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Simplesmente… Vinho 2022 – Portuguese re-discoveries

Simplesmente… Vinho is an independent wine festival held annually in Porto. It’s for artisans and family businesses, for wines that respect terroir and tradition. As the organizers say, “sincere wines with a healthy dose of madness and poetry”.

Nowadays it’s held on the first weekend of July, in the open air of the gardens of the Casa Cor de Rosa of the Faculty of Architecture of Porto (FAUP). This tenth edition featured 101 vignerons from Portugal and Spain.

This year I tasted quite randomly in no special order. I will still try to categorize them for you. It is always a pleasure to taste the wines of producers like Tiago Sampaio, Antonio Madeira, Niepoort, Quinta de Carolina and Quinta do Infantado. However, here I will highlight some of the producers that I didn’t know that well. Yes, I knew about them and I had tasted some wines, but this was the first time I tasted their whole range. Three to watch were Quinta da Pôpa, Quinta da Poeta (both Douro) and Quinta do Escudial (Dão). There were also a couple of discoveries on a trip to the Vinho Verde region. These you can read about in a forthcoming article.

Muxagat was created in 2002 by the Almeida and Lopes families, in the village Muxagata of Douro Superior. Today Muxagat has its own winery in Mêda, where most of the grapes are sourced. It’s a minimal intervention project, also without addition of yeast. Susana Lopes and her family, with the help of Ana Silva, resident winemaker, and consultant Luis Seabra, make stylish, fresh wines in a region famous for heavier stuff.

Susana Lopes and Ana Silva, Muxagat

I liked the whole range, from the fresh white wines (one of them an off-dry riesling), via the elegant light extracted rosé to the various shades of red. Here come a few of the best. Tinta Barroca 2021: Young colour with violet hints; mature dark and wild fruits (cherry, blackberry), flowers; luscious with fresh acidity – a serious glou-glou wine! The Tinta Francisca 2017 had more developed colour, an earthy, mineral aroma with red berries and white pepper, and a lightly structured palate. I also liked their regular Tinto 2017, a classic and complete red. Vale Cesteiros 2018, from older vines, is dark in colour with wild fruits (blackberry) and some balsamic; potent, still elegant, and with an integrated acidity. Cisne 2015 and 2016 were made from tinto cão 90% and rabigato, aged two years in wood. They showed some evolution, with earthy and fresh red fruits, then a powerful structure and a rich mouthfeel. The 2016 was the most powerful of the two.

Miguel Morais came to what is now Quinta da Costa do Pinhão, fell in love with it and knew he had to dedicate himself to the difficult task of working that land. Miguel says that 2014 was his first serious vintage. Over the years he has learned to understand the place better, respect the land, the plants, the animals, and cut on the chemicals, he says.

Miguel Morais and Filipa Silva,
Quinta da Costa do Pinhão

Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Branco 2019 was destemmed and fermented with skins in used barrels, and can be called an orange wine. Golden colour; mature apples, yellow fruits (tomatoes) and wet stone; rounded and balanced. The red Marufo 2019, from the rare grape of that name, was light, with currant colour; ripe raspberry fruit, spice; soft on the palate, balanced, and with a beginning evolution. The red with the company name was also of a classic style. Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Peladosa 2019 is a field-blend of 30 different varieties, a hundred years old vines on 1 hectare. Whole bunch pressing was carried out in a 500 litre barrel. Dark and wild fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry), menthol; concentrated flavours and delicate tannins.

There is nothing better than a little slowness in this era, says Rodrigo Martins of Espera (meaning: wait). He continues, we should give the wines time for maturation to deliver authentic and genuine aromas. He has 5 hectares of vineyards in Alcobaça, region of Lisboa, where the simple winemaking styles of the Cistercian monks is an inspiration. The idea is to be patient, and the ambition is to offer a unique quality product, at the same time unpretentious.

Ana Leal and Rodrigo Martins, Espera

I really appreciate the elegant, low-extracted Atlantic style of this producer, and all wines could be highlighted. Here follow four of them. The Bical & Arinto 2020 from a young vineyard with low yield stayed 8 weeks in oak. It shows yellow fruit; is round, tasty, and concentrated. The Curtimenta 2021 stayed 17 days on skins. Light yellow, slightly cloudy; delicate skin-character (lemon peel); grapefruit in the aftertaste. The Espera Palhete 2021, a field-blend of some 20 varieties (70% white) was really delicate and delicious: Light red; raspberries; crisp acidity and a delicate texture. Espera NatCool 2021 is made for the Niepoort-distributed series of low-extracted natural wines in one-litre bottles. It’s made solely from castelão, is light red; with lots of red fruits (raspberry), a touch of flint; delicate, uplifting acidity.

Amoreira da Torre is one of the producers that manage to make fresh, varietal-scented wines from Alentejo, otherwise known for developed, jammy aromas. I tasted a few wines some years ago, and this was a good opportunity to re-discover. 20 hectares with Portuguese varieties from the region was planted in 2001 by Paulo Sendin and converted to organic four years later. The terroir at the estate in Montemor-o-Novo (on the highway to Évora) is characterized by granitic soils, abundant groundwater and a Mediterranean climate.

Paulo Sendin, Amoreira da Torre

The Zebro line features some delicious, fruity wines of several colours at an un-beatable price. The microclimate is good for white wines, with water in the subsoil where roots go deep. Zebro Blanc de Noirs 2020, a varietal aragonêz, is made with very light pressing (“lágrima”), then immediate separation of the must. It’s quite unctuous, or broad, with anise and bitter almond notes; full and somewhat structured on the palate. Amoreira da Torre 2021 (aragonês, trincadeira, some cabernet sauvignon, 6 months in used oak) is youthful dark; fruity, dark and red fruits (morello, plums), green pepper, herbs and eucalyptus; rounded tannins, fresh and not overdone.

Look for next article from the Simplesmente fair, when there will be an update on producers already known on the blog.

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Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 – Part 1

Simplesmente …Vinho is the perfect wine fair. Here you find vignerons that really care for their grapes, and cultural aspects around it are also focused. In the cosy atmosphere one can feel that we are a big family of like-minded people. But important, after meeting the same artisans year after year you can really get to know the wines and follow them through storms and sunny days.

João Roseira’s welcome to the opening dinner

Speaking in wine terms, 2021 was a difficult year. The former site, an old port wine lodge by the river Douro, had been sold. So the organizers had to find a new place. This turned out to be the university’s faculty of architecture (Faculdade de Arquitectura da Universidade do Porto, FAUP). In the magnificent garden the usual barrels were set up. Another notable difference, of course, was the now well-known pandemic. They had done their best to take all the precautions needed; aside of the inevitable face-masks, there were fewer producers (around 60, some forty less than in the latest years), and there were three days instead of two, to avoid too much close contact. So in spite of the difficult conditions (“a crazy project”, according to ‘big chief’ João Roseira) I think that this might have been one of the best fairs so far, and Roseira and his team can be proud of how it all was carried out.

In my reports I have earlier given myself a special theme, mainly according to the regions I have visited before or after the fair itself. This time an extensive visits program was difficult, so I chose mainly to focus on wineries that earlier had been left out because they didn’t fit into my own regional limits. In this first article I will focus on some lesser known wineries from lesser known places.

Ready for the tasting

Quinta da Comenda is not exactly unknown. This producer has a long history, but has maybe found itself in the shadows of the Douro producers lately. The quinta is located in the village of S. Pedro do Sul in DOC Lafões, a granitic region between northwestern Dão and the southern tip of Vinho Verde, thus not far from Douro either. Lafões is mostly noted for white wines, and maybe not far from Verde in style. Comenda was one of the Portuguese pioneers of organic cultivation, back in the 1980’s.

A fabulous red wine, quite unusual for the area, was served at the opening dinner. This was an initiative by organizer João Roseira, but it’s made by Comenda’s Angelo Rocha. Comenda de Ansemil 2020, a blend with 6 varieties known from different parts of the country, was only made in a quantity of 100 bottles. It comes with a dark colour, an aroma of dark and red fruits with some licorice, and with a huge freshness and a vivid energy. Other than this, the tasting the day after showed several wines at a generally very high quality, from the “straight” white Comenda de Ansemil 2019, a blend of arinto, cercial (cerceal/sercial) and dona branca, to a salmon pink Rosé 2020 of the same name and vintage (but classified as Terras de Lafões, as the DOC does not allow rosés), with its raspberry tones and a more generous taste than aroma. One that I liked a lot was the white 1/3 barrel-wine Quinta da Comenda 2019. Light straw colour, quite complex nose with yellow apples, way and a touch of smoke, and with a touch of vanilla in the mouth. An inspiring acidity binds it well together, like in all the other wines.

Angelo Rocha, Q. da Comenda

Távora-Varosa is a small region that lies on on granite or schist between Dão and Douro. With 500 to 800 metres above sea level it has a continental climate and extreme temperatures. Last year I had the opportunity to visit the region and meet Manuel Valente in his village Aldeia de Cima, where the family has a 200 year long history of growing grapes and olives a.o. You can read more about this visit here. His project Protótipo is a highly interesting one. He had brought a few more wines this time, like a dark but fresh 7 grape red aged in very old oak for 18 months and a wonderful Protótipo Branco 2018, a waxy-textured wine with a lovely acidity, golden in colour, with white flowers and stone-fruits on the nose. But the pét nats are for me the top. The white version is perhaps the more tamed. The rosé is based on touriga nacional, tinta roriz, and a complementing field blend. Protótipo Rosé Pét Nat 2019 can be described as red-orange, turbid; fresh red fruits (raspberry, strawberry); with a slight residual sugar (2,3 grams) and an excellent acidity. It’s more to the wild side, and truly inspiring.

Manuel Valente and his visitors follow the rules of the pandemic

Alentejo is not among the unknown regions. But Heredade do Cebolal is not found in the central area where the DOC is located, but on the Alentejo coast, bordering Setúbal. Therefore the wines are much fresher. I met the producer’s British importer in London at the Real Wine fair and tasted their “subterranean” wine (read more here). Since then the winemaking has been moving towards less extraction, more elegance. The family firm is now led by Luís and Isabel Mota Capitão. Santiago de Cacém 2018 Vinha da Casa Branca is a serious wine. Made from encruzado, arinto and antão vaz, with natural malolactic and low-sulphur, this was light golden wine with a typical fresh Atlantic character, and a mineral, saline finish. A bit petrol can be associated with arinto with some age. Palhete is an interesting category. It’s the Portuguese name for a mix of red and white grapes, here in the Palhete 2020 85% aragônez and the rest antão vaz. In this wine I find both red fruits (strawberry) and yellow (tomatoes, and a tropical hint where we agreed that guayaba was a good description). In the mouth it is more concentrated than the light colour would indicate, and a dry finish with a hint of bitterness. In Spain clarete is the name for this style, while in Portugal clarete signifies a lightly coloured wine made only with red grapes. Herdade do Cebolal has a wine of this sort too. Clarete 2019 from castelão on predominantly clay soils, is made with only two days of maceration. It’s a light ruby coloured wine, the aroma had a certain warmth, dominated by forest fruits.

Luís Mota Capitão, Herdade do Cebolal

Lisboa as a wine region (formerly Estremadura) is for many readers not unknown. But some of its nine DOC’s might be, and here come four wineries from there. Generally this region is windy, but sheltered by low mountains inland, and though the landscape is not dramatic there are endless variations.

Quinta Várzea da Pedra is found in the Óbidos denomination, more specifically in the town of Bombarral. The brothers Tomás (winemaker) and Alberto Emídio are fourth generation. These guys have something going on with their reds, but for me the whites were brilliant at this moment. The entry-level Quinta Várzea da Pedra Branco 2019 from arinto and fernão pires is a textbook wine; light straw, quite glyseric on the nose, with yellow apples and flowers, full on the palate, but with a very good acidity. It was followed by an equally good 100% arinto, and a wine made from four clones of sauvignon blanc. The day before at the opening dinner, another wine really caught my attention, a fernão pires. This one like the former is simply called Quinta Várzea da Pedra, and the vintage was 2017. It was a really fresh wine, both unctuous, creamy and with a wonderful acidity. The dominating aromas were citrus, with a hint of tropical fruits and some minerality. This wine was focused last week (read here).

Alberto (left) and Tomás Emídio

Nearby in Cadaval we find Quinta do Olival da Murta. Only 15 km from the sea, by the Montejunto mountain range, Joana Vivas has 20 hectars under vine. The Serra Oca 2019 is a moscatel graúdo (the alexandria family), fermented in 1.000 liter oak vats: Golden colour; floral with a touch of honey; it has some volume, but also a distinctive acidity. An interesting one was a 3 days maceration curtimenta (orange wine) from fernão pires, arinto and moscatel, partly fermented in barrique, the rest in steel. This was golden with a hint of brown; somewhat more aromatic, citric and flowers, and again both full and a bit tannic with a cutting edge acidity. I include one of the reds, also called Serra Oca, now 2015. The grapes are touriga nacional, aragônez and castelão that spent one and a half years in French, used barrels. It’s dark cherry in colour; I noted mint (and it showed that the winery has this plant near the vineyards), together with dark fruits; quite well-structured and dry.

José Vivas, Quinta do Olival da Murta

Alcobaça is a subdivision of Encostas d’Aire. Rodrigo Martins consults for other producers, but here he has his own project Espera. The wines show a strong Atlantic influence, and the acidity is always taking the wines to places. We started with the young Espera 2019, bical and arinto from clay and limestone soils. Arinto brings an uplifting acidity to the waxy, tasty character of the bical. The Espera Rosé was made with whole bunches of touriga nacional and fermented in barriques: Light pink; raspberry and strawberry on the nose, together with a slight toasted note; again some volume and a super acidity. I also liked the Espera Curtimenta 2020. As the name implies it’s an orange wine, with 17 days of skin-contact. But the colour was very light, so the manipulation can not have been particularly rough during that time. It has a wonderful aroma of flowers and lime peel, and in the mouth it’s full with concentrated fruit, again a lovely acidity and a saline finish. The Palhete 2020 from 15% castelão and five white varieties was an appealing wine, with its early harvest acidity, red fruit nose and all. The nose was quite discreet, but on the palate it had more concentration. A super fresh and light wine, Nat Cool 2020, is a castelão that goes into Dirk Niepoort’s nationwide series of glou-glou wines of the same name in 1 liter bottles. It’s made solely in steel, with two days of maceration. It’s light ruby; red fruits (raspberry), with a hint of smoke (from the soil), mellow and easy, but with enough acidity, a saline finish – and as cool as can be.

Rodrigo Martins, flanked by agent Lynn and yours truly

Baías e Enseadas (bays and coves, in English) is found further south, in Codiceira, Sintra. This is the land of the famous Colares wine, and we are approaching the capital city. The soil is essentially clay-limestone, with a predominance of clay in their vineyard Vinha da Ribeirinha, that results in richer wines. In Vinha do Campo there is more limestone, that accounts for more elegant wines. Then it’s possible to combine the two to give more complexity. The white that they brought, Reserva Branco Fernão Pires 2016, was from a low-acidity year, according to Daniel Afonso. He didn’t manage to bring my impression down though, as the wine was very attractive. 6 months in wood, four of them with batonnage, gave a full-bodied wine, but (as indicated) without the acidity that this region can offer. His Baías e Enseadas 2016 from 60% castelão and the rest pinot noir was light ruby with some evolution in the colour; fresh Atlantic aroma, with red fruits, a lactic note (yoghurt?); an attractive acidity and a salty aftertaste. He also brought the red Baías e Enseados 2017, pinot noir 30%, tinta roriz 30, castelão 40, was a light wine with some evolution in appearance; red fruits (plum), some smoke; attractive and mellow with just enough acidity, and a saline finish.

Daniel Afonso, Baías e Enseadas

We will soon meet to talk about wines from more well-known regions, and I promise a cultural element.

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Wine talk with Filipa Pato

During the CoVid pandemia a lot has changed. As we all know, there is much less travel, and even wine presentations and interviews are done digitally. This is the first time I had the chance to attend the programs of Norwegian importer Vinarius through their partner Vinestor in the program series Vinosus. The programs are presented via their YouTube channel. It’s interactive, in that the audience can post commentaries and questions to the producer. The importer is hosting the program, but it’s the producer that gives the information about the estate, its philosophy and the wines.

Filipa Pato & WIlliam Wouters are found in Óis do Bairro, Bairrada, Portugal. Filipa is daughter of the well-known producer Luís Pato (who lives nearby in this small settlement). Her husband William Wouters from Belgium is a profiled sommelier. I have met them several times, also once during the pandemic. Here is a short write-up from an annual fair that will be held again this summer. I have met Filipa and her father several times. These pictures are from a visit to hers and William’s home and winery 2017.

Filipa was recently appointed winemaker of the year 2020 by the leading wine magazine Revista de Vinhos, so it was maybe natural that she was chosen as the first Portuguese profile in this wine program series.

Filipa and William at the Palace Hotel, Buçaco

Wine is running in Filipa’s veins, as her grandparents were vinegrowers and bottled wine already in the 1950’s. Her father started in the 80’s, when the country was more open, so that export was also possible. Her own studies began in the nearby Coimbra university (the oldest in the country), and she had the opportunity to study wine as different places as Argentina, Australia – and Bordeaux – before coming back to her native village in Portugal. She tells that having travelled som much it was easy to realize the potential for Portugal. As the country had been isolated for such a long time, much of the identity was still kept. This advantage was important for her when she came back in 2001 and started to work with her father. But at the same time they agreed that she should have a small project of her own, starting with some wonderful vineyards that otherwise would have been abandoned. In 2006 she met her husband William in Belgium, who is in a family of restaurateurs, and soon they developed their own winery. They decided to convert to biodynamics ten years ago.

Now 17 hectares, very divided, some very small, and in several municipalities, each with their own characteristics. So both the Atlantic climate and the logistics give challenges. There are no sheltering mountains, nor high altitudes, but the winds from the ocean secure a low temperature. The river Cértima that runs from north to south through the area and the mountains and Buçaco further inland help in their ways to maintain the influence of the Atlantic (foggy mornings). It helps to keep the humidity untill summer, so that they also practise dry farming (no irrigation), and natural growth of humus.

Filipa looking over their vineyards towards the Caramulo and Buçaco

Standing by their house in Óis do Bairro, which is a bit higher in the landscape, gives a nice overview over the plains and lakes and all the way to the inland mountain ranges, as Filipa states in the program. Much of Bairradas vineyard is concentrated where the limestone is found. Limestone is fantastic, says Filipa, because it gives you a lot of mineral character, and at the same time it retains the water.

In the beginning the neighbours were very sceptical about organic growing and biodynamic practises, as there was very little tradition for this in the wetlands of Bairrada. But now that the vineyards (and wines) are showing so well, they come to learn. So the very open and sharing attitude that Filipa and William has showed all the time are in fact starting to create a new tradition, or movement, in the area.

Only indegenious grape varieties are used, especially the red baga. One of the advantages with biodynamic farmin here is a more even maturation of the compact buncehs of the baga grape. You don’s see some green or dry berries within a bunch any more, says Filipa. The result of this is that it is not as tannic as that old stereotypic wine from the area. The fact that their baga is found in several municipalities also makes it easier to manage the harvest, as it matures at different levels. Bical is the dominating white because it is a historic speciality of Óis do Bairro, that was “almost like a grand cru” for bical.

The so-called 500 (the biodynamic preparation) and composts make the soil healthier, with more humus and biodiversity of plants. We see that it reactivates local plants that were growing in the times of her grandparents, like oregano and fennel. She speaks about which plants they use in infusions, and for what: Plants that are normally found near the water, like aloe vera, confrei and horsetail, protect more against humidity and fungus. And plants that are found near the sand, aloe vera again, chamomile, these plants protect the vine leaves against the sun. Strawberry and other bushes act as a natural fence, because they attract insects. Olive trees were planted at the same time as the vines, and also attract insects.

At home in Óis do Bairro

Wines without makeup is one of Filipa’s slogans: The vinification is quite simple, no barrique, only barrels from 500 to 2.500 liters, some amphora. -For us the oak is just a frame, the art comes from the vineyards, says Filipa. Amphora tends to ferment at a lower temperature, so we don’t need a cooling system. We work only with indegenous yeast, as it reflects the terroir and brings a greater complexity to the wine. There is a great tradition of ceramics in Bairrada, but Filipa hasn’t been able to convince them to make any for this purpose here. But after a visit to Stéphane Tissot in Jura she was impressed by the quality, as it had the right thickness and porousity. Some Italian amphoras are used for baga. This year a Georgian friend brought some tinajas from Padilla in Albacete, Spain (you can read about him here), and next year there are also plans for some Georgian clay vessels. They are not coated, like in Alentejo “talhas” in the south of Portugal.

They also get bio-certified corks from a farmer that controls the forests. This is important, as a Bairrada can be in contact with the cork for several decades.

All their wines are recommended. Here are a selection currently on offer:

3B Rosé

Sparkling wine made with traditional method, from varieties baga (80%) and bical. The third B stands for Bairrada. 9 months lees ageing. No dosage, unfined and unfiltered.

Salmon coloured, fine bubbles. Fresh aroma with raspberries, a hint of … Good acidity, but a slight residual sugar that balances well.

Price: Low. Food: Fish, shellfish, vegetables, leitão de Mealhada (suckling pig), and much more…

Nossa Calcário 2019

This is the white version, a varietal bical from a vineyard near their home, limestone with clay. For this wine they use only free-run juice, without batonnage. It’s aged 8 months in big, used barrels. The wine is young and will improve, but if you wish to experience that, the best way is to buy it now.

Yellow. A bit closed at first, better with air, aromas of citrus (lime), fennel, a bit nutty, hint of honey. Concentrated, creamy, with good acidity, salt, good lenght, and with a lot of potential.

Price: Medium. Food: Tasty fish dishes, light meat, cheeses…

Post Quercus Baga 2018

There is also a white version of this one, and it’s good. But the red, I have not tasted anything like it. It’s a varietal baga from old vines, partly destemmed and aged in amphora for 6 months, buried underground (inspired by the Georgian tradition). Careful extraction, no fining nor filtration.

Quite dark cherry red. Aroma of red berries (raspberry, plums), some pepper. Moderate tannin, but a dry mouthfeel (dare I say “bricky”?), fresh acidity, long.

Price: Medium. Food: Most kinds of meat, even some tasty fish, cheeses…

In the cellar where the Quercus wines rest

Nossa Calcário Baga 2018

This is the red Cálcario. Only baga, from limestone with clay. Hand-harvested from vineyards in several municipalities. Partly destemmed, fermented in open lagares, with a careful extraction and aged 18 months in big, used barrels.

Cherry red. Fresh fruits (blackberry, blueberry), flowers, with hints of spice. Young tannins, fresh, good acidity, mineral, long.

Food: Many kinds of meat, excellent with game and beef, hard cheeses, and much more…

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