June Wines of the Month: By Farr GC Chardonnay 2017 & Chocapalha Guarita 2015

Quinta de Chocalpalha

Paulo and Alice Tavares, Quinta de Chocalpalha

Last month was a fertile month for tastings but two wines particularly caught my attention.  One for the first time.  The other, lucky me, has passed these lips three times!  They are my June Wines of the Month. 

By Farr GC Chardonnay 2017 (Geelong)

By Farr GC Chardonnay 2017

By Farr GC Chardonnay 2017

Having tasted it last September, then in January, I included this in my 20 top Australian Chardonnay recommendations in April’s Decanter Australian Chardonnay Buyers Guide, awarding it 97 points.  At last week’s line up of Matthew Jukes’ 100 Best Australian Wines, (my favourite so far) it was my wine of the tasting.  From a long, cool but relatively dry year, it is memorable for its sheer power.  Contained power.  So this is a muscular, chewy, beautifully structured Chardonnay, with involving persistent acidity.  Built for the long haul, the fruit is the contained element.  For now, it reveals flinty, mineral nuances and, on last week’s tasting, a touch of toasted hazelnut as well as cashew.  Terrific palate presence.  13% £69.95 at The Vinorium

Quinta de Chocapalha Guarita 2015 (VR Lisboa)

Readers know that I am a big fan of Alicante Bouschet.  From Alentejo (Mouchao, Julio Bastos and Herdade do Rocim spring to mind).  Let me tell you, I was not expecting to find a great example in Lisboa, where the climate can be more challenging for production of fuller-bodied reds, like Alicante Bouschet.  There and again, this is Chocapalha, which has a number of strings to its bow.  First, based in Alenquer, it benefits from the shelter of the Serra de Montejunto, which rises to 666m (a spooky number, I know).  Next, the Tavares family are pioneers of premium winemaking in Lisboa and, as such have no little experience and vine age on their side (in 2015, the Alicante Bouschet vines were 32 years old).  Last, but by no means least, anyone who has met Paulo and Alice Tavares and their daughters, Sandra and Andrea, know how much passion goes into this family project.  It explains how leading Douro winemaker Sandra Tavares finds the time to juggle Chocapalha with Wine & Soul and her consultancy projects.  And this wine was a labour of love.  As her Swiss mum was quick to point out (!), CH Touriga Nacional and Arinto (both beautiful wines) are a tribute to her.   Guarita, which means ‘sentry house,’ is Chief Winemaker Sandra Tavares’ tribute to her father who, as General Manager, stands sentry over the estate.  This first super-impressive release expresses both variety and region with great finesse.  Deep and inky of hue, it is 100% Alicante Bouschet and reveals the teinturer variety’s intrinsic dryness, savouriness and deep fruit, with its lifted, dry tobacco (not a hint of green) and sweet black currant and berry.  Though weighing in at 15% alcohol, with its fine tannins and well-integrated, elegant acidity (the Lisboa touch), it comes across as mid-weight.   Finishes long, inky, very fine with mineral (iodine), spice and eucalyptus hints going through.  This ultra-sophisticated Alicante Bouschet costs €45; just 2,262 bottles made. 15%
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