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Tag: Lisboa

Wine of the Week

Humus true to its roots

Back from the Simplesmente… Vinho 2021 I continue to enjoy Portuguese wine and its endless variations. Here is one that has been something of a house wine through the winter. As explained earlier, the fair was a bit more limited this year. One of the producers I missed was Rodrigo Filipe. I visited his farm in Alvorninha in the northern part of Lisboa wine region before the fair in 2018. The visit you can read about here.

Rodrigo working the vineyard with his employee Luís Gil, also winemaker

This is both a light, fresh and yet serious red, and I don’t understand those who don’t love this.

The grapes are castelão and touriga nacional (in almost equal parts), cultivated organically, destemmed, co-fermented with native yeast with 5 days in contact with the skins. Then the wine was on lees for 10 months in steel tanks. There are no additions, not even SO2, and the wine is unfined and unfiltered.

Humus Tosco Tinto 2018 (Encosta da Quinta)

Cherry red. Aromas of stony and red fruits (plum, cherry, cranberry), flowers and with a hint of spice. Fresh, juicy with a nerve and a light structure that keeps it from being merely a glou-glou. Long taste with a sublime acidity all the way.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, charcuterie, bacalhau, vegetarian, vegan…

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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 of the Week

Simplesmente… delicious white

I am in Porto for the Simplesmente… Vinho fair. Right at the opening dinner there were several magnificent wines. The dinner had a theme too, variations of cabidela, a popular Portuguese dish containing rice and (most often) hen’s blood, in a program called Ordem da Cabidela.

Several memorable wines were served during that dinner. One was made by Quinta Várzea da Pedra. The brothers Tomás (winemaker) and Alberto Emídio are fourth generation.

Producer Alberto Emídio was present
at the dinner

The quinta is located in Bombarral, in the DOC Óbidos, between the Atlantic Ocean and Serra do Montejunto. This provides freshness and salty minerality to a series of exciting wines.

This wine is a varietal fernão pires. The grapes were grown in a vineyard in Sanguinhal on clay-limestone soil and harvested by hand in august. After destemming followed a soft pressing, then fermentation and 12 months on lees in steel tank.

Cabidela 5 Especiarias, created by chef David Jesús, with our wine

Fernão Pires 2017 (Q. Várzea da Pedra)

Light golden. Citrus (lime), yellow apples, flowers with a hint of tropical fruits. Fresh, unctuous, creamy, with a wonderful acidity and some minerality.

Price: Medium

Food: As you have seen, we had it with a special form of cabidela, but it should go with a great variety of fish, shellfish and light meat

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Simplesmente Vinho 2020: Some highlights

It is always a delight to visit the Simplesmente… Vinho fair of Porto, held in Porto towards the end of February at Cais Novo, a former port wine warehouse by the Douro river. It’s an independent and alternative winefest that unites press, wine lovers and vignerons, most of these small artisan growers that work in a natural and organic way. This edition was number 8th, and showcased 101 producers, most of them Portuguese, some from Spain, only one from France I think, and a specially invited producer from Oregon, USA. There was good food, visual arts, there was music (and this year I was lucky to be able to take part myself), and oh! so many nice people.

There were endless rows of good wines to enjoy, so here I will only present a few of the highlights, and I will try to limit myself to one wine per producer. I have already published three short posts about single wines in the Wine of the Week column, and you can also read about some of the other producers from the previous fairs by doing a quick search yourself. Last year I wrote two articles similar to this one. Here you find recommendations of several Portuguese producers, and here are some of the rest.

Uivo Rabigato (picture taken in the Folias de Baco taberna)

We start locally. Tiago Sampaio is one of the best exponents of the “new wave” of Douro producers, making less “noisy” wines than the region is more known for, with less extraction, lower alcohol, and more focus on freshness of fruit. I have already reported from a visit to the Folias de Baco bar in downtown Porto where he delivers the wine (read here), and there will be a report from a visit to the winery in Alijó. Rabigato is getting more and more attention these days, as it shows its varietal potential. Uivo Rabigato 2019 is a characterful wine, light in colour, with flowery notes, grapefruit, citrus peel, a refreshing, cool acidity, and a saline finish.

Hugo and Ana

A neighbour of Tiago in Alijó is Ana Hespanhol of Quinta do Zimbro. She is also involved in a smaller project called Grau Baumé with her partner Hugo Mateus, and one of her sisters. I had a meal with the three of them in Alijó after a visit to Tiago. I remember some of the wines of Ana’s father Manuel from way back, and the brand Calços de Tanha (a very nice, direct, fruity red wine with a good price, by the way). Now it’s taken a step back to estate wines, to organics and naturally enough to a fresher style adapted to our times. Of the many good wines I here chose the Grau Baumé Undo 2017, a varietal viosinho that was lightly pressed without de-stemming, ageing in tank, and bottled un-fined and un-filtered. It showed a light colour, yet both full-flavoured, with yellow fruits, citrus and careful tropical notes, and a lovely acidity wrapped in a full, almost waxy appearance on the palate, and some saltiness too.

Manuel Sapage of Conceito
(tank sample of the Bastardo 2019 visible in the front)

About Conceito further east, near Vila Nova Foz Côa, I have written several times. Their white wines are stylish, their lighly extracted Bastardo red stunningly delicate, and they even offer ports, like a white port made in collaboration with Madeira producer Ricardo Diogos of Barbeito. This time I chose the white Único 2018, made from different plots in the same vineyard, more than 100 years old. It’s a field blend of around ten varieties, including rabigato, códega do larinho, gouveio, arinto, donzelinho branco and folgazão. It had a temperature controlled fermentation in used French oak barrels and regular bâtonnage up to one month, before it was aged 11 months in the barrels. It’s a light coloured wine with a complex aroma on the mineral side, with white peaches, citrus, ginger and some aromatic herbs; concentrated in the mouth, with a great natural acidity, and the oak is already almost integrated. It has probably a long life ahead.

William and Filipa

It’s always a delight to meet Filipa Pato and William Wouters. I have written about Filipa’s wines several times, and I like them a lot, so I thought I knew their portfolio. This time William presented wines from a range of his own, and I tasted a promising white wine. Other than that they had brought most of the range, both white and rosé sparklers, and I also tasted still whites and reds. Here I chose the Post-Quercus Baga 2018, that is presented as a wine from both of them. This wine is now made only in French and Italian amphoras (since their Portuguese one suddenly broke). These are not coated, and they have the same thickness all over, giving exactly the touch of taste that they search for. This is a wine that really sings: It’s quite dark in coulour, with violet hints; aroma of red and berries (cherries), plums, flowers; it’s juicy and delicious in the mouth, but not without concentration, fine-grained tannins, and with an acidity that’s there, but wonderfully integrated. Truly inspiring!

Luís Manuel Gil, winegrower and surfer from Óbidos
Inspiring, saline wines from breezy Atlantic vineyards

When I saw Luís Gil came into the tasting hall I expected him to take place at the table of his friend and collegue Rodrigo Filipe of Humus (see this article, including pictures of Luís). Well, he is still with Rodrigo, but this time he had come to present his new project. Marinho signifies that we are very close to the ocean, southwest of the Óbidos village. Here Luis works 2 hectares (6 plots) of rented old vines (between 40 and 110 years), where he works closely with the proprietors to ensure that they agree on everything. They work completely naturally, without additions of sulphur. The red varieties are first and foremost castelão, and some cruzado (a crossing with a lot of colour). I tasted the whole range, from whites with more or less skin-contact, rosé and reds. The Marinho Rosé 2018 was fabulous. 18 hours on skins with with stems, predominantly castelão (if I remember right) and some white grapes, like fernão pires, arinto and vital. This gives a light rosé colour, with strawberry and raspberry aromas; very juicy and delicate in the mouth, but also with a certain structure, and a lingering saline finish.

Luís tells that he grew up with wine, with a big wine cellar at his parents’ house. He had spent a lot of time visiting fairs, meeting vignerons and tasting wines that he was “triggered” by. This project started in 2017, when he had been thinking of it long enough, and suddenly realized that the wines he wanted to make were of a kind that was missing in the market.

If there is anything to compare Luís Gil’s wines with, or liken them to, it could be (well, apart of some wines in the Humus range of course) the Atlantic wines in Galicia. Which brings us over the border. I visited Constantina Sotelo in Cambados, Rías Baixas after last year’s edition of the Simplesmente. I tasted a few wines again this year, all from albariño and all from vintage 2018. And there were indeed several intesting wines that I could have chosen, not least the Aquelarre (sparkling from the ancestral method) and Flor de Sotelo (albariño under the ‘flor’ yeast, like in Jerez). I started with Octopus and Volandeira, the former more mineral from ageing in amphora, and the latter more fruity, from wood. All right, Octopus 2018 (2nd from left in the picture) was light coloured; flowery, with apricots and stony minerals; fleshy and grapey in the mouth, concentrated, with a super acidity in the long finish.

When Iria Otero started her own wine adventure it was with the Sacabeira label from the Salnés area of Rías Baixas. She prefers to chill the whites down to prevent malo-lactic fermentation to take place. While these are superb albariños, most the wines she had brought this time were from inland Ribeiro, from the village of Leiro by the river Avia. She normally elaborate entry wines in concrete, while the others are made in chestnut. A Seara Castes Brancas 2018 is, as the name implies, made from white varieties, treixadura, godello, torrontés and albariño to be exact. This one is made in concrete and stayed there for 6 months. It’s light in colour; green apples, yellow plums and flowers on the nose (as she points out herself, it’s more flowery than fruity); it’s mellow in the mouth, with some acidity, and really enjoyable.

Cume do Avia (from left): Álvaro, Diego and Fito

Not far from Iria, in Eira de Mouros, Ribeiro we find Cume do Avia, named after the highest hill in the subregeion of Avia. They have there 13 local varieties on 9 hectares. This area varies between Atlantic and Continental influence. The soil is a mix of clay, schist and granite, and the vineyards are facing east, with optimum sun exposure and ventilation. I really enjoyed both their white and red wines. Under the Dos Canotos label come both a varietal brancellao, and a caíño longo, but I chose another one (not for any specific reason, because they are all very good), Dos Canotos 2017, a blend of brancellao, sousón and caiño longo fermented and aged 6 months in very old big neutral barrels. This is a bit darker than the others; fresh, red fruits, with a lactic note; in the mouth it’s cool and fresh, with a slight tannic grip and a nice salty character.

Vicente Torres represents Puro Rofe and Bien de Altura

Puro Rofe and Bien de Altura are sister companies, the former is the oldest and most “well”-known and stands for Lanzarote wines, and the latter for wines from Gran Canaria. In fact there is a third sister now, as they make wine from El Hierro under the name Bimbache. This is quite sensational, so it’s pretty sure that we will come back to this. Our choice here is a high-quality wine from the maybe unlikely island of Gran Canaria, and the village San Mateo. The grower is Carmelo Peña, native to Gran Canaria, who works with indigenous varieties in an artisan, and organic and biodynamic way; native yeasts, de-stemming by hand, little use of SO2, and long macerations with little extraction. This place is considered to have desert climate due to constant warm temperatures and minimal rainfall. Carmelo and his team climb high, up to more than 1.400 meters.

The word ikewen has its origin in the Berber language Tamaziɣt and means root, or source. The red wine by that name is made from pie franco vineyards facing northeast and southeast, planted in volcanic soils. The grapes were hand-harvested and macerated 40% whole cluster, 60% was destemmed, gently pressed into one 500L used French barrel and the rest into steel tanks to finish fermentation. The finished wine was bottled unfined, unfiltered and with only a tiny amount of sulphur. Ikewen 2018 of Bien de Altura, grapes listán prieto, listán negro and some white varieties: Light red colour; red fruits, white pepper, a smoky touch; bright, fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins. 11,5% alcohol.

Germán Blanco of Milú

Germán Blanco of Quinta Milú is one of those who believes in village wines, and shows that even wines from Ribera del Duero can express a sense of place. And the place in this case is La Aguilera, one of the dominant wine towns of Burgos (Castilla y León), not far from Aranda de Duero. The grapes are grown organically in the traditional way, hand-harvested and with minimal use of sulphur. They use materials such as concrete or clay, and when they do use wood, it’s always big and used barrels. They never clarify nor stabilize and almost never filter.

They have a winery in Rioja and one in Bierzo too, but we concentrate on Duero here. Milú was also the first bodega in their project. To Porto Germán had brought three wines from La Aguilera; La Cometa 2018 from different plots, Viñas Viejas 2018 from limestone soil. I chose Quinta de Milú Bellavista 2018, from a tiny tempranillo vineyard with 80 year old vines at 930 meters on sandy soil. The wine is fermented in open barriques and aged there for 12 months. It’s deep dark purple; the aroma is dominated by forest fruits (blackberry), and aromatic herbs; in the mouth it’s fleshy, fresh, quite structured yes, but it’s elegant and can be drunk relatively short-term. Germán says they prefer imperfection to carefully monitored processes. But the wines are truly beautiful, and Germán hints to Leonard Cohen when he says, “it’s in the cracks that the light comes in”.

The light comes in to José Manuel Benéitez too

Also in Castilla y León, José Manuel Benéitez is found in the small wild, remote region Arribes del Duero close to the Portuguese border. El Hato y el Garabato is family project that started in 2015. Here they manage organically 8 hectares of 70-100 years old vineyards with varieties like the red juan garcía; bruñal, rufete, bastardo and the white doña blanca and puesta en cruz (rabigato in Portugal). And the cellar work is very artisanal.

The white Otro Cuento 2018 is made from doña blanca grown in granite, higher up in the domaine (while there is slate/schist at a lower level in the canyon). Half of it was fermented in small old barrels, and stayed there for 6 months. It’s light yellow wine, a bit reductive at first (a bit fosforic, some graphite), but it looses out to yellow fruits, and a smoky touch is there; quite creamy, or glyseric in the mouth, and integrated acidity. Mineral, intriguing. And then we are ready to cross over the border back to Portugal…

…which is not a long distance at all. Because we come to the northern part of Alentejo, by the Serra de São Mamede mountains, where João Afonso and his family has their Cabeças do Reguengo literally inside the national park. It’s an ambitious project where they seek to live and breathe in harmony with nature and ecosystem. And the wines are made in the most healthy way possible. The Respiro 2018 is made from both red and white grapes. Take a deep breath: Trincadeira, alicante bouschet, castelão, grand noir are the reds, while the white proportion include arinto, assario, fernão pires, roupeiro, alicante branco, rabo de ovelha, tamarez, manteúdo, uva rei, uva formosa, vale grosso, excelsior, salsaparrilha. Ok, come quickly back to the normal colour of your face please: They are grown between 500 and 710 meters, bought from local farmers who shares their ideology. The grapes were fermented in stone lagar with native yeasts and aged one year in old oak. The colour is fresh, clear red; aroma of red fruits, plums, some green pepper (from the whole-bunch treatment maybe), a touch of spice; fruit-driven fresh taste, fine tannins. Both serious and delicious summer-drinking.

Fortunato Garcia

Back to the islands, but this time to Pico of the Açores, where Fortunato Garcia makes his Czar wines in Criação Velha on the western side.

Why the name Czar? After the Russian revolution in 1917, sweet wines from Pico was found in the cellars of the palace of the last Tsar, Nicholas II. This wine was shipped in barrels on the island of Pico and sent to the royal banquets. It even appeared on medical prescriptions as a cure for certain ills and even Tolstoy mentions it in his book “War and Peace”. This is their reason for naming the wine. The Czar 2013 has 19% of natural alcohol, as can happen with these grape varieties (here: verdelho, terrantez, and arinto) in the volcanic soil. This time it stopped by 15-16 degrees, then started again. The colour is deep amber; with a sweet aroma of raisin, but also with some orange peel, hazel-nuts and anise to balance; it’s rich in the mouth, with a long nutty aftertaste.

When talking about the highlights one of them was for me a non-vinous one. This year I was lucky to be asked to perform with André Indiana and the in-house jam band. So for a full two hours we were rocking the house, and it was a wonderful experience to see all the wine producers in the audience diggin’ and dancin’. And Fortunato of Czar joined too, and lead the band masterly in an old Motown hit (I think it was).

A lot of superb wines are not mentioned. I did not have the time to taste everything. Some other producers were given priority last year, and the year before. At the dinners and lunches I remember wines from Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno, Rodrigo Filipe, João Tavares de Pina, with whom I shared table, and many others.

What now, my love? During this fair we got the message that the Cais Novo had been sold. So next year Simplesmente Vinho has to move again. And it’s a common belief that it would be difficult for festival organizer João Roseira to come up with a place as good as the one that we now have become used to. But he has surprised us before, so let’s see…

João Roseira: Is there a place for us somewhere? (picture taken a couple of days later at Quinta do Infantado)

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Wine of the Week

Malhada, a great value vinho

I have known André Pereira for many years, but for some reason his wines have never featured as a “wine of the week”. His wines are all well-made and of splendid value, and you can read about some of them in this post.

André Pereira

The farm Quinta do Montalto has belonged to his family for 5 generations. It comprises 50 hectares of vines, olives and other crops. It’s found in the municipality of Ourém, that is actually belonging to Leiria, but most of the wines are still classified as regional Lisboa.

Even if the 17 is already in the market I chose the 2015 vintage here, because this is the one I enjoyed last. And it’s not always necessary to drink the last edition. One is not better that the other; they are different. This one has lost its young blueberry character, but it’s nevertheless a superb, fruity wine that will last still a couple of years. The 2015 vintage of this wine was made from aragonêz and castelão in equal parts. The fermentation was natural, and it was made in steel. It’s certified organic and vegan.

Vinha da Malhada 2015 (Quinta do Montalto)

Red cherry colour with some sign of evolution. Smells of red and dark berries, lightly spicy and some dried fruits start to show. Still fresh and luscious in the mouth, with an integrated acidity.

Price: Low

Food: Light meat, bacalhau, vegetables

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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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Rodrigo Filipe at Humus, Lisboa region

Finally I got the chance to visit Rodrigo Filipe, who makes the wonderful Humus wines. He can be found at his farm Quinta do Paço in the village Alvorninha. This is in the Óbidos part in the far north of the big Lisboa region. Here he makes cool Atlantic wines, guided by nature, experience and intuition, more than school oenology.

Before this day I had enjoyed a few of his wines at wine bars and cafés, such as this one. So I felt that I visit was overdue, and I am very glad that I finally made it to the quinta to meet the sympathetic man behind the work.

Quinta do Paço is a family propriety of a total of 20 hectares, of which around 10 are planted with vines. We are about 150 meters above sea level, between the Atlantic and the Serra dos Candeeiros range that enjoys a special soil and climate. The soil is calcareous/limestone with clay. The valley lies in a north-west direction, that secures longer maturation, and more acidity in the wines. Having said that, the wind was also shifting while we were there, so at one point there came a warmer breeze from the east (-from Spain, he joked). But as a whole the cool Atlantic breeze and high humidity contribute to a slow ripening and a high natural acidity.

Coming from a job as an engineer, Rodrigo took over the farm from his father in 2000, and it was from then that the project became more serious. It has been learning by doing, sometimes wrong, but always in a clear direction towards tasty and healthy wines. In other words, Rodrigo had no formal training in wine at the time. And even if he has taken a few courses, to this day he takes many decisions by experience and intuition, such as determing when to harvest.

The grapes are mainly local, or at least of Portuguese origin. -We use the grapes that are best adapted to our place, and the yields are kept lower than normal for the area, says Rodrigo. -We give special treat to the soil, because it must be alive to bring out the best of the varieties.

The beans give nitrogene to the soil

As we walk around the property it becomes clear that Rodrigo is in harmony with his farm and the land, and the farming is just very simple. He fertilizes with natural compost, and of additives there is only occational use of small quantities of copper and sulphur. Fermentation starts by itself after 5-6  days. The white wines are fermented in used barrels, and the reds are destemmed, pressed, fermented in steel and aged in used oak. The wines are never fined or filtered. We believe him easily when he tells that he has great pleasure to make, and share, authentic wines made in a very natural way.

The vigorous touriga nacional grape, here with eucalyptus to the left and cork trees in the middle

As we went along we tasted a few samples. A castelão 2017 was full of red fruits, still a little reduced (like some of the other wines, but it’s fixed with airing), mellow in the mouth, and the 16 (less maceration, 5 days) was lighter with lovely fruit and a wonderful natural acidity.

A touriga nacional rosé 17 (an “acidity year”, as Rodrigo puts it) had a wonderful salmon pink colour, strawberry and floral aromas, quite full in the mouthh, and yes, a refreshing acidity. Among the other 17’s a fernão pires was delighful, quite full and glyceric, with aromas of flowers, herbs and some wax. An arinto had the typical lemony acidity, and both apple and some herbs on the nose.

The barrels used are 10 years old. Chestnut was tradition here, just like clay

A white touriga nacional, a “blanc de noirs” 2017  matured 6 months over arinto skins (how did he come up with that idea anyway?): Yellow with trace of red; appley and grapey with some pharmacy notes. What is more: There is one over fernão pires skins too. Salmon pink colour, this was more fruity, still with apple notes, but flowers and menthol, and with a dry texture. Rodrigo explains, -Chestnut and clay give dryness, the wine “oxidizes” more because of a longer distance between the fibres, while oak can give a reductive tone. Then these two can balance each other.

We tried more touriga samples. Not to bore my readers too much I can say that the samples follow the line of the bottled wines; they are cool, natural with a fresh Atlantic feel.

Rodrigo together with Luis Gil after a long day in the vineyard

Among the bottled wines we tasted the cool and fruity Espumante 2010 and a Rosé (a blend of 2014-15-16, mostly castelão). Then on to the Humus range:

Humus Branco (no added sulfites) 2016 from fernão pires and arinto: Light yellow; it smells of mature apples, it’s also waxy in the aroma (from fernão pires); it’s full on the palate, a bit buttery, and with a good acidity (for which arinto is often a guarantist, but here also the climate). It has in fact more arinto, but the fernão pires shows a lot of influence.

Humus Curtimenta 2016: This is a creative take. The wine has also arinto and sauvignon blanc, that are fermented with skins for three months. This is added to freshly pressed touriga nacional (“blanc de noirs”). The colour thus becomes orange, and with a certain structure. But it’s still in a way soft and mellow, I would say elegant. It has a lovely fruit, on the tropical side, but also flowers, citrus and a nutty touch. This is very pure and lively, full of taste, just delicious.

Humus 2012, a 100% castelão, was ruby red with aromas of red berries (cherry, raspberry) and some darker tones behind it. Likewise the fruit was forward, but there was also a slight tannin bite, and a fresh acidity. Very drinkable, very appealing.

Humus (no added sulfites) 2013: This wine, from touriga nacional and syrah, showed really nice, fresh fruit, violets, dark berries (blackcurrant), a balsamic touch. The tannins were round, the fruit ripe and with a slighly sweet spicy note, and with a long aftertaste.

Humus (no added sulfites) 2011 from touriga nacional and syrah: This is the second year without additions, not even SO2. It was a warm vintage, and the wine showed wild and meaty, on the nose dark berries, flowers and an earthy tone. Rich, with marmelade and spices.

A lovely bunch of wines, all lively, fresh, natural, and with the outstanding creative invention Curtimenta in the middle

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A Victory for the Vinho

I am on my way home from the 6th Simplesmente Vinho in Porto, an event for individual, artisanal wine producers. This time 101 producers participated, mostly Portuguese, a few visitors from Spain, and one single winery from France. And having followed Portuguese wine over the years it’s so exiting to be around now to witness the steps that are being taken in the country.

João Roseira, organizer of the event 

João Roseira (of Quinta do Infantado, Douro) one of the founders of this two day fair, said in his opening speech that the idea came from off-springs of bigger festivals in France and Italy, and they thought, this we can do at home. So Simplesmente Vinho was created in 2013 as an alternative to the Essência do Vinho, also in Porto. It’s held in Cais Novo, a former port warehouse near the Port Wine Museum, and in addition to wine presentations the fair includes concerts and dinners, one of them this time in reknowned chef Rui Paula’s DOP restaurant.

There’s Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno in the crowd

I will come back to details about the wines I tasted. Here I will limit myself to say that there were both well-known producers like the aforementioned Quinta do Infantado (Douro), Álvaro Castro and Quinta do Perdigão (Dão), Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno, Quinta das Bágeiras (who recently received a prestigious award from the Grande Escolha magazine), Casa de Saima, Luís and Filipa Pato (all Bairrada), Adega Regional de Colares, Quinta do Mouro (Alentejo) and Barbeito (Madeira).

The ever popular Filipa Pato spotted at a distance

There were many less famous producers. Well, less known to the “masses”, but many have already made a name for themselves among those who are interested in what’s going on the authentic, organic, natural wine scene. Maybe some should rather be in the first category, anyway here are just a few more names: Aphros and Quinta da Palmirinha (Vinho Verde), Conceito, Quinta de Romeu and Folias de Baco (Douro), António Madeira and João Tavares da Pina (Dão), Vale da Capucha, Humus and Quinta do Montalto (Lisboa), Cabeças do Reguengo (Alentejo), and Monte da Casteleja (Algarve).

Sonia and Pedro of Vale da Capucha takes a well-deserved break

Special guests were Sara and António of Casa de Mouraz (Dão) that lost both buildings, vineyards and a lot more in the devastating fires of last autumn. I met them before the fair, and will report from my visit.

Sara Dionísio, tirelessly presenting the Casa de Mouraz range

Lastly there were some intriguing producers from Spain. Sandra Bravo of Sierra de Toloño (Rioja) are among those who I know best. I will come back to her and the others. Here Sandra gives her opinion about the event: V for Victory, for Vinho, and I take the opportunity to add a heartfelt Bravo! to all.

Sandra Bravo sums it all up

 

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Two Portuguese wines at Tati, Lisboa

Back on the Café Tati, near the entrance of the Lisboa river market. (See another report here.) This is a small, not too easy to find, bar with lovely natural wines to wash down the tasty, small bites. This evening there were no live music, so we had to do with Duke Ellington and Van Morrison on the sound system.

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Coming directly from Bairrada it would have been be nice to continue with, say Tiago Teles’ wonderful wine, that he makes in the bigger producer Campolargo’s winery. But there is always something good served by the glass too, so I went for Humus white from the Lisboa region and the Rufia! red from Bairrada’s inland neighbour Dão.

The Humus wines have their origin one hour north of Lisboa, near Óbidos by the Atlantic. It’s an area with cooling sea breezes and high humidity. This ensures a longer maturing period and a good acidity level.

Rodrigo Filipe makes minimalist intervention wines from organic fruit from his family’s 5 hectar estate. He does a direct pressing for the white. Nothing is added to the wine, except maybe a small amount of SO2. All the wines are bottled without any fining or filtration.

Up in Dão João Tavares de Pina is the man behind the Rufia wines. They are made from a 500-550m vineyard in Penelva do Castelo on granite, schist and clay soils.

It’s a low sulphur, low extract, low oak wine. The grapes are jaen, touriga nacional and rufete. He normally ferments the varieties together in open stainless steel lagares without temperature control.  Ageing is done in stainless steel tank for some 9 months on lees, and on to more than 10 years old barrels after malo-lactic.

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Humus Branco 2015 (Quinta do Paço, Encostas da Quinta)

Deep yellow. Aromas of orange peel, citrus, melon, chalky minerals. Full yet fresh on the palate, with a chalky minerality.

Rufia! Tinto 2014 (J. Tavares da Pina, Quinta da Boavista)

Dark ruby red. Lovely fruit, cherry, raspberry. Fresh and juicy in the mouth, round tannins and a good level of acidity.

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Wine of the Week

Riesling surprise

It was a surprise for several people in a recent tasting. Nevertheless, the Quinta Sant’Ana of Mafra, Lisboa has many times demonstrated its ability to make good wines in a sustainable manner.

As stated a few times, I really do appreciate the Lisboa region. It’s not among the most dramatic of wine countries, neither in landscape nor temperatures, but there are myriads of micro-climates, and often within very short distances.

At Sant’Ana, around 100 meters above sea level and only 12 km from the sea, there is a strong Atlantic influence. The quinta has steep slopes and calcareous clay soils. Typically here are cool nights and cloudy, misty mornings, but in the afternoon the sun shines through.

antonio_q-santana  António Moita Maçanita, winemaker

Their winemaker has experience from Napa and Australia, as well as a period at Lynch Bages in Bordeaux. Back in Portugal he was consulting for several wineries while he was all the time exploring the local terroirs.

Earlier ampelographers linked the albariño/alvarinho to riesling, suggesting that the pilgrims could have brought it to the Iberian peninsula on their way to Compostela. While this has proved to be wrong this wine could well be heading a new caste of Atlantic rieslings, with a blend of the German steeliness and the richer Atlantic fruit.

The grapes for this wine were grown close to the doorstep of the quinta house. The coastal humidity made some botrytis appear on the grapes. There was a light pressing of whole bunches, and the must fermented in steel vats at low temperatures utilizing a technique with oxidised must.
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Riesling 2013 (Quinta Sant’Ana)
Light yellow with a greenish hue. Aromas of mature apple, citrus (lemon and grapefruit), some stone-minerals. Good concentration, somewhat oily texture, but fresh fruit, nice acidity and a slight bitterness in the end.
 
Price: Medium
Food: Seafood, many sorts of fish (white, smoked, fat, tuna), white and light meat
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