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Vinho Verde II – North

After the Simplesmente… Vinho fair I visited some producers in the Vinho Verde region, according to a schedule made by festival general João Roseira. On Tuesday following the fair I was in the northern subregion of Vinho Verde, called Monção e Melgaço. Constantino Ramos was one of the greatest revelations on the whole trip, making superb, stylish, natural white and red wines. Valados de Melgaço does not make fully organic wines, and some with cultured yeasts, but is also very much of interest.

Constantino Ramos

Constantino Ramos was born in Vouzela (Dão-Lafões). After his education in pharmaceutical sciences in Coimbra he went back to the countryside, and after a few harvests in nearby Dão and Douro and one at De Martino in Chile, he came to Melgaço in 2013 to work with Anselmo Mendes, one of the great personalities of the alvarinho world.

Old vineyard near Melgaço

In 2015 came the opportunity to work a small vineyard over 70 years old, in Vale do Mouro. He started to make Zafirah, a red wine made with minimal intervention. I put it in the category of great, low-extraction, saline wines with a clear Atlantic touch that you can find from lower Galicia (Rías Baixas and Ribeiro) to the northern coast of Portugal. Remember, the Rías Baixas subregion of Contado de Tea begins just over the nearest bridge, and the historically important Ribeiro is also very close. These regions share grape varieties, and soil and climate are also similar. So if you think of red Vinho Verde as dark and meaty, maybe somewhat spritzy (and made by the vinhão variety), you have by now understood that this one is different.

VInha da Candosa, a centennial vineyard

-Old vines is not a common concept in Vinho Verde country, says Constantino. Nevertheless, currently he is in the process of recovering old vineyards, again in his words, -to give more credit to the reds from Monção and Melgaço, which were in the past very famous and compared to the wines from Burgundy and the Bordeaux clarets.

What about alvarinho, the emblematic and “inevitable” grape of the subregion? He continues: -Of course because I was working with Anselmo Mendes [Mr. Alvarinho] it was difficult to resist also producing an alvarinho wine. But it had to be something that could clearly show my vision of the variety in this specific terroir. So, using a small vineyard planted at about 250m high, I created Afluente. The name means tributary, metaphorically something that leads to, something that pushed me a step further.

Constantino has since long had his personal projects, his own wines and wineries for whom he consults, in addition to his “day job” at Anselmo Mendes. In January this year he took the chance to dedicate all his time to his personal projects. Of his own wines he makes 8.000 bottles annually, but he wants to increase a little.

Brancelho grapes in the same vineyard

We arrive in Riba do Mouro, a high altitude hamlet belonging to Monção. It has a cooler climate than the rest of the subregion. Here in Vale do Mouro was formerly a glacier, and therefore there is a great complexity of soils, granite, quartz, feldspar etc. The topsoil is only 40 cm down to the mother rock. Constantino says he prefer not to buy fields: -As I want to give something back to the people I prefer to work with the people. It’s something of an ethnographic project, driven by passion. -I have always been fond of reading. It helps you understand, gives you context.

Constantino has always worked organic. -Even the old viticulturists have a habit only to spray with copper, he says.

Afluente with padrón peppers
and bacalhau in Tiro no Prato restaurant, Viana do Castelo

After a visit to the most important vineyards we appropriately enjoyed his wines in a local context, a meal of bacalhau and partridge in the Tiro no Prato restaurant near Viana do Castelo, where Constantino lives. The Afluente 2020, an alvarinho fermented and aged in used barrels, was perfect with the bacalhau with onion, garlic, black olives, flat potatoes and olive oil. The wine had a pale yellow colour; an aroma of apple, citrus, wet stone more mineral than perfumed, actually; glyceric in the mouth, energetic, and with a superb integrated acidity.

Zafirah we had with local partridge

Zafirah 2021 is a field-blend from five plots of more than 50 year old vines on granite, with varieties like brancelho, borraçal (caíño), espadeiro, vinhão and pedral. It was skin-macerated one day before alcoholic fermentation, then light filtering and a bit sulphur added. It clocks in at 10.5% alcohol. Red cherry colour; red and wild berries (raspberry, blackberry); fresh in the mouth, saline. Like the white wine it went well with the bacalhau, and was a perfect pairing to partridge with a rich rice.

Juca 2021 is a tribute to his wife’s grandfather, who has helped Constantino a lot. It originates in the centennial vineyard of vinhão, brancelho a.o. The skins are soaked in steel and it’s carefully pumped over. The alcohol is 10%. Dark blackish blue, slightly carbonic; dark fruits (blackberry, blueberry), some licorice; it’s juicy, not especially tannic, with a fruitiness all the way. We can maybe look upon it as a luxury version of the dark Vinho Verde style.

Valados de Melgaço

Artur Meleiro picked me up in the Sousa subregion, and as I still hadn’t received my luggage after arriving in Porto three days ago he kindly offered me a shopping trip to Braga city. Then we continued north, had lunch in a Melgaço roadside restaurant, before we finally arrived at Quinta de Golães. Then after some vineyard sightseeing we arrived at the winery by the bridge bordering Spain.

The fresh, lightly bubbly Q. de Golães 2019 at a restaurant O Adérito

Artur himself was born in Melgaço, one of the two villages that give name to the sub-region. He moved back from Lisboa in 2016 to concentrate fully on this project, after having also lived in Braga and Porto. The family vineyards count on 4 hectares (3,5 hectares alvarinho, the rest trajadura, loureiro and red varieties) Today the production is 30.000 bottles, while the ideal for the future he says is 50.000.

Valados at Quinta de Galães

Monção e Melgaço is warmer than the rest of the region during the day and colder in the night, he says. Because of the mountain ranges it’s leaning more to a continental climate. .

Ramadas are used for red varieties at Quinta de Galães

Valados de Melgaço is Artur’s project, associated with his cousin Pedro Kock. It encompasses Quinta de Golães, so today they offer two ranges, with those two names respectively.

For the white wines the grape is almost exclusively alvarinho. 60% is in fact purchased, in addition to the grapes from the family vineyards. But the bought-in grapes come from farmers who share the same philosophy, soils/altitude etc. Artur tells, with this traditional viticulture one has to use pesticides. A neutral cultivated yeast is also used (except for the reds).

Alvarinho

The aim is to produce elegant and balanced wines, that is faithful to the alvarinho variety and the Monção and Melgaço terroir. I can say that I liked the Golães red and white, as simple and fruity everyday wines. The Valados range was true to what we think of as terroir. I chose three of these wines here.

Espigueiro, a traditional small house for storage of grain

Valados de Melgaço Reserva 2019 had a few months on the lees with batonnage during a short while. Light yellow colour; expressive concentrate aroma, yellow apples, some anise; quite full and structured in the mouth, with a slightly bitter grapefruity aftertaste. Valados de Melgaço Grande Reserva 2016 is a truly serious wine, but though it was three years older and even more concentrated it was lighter in colour than the reserva. It aged on lees in inox during 46 months, with batonnage in the first 12. Fresh fruit, yellow apples, melon, some balsamic notes; supple concentration and a long finish and good citrussy acidity all the way. Should I pick one favourite it would still be the Valados de Melgaço Natura (Vinificação Tradicional) 2019, a wine made with less sulphur, and nothing added until the end of fermentation. It had 8 months ageing on lees in steel, with batonnage. Yellow colour; aroma of pear, flowers, fennel and a touch of clementine peel; juicy and grapey in the mouth, good, integrated acidity.

Tasting in the cellar

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Vinho Verde I – South

After the Simplesmente… Vinho fair I took the opportunity to get an update on the nearby Vinho Verde region. I visited five producers in a program set up by festival general João Roseira and the growers. Here is a report from the three first wineries. These are found in the subregions Sousa and Amarante, only 40 and 60 kilometers respectively, from the city of Porto.

 Sem Igual 

Sem Igual (meaning something like unequalled, or unique) may be a new brand, and it was only in 2012 that João Camizão and his wife Leila Rocha made their first vintage. But João’s family has been grapegrowers in the Sousa and Amarante sub-regions of Vinho Verde since the 18th century. I visited together with an American importer. And from the fair in Porto they drove us in their car to Meinedo, in the municipality of Lousada. Meanwhile they told us the fascinating story about their international background and how they came back. João has for long long worked in telecommunications, and combined for a few years his employment in Nokia with a life as a farmer. It was only in 2016 that he decided to dedicate himself fully to wine, and the family took the chance to move to the village of his childhood.

Leila Rocha and João Camizão,
Sem Igual

Their office, storage cellar and guesthouse are located in Meinedo. Here in the Sousa area they have about 10 hectares of vineyards on granite soil with gravel. The vines have an age of up to 70 years, the oldest ones trained in the traditional ramadas.

Small-scale production. Here are their pneumatic press and their four barrels

They are a modern couple, with their international stories, and a busy life with three kids. But watching their vineyards and walking through their cellar it shows clearly that they also feel connected to history. Just look at all the stone and the wooden architecture in their premises, the concrete tanks and the lagares where the grapes are trodden by foot.

Their guesthouse has a swimming pool overlooking the vineyards

We tasted through their range of wines. Sem Igual makes first and foremost white wines, but also sparkling wines, rosés and light reds. Their whites are blends of the two local grapes arinto and azal. In general they are good bodied, non-carbonic, dry wines with a fresh acidity.

The Sem Igual (blue label) is made from 70% arinto and 30% azal, always with whole bunches and very soft pressing. It has virtually no contact with lees. The wine was served in five vintages between 2015 and 2019, to give an impression. All had splendid citrus fruit (lemon peel) with good body, a crisp acidity and no bubbles (sounds maybe strange, but this is opposed to a long tradition of gasification in the region), and a mineral aftertaste – in an overall elegant style. The 2019 and 2017 were for me a bit ahead of the rest, a bit more expressive and with a slight buttery feel. João says that in 2016 they cut down on SO2. This can explain that the latest wines, especially 2019 and 2017 were somewhat darker.

Next was a pair of Sem Igual Ramadas 2018. Dubbed Metal and Wood respectively this denotes that the latter had been in oak, the former not. The Metal came from 50 year old vines, the Wood more than 60, both trained in pergola (ramadas). 60% arinto, the rest azal, the Wood was a bit more buttery, full and with more rounded acidity.

Sem Mal may play with the expression “not bad”, I think, but also with the fact that it had not completed malolactic fermentation (“malo”) before it was bottled. Which makes it a sparkling wine. The 2019 was a fresh one, with small bubbles, citrussy acidity, yellow apples and some yeast. We also tasted the Bruto Natural, a fresh sparkler after 40 months on sediments. Among the rest of the wines we tasted the Pét Nat 2019 was truly fascinating. A half and half touriga nacinal and baga wine, this was their first pét nat and also their first experience with red grapes. Pale salmon-pink; peach and apples; smooth and off-dry, this is easy to drink on a hot summer’s day – and a story to be continued.

The four of us enjoying the versatility of the white wine
at a local restaurant

Quinta da Palmirinha

Quinta da Palmirinha and Fernando Paiva I have written about several times. Here is a short report following a visit three years ago.

Palmirinha is the family farm, barely 3 hectares located in Lixa, sub-region of Amarante. Fernando has a moderate and polite appearance, but is an undisputed authority in organic and biodynamic farming. A retired history professor, he will consult younger local talent about organic farming, without any pay. As he says while we walk up and down his quite steep vineyard, “if I give away my shirt I don’t have it any more, but knowledge is a thing you can share without losing it yourself.”

His vineyard is a total of almost 3 hectares with mostly 28 year old vines. Loureiro accounts for 2 hectares, the rest azal and arinto. All this is trained in simple cordon.

Loureiro grapes in July

On his own initiative he has experimented with the use of chestnut flowers that covers the must, so that he can avoid using SO2. Time will show if this will be a revolutionary discovery for the whole sector. Anyway, Fernando has already shared his ideas with several producers.

Chestnut flowers

Outside the adega we also said hello to the chickens that are fertilizing his vineyards. The plant life he calls “spontaneous”. It is like it is, there is no need to adjust. But we see aromatic plants that attracts insects.

Biodynamic preparations

He was the first certified biodynamic producer in Portugal. This time he showed me his biodynamic toolcase, with preparations.

The grapes are harvested manually in the morning, gently pressed and the fermentation is spontaneous. The wine stays in stainless steel for 10 months, with batonage twice.

I have tasted his wines many times, in the winery and at fairs. In general they are citric, appley and flowery, mineral, always with a firm structure, but with an integrated acidity. The three wines I tasted this time were all from the 2021 vintage. The Loureiro had more yellow apples, and overall a lovely calmness and harmony, just like the vineyard and the man. The Azal was more to the green apple side, some anise, with a crisper acidity. The Curtimenta (orange wine) called Leviano (tank sample), had 75% loureiro, the rest azal, and 3 weeks skin-contact. The colour is yellow, and smells of clementine peel, ginger and flowers; full in the mouth with some structure. This is an absolutely outstanding trio of wines!

Loureiro grapes and chamomile flowers

Quinta de Lourosa

José Maia meets me at Quinta de Lourosa, in Sousela (Sousa valley). He has a varied background, and he is still working as a tour guide. The last few years he has been engaged at the winery, to do a little bit of everything. His experience in tourism is well at hand as they have a guesthouse with restaurant and provide guided tours. Their packages include regional gastronomy, handicrafts and day trips to sites of historical and cultural heritage, such as the area’s Romanesque route.

Rogério de Castro

Joanna de Castro is winemaker on the quinta, that now covers 27 hectares. She lives in Lisboa and couldn’t be present that day. But her father was there. Rogério de Castro is a legendary figure, retired oenology professor and acknowledged for having introduced the training system that has come to be called Lys. The idea behind it is to enable a better sun exposure. Now the professor is passionately working the vineyards at Quinta de Lourosa. He has also in the latest decades renewed the 17th century chapel and the eaves on the farm. As we were walking around the estate he showed me different examples of the Lys system. It’s maybe more a concept than a technique. The idea is to distribute the plants to give ventilation. Very commonly first the plant grows to the left and to the right, then it moves upwards. With this system the plant also grows much stronger.

The Lys training system

José tells me that the estate doesn’t produce organic wines as such. But they do care about the landscape and soil. -We use chemicals only when we have to, he says. -And the future is not to use. They are in fact planting peppermint between the rows to attract insects, only to mention one feature.

Tasting in the winery

The wines were in general fresh and quite light in style. To only mention a few the (Vinhas de) Lourosa 2021, a varietal loureiro, was light with a a little gas; citric with green apples on the nose; fresh in the mouth, with lemony acidity. The Quinta de Lourosa 2021 was maybe a bit more “serious”. Made from 40-45% arinto, 30% loureiro and the rest avesso (a blend that the authorities first didn’t approve, because they said it must be sauvignon blanc) the wine showed citric with yellow apples, also fresh with a little gas, but a little more full and concentrated than the previous. Among the sparkling wines I really liked the Lourosa Bruto Branco 2018, made from loureiro and brinto with no added sugar: Pale yellow with small bubbles; fresh aroma of green and yellow apple, some yeast (after 9 months on sediments); with an appley acidity in the finish.

We also did an interesting tasting of the Quinta de Lourosa Alvarinho. The 2019 (made with 7% arinto also), made in steel and new French oak, showed light yellow in colour; an aroma of yellow apple, spice/herbs; glyceric, hints of toast, flavourful. We had this and two more vintages for dinner in the restaurant. While the 2016 was more buttery and had only a slightly oaky aftertaste, the 2014 showed a fully integrated oak without losing the fruit.

Visiting Citânia de Sanfins, a pre-historic Celtic-Iberian settlement
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Simplesmente… Vinho 2022 – Updates

Here is my second article from this year’s Simplesmente fair, where I present updates from producers that I already knew well. I tasted everything they offered, but I will try to restrict myself to presenting only a few wines.

(Read the first article from this year’s fair here, about some re-discoveries of wineries I knew a little.)

Antonio Portela

Antonio Portela from the Morrazo península, Galicia, Spain was a special guest this year. Chance had it that I started my tasting experience by his barrel. The occasion is a sad one, he is not able to continue his work for economic reasons. That means, if not anything unexpected happens we will not be able to taste his wonderful, fresh, saline wines anymore. Antonio has other activities to fall back on, such as writing and teaching, so he refuses to call the situation dramatic. Okay, but to call it a pity is to put it in a very careful way. The white (Mar do) Namorado he offered in the 2020 and 2018 vintages. It is a 85% loureiro, the rest albariño, espadeiro a.o., grown in sand on the beach. The 2020 had a light colour; aroma of citrus, flowers and yellow fruits; wonderful acidity and concentration, long with a salty aftertaste. The 2018, in comparison, had a honeyed edge, but still with plenty of acidity and concentration. The red tinta femia Namorado 2019 was light with red fruits (raspberry), a touch anise, and with a saline finish. The Namorado Berobreo 2019 was in the same line, light in colour and with a super acidity. This one was made with whole bunches.

Miguel Alfonso, Pedralonga

Miguel Alfonso’s family has produced wine for generations in Val do Umia, in the Salnés part of Galicia. The current winery, Adega Pedralonga, was founded in 1997 by Miguel’s father Francisco, and biodynamic practises were implemented ten years later. Miguel says that the work is professionalized, but it follows the philosophy of the ancestors. This means they plough only when necessary, Also in the cellar they do as little as possible. Albariño is not de-stemmed, only natural yeasts are employed, malolactic fermentation is not blocked and all wines get an extended ageing on lees. The Pedralonga vineyards sit on granite soils and are influenced by an Atlantic climate, which very much shows in the wines.

Pedralonga 2021 is a classic, with its fresh aromas of citrus and flowers, wonderful texture, steely acidity, salt and a flinty mineral finish. One of the great whites of the fair. The same can be said of their Carolina 2021, made from caíño blanco, with a greenish hint, quince and herbs, unctuous with a grapefruity aftertaste. Tinto de Umia 2019 is light red with a bit of evolution, red fruits, a touch of smoke and a lovely acidity and a saline finish.

Alfredo Maestro

Alfredo Maestro operates in both his native Peñafiel (Ribera del Duero) and in Sierra de Gredos. Since 1998 he has vinifyed each plot according to its peculiarities, with native yeasts and without chemical products. The artisan practise continues in the cellar, where no machines are used. Wait a minute: Few machines are used. But I have seen on YouTube that Alfredo experiments with drones to do various work in the vineyard. A machine yes, but this is also to minimize the use of that sort.

Alfredo put his signature on the barrel, such as a drawing of the Peñafiel castle of his hometown

Rey del Glam 2021 is an elegant example of the carbonic maceration garnacha. A mix from both Ribera and Gredos, it shows fragrant red fruits with licorice; juicy in the mouth, also with some structure. Almate 2021 Is an un-oaked Ribera: Dark cherry; red and wild fruits (cherry, blackberry); full-flavoured, yet with fine tannins. The skin-contact albillo mayor Lovamor 2021 and the partly flor-aged albillo mayor Consuelo 2020 delivered as usual. So did the speciality La Cosa / The Thing 2020, a sweet moscatel de alejandría. It’s interesting that someone makes a Cigales these days. Alfredo has an interesting garnacha gris called La Badi 2021, made with three days skin-contact. Therefore it achieves a light red colour with greyish hints (“ceniza y cigarro”, ash and cigar, Alfredo calls it). It’s a juicy glou-glou, truely fascinating. I have a crush on Rosado Clásico de Valladolid, now in its 2019 vintage. It’s in fact a clarete (in Spain made of red and white grapes, the same as a Portuguese palhete). It’s made with direct press, half in botas de Jerez, half in chestnut. The colour is pale red with an orange tinge, aromas of red berries (raspberry, plum), dried fruit and leather; the acidity and the alcohol (13,5) are integrated, while the tannins, fine-grained though, struggles to see if they can break out.

António of Casa de Mouraz presenting
the Elfa and Bolinha wines

I visited Casa de Mouraz after 2017, the hot year with the devastating fires. (Read about the visit here.) They make fresh and inspiring Vinho Verde wines under António Lopes Ribeiro’s initials, alr. Here I choose a few Dão wines. Casa de Mouraz Encruzado 2020 is a perfumed varietal, with the extrovert fruit that the grape can offer, wonderfully balanced. Casa de Mouraz Palhete 2021, a field-blend of 80% red grapes, the rest whites, was light in colour, with concentrated raspberry and strawberry notes, an intense flavour and balanced acidity. Elfa 2017 made from 95 year old vines, with 30 different grape varieties co-planted. Worth mentioning is that there is no touriga nacional (not normal in Portugal, especially when there are that many varieties employed) and no oak. A red fruits- (cherry, raspberry) fruity wine with an underlying pine character; it has a fine structure and good balance. António also presented three wines without DOC, under the umbrella Planet Mouraz. The fact that they come without a DOC would most often mean that they are unfiltered. I tasted two vintages of the white Bolinha, namely 2021 and 2017. This is also a field-blend, fermented in stone lagar and stayed with skins for one week. The 2021 was clearly unfiltered; light golden, turbid; with an intense aroma of yellow fruits and herbs; grapey and full. The 2017 had a bit more colour; intense, with apricot and honey; quite big and full-flavoured, long and balanced. Bolinha is the name of the dog on the label, by the way.

Meeting up with José Perdigão

It’s always a pleasure to meet José Perdigão, architect and vinegrower of Silgueiros, Dão, and taste his wines with labels by his wife Vanessa. A long-time favourite among his wines is the Quinta do Perdigão Rosé, now in its 2021 edition. It’s a rosé with some colour (José can maybe “arrest” me, but I would say somewhat less colour than before). It’s a full-flavoured rosé with aromas of raspberry and currant, and fresh acidity. Another classic from the house is the Alfrocheiro 2013: Dark cherry red with dark fruit aromas (blackberry, blueberry), pine; structured in the mouth, elegant, and very much alive after almost ten years. One that I don’t remember to have tasted is Noël 2015 (named after his youngest son). This is another wine that has kept well: Dark cherry; ripe red fruits (cherry, prunes); smooth, full of flavours. Still potential for ageing.

Lastly a trio from the Lisboa region. André Gomes Pereira and his Quinta do Montalto are actually found in the municipality of Ourém, in the Santarém district. But the wines are launched under neighbouring Lisboa’s regional.wines, if not DOC Encostas d’Aire (Medieval de Ourém). Pioneers in Portugal, since 1997, all crops at Quinta do Montalto are organic.

His medieval wine, a red and white blend, must be mentioned. This year I was in a hurry and skipped it though. I tasted his amphora wines for the first time. The vessels are made locally. Originally the manufacturer used epoxy. André said that this is “cheating” and against tradition. He said to André, why don’t you do it yourself? Then, as a statement, André decided that he would himself coat the amphoras with resin. Ánfora de Baco 2021 white is a varietal fernão pires, made 30% with skins and 3 months ageing with skins and on lees. Golden colour; flowers, resin and yellow fruits; full on the palate, fresh and Atlantic. The red equivalent with the same name is made from equal quantities trincadeira and aragonêz. Garnet red; red fruits (cherry), stonefruit (plums); super acidity and salinity. Cluricun Skin 2021 from grape varieties siria and fernão pires, 3 months on skins, was a peculiar wine. Pale amber colour; aroma of clementine and nuts; medium-bodied, with a light tannic grip.

Pedro Marques of Vale da Capucha (Turcifal, Torres Vedras) is a top producer, right there up with the very best. I could have mentioned all his wines. I will not, but I can say that they are focused, elegant and shaped by the terroir. The vineyards are planted on kimmeridgian limestone with clay. The white Fossil 2017 sums it all up. The name tells the story of a winery only 8 kilometers from the coast, in earlier times under water. Fossil has a light golden colour; aroma of citrus, white flowers, wax, chalk; a mineral taste, quite full and with a super integrated acidity. A lovely wine at a very nice price. Vale da Capucha Arinto 2019 is for me a star among his varietal wines. It’s light yellow; concentrated aromas of citrus (lemon and peel), yellow pepper, chalk; medium full in the mouth, mineral, with a lovely integrated acidity. Vale da Capucha Palhete 2019 is a blend of the white arinto and the red castelinho, made by “inking” a white wine with the red castelinho, then co-fermented in steel before bottling. Light red; red fruits (raspberry), salt; juicy, carefully structured.

Daniel (Baías e Enseadas, left) and Pedro (Vale da Capucha)

Baías e Enseadas is located in Codiceira, Colares country, west of Lisboa capital. They have a more mature style. Daniel Afonso says, “I want to extract all I can from the skins”. The white Fernão Pires 2020 had stayed 6 months in barrel, with a lot of batonnage. -I always have acidity, says Daniel, now I want to work on the creaminess. And yes, a creamy texture together with a good acidity was achieved here. The Escolha Pessoal 2020 could be found along the same path, though a bit more concentrated and also elegant. Castelão 2020 showed mature fruits, alongside flowers and a hint licorice; juicy and quite complex, and a fruity finish.

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Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 – Part 2

In the first part from this year’s Simplesmente Vinho we highlighted some producers from outside the famous regions. (Read here.) In this long overdue second part two I would like to focus on producers from well-known wine districts that I didn’t know from before or wanted to re-taste.

From Douro, where the fair is located, I tasted several, like Quinta de Zimbro and Conceito, and also Luís Seabra, who is a little in and out of the Douro valley. Add to this one of few port wines, the lovely organic ruby from organizer João Roseira and his Quinta do Infantado, and the picture is a bit more complete, at least for me – this time.

Hugo Mateus

While I missed Ana Maria Hespanol this time, her partner Hugo Mateus was there. He showed an impressive line of wines.

Traditionally Ana’s father Manuel had a good grip on the heady Douro reds. I think they have lifted the quality a couple of flats, especially with the other side of the assortment, or to bring it more in line with the times is maybe more fair to say. Anyway the whites are now often very good. Their Branco 2017, from mostly viosinho, and bottled in 2020, was harvested early to retain the acidity. Lots of primary fruits, like apples and pears. In the mouth it’s quite full, rich and long. It’s part of their often innovative, or modern, Grau Baumé line.

They have a serious orange wine, Undo Curtimenta 2020, a blend of usual Douro grapes like viosinho, rabigato, and gouveia, with 31 days of skin-contact. It’s quite textured, but yet with some feeling of lightness, aromas of white flowers, herbs and peel.

Rita and Miguel, winemakers from Conceito in the Teja Valley, showed again their impressive range, with very good prices too. Their selection falls mainly into two categories, Conceito and Contraste. Conceito is meant to be the flagship range, but I must admit that I not always understand where the dividing line is, as they both contain quality wines that sit somewhere between the classic and the modern. A wine that has not been highlighted (by me) is their Contraste Rosé, now in its 2020 vintage. It’s from higher (more than 600 meters) granite soils: Very light in colour, with raspberry and whitecurrent aromas. On the palate it’s both mellow and easy, but with a nice acidity and a serious charm. Legítimo is now in its 2018 vintage. This one is made with stems of touriga nacional, tinta roriz and touriga franca, with no sulphur. It’s dark cherry, dark fruits on the nose (blackberry) and also plums, with lactic notes (yoghurt?), and elegant tannins in the mouth. The Bastardo 2019 is, as always, superelegant, uplifting, truly inspiring. It comes from a 50 year old vineyard and ripes earlier than the others, end of august. It’s made with stems, and just a little SO2 before bottling. It’s “surprisingly” (well, not anymore) light, with a lot of raspberry and flowers, evident but light tannins.

Manuel Sapage and Rita Ferreira Marques

Like many of the other producers here, to present a short report about Luís Seabra, doesn’t give him justice. He excels both in red and white, and both “xisto” and “granito” soils that are often presented on the labels. Everything is good to outstanding, from the entry-level white and red Xisto Ilimitado, via the monovarietals to the cru wines. All right, let me chose one of each. The red Xisto Ilimitado 2019 is made from a blend of touriga franca 30%, tinta roriz 20%, tinta amarela 20% and 10 each of rufete and tinta barroca. It’s clear red; aromas of fresh red berries, some balsamic and herbs; fruity and dry, with a light structure. Mono C 2019 is a castelão (that is in fact authorized in the Douro): Cherry red; red fruits (cherry), stone fruits (plum), with some herbs; lightly structured with fresh acidity. For me this wine is delicious, and ready to drink now (I have the previous vintage at home, maybe at its peak now). There are several wines with the same name. This one is from Vinho Verde: Granito Cru 2019 from alvarinho grapes is from near the river Minho in the Melgaço municipality. It’s light yellow; citric with elements of honey, lightly spicy and a touch of vanilla (after one year in barrel); good concentration in the mouth, dry, a stony minerality and great lenght. Wait two years, and it’s perfect! OK, an extra speciality for you my friend: Véu de Xisto 2015! Véu denotes that it has spent two years under flor in a barrel from Jura, France. It’s golden, but also lightly greenish; smells of yeasts, flowers, iodine; full in the mouth, rounded. By the way, the grapes are rabigato 70%, côdega do larinho 15% and the rest gouveio.

Luís Seabra with his Natalie
An impressive range from Luís Seabra

From nearby Amarante of Minho we have Quinta de Palmirinha. Fernando Paiva, biodynamic pioneer in the Vinho Verde region, never stop to impress, with both azal and arinto. But his loureiros are the stars. Really interesting from his current selection is the Leviano 2020, a “curtimento” (orange wine). Leviano denotes in Portuguese a person that doesn’t care about anything, says Fernando. But he cares about the most, from vineyard to table. Noteworthy is his use of chestnut flowers to avoid use of SO2. The Leviano spent two weeks on skins, that gives a golden hue, an aroma of ginger and white flowers. In the mouth it’s in a way gentle and mellow, but it has the unmistakable acidity from the loureiro grape.

Fernando Paiva

South to Dão I had the opportunity to try the wines of Casa de Darei, that I hadn’t tasted since the opening of their “lodging” facilities (that I also used), some 20 years ago. Then José Ruivo was “chief”. Now it’s his son Carlos who is in charge. Their reds are lovely, not least the entry level Lagar de Darei 2015 from the “usual suspects” touriga nacional, tinta roriz, jaen and alfrocheiro, with its red fruit and balsamic pinewood nuances, and its luscious mouthfeel. All reds came in the 2015 vintage. New launches that “old” is quite unusual these days. I also like their rosé 2020, easy-to-drink, with its lovely raspberry character and low alcohol.

Carlos Ruivo

I also tried a couple of the fantastic and diverse wines of João Tavares da Pina, kindly offered by him and his wife Luisa at a lunch. Read more about one of these wines here.

José Vivas

Quinta do Olival da Murta is located in the Cadaval area of the Lisboa region, near the mountain range Serra de Montejunto. It’s here that Joana Vivas, who is in charge of the family business, got the inspiration for the label Serra Oca. It’s only 15 kilometers to the Atlantic ocean, which is noted in the wines, that are always made in a simple way. They have an interesting moscatel graúdo called simply Serra Oca 2019, fermented in 1000 liters oak vats, with all the lovely moscatel virtues: Golden, floral, honeyed, and with a very good acidity. More ususal local grapes, like arinto, fernão pires, were used together with the moscatel in another Serra Oca 2019 wine. This one had three days of skin-contact, partly fermented in barriques and inox. This had an interesting mix of developed and fresh aromas and taste, as if it played with oxidation; golden/brownish colour, aromatic, citric and flowery, in the mouth full with lovely acidity. If my memory doesn’t fail me it was one months before its bottling. I have not forgot their reds, that they began with in 2013 (three years before the whites), but let’s save them for a later occasion.

From down in Alentejo I found Argilla, and tasted the wines while the local student choir was singing a wide selection of songs, many of them medieaval. The winery is located at the foot of the Montargil mountains in Alto Alentejo (northwest of Évora and Estremoz). They put a lot of effort in talha wines, made in the Alentejo style of clay vessel, and also smaller amphorae. But first: I really liked their Rosa d’Argilla 2019, some kind of a clarete, made from alicante bouschet with only 20% skin-contact. It’s clear ruby; aroma of red fruits (raspberry); only slightly structured, juicy and delicious. From the Talha Argilla range I tasted 2019 white (appley, with some earthiness from the clay), and the red 2018 (red fruits and licorice, with tannins from petite verdot), both from a selection of grapes. Then came a varietal, Alfrocheiro em Talha de Argilla 2017. This was a relatively young wine, dark with a blueish hint. The flavours were very balanced; red fruits, flowers, some earthiness, – and rounded in the mouth. Rita offered more wines, that I tasted, and they were all interesting. Sorry, but this was at the very end, and I had to concentrate on the music for a while. This time it was Transmontuna, a student choir from Vila Real.

Rita Tenreiro

Thanks to João Roseira and the other organizers who managed to set up a magnificent fair in “times of trouble”. And the band played on…!

And that was that, folks!
(João Roseira pictured)
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Simplesmente… Vinho 2019: Some Portuguese highlights

The 7th edition of the Simplesmente… Vinho fair is over. This is an arrangement in Porto for individual, artisanal wine producers with a focus on natural and sustainable farming. The venue is Cais Novo, a renovated 18th-century palace only a few meters from the Douro river. This time 101 producers participated, mostly Portuguese, a few visitors from Spain, and some that had travelled longer, in fact all the way from Brazil. There was food, there was music, and among the specially invited were Os Goliardos (Silvia and Nadir), who are very active on the country’s wine scene, especially in Lisboa. The fair is organized by João Roseira, himself an important producer in the Douro region.

There were many producers that I knew from before, but also some revelations. I will be back with more. For a start, here are just a few of the many Portuguese highlights of the fair. I will try to limit myself to one wine per producer (although you will see that this is a difficult task).

António Marques da Cruz

António Marques da Cruz, is 5th generation farmer at Quinta da Serradinha in Leiria, in the DOC Encostas de Aire. The quinta encompasses 6 hectares of vineyard on clay-limestone in an Atlantic climate. António has a good hand on both sparkling, white, rosé and red wines, and he can make wines that last. His 1999 baga is a wine that really stands out. I started the fair with visiting his table (or: barrels, that is what they use here), and what could be better than to start this tour with his Serradinha Castelão 2017. Quite dark, young colour; very fruity with cherry, plums; mellow in the mouth, luscious and fabulous drinking, with a fresh, natural acidity.

João M. Barbosa

João M. Barbosa was formerly with the big Dom Teodosio company. Now he carries on his family’s long tradition. He is located near Rio Maior in Tejo, but he has also vineyards in Portalegre, Alentejo, around 6 hectares in total. He brought a nice sparkling and a red Escolha, and I also fell for the Ninfa Colheita Branco 2016, a barrel-fermented white from sauvignon blanc and fernão pires. But as my one wine here I chose Ninfa Vinhas Velhas 2016, a no-oak, “no-nothing”, natural wine, a field blend dominated by castelão (accompanied by trincadeira, camarate, alicante bouschet and others). The grapes are grown in calcareous clay soils, in a Mediterranean climate with Atlantic influence. The south-facing exposure enjoys a good sun exposure. The yields are low, that result in concentrated grapes and ageworthy wines. The wine shows a good cherry colour; an earthy nose with blackberry, cherry and some balsamic notes too; tasty, with ripe tannins, and a luscious freshness.

Pedro Marques (left), journalist Jamie Goode taking notes (at the opening dinner)

It’s always a pleasure to taste Pedro’s wines. He’s always down to earth, absolutely honest about his wines, and explains in detail the challenges of each wine. The farm is located in Turcifal, in the Torres Vedras municipality of the Lisboa region. It’s only 8 km from the sea, has a clay-limestone soil, Atlantic climate and a couple of his wines are aptly called Fossil.

Among the whites there was a fabulous version of the Fossil 2017 (both rich and tasty, and also lots of acidity), the unctuous arintos – and the Branco Especial, an interesting solera wine (a blend of 4 vintages, now aged in botti, big barrels from Barolo), with its amber colour, yellow fruit, flowers and apricot, and a structured palate. I really liked the Vale da Capucha Palhete 2017 from castelão, a light red wine; yeasty, flowery, with red berries, raspberry, a light CO2 pressure, and fruit all the way. I have written about the reds several times. They are of course good, and a wine like the red Fossil didn’t disappoint in the 2016 vintage either. But the Vale da Capucha Vinha Teimosa 2014 you haven’t read about here. It’s made from touriga nacional and tinta roriz. 2014 was a very cold vintage, with a lot of rain. The wine is dark, with blackcurrant, green pepper, beetroot, and some earthy notes, and a type of balsamic note that Pedro thinks can be caused by a fungus that in a way “belongs to the vintage”.

José Perdigão (right)

José Perdigão of the quinta that bears his name has a rosé that I have enjoyed for many years now. This time he brought a very nice strawberry/peach-coloured pét nat, that I can’t remember to have tasted. But almost as emblematic as his rosé is the white Encruzado, now in its 2017 edition: Light golden; pear and white peach aroma with citrus and elderberry; fresh, vibrant and quite structured in the mouth.

Cabeças do Reguengo was a discovery for me last year, with their lovely orange wine Luminoso (this time in the 2018 vintage), the no SO2 red Felisbela (also 2018), the structured rosé and the “normal” Alentejo blend Courelas da Torre, both in plain and reserva versions – all from the northern, cool end of the region. Let’s just have a look at the basic blend Courelas da Torre 2017 this time, from aragonêz, trincadeira and alicante bouschet: Dark cherry colour; mature berries, a touch of lickorice; full in the mouth, with tobacco, some spice. Very nice, and should be popular among all kinds of audiences. I didn’t taste their Cabeças range this time. (But you can read this piece from last year’s fair.)

Miguel Louro

Also in Alentejo Quinta do Mouro of Estremoz is a more established producers, one of the very best and respected of all. Delicious were the concentrated yet smooth, old barrel-fermented white Zagalos 2016 (from alvarinho 50%, arinto 30%, gouveio and verdelho), the light, somewhat fragile red Zaga Luz 2017 (a typical blend) and all the stylish reds that we have loved since many years. But let’s have a look at something called Erro, from “error”. In this unusual series there are three reds, called 1, 2 and 3, and this white Erro B 2015. It started out the usual way, but here the press broke, and the must was left with the skins. There is always some early picked arinto blended in, thus it’s marked by a tough acidity. The colour is yellow; the nose shows yellow fruits, peel; it’s complex and structured, with a superb acidity in the lingering farewell.

Vitor Claro

Vitor Claro is a former chef who started winemaking after a trip to Portalegre, Alentejo where he fell in love some vineyards, more than 80 years old. These are located at 650 meters of altitude and facing north.

The wines were indeed inspiring, such as the Destino 2018, a good acidity moscatel, and Claro 2018, a light malvasia. I ought to mention the Foxtrot Dominó 2017, made from the white moscato grapes that were not used for the white wine, and alicante bouschet, a “very” red grape (including coloured stems). The result is light red, quite mellow and with fine-grained tannins.

The one wine selection this time would be the Dominó Silvo Frio 2016, made from a field blend of classical Alentejo grapes: grand noir, trincadeira, tinta roriz, castelão, and also a white, arinto. The vineyards is mainly granite with some quartz. Fermentation is 50% whole bunches, and for the rest, whole grapes are macerated in inox for 60 days. The grapes are then pressed, and after fermentation the wines is aged in old Burgundian barrels and lightly filtered before bottling. The wine shows a clear red colour; fresh red fruits, some herbs and spice; good structure, and a fine acidity, but there are also nice fruit behind.

Tiago Sampaio

I tasted through the whole range from Folias de Baco, and Tiago Sampaio presented one wine more creative than the other. Among the best were the Uivo 2018 from alvarinho, with almost no colour at all, but lots of flavours dominated by pears, the Uivo Xpto Branco 2008-2018, a light orang, lemon peel scented, concentrated wine with 10 months of skin-contact and aged under flor – and a 100% botrytis, 5,5% alcohol, amber, honeyed, sweet wine called Uivo LH+. But our selected wine this time is Uivo Renegado 2018. This is a field blend from a centennial vineyard with around 40 different varieties. They were fermented together, mainly in cement. The wine is pinkish in colour; aromas of strawberries, seaweed maybe; smooth and luscious in the mouth, with a long, natural acidity. It’s easy-to-drink kind of wine, but the age of the plants secures a concentration back there too. The best of two worlds.

Vasco Croft of Aphros Wines brought most of his wines. I visited him after the fair (a report to come), so here I will stick to my original intention and talk about only one wine. (Read also about his Palhete in a post from last autumn.) But now: Phaunus Loureiro 2017 was fermented in talhas (clay pots) and aged for 7 months on lees. It’s light, slightly turbid; aromas of green-yellow apple, yeast, minerals; quite full, sappy, and with a good acidity from the variety.

We end our journey on Madeira, but not in the more normal way. Super producer of long-living madeiras Barbeito has made their first white table wine, called Verdelho 2017, with the designation DOP Madeirense. Winemaker Nuno Duarte explains that while verdelho is typically grown on the north side of the island, sercial (who makes up 4% of this wine) is cultivated in the south. The verdelho grapes were foot-trodden in lagares, and 30% aged in new French oak, the rest in steel.

The wine has a golden colour; aroma of apricot and pear, a bit waxy, but also with a nice citrus (lemon) zest; though it’s in a way mellow it’s very fresh with a good acidity too, and a saline finish. You can feel the tension of the Atlantic in this wine.

 

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The Real Wine fair III: Some stars, and some comets on the rise

Here is my last report from this year’s edition of the Real Wine Fair. You may also read the first two articles that cover the sparkling wines and some Spanish producers. I will just give you some of the many highlights.

Jo Landron was there with some of his magnificent Muscadet whites, biodynamic since 2008, with their citric edge and steely minerality. Le Clos la Carizière 2015, a light and fruity wine  from a rented single vineyard, partly on gneiss soil, that gives a flinty hint, and the Amphibolite 2015, taut and mineral, from amphibolite metamorphic rock, that gives a slightly more smoky character. The Melonix 2015 is his most natural wine, with no additions and only 10 mg sulphur. It stayed 3-4 months on the lees; citrus, peel, it’s round and delicious, but the acidity carries it over.

IMG_4179 Jo Landron  

Jo Landron

In the corner was the lovely Marie Lapierre, whom I have never met before. The family is almost legendary, leading the way in the beginnings of the modern natural wine movement. Their vineyards cover 13 hectares in the Ville-Morgon area of Beaujolais. They used compost and ploughing to preserve the natural yeast of the grapes. The wines are unfiltered, and only given a small amount of sulphur before bottling. The Vin de France Raisins Gaulois 2016 was the only wine she had brought from the Domaine Lapierre this time, a light and delicious, raspberry/strawberry-scented wine from young vines. From their Château Cambon between Morgon and Brouilly on clay-granite and calcareous soils, she had brought three wines. The Château Cambon 2016 was more aromatic, both light and concentrated at the same time, smooth, long and so very elegant. The Cuvée du Chat 2016 was just as elegant and with a raspberry lusciousness. Brouilly 2016 was made for the first time this year. It showed a somewhat darker side, a little broader, more earthy wine, and with more structure.

IMG_4208 Marie Lapierre 

Marie Lapierre

Right beside her was Jean-Claude Lapalu, of Brouilly, Beaujolais. I have tasted some of his wines over the past few years, and I find them a bit more on the wild side. He favours some more extraction, and the wines stay at least 6 months on the lees. Among his selection the Brouilly “Croix des Rameaux” 2014, from 80 year old vines and aged in 3-5 year old barrels, is a pure wine with lovely raspberry fruit, but with an underlying earthiness, some leather and tar behind there too. The Vin de France “Eau Forte” 2013 is a bit more developed, but by no means fading. It shows some etheric, almost pinot’esque character, with some raisins, and a touch of figs, drying towards the end. The Brouilly “Alma Mater” Amphora 2012 was also interesting. It was not surprisingly vinified in amphoras, the grapes destemmed: Developed red, aromas of red fruits, cherries, and a bit raisiny too, concentrated and serious.

IMG_4212 Jean-Claude Lapalu  

Jean-Claude Lapalu

From Sicilia came Arianna Occhipinti, who has taken the wine world with storm with her stylish, fresh wines, such as the SP68 2016 Rosso and Bianco, named after the main road in her part of Vittoria. She seems to have a magic touch with the frappato grape, but the nero d’avola and the white albanello and muscato also perform well. Low yields and natural farming are two key-factors. The white SP68 is as simple as it’s good, with its flowery aroma with hints of peel and nuts, and is just on the way to become an orange wine, even it the light colour suggests something else. Its red counterpart (frappato and nero d’avola) has a somewhat lighter body than the previous vintage, quite dark in colour, but with a very supple and fresh fruit, with elements of blueberry and herbs. Il Frappato 2015 was extraordinary, of course, with its pure, elegant dark cherry fruit with apricot and some spicy notes. I also liked Il Siccagno Nero d’Avola 2014, light in colour for a nero d’avola, but delicious, pure, red fruits, blueberry and flowers aroma.

IMG_4238 Arianna 

Arianna Occhipinti

Cantina Filippi owns the highest vineyards in Soave, up to 400 meters. Most of the vineyards were planted in the 1950’s, and the 16 hectares are divided into three “crus”, Castelcerino (the highest one), Monteseroni and Vigne della Brà. The Vigne della Brà 2014, from clay soil, was light and very delicate. I also liked the Montesoroni 2014, from limestone. It’s more open, with white flowers and herbs. In a way it feels mellow and smooth, but with a very “Italian” grapefruity, slightly bitter aftertaste.

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Filippo Filippi (left), and Emma Bentley (right) from Cant. Filippi

IMG_4198 Meinklang 

Nicolas of the Winemakers Club representing Meinklang

Meinklang is a big estate, some 1.800 hectares, 70 of them vineyards. They are Demeter-certified biodynamic. They started over the border in Somlo, Hungary. This is a plateau formed by a volcano. Angela and Werner Michlits of Meinklang were represented by their importer The Winemakers Club, that showed a great variety of wines, such as the J 2013, (the J standing for the juhfark grape) from the aforementioned Somlo of Hungary, a cider, and many lovely wines from various Austrian grape varieties. If I then should give myself the task of mentioning only three wines among those that I never had tasted before, I would this time stick to the whites: The J was an exciting wine one and a half days skin-contact and that stayed for 12 months in big Hungarian barrels. It was quite light, fruity with some peel and some tropical notes, with a good acidity and a slightly bitter aftertaste. The Graupert Weiss 2015 from an unpruned grauburgunder (pinot gris) with ten days skin-maceration, and Konkret Weiss 2014 of red traminer, yellow traminer and geewürztraminer, of 28 days skin-contact in concrete eggs especially designed for Meinklang. After pressing it went back to the egg for a 9 months ageing. No sulphur at any stage. A dark wine that plays with oxidation, quite structured.

were both darker wines with more skin-contact, both flowery with aromas of peel, smooth textured lovely wines..
Konkret Weiss 2014.

IMG_4173 Pedro Marques 

Pedro Marques

Pedro Marques at Vale da Capucha, Torres Vedras, is among the young squad that is currently revitalizing the vast Lisboa region. I have knowed the man and his work for some years, and I love his full, expressive whites and some of his fresh reds too. In the monarchy of Arinto it’s he who is king, and occasionally his alvarinho and gouveio deliver on the same level. He looks for maturity and a rich texture, and he uses only a minimum of sulphur. All wines could be mentioned, here I will limit myself to the two entry-level wines he shows in the picture, called Fossil, that denote that the farm is located only 8 km from the sea, and in the ancient times under water.

Fossil Branco 2015 was full and glyceric, but energetic and complex, salty, with citric notes, pineapple, and some smokiness, and good acidity from the arinto (fernão pires and gouveio also in the blend, all three in equal parts). The 2014 was also brought to the table. Clearly in the same family, but not as bright. Fossil Tinto 2015 (touriga nacional 60%, tinta roriz and some syrah) was dark, smoky with flowers and green herbs, fresh, and with a nice tannic grip.

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Craig Hawkins

Craig Hawkins is a leading figure in South Africa’s dynamic Swartland region. I have tasted his range several times and cannot recommend it enough. The wines tend to be very natural and with little extraction. I really like the entry-level wines called Baby Bandito. His Testalonga El Bandito “Cortez” from 35 year old chenin blanc vines on granite is always brilliant, now 2015. Lively, iodine, mineral and with that steely edge from the grape. “Mangaliza” 2015, from the Hungarian grape of that name, was a new find. “Monkey gone to Heaven” (on bicycle, according to the label), now 2016, is as always concentrated. But there is a lot more to it, a floral and grapey mourvèdre with red fruits and fresh aromatic herbs.

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Most of the range, Testalonga Bandito and Baby Bandito

2017-05-08 16.20.19  

Sebastiano de Martino

De Martino has been around since the founder came over from Italy to Maipo in the 1930’s. Today they are among the leading organic producers in several regions. Some of their most interesting wines are results of dry farming in the southern Itata region. The Muscat and the Cinsault aged in clay are the two that come to my mind. Here they came in various versions; a muscat/corinto was interesting. So were some of the cheaper ones such as fruity, wonderfully balanced cabernet sauvignon under the Legado label (2016).

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Wine bar Ducksoup of Soho had a stand with marvellous small dishes

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