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Tag: Portugal

Wine of the Week

Esporão’s Vinho de Talha, clay wine from Alentejo

Alentejo has a more than two thousand years old unbroken tradition for clay-aged wines. The area now experiences a fashion for these wines, and in 2010 a specific DOC was even awarded.

Talha is a large clay container. They come in different sizes and degree of porosity, but they are definitely recognizable. Since they are porous, most are sealed inside. Most common is a form of resin, mixed with other ingredients. The tradition has been kept alive by local restaurants. Now the number of commercial producers that take up the tradition is still increasing.

Here is a short version of how the wines are typically made: The grapes are pressed and transferred to the talha, where a spontaneous natural fermentation takes place. During this period, the grape and skins float to the surface and forms a thick mass. This is pressed down with a piece of wood to extract the color, aroma and taste of the wine. Fermentation is completed, and the mass sinks to the bottom. When the wine runs through a hole at the bottom of the jar, this mass helps to filter, together with straw designed for the purpose.

A toast of talha wine at the traditional producer-restaurant in the village of Cuba

The grapes are picked in September, transported into the wine house, pressed, then transferred to the jars – with or without stem. During fermentation, batonnage is carried out. The mass is pushed down twice a day to extract colour and flavour, but also to prevent it from blocking the opening and the jar exploding. As a rule, the fermentation is completed 8-15 days after the grapes are placed in the jar, so it takes a few weeks for the lid to sink to the bottom. For many, the wine is now finished and the drinking can start. Traditional restaurants usually serve it more or less directly from the “talha”. The modern, commercial wine houses usually leave the wine on the steel tank, some place it, surprisingly maybe, in oak barrels. Traditionists put the wine back on the jars. These are often covered with lid of wood, clay, cardboard or anything. A more effective protection against oxidation is olive oil, which is poured into the jar.

The DOC Vinho de Talha was created to preserve tradition. The regulation states, among other things, that the grapes must be cultivated within the 8 subregions of DOC Alentejo, they must be rejected, fermentation must be done in closed containers (talhas) and the wine and grape must remain in the jars until 11th November. One can store the wine longer, but this is the day when official officials come to certify the wine. This is St. Martin’s Day and traditionally the day one drank the wine for the first time that year. Martin from Tours was a soldier for the Romans, but became Christian as an adult and then lived as a monk. In Portugal, the day is primarily associated with celebration of the new wine.

Moreto is the grape variety that stands out as the traditional bearer. But the tendency is that other grape varieties are used, and the wine spends less time in the vessels in contact with the skins.

Talhas at Esporão

Herdade do Esporão is a property that can actually track its borders back to the 13th century. It was purchased by two private individuals in 1973. The first wines came on the market in the 1990s, and almost instantly it was a huge success.  

It’s maybe of importance that a large company like Esporão participates in the collective talha experiment that is now taking place in the area, because those who no one else can register and catalogud knowledge and experience. Perhaps they can also help promote the Alentejo region to consumers.

Esporão inserts the jars with beeswax (made after a complicated recipe), to avoid anything evaporating. This certainly gives some taste to the wine, or rather: it reacts with the wine. To avoid oxidation, a layer of olive oil is placed on top of the talha.

Their Vinho de Talha is only sold in the house’s own shop, to keep an image of exclusivity, it is said. The 2014 vintage comes from old, rented vineyards in the cool Portalegre sub-region to the north, high in the São Mamede mountains, with varieties moreto, castelão and trincadeira. The grapes were picked late in the autumn, end of October-beginning November. No SO2 is added and the yeast is completely natural.

The wine makers are David Baverstock and Sandra Alves.

From Esporão’s shop

Vinho de Talha (Amphora Wine) 2014 (Herdade do Esporão)

The wine is relatively light ruby. Aroma of red berries (ripe raspberries) with flowers, some spice and liquorice. Intense fruit on the palate, fresh acidity (typical of northern Alentejo), elegant tannin, and some sweetness at the end.

Price: Medium

 

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Dão after the fires of 2017

In the days leading up to the Simplesmente Vinho fair we drove around in the Dão region, and it was no doubt that the fires of 2017 had left its mark on the region. And not only among those directly hit.

Here is an article from our Dão visits, recently published in Norway’s Vinforum magazine. It’s in the Norwegian language, but here I chose one wine from each featured producer, and supply a few pictures from the article.

Here is a link to the page where you find the article.

Casa de Mouraz (Mouraz outside Tondela): Well-made wines, clean and direct, fruity and balanced. Wine from all categories, also Vinho Verde. 25 ha. own vineyards, more clay than usual in Dão, but some granite too. Sara and António were probably the most severely hit by the fires, and guests of honour at the fair.

Here I chose their Elfa 2014, from 80% baga and around 30 other varieties, that went into the fermentation tanks with whole bunches. It’s a great wine, fresh and quite direct, with red berries, green pepper, medium structure and a balanced natural acidity.

Quinta do Perdigão, Silgueiros: 7 ha., granitic, mostly quartz. Biodynamic prictise. The fires stopped right outside the quinta gate, and José and Vanessa went through some terrifying hours that night. The late-released rosé is an all time favourite, and aside from that one the white and the youngest reds are the best wines for me. Good varietals from jaen, and the one I chose here:

Alfrocheiro 2011 has kept the dark colour well, and shows aromas of blackcurrant, pepper and some balsamic, and with good support from tannins and acidity.

João Tavares da Pina (Quinta da Boavista), Penalva do Castelo: Cooler, higher (around 500 meters), clay and schist (from maritime sediments), 13 ha. planted (50 in total). João has a passion for the jaen grape, well-suited here, with its long cycle. His entry-level wines Rufía! are direct, fruity, acidic, turbid and easy to put in the “natural wine bag”. But the reds also demonstrate their ability to age. João searches for both freshness, but also the decadent mushroom and underwood aromas. The jaen grape and high fermentation temperatures (up to 32°C) are tools to achieve this. João is also a passionate horse-breeder, a creative chef, and maker of Serra da Estrela cheese until recently.

While waiting for the lamb chutlets to be finished we tasted some 20 wines that João had placed on the stove. A white Rufia! 2016 was opened 13 days earlier, had one week skin-contact in a small steel lagar. Light orange and turbid, flowery aromas, citrus peel, and a wonderful, stimulating acidity. He plays with oxidation, but balances masterfully.

António Madeira, making wine from 6 ha. spread over 6 villages, most near -or in- the Estrela: He is French, from Portuguese descendant. His project is to identify and categorize the great vineyards of Dão. He started to make wine in 2011 from a 50 year old vineyard, while still living in Paris. His wines all have freshness and energy. To say that they are promising is an understatement.

2017 will be remembered by the fires, but the vintage itself is promising, dry (not surprisingly) and very early harvests. Liberdade Branco 2017, his first almost-no-sulphites wine: Complex, still a bit reductive, but fine spicy notes, pear and citrus. Good acidity, with a salty minerality (oysters, according to himself) in the finish. Wait until this really opens!

 

 

  

 

Here is a collection of articles from the fair:

A brief report

Monte da Casteleja, Algarve

Azores Wine Company

Folias de Baco, Douro

Tavares da Pina, Dão

There will also come short articles about the Douro and Vinho Verde producers of the fair.

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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 matura 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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Wine of the Week

Caprices in the Douro

Folias de Baco was one of the greatest revelations at the Simplesmente Vinho fair. It started at the dinner in Porto’s Typographia Progresso restaurant, where we were served the Uivo Pet Nat 2017, a joyful start of an inspiring evening.

The word folia evokes something merry and bright, joyful, and capricious maybe. And this can be a first impression of Tiago Sampaio’s wines. But behind this is yearlong studies and hard work.

Tiago Sampaio with the Uivo Renegado

He is based in Alijó in the sub-region of Cima Corgo. This has traditionally been a stronghold for Moscatel wines in the Douro, and his parents delivered to the famous coop in Favaios, maybe the leading producer of wines of that kind in the past. Here Tiago mixes tradition with new ideas and what he learned in his studies. As an example, his love for pinot noir derives from his studies in Oregon.

His Uivo range was created in 2016. With these limited editions he wants to explore alternative vinification techniques, discover the potential of varieties, but never forgetting tradition. The Uivo Renegado Vinhas Velhas 2017 is a field blend of both red and white grapes (around 50/50%). This, and because of the turbidity, makes it impossible for him to bottle it under DOC. It’s made with whole clusters, foot-trodden and with four days of skin-contact.

Uivo Renegado Vinhas Velhas 2017 (Tiago Sampaio, Folias de Baco)

Light red, cloudy. Strawberry, raspberry, some vegetal/herbal elements. Smooth and glyceric, but with some structure and with a hint of grapefruity bitterness in the end.

Price: Medium

Food: Tasty fish and shellfish, and I would believe perfect for a smorgasbord (smörgåsbord in Swedish)

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Wine of the Week

The original Pico Verdelho

António Maçanita is perhaps most known from his Fita Preta project in Alentejo, and maybe some have heard about the partnership with his sister Joana in the Douro.

But now, a few words about his work in the AçoresPreservation of the indigenous grape varieties is a key concept. And showing the grapes’, and the terroir’s potential, especially for white wines, is maybe his most important task there.

 (photo credit: AWC)

I had just become aware of this project through the Verdelho wine before I left for Portugal. But at the Simplesmente Vinho fair in Porto I had the possibility to meet him. In fact his wine showed up already at the opening dinner.

Here it is. Varietal 100% verdelho. Verdelho, “the original”, this to distinguish it from grapes that have been wrongly confused with it (such as gouveio, godello, verdejo and more).

It was harvested manually. Whole bunch pressing was carried out, natural racking
after 24 hours, and fermentation in 600 to 1000 litre steel tanks. Designation: the Pico sub-region (on the west of the island) within the Açores IG area.

Last words: About the possible confusion between Azores – Açores (on the label you can read both), the former is English, the latter Portuguese.

Verdelho o Original 2016 (Azores Wine Company)

Light yellow, hints of green. Aroma with citrus, yellow apples, herbs, slightly nutty. Clean, fresh, quite full, salty mineral, and long.

Price: Medium

Food: Grilled fish, seafood, salads, perfect with oysters

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Wine of the Week

Authentic Algarve: Monte da Casteleja

At the Simplesmente Vinho fair in Porto one of the biggest surprises came from the touristic southern coast of Algarve. Already at the welcome dinner at Rui Paula’s DOP restaurant, when a 10 days skin-contact white was presented (outside the programme), I decided that this producer’s table was one to visit.

Guillaume Abel Luís Leroux’s father is French, and his mother is from western Algarve. It was his father that introduced him to the world of wine, and when he inherited a piece of land from his mother’s family he decided to leave the Douro (where he had worked with Taylor and Quinta do Côtto a.o.). In 2000 he started to recover the vineyards at Monte da Casteleja near Lagos in order to make organic wines. Here he wants to combine modern technology with ancient methods, such as treading the grapes, macerate with stems – and also ageing in barrels.

 Guillaume Leroux

Monte da Casteleja’s soil is unique to the area, explains Guillaume, good for vine growing, medium depth with a high percentage of clay and limestone. Rainfall is a sparse as 400 mm per year, mainly during the winter months, which naturally limits vine growing. The proximity to the sea ensures less water stress and long maturations, while the nocturnal northerly breezes improve colour and flavour concentration.

This week’s wine is made from bastardo 60% and the rest alfrocheiro. The grapes were partly destemmed, then foottrodden for four hours, before a spontaneous fermentation that lasted for three weeks at up to 26ºC. The wine then stayed in big barrels of Portuguese and French oak for 20 months.

 From the adega (credit: Monte da C.)

Monte da Casteleja Tinto 2015 (Monte da Casteleja)

Dark cherry red. Floral aroma (violets), mint, forest fruits and underwood. Good structure, with evident tannins and an adecuate acidity to match.

Price: Low

Food: Red meat, game, pasta and much more. The producer’ website suggests local fare like bean stews and fig cake

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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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Wine of the Week

Terras de Tavares 1997, a well-matured Dão

Before this week I had known this producer mostly for his entry-level Rufia! wines (such as the one mentioned here). That is totally changed now after a visit, complete with dinner, breakfast and and overnight stay in João and Luisa’s agro-tourism facilities.

Now I have come to know a man with deep knowledge, not only of vinegrowing, but in many other fields, such as culture and cooking, and one who loves the sport of discussion. He refreshed my memory too, as we had in fact met at a tasting of Dão rosés many years ago.

João Tavares da Pina’s farm Quinta da Boavista is located outside Penalva do Castelo, Dão. We are in a cool climate around 500 meters above sea level, and the soil is clay shale (from marine sediments) and a small percentage of the, for Dão, usual granite. This mixture gives both freshness and mineraliy. Some more key words are recovering of endangered grape varieties, biodiversity, no-till, manual harvest, chamomile or lavender at the beginning of a vine row, spontaneous fermentation and only a small dose of sulphur.

João looks for freshness, that’s true, but also the decadent underwood aromas, and mushrooms. To achieve this he uses high fermentation temperatures (32°C is not unusual). Also, the jaen grape is well suited to this area’s longer growing season.

The 1997 was the first wine after having decided not to sell all the grapes to the cooperative. This is a blend of jaen and touriga nacional, around 60-40.

Terras de Tavares Reserva 1997 (João Tavares da Pina, Quinta da Boavvista)

Red colour with some evolution. Forest fruits, aromatic herbs and mushrooms. Fine structure, with just the right touch of tannins and acidity. Long and elegant. I would say fresh, and definitely full of life.

Price: Medium

 

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Wine of the Week

You can call me Alf

Alfrocheiro preto is a grape that deserves its time in the spotlight. Historically a typical blending grape, there have been many good varietals too. And given the grape’s reputation for delivering dark stuff, often on the rustic side, I have through the years come across surprizingly many elegant wines, José Perdigão’s and Quinta dos Roques‘ Dão, Outeiros Altos’ Alentejo (sample), to name just a few, there are also some promising bruñal projects (one of its Spanish synonyms) like the one at Ribera de Pelazas, over the border in Arribes.

It’s an early ripener, yields quite generously, gives dark must, and balanced tannins and acidity, to be very short. The name is among the many “unpronounceable” Portuguese varieties, and someone just had to come up with the abbreviation Alf – and it was Terra d’Alter of Alentejo.

So much for that, this week’ pick is from Vinhos das Mercês, Norwegian Roar Aune and German Petra Lohmann, that in a short time have obtained remarkable results in Oliveira do Hospital, southern Dão (with oenologic help from Virgilio Loureiro (university lecturer who has aided several Beiras wineries). They have now a splendid collection of to-the-bone fruity wines, among them the pure and lovely red and white blends that could be considered their “entry-level” wines. The couple was among the ones heavily affected by the 2017 fires, but will rise again. Follow this blog, and you will read more from the producer later.

Aune Lohmann Alfrocheiro 2015 (Vinhos das Mercês)

Deep red. Dark and red, spices like nutmeg, leather, and somewhat earthy. Quite smooth texture, with a silky oak, good acidity and length.

Price: Low

Food: Various meats, game, roasts, casseroles

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Wine of the Week

Developed Dão

Dão can age, that we knew from producers like Quinta da Falorca, Buçaco (a Dão and Bairrada mix), blended wines from negociants like Caves S. João a.o.

The other day I came across a well-aged wine from Álvaro Castro, from his vineyards bordering the Serra da Estrela national park.

It’s a 50/50 touriga and tinta roriz. I am not quite sure why he calls it Pelada, as one of the vineyards from which he sources the grapes is called Pellada, with a double l. Anyway a drawing of a “peeled” (pelada) lady aptly adorns the front label.

Pelada 2003 (Á. Castro)

Deep cherry colour, brownish rim. Dark fruits on the sweet side (towards compote), blackberries and plums, a touch of dried fruits. Cool, integrated acidity, rounded tannins. Aged with grace; for me it will not improve, although I know people that will disagree.

Price: Medium

 

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