Simplesmente Vinho 2020: 111 wines reviewed

Simplesmente Vinho 2020, at Cais Novo, Rua de Monchique, Oporto

It seems to me to be more important than ever to shine a spotlight on Simplesmente Vinho, which has been a vital showcase for artisanal producers, vignerons and micro-negociants, who cannot draw on the marketing budgets or human resources of the bigger players.  They may be small, but as an Australian producer once said, they are “the sizzle in the sausage,” helping to lend edge, excitement and interest to Portugal’s wine offer.

Portugal was hit harder than most by the global financial crisis in 2008.  There is comfort knowing how resilient and creative the Portuguese have been, despite the exigencies of the resulting austerity programme.  But it would be terrible if the tender green shoots I have seen starting to blossom and thrive are crushed as a result of the Corvid-19 pandemic.  So please do offer your support and seek out some of these truly exciting and, above all, authentic wines.  They reflect a particular place, a creativity borne out of a particular time and they thoroughly deserve to succeed.

Below you’ll find my notes on those producers I caught up with at this buzzy two day fair.  Click here for a full list of the attending producers.  Great work, in both senses of the word, by João, Gustavo and Sara Roseira of Quinta do Infantado, who run the show.

Simplesmente Vinho 2010 – Dão

In the throes of researching a Decanter feature on the Dão (now published here), I kicked off with this northern Portuguese region and, after the fair, visited several producers in the region (which visits/wines I’ll review in a separate post).

Sara Dionisio of Casa de Mouraz

It was good to catch up with Sara Dionisio of Casa de Mouraz in the Dão, having just tasted Bot at the Essencia do Vinho Top 10 tasting (reviewed here).  Dionisio explained that it came from old field blend vineyard which was destroyed in the 2017 fires. Fortunately, being in Santar, the Elfa vineyard which produces another highly characterful red, was unaffected. I asked her what varieties Casa de Mouraz are planting in the wake of the fires. She replied Tinta Pinheiro, Alvarelho, Bastardo and Donzelinho, adding “we can’t just focus on Touriga Nacional and lose the diversity; they are higher acid and drought resistent.”  

Casa de Mouraz Branco 2017 comes from a vineyard planted by her father-in-law 60s.  As ever, it is a complex wine of substance  – textural, with lovely mouthfeel, coursing acidity and a hint of petrol and lime blossom to its limey, stony fruit.  13.5%

Dionisio showed me some new-to-me juicy, very jolly vins de soif wines, which bear the labels of family pets.   Thanks to the anti-oxidant and microbial properties of chesnut flowers, they have no added sulphur.  Still on the skins, a tank sample of Casa de Mouraz Planet Bolinha White 2019 from old field blend vines will be labelled after her Bichon Maltese.  It has nice grip, resin and nutty intensity.  Promising.  Casa de Mouraz Planet Nina 2019 after the cat is a 50:50 red/white blend – palhete.  It’s very pretty, with soft red berry fruits and a lick of bergamot.  Casa de Mouraz Planet Chibu 2019 features a picture of the family’s goat which, Dionisio assured me, is the only pet who doesn’t live in the house!  This tank sample (unoaked) is a field blend with around just 10% of white grapes.  It’s quite Rhonish  – really peppery, with a delicately spun web of tannin, which gently holds the red berry and plum fruit together.  In 2017, two young cellar hands from New Zealand were given free rein to do what they liked.  They produced Casa de Mouraz Jaen 2017, the first single varietal example, which features whole berry and carbonic maceration.  It’s an easy-going charmer, fresh and red-fruited.  Very likeable.  Casa de Mouraz wines are imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.

João Soares and Nuno Mira do O (r)

In 2017, Nuno Mira do O introduced a new top tier cuvee to his Dão Druida range – Grande Druida.   I was keen to taste it, being a huge fan of the Reserva, which I kicked off with.   Druida Reserva Encruzado 2018 is nicely concentrated, with tightly wound lime – lots of tension – spearing acidity and a hint of crushed coriander seed on the finish; 12.5% .  Druida Grande Druida Encruzado 2017 comes from the same vineyard, but is from the best of the three parcels, which has touch more clay relative to the granite and limestone to the surface.  “The vineyard on its own tells me what to do,” says the winemaker.  Indeed, the winemaking is the same as for the Reserva, which is naturally fermented and aged for 10 months in French oak, 20% new.     Druida Grande Druida Encruzado 2017 has a chiselled mineral quality – a sense of dry extract, with slate, lime, lime zest and coriander seed.  Very energetic, long and focused.  Terrific.  Re-tasting a sample a few weeks later at home, I was struck how different it is from the Reserva – in less of a hurry. Where the Reserva is linear, it has more reach and mouthfeel, with a touch of white peach as well as citrus, but ever so very lightly done, almost as if the flavours – certainly the citrus (grapefruit and lime) – are aromatised.  The dry extract is soft and gently mouthcoating.  12.5%

Turning to Nuno Mira do O’s reds, Nuno remarked that he finds Tinta Roriz vegetal and is fed up with Touriga Nacional hogging the spotlight.  He has re-grafted a parcel from Tinta Roriz to Baga and Jaen in pursuit of elegance – “an old Dão character” –  a common refrain on my subsequent travels in the region.    Vidente 2016  – a co-fermented blend of Tinta Pinheira (a.k.a. Rufete, an early ripener which, Mira do O observed, needs to be in a cold spot or the sugars and alcohol can shoot up) Alfrocheiro, Jane and Touriga Nacional, aged in used barrels.   Lovely berry fruit, with lots of spice; long perfumed elegant, quite mineral, with hints of earth and incipient mushroom.   Lively persistence and lift.  Druida Tinto 2017 is a blend of Jaen (fermented whole bunch), Touriga Nacional (de-stemmed, because the stems are quite vegetal) with the other varieties, aged for 20 months in 50:50 new/aged oak.  Good concentration of red fruit with youthfully toasty oak and whole bunch grip to the tannins.  Young, very promising.  Nuno Mira do O’s wines are imported into the UK by Graft Wine, together with the Bairrada wines he makes with João Soares, also very good.

The sense of returning to the past is not just expressed varietally.  On founding Quinta do Escudial, retired 68-year-old electrical engineer José Silva and his wife Estefânia, a teacher, determined to make unwooded wines, “like in the past,” explained their son, Miguel.  They started with 3.5ha, which was planted in the 1950s by Miguel’s grandfather, planting another 3ha in 2006.  Quinta do Escudial Encruzado 2018 is the first single varietal example.  It is dry, pithy and firm, well made.

Miguel Marques da Silva, the founders’ son.

Not being oaked means that, old school-style, the reds are released with some bottle age to mellow the tannins.  Quinta do Escudial Colheita 2013 is spicy, quite grippy still, with firm tannin.  Quinta do Escudial Reserva 2014 is more floral, with Touriga Nacional intensity of fruit and lift, nice spicy intensity – flavour and tannin  – too.  Good in an unshowy way.  Showing the still remarkably fresh Caves Sao Joao Reserva Seleccionada 1975 at Decanter’s Fine Wine Encounter in London a week later  – also unoaked and a field blend – gave me pause for thought about how these wines might age.  I found these blends more convincing than Quinta do Escudial Touriga Nacional 2018, which I suspect came from the new vineyard – it had good varietal character (plum, orange peel and blossom), but lacked their intensity.

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Lisboa

Daniel Afonso of Baías e Enseadas with his son

Daniel Afonso of Baías e Enseadas told me that he didn’t like wine at all 20 years ago.  But once bitten by the wine bug it would appear he was unstoppable.  He co-founded a wine bar in Lisbon – Wine bar do Castelo, which his partner now runs, since Afonso is now besotted with the vineyards he planted in 2013 and 2014.  Located in the Colares area, in Sintra, being on clay-limestone soils, not sand over clay, means his wines are classified VR Lisboa, not DOC Colares.  But I think the close proximity to the ocean (3-5km) and his passion and knowledge about wine shine in his sophisticated white wines in particular.  In fact, I discovered that they have already been snapped up by Raeburn Fine Wine in the UK, all of which are priced at £21.95 retail.

Baías e Enseadas Malvasia de Colares 2017 is really salty and bosky/briney, with vegetal nuances, hints of iodine and, I guess, thanks to the clay and nifty use of lees and batonnage, rounder than a classic Colares DOC example.  Really characterful and nuanced, with lovely texture.  in whites and Castelão in reds, in order to preserve the region’s identity; 13%.  Baías e Enseadas Arinto 2017 is, as one might expect, firmer, more linear.  It is sourced from two vineyards, one of which produced 9.5g/l Total Acidity, with 14.5% abv and the other ‘just’ 8.8g/l, at 13.5% abv.  Zippy-pe-de-doo-dah race and pace to the palate and wears the alcohol with ease.  Baías e Enseadas Castelao 2017 is pale, bright ruby in hue and was picked in mid-October at just 12% abv.  It is relatively simple compared with the whites, but none the less enjoyable, with strawberry fruit, nice freshness and signature salinity.  Perhaps highlighting trends, Afonso told me that the red is sold out, but the whites have still to sell.  Jump on them folks!

Diogo Baeta of Adega Viúva Gomes

Colares’ producer Adega Viúva Gomes have created a new label – Pirata da Viuva – for an impressive new range which, like Baías e Enseadas, represents vineyards on clay/limestone, as opposed to Colares DOC’s sandy soils.  It is a significant step up from the simpler Patrão Diogo range, also from those soils and, said Diogo Baeta, aims to showcase “the most of the place and vine they come from and the specific year…just a pure reflection of the terroir.”  Job done with Pirata da Viúva Malvasia 2018, which tastes of the ocean.  It is made from grapes grown from cuttings planted five years ago near the winery, which were taken from Malvasia de Colares grown on Viúva Gomes’ sandy soils. It is tight, firm, with pine needle, succulent salt bush notes and a salty, firm, racy acidity and a tight finish.  It was fermented in stainless steel with 35% of “clean stems (I’m doing an experience with stem, trying to complex protein in the wine),” said Diogo.  Having spent a short time in 2nd use French oak barrels, it was bottled with the fine lees(!), “to continue the evolution in the bottle with more compounds.”  It has a super-low pH of 2.86 and towering Total Acidity of 9.6g/l; 11.2% alcohol.

Pirata da Viúva Castelão 2018 is bright and boisterous with, I fancied a touch of wild florals from carbonic maceration, but it has none (though the 2019 does, said Diogo).  Anyway, I like those florals, so good!  Lovely crunchy red and blue fruit to the palate, with a wild fruit/floral character and rapier-like acidity, adding to its sense of energy/vibrancy.  With just 10.5% alcohol, it has a pH of 3.3 and a total acidity of 7g/l.  It was fermented (100%) whole bunch in stainless steel, with punch downs, in stainless steel, where it remained until bottling.  Diogo described the vintage as difficult – in relative terms, lacking body, so I think these releases highlight the potential (and given the youth of the vines).

I also re-tasted Adega Viúva Gomes Malvasia de Colares 2017 (Colares DOC) one year on, which was looking purer, more focused, with unrelenting (in a good way) acidity – great drive and length  – to its salt and iodine inflected neon-bright palate.  It comes from several un-grafted plots (averaging 70-years-old) from the region’s most intensively (relatively speaking!) planted area, Fontanelas, which has clear sand and is less windy, although just 50m-200m from the ocean. The wine was fermented in steel (with a neutral inoculated yeast strain), then aged for 6 months in seasoned (3rd use) French oak barriques. Adega Viúva Gomes Ramisco 2011 (Colares DOC) is, as one might expect from this year, relatively deep and concentrated – albeit in a classic, narrow (acid/tannin etched/corseted) groove.  It reveals tight bilberry and blackcurrant fruit, with juicy plum and bitter chocolate and dried floral notes to the saline, mineral palate.  Very good.  12.5%  Adega Viúva Gomes wines are imported into the UK by Noble Rot.

Since I last saw Hugo Mendes, at Simplesmente Vinho 2019, then in Lisboa, he has left Quinta da Murta in Bucelas to focus on his own label and consultancy projects. Ripe with a touch of orange peel, a 2018 Vital from Alenquer reflects the warmer, sheltered side of the Serra de Montejunto (Casal Figueira’s pioneering, benchmark example comes from elevated parcels on this range’s Atlantic-facing slopes). I remain a fan of his blend of co-fermented blend of Fernao Pires, Arinto and Vital.  Seventy percent of Hugo Mendes Lisboa Branco 2018 was aged in used barrels.  Creamy, very textural (having undergone a natural malo), it has delicious white orchard fruit – peach and fleshy apple, with white asparagus and balanced acidity.  Rolls around in the mouth most pleasurably.  Mendes told me he is excited about the “most perfect” balance of the 2019 vintage’s acidity.  I’m hearing great reports about this vintage for white wines….

Hugo Mendes

A tank sample of Hugo Mendes Lisboa Castelão 2019 hails from the fruit of two parcels.   It is dark in hue for Castelão, rich and ripe, but juicy and youthfully grapey too, quite boisterous, before tucking in for a firmish savoury finish, with hints of chestnut.  Still coming together, it reflects the two sources, but shows interest and promise.

Vitor Claro & Rita Marques in Carcavelos, at Quinta da Samarra, February 2019

Last year, I visited the vineyards which Vitor Claro has started renting and tending in Colares and Carcavelos.  Quinta da Samarra in Carcavelos (pictured) is very special indeed – located next to the elderly owner’s large manor house (and derelict winery, which Claro would like to restore), it is surrounded by tall trees and vegetation – a true oasis in the city suburbs.  In the first year (a challenging one, with disease pressure, then a fierce August heat spike), just one barrel of Vitor Claro Samarra Domino 2018 (11%) was produced.  It is made from Santareno/a-  a Portuguese crossing of João de Santarém ( Castelão Francês ) and Muscat d’Hamburg.  Markedly fresh, with intriguing hints of catering chocolate (a quality I associate with lighter reds, including Pinot Noir, Castelão), with sweetness and savouriness, a balsamic edge.  An intriguing start.  Let’s see!  I like Claro’s 2019 white from Colares very much,  It has a sandy, mineral texture, a levity and intensity, with coltsfoot, lavender and nutty nunaces – some characteristics I might associate with red wines, but they are lightly worn here – delicate and interesting.  Finishes long, fresh and mineral.

The 2019 red wine from Colares is pale and cloudy, with lovely spice, lavender and, though the fruit is a little closed – reduced – it is fresh and persistent.  Needs time to open up.  Promising.   From northern Lisboa, Claro’s 2019 Castelão is ultra-new wave – bright pink, bright acidity, firm, quite austere, with a sense of architecture – a boniness.  One to review (and, as I learned with Claro’s first Portalegre red, quite possibly appreciate enormously with time in bottle!)  Vitor Claro’s wines are imported by Indigo Wines.

Winemaker Pedro Marques’ father Afonso manned the pipa for Vale da Capucha and I looked forward to catching up with some wines I’d sampled when I visited after Simplesmente Vinho 2019.  Fossil White 2017, an unoaked blend of Gouveio, Fernão Pires and Arinto, was in customary ripe, round, friendly form, with bags of interest and chatter of the animated cut of lemon and flint variety.  A lick of ‘toast’ (sulphides) too.  Vale da Capucha Branco 2018, a blend of Fernão Pires and Arinto is firmer, flintier (suffused with gout de terroir), more intense and complex – “alive, ALIVE,” my notes scrawl/exclaim, reflecting its ability to morph in the mouth – tease with texture and acidity, fruit and minerals. Buttons, which seem to push on and off at different times, with different pressure.  Yet the whole is harmonious.    Afonso explains that Vale da Capucha Gouveio Poco do Gado 2017 hails from a parcel where the animals go to water.  It has a sweetness, a liveliness and flintiness.  That sweetness subtle, vegetal, textural, like a marshmallow.  I liked it.  Vale da Capucha Arinto 2017 is tight, firm, ‘toasty’/struck match, sulphides toasty, with great drive, intensity and length and light earthy, nutty, oxidative notes to the finish (I later discovered that this is the first of Marques’ commercial releases to have no added sulphur).  Re-tasting the 2015 Estagio Longo Arinto, as the name suggests, it’s very longo!  Still austere, flinty and lemony.  Wonderful (see my earlier review here).

Pedro Marques at the old Castelao vineyard.  Pictured February 2019

This photo of (Pedro) Marques shows the old Castelão vineyard from which he has made Vale da Capucha Castelinho 2017. It was whole bunch (naturally) fermented in concrete tanks and was neither filtered nor fined; minimal added sulphur.  The whole bunch character leaps out the glass – delicious orange bitters, with bright crunchy cranberry and redcurrant, its plum and strawberry admitting of a little flesh.  Lithe, atheletic and appetising.  Lovely.  Vale da Capuche Palhete 2017 is a blend of  Castelão taken from the Castelinho juice (which brings prettiness), with Arinto, which gives the persistence.  Fresh and fleet of foot.  11.5%  Fossil wines are imported by Indigo Wines; Vale da Capucha Wines are imported by Les Caves de Pyrene, who also sell retail.

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Madeira

Before you read about the wines I tasted at Simpelsmente Vinho, do NOT miss my note on Barbeito Malvasia 50 Years Old O Japones (Madeira), which exceptional wine was adjudged the top fortified at Essencia do Vinho’s Top 10 tasting – click here for my report.  Having tasted Barbeito’s first impressive commercial release of a Verdelho (unfortified) wine last year, I selected Barbeito Verdelho 2018 DOC Madeirense for my masterclass at Wines of Portugal’s Annual London Tasting last month.  I’d agree with Ricardo Diogo that the 2017 was the better vintage, but the 2018 is no slouch and, at my London masterclass, it was interesting to show it alongside Anselmo Mendes Magma Verdelho from Biscoitos, the Azores.  The Madeirense is more aromatic and with a crunchier acidity, showing pea pod hints, briney/bosky (saltmarsh water), mirin and blossom note to its fresh cut apple, apple core and tropical fruit palate; 11.5%.  With a touch of oak, it is a sophisticated wine, which Ricardo Diogo expects to age well.

Of the fortified Madeiras, as its name suggests, Barbeito Bastardo Duas Pipas Reserve is a blend of two wines, one made by skin contact fermentation from 2010 (Cask of 400 liters – important to help combat this grape’s fast oxidation) and another one by direct pressing from 2012 (Cask of 700 liters).  From a young vineyard, planted in 2004, this is a quite soft, yielding medium dry style, with relatively low acidity (for the category) and a round palate, with savoury tobacco nuances to its white currant fruit.  One to review.  Barbeito Verdelho Frasqueira 1995 is sourced from the cooler north of island, close to the ocean in Seixal.  This is as fresh and frisky as they come – super intense and long, with ozone and iodine minerality/complexity.  Fabulous.  Barbeito wines are imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: The Azores

Rodolfo Silva of Adega do Vulcão

Well, well.  Readers know how very excited I am by developments here and here’s another one – Adega do Vulcão, founded in 2015 by Rodolfo Silva! One with a great surprise for me – a cuvee from Faial which, located across a narrow strait from Pico island, was historically home to the owners of Pico’s vineyards.  They commercialised Pico’s wines, shipping them across the Atlantic, since Faial boasted the best harbour in the Azores.  I didn’t know Faial itself produced any wine of note.  But it makes sense that it can now, almost a century after oidium and phylloxera killed said trans-atlantic trade.  Why?  Because the eruption of Vulcão dos Capelinhos in the 1950s created a lava field, hence the poor basalt ‘soils’ in which Pico’s and Terceira’s Biscoitos vines thrive.

Silva, who is from a technical engineering background, planted the 7ha vineyard in Faial five years ago. Being virgin land, there are no currais, so the vineyard is grassed and surrounded by trees to mitigate erosion.  Stitched together from parcels which previously belonged to 62 different owners – no mean feat – provides and indication of Silva’s doggedness.  The engineer turned vigneron conducted soil studies with the help of the University of Azores and believes Faial could have a spectacular future for wine. Renowned Italian winemaker Alberto Antonini (a friend), shares Silva’s optimism about Adega do Vulcão and the engineer turned vigneron has heavily invested in making a go of the project, additionally working with 3 hectares on Pico.  He is keen to buy old vineyards there.

The wines are very different from those made by the Azores Wine Company.  More shapely/textural, less racy – ‘slow wines,’ if you like, that take their time, but leave a lasting impression.   Adega do Vulcão Ameixâmbar Arinto dos Açores 2018 (Faial) is bone dry, but quite fat in the mouth, with great texture and a lingering, shimmering, salty minerality. It was my pick of the two.  From, observed Silva, a less good year, Rola Pipa do Pico 2017 from Pico is similarly textural, long and shapely in the mouth, with a markedly savoury, darker ‘basalt’/whetstone (not crystalline) minerality and a nutty edge.

Founded by Tito Silva, Tito’s is another new-to-me Pico label, launched with the 2018 vintage.  Silva is friends with licoroso specialist (and one might say ‘Licoroso Czar,’ Fortunato Garcia of Czar).  Garcia told me that Silva has around 15ha of new plantings in Lajido de Santa Luzia, near the airport.  Tito’s A Cerca Dos Frades Branco 2019 DO Pico is a 70:30 blend of Verdelho and Arinto dos Acores. Bright and fruity, it has hints of fresh pea/pea pod, honeysuckle and dried honey to the palate.  Juicy and very approachable.  Tito’s Terrantez do Pico 2019 spent 3 months in French oak.  Still, it’s fresh and clean, a little anodyne –  I missed the detail I expect to find in this grape, perhaps emphasised by the service of temperature (cold)?  One to review.

Fortunato Garcia of Czar Wines

Garcia (who ages his licorosos for 6 years in barrel) showed Czar Licoroso 2013 (DO Pico), which was slated for release this month.  I can only imagine it went down a storm, because after the fair, my report of a rare vertical was the most popular blog of the month! Sure enough, it is very good – Fortunato reckons “my best Czar of the 21st century.”  The nose is gorgeous, with spicy gingerbread and butterscotch, which notes follow through on a powerful, intense palate, slippery (glycerol) with succulent, pungent (but not too pungent) saltbush, brine, spice and earth  – the smell of Pico’s coastal shrubland and taste of the sea captured in the bottle.  Firm, dry, long.  Quite special, it’s not made every year (none was made in 2010 or 2012), and just 1,296 bottles were made in 2013. This unique Seco licoroso which, like all Garcia’s licorosos, is unfortified, has 19% alcohol and 26g/l of residual sugar.  Although the 2009 was much drier and the analytics are closer to the 2011, in character, I find the 2013 closer to the 2009 – a favourite.

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Douro

Nuno Aguiar de Morais Vaz and António Olazabal Ferreira of Portugal Boutique Winery

As you can see, Nuno Aguiar de Morais Vaz and António Olazabal Ferreira of Portugal Boutique Winery were in fine form.  And why not, with an expanding roster of wines (a boutique chain!), which now encompasses Vinho Verde and Bairrada (written up here, because the Douro is where the duo first set up shop).    From Bairrada, Dynamite Brut Naturel 2015 is a sparkling Blanc de Noir, made from Baga of course.  As one would expect from a Brut Naturel (no dosage), it is dry, with a firm backbone of acidity and nutty almond nuances.  Portugal Boutique Winery Baga Rosé Brut Naturel has a delicate kiss of fruit, with broader, autolytic bready, brioche notes (served a bit warm?) and a reasonably persistent bead.   Nuno used to work with Anselmo Mendes, so one of the best mentors you could have for Vinho Verde (as Marcio Lopes’s Pequeno Rebento Vinho Verdes attest).  Portugal Boutique Winery Loureiro from a pebbly vineyard the Lima sub-region, close to the coast, looks very promising, with pronounced aromatics and good body and structure.

As for the Douro wines, Boina White 2018 is on transitional soils, with granite.  With just 11%, it is surprisingly soft, with textural, savoury leesiness, grapefruit and apple/apple core notes and an attractive slatey, mineral, earthy undertow.  Nice.  Guyot White 2017 is from sandy soils – a single, 120 year old field blend vineyard – and has a very attractive crystalline, granular, mineral quality – flavour and texture – to its subtle stone fruit, which sits plumb in the mid-palate – a position of balance and strength. 13.5%  Goblet White 2016 from 90 year old vineyards is quite different, creamier, but with great mineral persistence and freshness, vanillin and nutty oak nuances; the citrus and stone fruit subtle – present, but not to the fore – more a textural presence than overt fruitiness – a higher pith, peel and kernel ratio than flesh, perhaps?  Anyway, lovely depth and intensity.  Long.

Boina Red 2018 has a really attractive rusticity, with a distinct savoury, earthy dimension to its inky, wild berry fruit, with fruit spice, lavender, smoke (clove?) and mineral notes. 14%  Aged for 12 months in new 500l oak barrels, Guyot Red 2017 from the 120 year old field blend vineyard with Baga, Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Carvalha, Tinta Cao and old Touriga Nacional clones has a distinct smoky, clove edge and spicy, complex, quite dry profile – in a good way, indeed wears its new oak very lightly indeed.  It tastes wilder, of the vineyard, than winemaking, with spicy orange peel and pimento notes as well as the clove to its fresh, dark berry and currant fruit.  Spicy tannins lend dimension, length and lift.  Wines from Portugal Boutique Winery are imported into the UK (and retailed) by Swig.

Luís Pedro Cândido da Silva of Quinta do Carolina, Primata and El3mento

It has been interesting to follow the journey of Quinta do Carolina since Luís Pedro Cândido da Silva (also Niepoort Douro winemaker, since 2018) took over in 2015.  It has been steady as she goes, making sympathetic changes with the estate label, but the young winemaker’s true colours – his lighter touch – shine in a new wine for Quinta do Carolina (Xisto Amarela), his own Primata label and a new collaboration – El3mento – with Carmelo Peña Santana who makes wines under the Ikewen label, in the Canary Islands.

Primata White (name/vintage uncertain?) looks like a promising new addition, with +50% Malvasia from the elevated (600m) vineyard on transition soils which produces Primata Touriga Nacional.  It is vibrant, with powdery, talcy minerality.  All 3 barrels of it have yet to be released.

El3mento 2017 is from a north-facing field blend vineyard at 600m which the dynamic duo would love to buy.  The resulting red is very pretty (though, in this vintage, Cândido da Silva describes it as “a little big for me”), with pronounced florals and lovely intensity, with a lick of whole bunch spice. Long and fresh.  Skilfully done.  Quinta do Carolina Xisto Amarela 2017 is so-called not because it’s made from Tinta Amarela, but because it comes from a vineyard with yellow (amarela) schist.  The 50-year-old vineyard is mostly planted to Touriga Franca but does feature a little of the titular grape too.  Grapes were foot-trodden in lagares and the wine aged in a 1,000l foudre for 18 months.  This red has good energy, with crunchy, spicy fruit, petals/pot pourri and a delicate rasp of green.  Fresh and eminently digestible.  13%

In the Teja Valley of the Douro Superior, Rita Marques’ Bastardo was something of a pioneer of lighter styles and Bastardo, which is catching on, even in AustraliaConceito Bastardo 2019 is pale and at the lighter spectrum of medium-bodied, with a touch of spice to the nose, crunchy acidity/red fruits and a lick of sweet cinnamon.  Lovely. Conceito Legitimo 2018 aims for the same easiness/drinkability of the Bastardo, but is a traditional blend, made from top cinco grapes.  Deeper fruited, but still bright-fruited, with plum, dark berry and lifted florals.  Well made.  Conceito Unico White 2018 comes from a parcel of centenarian field blend vines and is only made in top years and tiny quantities.  This is a delicious, complex, textural white, with funky, cheesy tang – lovely acidity – to its concentrated, but well-honed white fruited long, persistent palate.  Lingering.  Conceito Unico Red 2017 is from a small, old field blend parcel of Quinta do Cabido with lots of Rufete.  It is intense, very inky, for now the oak (it spent 22 months in new French oak barrels) sitting a little on top on the wine, which has ripe but plentiful tannins and a long finish.  This is an ambitious, polished wine, which I’d like to review with more time and air.  Conceito Ontem Branco 2018 is tight, very focused, with rapier like grapefruity drive, stony minerality, a lick of dried herbs and the lightest touch of leesy, cheesy tang – savoury interest.  Racy, very fresh, like its red counterpart (which I’ve never liked as much), it comes from centenarian vineyards on the Douro/Dao border.   Conceito Wines wines are imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.

I’ve sampled and enjoyed Niepoort’s amphora red a couple of times. As I recall, it is quite the mix of red and white grapes.  Niepoort Voyeur Nat Cool 2018 (12.5%) is a little earthy, edgy  and animal, with a pick of tannin and nice intensity and length.  Tastes French, with a Douro twist.  And the whole is much better – tastier – than all of that sounds!  It was fermented and macerated in six 1000l clay amphorae for approximately 8 months. Each amphora contained a wine from a different  site (all elevated) in the Douro Valley, all planted with old vines.   I didn’t taste Niepoort Tinta Amarela at Simplesmente Vinho, but at Wines of Portugal’s Annual Portugal tasting in London the following week, but thought it fits in nicely here, being a newbie which Raymond Reynolds are importing, with a likely retail price of £40-45!  Niepoort Tinta Amarela 2016 (11.7%) – the first vintage to be made – comes from Niepoort’s own 30 year old vines (Quinta de Nápoles), planted in a 2-row “patamar” system (certified organic in 2018).  The wine fermented in conical stainless steel tanks at controlled temperatures with minimal extraction. Malolactic fermentation occurred in older French barrels where the wine also matured for a further 22 months.  It put me a little in mind of Beaujolais – good Cru Beaujolais, with its lifted nose and palate and fresh reds fruits, though it is ‘drier’ seeming.  Tinta Amarela’s (a.k.a. Trincadeira’s) herbal/tobacco notes add savoury interest and detail on a firm focused finish, a little grippy, but not aggressively so – more a flavour anchoring lightly spun web of savoury tannin.  Nice persistence.  Distinctive and, happily, distinctly good!

Daniel Niepoort

Niepoort Bioma Vintage Port 2017, from Vinha da Pisca’s aged vines, shows delicious orange peel and rat-a-tat-tat black pepper spice, with nice tannic grip to the black fruit.  Long, linear, lingering.  Wonderfully fresh and animated.  Woot, woot! Terrific, as was a cheeky shot of an oldie – Niepoort Garrafeira 1981, bottled in 1985 – all liquorice and star anise-licked sweet plum and almonds.  Lovely balance.  Niepoort wines are imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.

With so many producers and so many attendees, it’s impossible to taste everything, so I was grateful that Pormenor’s Pedro Coelho sent me samples beforehand.  These notes are based on tasting the samples at home this month and it was interesting to see the progression since I first tasted the wines (my report here, with background about the project).  Pormenor Branco 2018 (12%) has a super-salty nose and palate with nutty, savoury lees fleshing out the silky white peach fruit.  Shapely, but with nice balance and a dry, savoury profile.   Made with no adds other than a small amount of sulphur (like all the wines), this unoaked white finds its own balance.  The grapes come from old vines (featuring, among others, Rabigato, Malvasia Fina and Códega do Larinho) planted between 600m and 650m, in Pombal Ansiães in the Douro Superior.    Pormenor Reserva Branco 2018 (12.5%) is from two different parcels from a +80 years old vineyards between 600m to 700m, also in Pombal de Ansiães on schist. One parcel is north-facing and the other is south-east-facing.  A key difference is that this wine is made from 90% Rabigato, with 10% Malvasia Fina.  Correspondingly, it has a different complexion – more citrussy and overtly mineral.  The (used) oak barrels in which it ages play a part too (controlled oxidation), lending a bruised apple quality to the palate and a noisette nuttiness I associate with oak (as well as fino nutty lees).  Fresh, mineral, with some silky peach as well as bruised apple, quince, lemon peel and grapefruit as it opens up.  A lovely wine, again shapely and unshowy, but with lovely balance and persistence.

Pormenor Rosé 2018 (12%) is made from fruit from 50+ year old vines, featuring mainly Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca.  It was aged in used French oak barriques on fine lees (no batonnage) for seven months. Pale salmon, with Pormenor’s silky mouthfeel (nice lees-work), with soft red fruits, a suggestion of dried herbs and incipient orange peel, with some nutty oak to the touch oxidative (bit too oxidative?) finish.

Pormenor Tinto 2017 (13%) is a crimson hue, with sweet plum and red berry fruit and spicy liquorice to nose and palate.  It puts me in mind of a young Tawny Port in the nicest sense – seeing the likely roots of the vineyards (planted between 500m and 600m in Alijó and Barcos), grounded in Port production.    Some kid glove oak as it opens up in the glass and brush wood, the tannins gently tactile and spicy on the finish. It was fermented/macerated for 25 days In stainless steel and lagar, then aged in old French barriques for 18 months until bottling.  Pormenor Trilho em Pormenor 2016 (13%) means, trail (path to the vineyard).  Produced by a trio – the 3 partners of Pormenor, from three different vineyards (TRI-Vineyard), fermented in 3 different microfermentations (TRI-fermentation), a third whole bunch, a third half whole bunch and a third de-stemmed.  The grapes come from very old vines (+80 years) – two vineyards in Alijó, planted at 700m and one near S. João da Pesqueira at 550m.

The grapes underwent light maceration with minimum extraction for 8 weeks and the resulting wine was aged for 24 months in 225l and 500l French old oak barrels, followed by 12 months ageing in bottle. Fresh and savoury, with red and black berry and currant fruit and juicy damson and blood plum, spice, balsamic and a hint of sarsaparilla and underbrush.  Medium-bodied with a wildness of flavour profile, but elegance of delivery, with ripe but present tannins and fresh mineral acidity on a tapering finish.

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Beira Interior

Owners Paulo and Cármen Romão and son

Casas do Côro is a rather lovely boutique hotel in the medieval village of Marialva, Beira Interior, bordering the Douro Superior.  Owners Paulo and Cármen Romão renovated the property and village houses and, having stayed a couple of times, I can vouch for the rooms, restaurant and ‘house wines.’   Carlos Rapos0 of Vinhos Imperfeitos, who consults, urged me to take a look at the latest wines. I particularly enjoyed the latest 2018 releases, which seemed like a step up to me – fresher, with lovely persistence and clarity, without loss of complexity.

The couple own 11 hectares of 80-year-old field blend vineyards and a hectare of Rufete in the middle of the village, located at 600m, on granite soils, with some schist. Casas do Côro Entrada White 2018, a single vineyard wine, has a pronounced, earthy, mineral nose and palate.  Sappy acidity makes for a limpidity. Textured, with a softness but balanced, with a nutty edge to the finish.   Casas do Côro Reserva White 2018 is sourced 50:50 from the Entrada vineyard and 50% from other old vineyards.  It is long, persistent, with depth and lovely intensity.  Tailored, with a lingering, deliberative palate, it has the Raposo signature.

Casas do Côro Entrada Red 2018 is a blend of 80+ year old Rufete and Touriga Franca, which makes for a lively, animated palate, with rhubarb, lifted wild flowers (a touch of carbonic maceration) and a savoury balsamic note.  Super quaffable.  Casas do Côro Reserva Red 2018 has the same varietal composition as Entrada, but sees 20% new oak.  Similarly, it is fresh and lively, with rhubarb and sappy, juicy blackberry and apple.  Greater fruit intensity and length as one would expect from the Reserva, but lovely vivacity.

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Trás-os-Montes

Frederico Machado and Ricardo Alves of Arribas Wine Company

Pedro Marques of Vale da Capucha opened a bottle of Arribas Wine Company Saroto Red 2017 – the debut vintage – over dinner, when I visited him following last year’s Simplesmente Vinho.  It was the first Trás-os-montes red wine I’ve tasted that had an old vine character, delivered with freshness and great drinkability, so the producer was top of my list of pipas to visit this year.  I was not disappointed.

Frederico Machado and Ricardo Alves are the young guns behind Arribas Wine Company which, reading between the lines, is so-called because they feel a greater connection to the Spanish DOC of Arribes than Trás-os-montes, which allows producers to vinify non-local and international grapes.  Rather, they are intensely passionate about the old field blend vineyards, planted to native grapes which they discovered in 2017, in the village of Bemposta.  Machado’s grandparents are from the village but, ironically, the potential of Bemposta’s old vineyards failed to register with the globe-trotter until he stumbled across them following a party in the village.

Teaming up with Alves, the pair – micro-negociants, who buy grapes – have swiftly extended operations beyond Bemposta, which has no white wine vineyards.  I sensed a keenness, hunger even, to explore the different soils, altitudes, aspects and grapes and, with different (minimal intervention) techniques, seek to showcase the vineyards round and about Bemposta.  And keep doing better by doing (they made 9 wines in 2019).  Tellingly, it wasn’t long before Alves and Machado hooked up with ever astute talent spotter, Dirk Niepoort.  In addition to making a wine under Niepoort’s Nat Cool label, they have collaborated on a cuvee with a caricature of the curly-haired one in his signature khaki gilet.

Arribas Wine Company Saroto White 2018, the maiden white wine, was sourced from 60 year old vineyards.  It is a field blend featuring Malvasia Fina, Codega, Bastardo Branco and Rabigato among other varieties.  The grapes were foot trodden in lagar and the juice macerated on skins for 2 days, before pressing and transferring it directly to used French oak barrels to ferment naturally (alcoholic and malolactic fermentation), without temperature control. The wine spent 7 months in barrel on lees for 7 months.  It is a sapid wine, very fresh, with an attractive green edge, sappy acidity and nice minerality.  With just 10.5%, it is light-bodied, but no less intense for that.  It doesn’t taste mean.  Very good.  In 2019, vintage issues led to a change of grape source.  Arribas Wine Company Saroto White 2019 comes from 50 year old field blend vines, with a different varietal emphasis.  This much I can tell from my scrawl (I was running out of notebook), but I can’t be sure of the varieties, so I’d rather not get into particulars! This vintage was foot-trodden and pressed after 4 days skin contact; it was aged in French oak barrqiues, with 30% new oak.  In a more stable vintage, this is a more powerful white, with pronounced, stony minerality and an attractive bitter (quinine) edge.  Very good.  A 2019 rosé – a 50:50 red:white blend pressed direct to barrel is a pale blush pink and, similarly, has striking minerality; it lacked a bit of animation on this tasting, but being so young, it is one to review.

Whilst 2017 was a very early, hot, dry year, in 2018, Alves told me the Saroto red was picked a little later, with more phenolic ripeness.  The grapes for Arribas Wine Company Saroto Red 2018 come from a 2ha old field blend vineyard in Bemposta with 70:30 red:white grapes, including Tinta Gorda, Tinta Serrana, Rufete, Alvarelhão, Bastardo, Malvasia, Verdelho, Verdelho Vermelho, Bastardo Branco, Formosa and Posto Branco. Foot trodden for five days in lagar, it was fermented at a colder temperature/more slowly than the 2017, then aged for 8 months in neutral French oak.  Striking florality, with rose petals to nose and petals, deep-seated blackcurranty fruit, vibrant, fresh acidity and a pick of tannin.  It has a raw, very hands off appeal, letting the fruit, tannin and acid do the talking.  Arribas Wine Company Saroto Red 2019 is from steep, south-facing vineyards in Almança at 700m with quartz.  I really enjoyed its energy.  Lively, intense and persistent, with crunchy red and black fruits, hints of earth and a rub of spicy fruit tannins.  The best of the 3 vintages, I reckon.

Arribas Wine Company Nat Cool Saroto Red 2018 was, “by accident,” said Alves, a single vineyard wine.  Just 500 (1 litre) bottles were made.  Although it is a little jammy, the jamminess is off-set by mineral-sluiced acidity, grainy tannins and a savoury lick of balsamic/dried herbs.  12%  The 2019, a blend of different vineyards, incorporates 10-15% of white grapes, was foot trodden for 2-3 days and more of the wine was aged in tank.  I could have sworn there was an element of carbonic maceration, but apparently not.  It nails the Nat Cool brief more firmly, being more lifted, lighter, fresher (no jamminess), with juicy bright, well-defined berry fruit and floral notes.

Arribas Wine Company Quilometro 2019 is a field blend from two old vineyards located very close to the bend in the Douro river – a warmer location.  Harvested at 12% potential alcohol, the grapes were foot trodden and spent 4-5 days in lagar.  This wine comprises just the free run, which was aged in old barrels.  It is delicate, very pretty, as one might expect from a free run red, but with nice intensity, juicy persistence and a minerality.     Arribas Wine Company Manicomio 2019 is, like Susana Esteban’s Sidecar label, a collaborative effort – this, the first vintage, made with Dirk Niepoort.  With Philippe Pacalet in mind, Alves and Machado planned how to make it (with carbonic maceration and a month of infusion on skins (not working the grapes), said Alves. Niepoort tasted the 50:50 red:white wine in tank and I can see why this aromatic, pretty wine appealed.  It has delicate talcy, musky, floral and spice lift with a super subtle pick of striated tannins, making for a gentle interplay of tannin, juice and fresh from tip to animated toe.  The fruit, fresh but soft and creamy – with a pureed character and lavender and mineral notes.  Lovely.

Last(!), Arribas Wine Company Raiola 2019, named after a board game, is from red grapes from the same source as Nat Cool, but picked later (at 12.5-13% potential alcohol).  It was foot-stomped in 10 barrels, 1 new and blended with the press wine from Quilometro.  Correspondingly, it’s a deep hue, with grippier tannins and markedly blacker fruit.  Good to see the different approaches.  A project and a region with huge potential.   Great work!

Casa do Joa

Established in 2009, Casa do Joa was another new-to-me find.   The only producer in Aldeia de Parada, Jorge Afonso works with old ungrafted, pre-phylloxera field blend vines (over 120- years-old) on schist from this elevated area’s (700m+) vineyards.  The climate has pronounced diurnal temperature variation.

Thus far, Afonso has established that the white grapes comprise Esgana Cão (25%), Formosa (15%), Siria (10%), D. Branca/Douradinha (10%), Gouveio (10%), Folgasão (10%), Chasselas Salsa (10%); the remaining 10% has not been identified.  The red wine grapes comprise Bastardo (30%), Mourisco Tinto (25%), Cornifesto (15%), Tinta Bairrada (4%), Tinta Amarela (2%), Alvarelhão (2%), Malvasia Preta (2%), Jaen (2%); the remaining 18% has not been identified.

Casa do Joa Alto do Joa Rosé 2017 is a saignee, bled off from the red after 2-3 days on skins. It was naturally fermented in 500l French oak barrels, where it aged for 12 months. In this hot year, there is some residual sugar (and 14% alcohol), which gives it a roundness – creamy body.  It is quite substantial – not necessarily what you would expect given the terroir, but the heavyweight bottle provides a clue!  Still, it is balanced. I’d I have liked to have seen a little more character and an edge of tannin and acidity for structure and interest.  Characteristics which are very much at play in the white and red.

Casa do Joa Alto do Joa Tinto 2016 has plenty of rustic interest, with a pingy, animated palate, wild and earthy, with pimento and peppercorn lift and spice, catering chocolate, mineral acidity and a sandy, granular texture.  The grapes were co-fermented naturally (I believe the case for all the wines – made without any oenological additions) and foot-trodden in 1000l lagares, with pre and post skin maceration.

Casa do Joa Alto do Joa Branco 2017 – my pick of the bunch – underwent 20 days skin contact.  It is a powerful wine which out me in mind of White Port, but it is properly dry (well, there’s a touch of sweetness about the stony stone fruit, if not flesh), with good structure and length, thanks to its underlying mineral acidity.  It was barrel-fermented and spent 18 months in used French Oak 500l barrels.

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Bairrada


Wines without make up poster kids for Simplesmente Vinho, William Wouters & Filipa Pato

Filipa Pato 3B Blanc de Blancs NV – pretty and fleet of foot, with icing sugar dusted fresh apple, pear and citrus notes and a hint of toast.  Dry, persistent.  Well done.   Roleta Russo Bical 2017 is Filipa’s husband, William Wouters’ off piste effort.  In fact, a very ‘un-piste’ 10.5% alcohol, though the ex-sommelier packs a good deal of texture, flavour and later into this wine from Ois’ limestone soils. The handpicked grapes underwent a long whole bunch pressing and slow, natural ferment, before ageing on the lees for 22 months without protection from oxygen in a large Austrian oak (Stockinger) cask (first fill).  Just 20mg/l of sulphur was added at bottling; bottled unfiltered and unfined.  Rich and deep, yet firm, very persistent, with white orchard fruit, nutty apricot kernel, hints of patisserie apricot glaze/acacia honey, minerals and a firm backbone of grapefruity acidity.  Filipa Pato Nossa Branco 2018 is altogether quieter, more focused and drier in profile, indeed lightly bitter with apple core, wormwood and steely grapefruit.  Long, young, quite closed as yet, but finely drawn.  I’m looking forward to re-tasting a bottle of it. This single vineyard Bical, also from Ois, is exclusively sourced from older vines (average 40 years old).  It similarly underwent slow whole bunch pressing and fermentation of free run juice, pressed direct to barrel and naturally fermented.  No batonnage is done to keep the freshness and it spent 8 months in 500–600l French oak barrels.  A sample of Quer..s Bical 2019, still in amphora, was (change of direction) only 50% whole bunch fermented, the balance de-stemmed by hand.  Pato reckons 2019 is excellent for white and I loved this wine’s crunchy, pure, crystalline fruit – long, with some light phenolic (in a good way) chew to the finish.

Turning to the reds, Filipa Pato Territorio Vivo Baga 2017 is a blend of different parcels (80+ years old) on chalky clay soils.  It was partly destemmed and fermented in open oak lagares with some extraction (pigeage) and a relatively short maceration on the skins. After the fermentation, the wine was aged in 500–600l used barrels and a big cask. It reveals racy, pacy fresh and vivid raspberry and blueberry fruit, with lavender and violet lift, threaded with dark chocolate, balsamic and pine/resin notes.  Fine, savoury tannins.  Nice length.   Like the Nossa Branco, I’d love to re-taste this over a couple of days to allow it to open up, but on first impression, Filipa Pato Nossa Red 2017 is delicate, very mineral, the palate infused with a flinty, smoky quality.  Fine tannins, sheer, carry a long finish.  Very young, very promising.  Super-fine, with silkily textured fruit, yet to really show itself.  Filipa Pato’s & William Wouter’s wines are imported into the UK by Clark Foyster.

Vadio’s Luis Patrao

Fortunately, Vadio’s Luis Patrao and Eduarda Dias will not have had far to look to celebrate the birth of their son during lockdown.  The Baga grapes for Vadio Bruto Rosé 2017 are sourced from a 30-year-old vineyard whose vigour ensures that the grapes maintain vibrant acidity – higher (in g/l), said Patrao, than the alcohol (11%)!  Nonetheless, starting out in barrel and with 18 months on lees softens the edges, making this a fresh, but pleasurable, mineral rosé with a subtle suggestion of red fruits.  Very nicely done.

Vadio reds are usually released with bottle age, but Bebespontocomes Bairrada by Luís Patrão 2018 is hot off the press, lighter-bodied Baga fermented with 50:50 whole bunch/crushed grapes from a leased 30 year old vineyard.  It’s pink in hue and sort of pink in style, by which I mean vivid, bright-fruited and relatively simple.  But no less enjoyable for that – smashable, as they’d say Down Under. 12.5% It’s a limited edition wine made for bebes.comesVadio Baga 2016 comes mostly from family-owned vineyards, which are cultivated organically.  It is deeper, spicier, with hints of pine resin and earth to its fresh red fruits.  The elegant, persistent finish, is well supported by fine grained tannins and bright acidity.  Lovely.  Vadio wines are imported by Casa Leal, The Wine Society & Amathus Drinks.

Quinta das Bageiras are, for me, the masters of grower sparkling wine in Bairrada (and not only!) Quinta das Bageiras Bruto Naturel Rosé 2017 is dry, firm, yet pretty, with lovely clarity and persistence to its delicate red cherry fruit and a lick of it’s Bairrada chalky oyster shell.  Quinta das Bageiras Grande Reserve 2015 was aged for 36 months in bottle.  It is creamy, nutty and rich, with ozone/sea air notes, hints of patisserie.  Rich, but long.  Satisfying with plenty of texture and layer.

Quinta das Bageiras Branco Garrafeira 2017 (14.5%) seems a little fatter than usual, with beurre noisette notes.  One to review.  Quinta das Bageiras Pai Abel 2017 (14%) is from a single vineyard, around 20 years old, with a high proportion of clay relative to chalk,  It is salty, with pronounced iodine minerality and an appetisingly savoury, nutty, spicy funky edge to its citrus and white orchard fruit.  Lovely depth and complexity.

Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno of Quinta das Bageiras

Quinta das Bageiras Colheita Tinto 2017 is a blend of 60% Baga, 40% Touriga Nacional.  The Baga drives it, lending precision and classic chalky, smoky minerality.  Youthful, fine and firm.  Good. Quinta das Bageiras Avo Fausto Tinto 2017 is a blend of 80% Baga, 20% Touriga Nacional.  It is chalky, firm and dry, with fine but plentiful grainy tannins and good acid drive.  On this tasting, it is looking very closed and austere.  I’d say do not touch for five years and will keeps a couple of decades at least.  Contrastingly, Quinta das Bageiras Garrafeira Tinto 2016 is very expressive – chock-ful of character already, despite the structure.  It has a wildness to its perfumed black currant and berry nose and palate, with a balsamic edge, marked chalky minerality, iodine too.  The tannins are ripe but present, really beautifully managed, to lend backbone and support.  Stunning.

Quinta das Bageiras Abafado 2005 (19%), made with Bageiras’ own Baga brandy, has a bricky rim, with a spicy, chalky, earthy nose and palate with pine resin lift to its plum fragipani palate.  Long, tapering, woody/nutty finish.  Full-bodied and vigorous, it is quite the contrast with Filipa Pato’s Espirito de Baga, which is purer, more primary, with an elegant structure.  I like them both and, with Baga/Bairrada’s distinct chalky minerality and firm acid structure, like Czar Licoroso from the Azores, they show another strength to Portugal’s (fortified/licoroso wine) bow.

Niepoort Nat Cool Bairrada Baga 2019 (12.2%) was produced from various old vineyard sites. Unoaked, following a slow 5 week ferment it aged in tank and was bottled unfiltered.  It is a nimble wine, its fresh acidity buoying the gently sweet, finely honed red berry and plum fruit, the tannins neatly integrated, as if tucked in to let the juice flow.  Persistent, very fresh and light.

Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Alentejo

Vitor Claro of Domino, Portalegre, holding court

I was happy to hear that Vitor Claro and Rita Marques have busted out of Lisbon and are living in Portalegre, where Claro’s winemaking ambitions first took hold.  Exquisite timing to be perched high, in such beautiful countryside, during the lockdown, quite aside from the benefits of tending the vines. Domino Branco Monte Pratas 2018 (12%) is mineral, fresh and involving, with great line and length.  Bone dry and beautifully structured, it is very much a wine to linger over, not smash and grab at a wine fair! Foxtrot 2018 (12%) has an (attractive) touch of earth to nose and finish, but plenty of spicy lift too.  Lively and fresh, with al dente fruit and nice persistence.  Character and great drinkability skip joyously hand in hand here.  See under Lisboa for my review of his Carcavelos and Colares wines.


Miguel Louro junior, Miguel Louro Wines

Miguel Louro junior showed his wines at Quinta do Mouro’s pipa, allowing me to, as it were, kill two birds of different generations with one stone.  The founder’s namesake shares his father’s classical taste but, with a white focus, given he makes Riesling at S.A. Prum, in Germany’s Mosel Valley.  The Alentejo offers rather different terroir, that’s for sure, but it has not deterred the young winemaker, whose eponymous label includes three white and three red wines, called Apelido (surname), Primeiro Nome (first name) and Alcunha (nick-name).  Miguel junior is largely responsible for Quinta do Mouro’s growing portfolio of white wines too.

Miguel Louro Wines’ grapes come from five hectares, which he planted in 2010 to seven varieties in Estremoz, on schist soils.  The aim is freshness and low alcohol and the wines are made with minimal intervention.  Miguel Louro Apelido 2019 focuses on varieties which offer freshness – Alvarinho, Arinto,  Gouveio, Rabigato, Roupeiro, fermented with some skin contact.  Nice grip and freshness – the skins lend some structure and precision.  Well done.  Miguel Louro Primeiro Nome 2018 is, said Mouro, “more me, my character, going deeper into the wine.” It is a barrel-fermented and aged blend of 50% Alvarinho with Arinto and Rabigato, with good body to the mid-palate but equally good drive and attack to the fresh finish.  Miguel Louro Alcunha 2017 (12%) is made from 100% Rabigato and was my pick of the bunch.  It underwent 36 hours’ skin contact and was fermented and aged on fine lees in stainless steel tank. Putting me in mind of a Hunter Semillon, it has pea pod lift, sweeter lemon curd notes and tufa minerality.  Louro likes Rabigato because it doesn’t struggle in the heat.    My notes also mention a 2018 100% Arinto, which is barrel fermented and aged.  It is very lemony, focused and long, with great citrus zing.

Of the reds, similarly, Miguel Louro Alcunha Red 2018 was my pick of the bunch.  It is an elegant Touriga Franca, floral, meatier than the other wines, as in more concentrated, structured and with a savoury edge to its red fruits.  13.5%

As its name suggests, Quinta do Mouro Error B, had its origins in a mistake.  During the 2014 harvest, the press broke, resulting in exposure of juice to skins and oxidation.  Miguel Louro Senior rather liked the resulting wine and has since emulated the process purposely (and with greater precision).  A tank sample of the 2019 is floral to nose and palate, with chalky phenolics.    Quinta do Mouro Error B 2016  – a blend of Arinto, Alvarinho, Vedelho and Gouveio – has nice tension and structure, with a touch of pea pod greenness and pithy citrus notes adding to its sense of freshness.  Nice dry profile too.  Whilst writing about Mouro’s whites, let me include my notes from a dinner in September for Mouro’s new top white – Quinta do Mouro Branco 2017.   Deep yellow in hue, it is a blend of grapes – I don’t have the specifics, but understand the estate has seven white grape varieties, including Arinto (mostly), Alvarinho, Gouveio, Verdelho, Antão Vaz, Rabigato and Roupeiro.  It was barrel fermented and aged in 3 used barrels and one new barrel for 6 months.  It has a silky texture and reflects the richness of the vintage, with incipient brazil nut to its stone fruits, dried pineapple, creamy oak and a balancing touch of pear skin.  Just 12.5% alcohol.  2,200 bottles were made in 2017 and none in 2018 (a tricky year).  Plans are afoot to plant more white grape varieties.

Of the two vintages of Quinta do Mouro Tinto, I preferred the more concentrated 2013 to the 2014.  It is dark and savoury, with roast beef notes to its black fruits, balanced acidity, ripe grainy tannins and a really long, persistent finish.  Of the single varietal wines, Quinta do Mouro Touriga Nacional 2017 is unoaked (I think a new move?)  It shows good concentration and depth of fruit which, without oak, sings with little sacrifice, it would seem, vis a vis structure.  The first release  – 2016 Quinta do Mouro Petit Verdot (it was planted in 2005) is impressive, just like neighbour, Julio Bastos’ examples (Bastos has dubbed the Bordeaux variety Alentejo’s 21st century Alicante Bouschet and we know how he likes that grape!)  The Petit Verdot was aged in 100% new 300l French oak barrels for 12 months and it is powerful enough to handle it with aplomb.  Impressive concentration of ripe, perfumed black fruits, wed to classic Mouro backbone, with firm, spicy tannins accentuating the drier style.  Very good indeed.

Last, but by no means least (and usefully highlighting the evident rise in Portuguese premium rosé), Quinta do Mouro Erro Z Rosé 2018 is 100% Trincadeira from schist and limestone soils. The grapes for this salmon pink wine were pressed following a short maceration and the juice fermented in stainless steel vats at a controlled temperature. A small percentage of the batch was aged in new French oak barrel for 3 months.  As you would expect from Mouro, this is a dry, gastronomic rosé, with surprisingly – even for Mouro – freshness, zingy almost.  Trincadeira’s attractive tobacco/herbal nuances dance, lending savoury interest to the gentle red fruits. 12%   Accomplished.  Quinta do Mouro wines are imported into the UK by Raymond Reynolds.

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