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Tag: Portugal

Wine of the Week

Delicious Dão

As I this year concentrated on new Portuguese discoveries at the Simplesmente… Vinho fair, there were several great producers that I didn’t manage to visit. João Tavares de Pina was one (as were Aphros, Folias de Baco, Quinta da Carolina, Dirk Niepoort, Álvaro Castro, Quinta do Mouro…)

I visited their Quinta da Boavista in 2018, so you can read here for more background. But in short, this is a producer in Penalva do Castelo, northern Dão, who makes both delicious and fresh young wines to the natural side and wines with a long life.

João uses chamomile a.o. as protectors of the vines

This wine was kindly offered by João and his wife Luisa at the first outdoor lunch at the Faculty of Architecture (University of Porto), where the tastings were held this year. It’s based on the variety rufete, well suited for the local terroir, where it produces grapes with good acidity.

Torre de Tavares Rufete 2019 (João Tavares de Pina)

Dark cherry. Smells of quite mature berries (blackberry), and is balanced by a nice balsamic note (pine/resin). Medium bodied, with a smooth structure, lots of fruit and a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

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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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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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Wine of the Week

Flip, flop & fly

Conceito has been a long time favourite. And if you search these pages you will find a lot, such as this take about a white wine, and this report, that tells a bit about their range.

It is Rita Marques who is the driving force behind this -in my opinion- leading eastern Douro estate.

This wine is new in the portfolio, a fresh, dark red from touriga franca 40%, and touriga nacional and tinta roriz, each 30%. Harvested by hand, destemmed, spontaneously fermented and matured in steel.

Flip 2019 (Conceito)

Dark blueish red. Aroma of red and dark berries, lickorice and pepper. Fresh and charming, quite easy, but serious enough with some dryness from the skins, and just enough acidity.

Price: Low

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A Emoción III: Stars from outside

Here is the last account in this round from A Emoción dos Viños, 10th edition. There were a number from outside of Galicia, from Portugal, even from France – and Titerok-Akaet from even further away, Lanzarote (in the same country though). Here are some great wines from very reliable producers.

Ismael Gozalo is nothing less than a legend within the natural wine world, and famous far outside the borders of Spain. From Nieva (Segovia), Castilla y León, he disposes of centenary pie franco verdejo vines that has been used for the wines of Viñedos de Nieva, and later Ossian. Now he is “travelling alone”, with two lines, one called MicroBio, and the other bears his own name. Well, centenary is here an understatement: Some vines are no less than 280 years old. I have written about his wines many times, so you can search through this pages, and you will find a lot more information. I didn’t taste all the wines either, because I have done so several times. A short post about one of his lovely Nieva York pét nats was published in late May this year (read here).

Ismael met up with Iría Otero (more from a visit to her place in Ribeiro here)

Ismael is a very hardworking, dedicated bloke. But he also like to play with the rock’n’roll myth. Correcaminos is a lovely unpretentious wine, light, unfiltered, open, “mature grapefruity” and thirstquenching. And naturally enough, because of the name (“roadrunner”), it gave name to his “coronavirus tour”. I guess because of the virus there has not been too much touring, but it’s a cool nod to the rock merchandise business anyway. La Resistencia 2019 (an amphora wine from two different parcels and 4 months on the lees) is also slightly turbid, vibrant, with a lovely acidity. MicroBio 2019 (whole clusters, aged in old barrels): Very light in colour; aroma of green apples, flowers; full, rich, juicy, and tasty with a slight touch of sweetness. Sin Nombre is a favourite, and a house wine by me (when available). The 2017 vintage had some colour, golden with green; aroma of stone-fruit, yellow apples, a touch of cinnamon; it’s creamy, a bit buttery, cidery, juicy, and just lovely. I also tasted a Rufete, (don’t remember if it was the Rufian or a sample), delicious anyway, a light red wine, packed with red fruits, before I moved on.

Ismael with his Coronavirus TourT-shirt

Marc Isart was there, both on behalf of himself and Bernabeleva, where he is co-founder and winemaker. I have followed Bernabeleva for some years. They are located in San Martín de Valdeiglesias in the Madrid part of the Gredos mountains. They work the land according to biodynamic principles, and in the cellar they use whole bunch fermentation and ageing in neutral wood. They generally use low extraction, and I would say their wines are among the most elegant in the area. For the records: They also make white wines, mostly from albillo. Highly recommended. But because I know them well, I chose to concentrate on Marc’s own range this time.

His own project is further east in the DO. Vinos de Madrid, in the subzone Arganda del Rey. Here he grows both tinto fino, or tempranillo, and the white malvar between 700-800 meters of altitude, on calcareous soil that contains gypsum and clay.

In the La Maldición line we tasted the Cinco Legua Malvar 2019 from calcareous soil, with 40-50 days skin-contact, made in neutral barriques. Malvar is related to airén, but is more aromatic and has more acidity. This wine is technically an orange wine, but is light golden in colour, has a flowery nose (roses), also nuts, lightly textured and full in the mouth. I also liked the clarete of the same name and vintage, made with 15% tempranillo. The majority of the rest is divided between malvar, airén and various other white varieties. The wine is light red;, with aromas of raspberry. In the mouth it is lightly textured, with fruit to the end. The red version, again with the same name and vintage, has 85% tempranillo and 15% malvar, and was blended in the cellar. Cherry red; dark fruits (blackberry), some spice; very clean fruit, and good structure. Gleba de Arcilla 2018 is a wine only from this local form of tempranillo, with one year in used oak. It’s dark red; again with blackberry, some spice and coffee; round in the mough, with a touch of wood, that will easily be integrated.

Marc Isart, representing himself and Bernabeleva

Germán Blanco makes wine in Rioja and Ribera del Duero. You can read more about this here, in a report from the Simplesmente Vinho fair in February. Albares de la Ribera, just outside the boundaries of the DO Bierzo to the east. Casa Aurora is a tribute to his great-grandmother who handed down the first vineyard. Albares is in a transition zone between the valley and the Bierzo Alto at 850-900 meters of altitude.

Germán grows three hectares of own vineyards. He also buys grapes from two local farmers. These go into the Clos Pepín, a straightforward red fruits-fruity wine that is pure joy, also in the 2018 version that he presented here. Most wines contain many grape varities, including white ones, and I don’t list all of them here. Poula 2018 is a village wine, a mencía blend from various plots. I found it quite fine and elegant, juicy in the mouth with fine-grained tannins. La Galapana is the vineyard handed down from his great-grandmother, almost 1.000 meters altitude. In the 2018 vintage this was darker, with more menthol, but also red fruits, and in the mouth more structure than the previous wines, with an amount of tannins, though very fine-grained. More structured is also Valle del Río 2018, a 60-65% garnacha tintorera: Deep red, blue tinge; red fruits and forest fruits (blackberry), solid tannins and with a vivacious acidity. The most obvious wine of guard among these.

Germán Blanco, Castilla and Rioja

Alfredo Maestro and his wines I have known for some years now. Originally from Peñafiel in the heart of Ribera del Duero, where he has his bodega, but disposes of magnificent vineyards in both Segovia and Madrid provinces. This time I took the opportunity for an update of some of his wines. There is a lot about him on this blog, but I recommend this article as an introduction. El Marciano is a high altitude (1.150 meters) wine garnacha and albillo land, where Alfredo is doing a great job on behalf of the Gredos community. It’s a fresh red-fruity wine, a bit earthy with some texture, generous in the mouth and lovely, lively acidity, and the 2019 is no exception. El Rey del Glam, now in 2019 vintage also, is his take on carbonic maceration. The grapes come partly from the high Gredos vineyards, partly from Peñafiel. There is no pressing, nor destemming. Carbonic maceration is carried out in steel tanks, then malolactic in the same tanks. This wine is also very fresh, with cool, red fruits, and a touch of carbonics in the mouth. It has just a bit of structure, and can be served slightly chilled.

A Dos Tiempos 2019 is from Navalcarnero, a high altitude village in the province of Madrid and the name refers to the fact that the grapes are harvested twice. Alfredo explains that the idea is that the first harvest gives a lot of acidity and low alcohol, while the harvest one month later gives less acidity and a richer alcohol. Then the two are blended and one gets a fresh wine with balanced, ripe fruit and tannins and just enough structure. It was aged six months in used barrels. Here the garnacha is complemented by tempranillo. By the time I got to his table it had been a long day of tasting and accumulated tannins, so Alfredo recommended a taste of his Brut Rosé to rinse the mouth. A delicious strawberry and red fruit-driven sparkler, by the way. Then I tried his classic ribera del duero Valdecastrillo 2018, from various plots between 750-1.000 meters of altitude. This wine had been ageing in half French oak, half chestnut for one year. A super, classic, yet individual ribera; cherry red, potent aroma of berries with a touch of dried fruit (figs), and a long, fruity finish. After this I had decided to leave, but I couldn’t resist tasting a long-time favourite, the lovely fruity, non-oaked Viña Almate. A really interesting one is the white Consuelo 2018, a full-bodied, citric albillo mayor from more than 100 year old vines in Valladolid and Burgos, with 7 days of skin-maceration and fermentation in French oak.

Alfredo Maestro, Castilla y León

After all these Castilians something from Catalunya: Can Ràfols dels Caus I visited in the Garraf zone of Penedès many years ago, when Carlos Esteva was turning his family estate into one of the most dynamic properties of the region. But they have somehow been neglected by me for many years now, for no particular reason. It’s not that I haven’t tasted any wines, but it was nice to get the chance to meet present manager Rosa Aguado for a real update here. The estate comprises 90 hectares of vines, and other crops in addition. The oldest vineyard is one with xarel.lo from 1948. It was in 2008 that they went organic, and at present biodynamic practises are introduced too.

Here is a brief account of some of the wines: Gran Caus 2018, xarel.lo 50%, chenin blanc 30, chardonnay 20:The colour was light golden, citric on the nose, with yellow apples, and quite fat in the mouth. Xarel.lo Brisat 2019: Brisat is a Catalan name for orange wine, and as the name implies this is deeper gold; it has an aroma of flowers, lemon, wax and honey; full on the palate. El Rocallis 2016, from manzoni bianco: Light golden, greenish; aroma of mature apples, aromatic herbs, lime, mothballs; lightly textured, good acidity, long aftertaste with some nuts. Rosa had brought two vintages of their merlot rosé. Gran Caus Rosat 2019 was very light cherry red; raspberry, some vegetal hints in the aroma; very juicy, with a fresh acidity. The 2018 was more towards peach colour; more forest fruits on the nose; and it showed some evulotuion, some “positive oxidation” we could say. Sumoll 2017: “Fine like pinot, rustic like nebbiolo”, I think this was how Rosa described the sumoll variety. The wine showed cherry red colours; red fruits (raspberry, cherry) on the nose, a little spice too; and surprisingly structured in the mouth. Finally Caus Lubis 2004, 100% merlot, one parcel, oriented towards the mountain: Good colour, a bit brick; good evolution, plums, dried apricot, some cinnamon and tobacco; round, complete, still some fruit and acidity. In good shape. “Pomerol del Mediterráneo”, she called it. Not bad.

Rosa,Aguado, Can Ràfols dels Caus

João Roseira of Quinta do Infantado I met for the first time in the late 1980’s, after he had become the first one to break the monopoly of the Porto/Gaia shippers and exported directly from his estate in the Douro. I started this series with Antonio Portela, organizer of this fair. And I round it all off with João, who runs what we can call a “sister” event in Porto, the Simplesmente VInho, where Antonio also participates. (Look around these pages for many accounts, you can maybe start here with a report from this year’s fair.) João admits that it’s difficult to sell port wine these days. But while you are thinking that port is out of fashion, I assure you: Quinta do Infantado is different. The Roseiras, João and now his nephew Álvaro, who has taken over as chief winemaker, want a dryer style. They ferment longer than usual, so there is less residual sugar and more alcohol. Therefore less addition of alcohol is needed, and it is also added gradually. This makes them more dry, and the alcohol is balanced with the fruit. 

I visited his farm in February, so I just tasted a few wines this time. I simply had to re-taste their fabulous organic Ruby Reserva, that you can read about here. Then I sipped to some of the standard reds and ports (among them the organic tawny) while chatting with João about the times, especially with reference to the coronavirus and the destiny of port in general. Other than that I tasted the wines João had brought from 2010, the year. Quinta do Infantado Colheita 2010, the first ever vintage dated organic port, did not disappoint: Red fruits, figs, dried fruit, a vibrant acidity, balanced alcohol.

João Roseira, Porto and Douro

This was a much too short report over three articles from this initiative in the wonderful Atlantic environment. Watch out for small reports, wines of the week and other stuff. See you again!

And the band played on…
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Wine of the Week

Me o my, it’s May and Maias

I must admit that Quinta dos Roques and Quinta das Maias of Dão have been neglected during the latest years, from my side. They haven’t been in the news for a while, but now it seems that something is happening again. They are both property of Luis Lourenço and his family, and he is also winemaker.

Maias is noted for the grape variety of jaen, because it’s higher and cooler than Roques, and more easily gives the grape the acidity and focus that it needs. The soil here is granite and sand, and the estate is now certified organic.

The name is derived from flor de maio, mayflower.

It’s only 40% of jaen in this wine, and in good Dão tradition it’s accompanied by touriga nacional (30%), alfrocheiro preto (20%) and tinta roriz (10%). It’s made in steel, with spontaneous fermentation.

Maias Tinto 2017 (Quinta das Maias)

Cherry red. Mature berries, plums, some herbs, a bit anis. Fruity, juicy in the mouth, some tannins.

Price: Low

Food: Bacalhau, chicken salad, everything on the grill, its freshness also invites to be served chilled on a summer day

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Articles

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 bars and restaurants and Wine of the Week

A talha wine in London

the Raw fair was postponed due to the threat of the coronavirus. But I decided to go anyway. And the first thing I did was heading for the Bar Douro, a few blocks from my hotel in Southwark. In a way I continued my Portuguese experience from last week, and started with Folias de Baco’s Douro sparkler Uivo Pt Nat, and also had Anselmo Mendes‘ vinho verde Contacto, this week’s choice is a Portuguese vinho de talha, a clay wine. Alentejo has a long tradition for this, and producer Herdade do Rocim is even hosting a talha wine festival.

They use the word amphora on the label though, not talha. It was made from the varieties antão vaz 40%, and 20 each of perrum, rabo de ovelha and manteúdo.

Winemakers are Pedro Ribeiro, general manager and his wife Catarina Vieira. The wine was made in the traditional way, in clay pots, with no temperature control. Only indigenous yeasts were used, there were no additions, nor any corrections of the must. The wine was bottled unfined and unfiltered. It clocks in at a sympathetic 12% of alcohol.

Herdade do Rocim Amphora 2017 (H. do Rocim)

Golden colour with a hint of brown. On the nose it plays with oxidation: The yellow fruits are dominating, but behind is a layer of smoke, nuts, some resin and smoke. It is dry, has some structure, and is also driven by salty minerals.

Price: Medium

Food: A variety of fish, shellfish and salads. It goes well to lighter meat dishes, like the pork cheeks that I had.

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