineyards (averaging 80 years old) located about 15km from the ocean, on mostly limestone over clay. “Planted almost like a rose garden,” said Wouters, the vines are mid-slope and east-facing, so they only see the morning sun. The crop was so small that it was vinified separately – half in amphorae and half in 500l pipas, before being blended and aged for several months in a 2000l Garbelloto Slavonian oak foudre. Unfined and unfiltered by design, with minimal sulphur (not even 40 mg/l), the wine spent two winters in the cellar and, joked Wouters, would have been Vermouth had it not stabilised!  It’s a pale, light-footed Baga, with pine needle lift to nose and back palate,  fresh plum, soft red berry and cherry fruit and a fine, sandpapery rub of tannin.  I re-tasted it a couple of months later at an ‘in conversation’ dinner at Bar Douro with William & Filipa and it had really opened up, showing more rustic, peppery spice and smoke inflections. 12%

One year younger and aged 100% in 300l amphora (the ones with the new inox cap), Filipa Pato & William Wouters Post Quer..s Baga Tinto 2016 (Bairrada) is prettier – more fruit and flowers centred than Roleta Russa.  The sweet red and black berry and cherry fruit is a touch jammy, with violets.  It spent around six weeks on skins (30% whole bunch).  Lovely.  12%

I’ve had the excellent good fortune to taste Filipa Pato & William Wouters Nossa Calcario Branco 2011 (Bairrada) three times in the last year. I’d tasted it last September at Baga Friends’ annual September event, which I’m looking forward to attending again this year. Then at Simplesmente and again in magnum at the Bar Douro dinner in April.  The 2011 really reinforces how well this wine ages.  My note from last September captures it best – green gold, with rich beurre noisette and a burnish of oak to perfumed nose and palate.  This is a powerful Nossa (as befits the year), with great length and layer and an energetic, serrated delivery of zesty, candied lime and white peach, cut with flint and incisive acidity.  In terrific form now with years in hand.  Outstanding.  It was shown at Bar Douro alongside Filipa Pato & William Wouters Nossa Calcario Branco 2016 (Bairrada), which I re-tasted the next day at Clark Foyster’s trade tasting.  Suffice to say I selected it as one of two Bairrada wines which made the cut for my May Wines of the Month, written up here.

Here are my notes from this April on a few other wines, which are sold in the UK. Filipa Pato & William Wouters Nossa Calcario Tinto 2015 (Bairrada) has effortless charm.  It is very delicate and floral with a salty, smoky quality to nose and red fruited palate.  Without detracting from this wine’s delicious fluidity and line, very mineral, fine, powdery tannins rise in the mouth.  Ever so elegant, pure and fresh.  I should also say very amenable now, but with the chops for ageing.  12% Filipa Pato & William Wouters Territorio Vivo Baga 2016 (Bairrada) is quite different, with darker fruit, pine needle and smoky mineral notes, with meaty undertones and more assertive, sinewy tannins with a touch of herbaceousness.    It is sourced from more recently acquired vineyards and aged in a mix of foudre, amphora and 500l pipas.

Finally, Filipa Pato & William Wouters 3B Blanc de Blancs NV (Bairrada) is mostly made from Cercial and, following the second ferment in bottle, spends 6-9 months on lees.  It is a flavoursome fizz, very fresh, with a green edge to it slightly nutty, saline palate.  Nice persistence.  Well made. 12%  Filipa Pato & William Wouters FP Branco 2017 (Bairrada) is a blend of 80% Bical/20% Arinto.  It represents this early harvest well with a flavoursome, quite structured palate* with a phenolic edge to its apple/apple peel fruit, grapefruity acidity and a salty, refreshing finish.  *20% of this vintage was aged in used Allier barrels.  12.5%

Follow these links for recent tasting notes from visits/tastings with other Simplesmente Vinho producers:

António Madeira, Dão, Serra d’Estrela

Marcio Lopes Pequeno Rebentos, Vinho Verde

Quinta do Montalto, Lisboa

Barbeito, Madeira

Valados de Melgaço, Monçao e Melgaço, Vinho Verde

Luis Pato

Tiago Saimpo, Folias de Baco, Douro

The Roseira family – Quinta do Infantado, Douro

Pedro Garcias – Mapa, Douro

Joaquim Almeida – Quinta de Vale de Pios, Douro

Álvaro Martinho Lopes – Mafarrico e Maquia, Douro

Luis Seabra, Vinho Verde, Douro

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