Last week I visited Mateus Nicolau de Almeida in Foz Côa, in the Douro Superior. This is really the land of rabigato. One of his rabigato whites I was coincidentally offered at the Prova wine bar in the center of Porto some days later.
Mateuscomes from a family that has made wine for several generations, and in 2015 he set up his own project. He is dedicated to explore the characteristics of the terroir. This can be seen in the Eremitas project, that comprises three wines, all from the same variety, but reflecting various terroirs.
Amon de Kelia originates from a vineyard planted in moderately deep quartz soils at an altitude of 500 metres. The grapes are macerated in granite for 3 hours. Then they pressed in a vertical press, and the must is racked by gravity into cement in an underground cellar, where it ferments spontaneously without temperature control.
Eremitas Amon de Kelia 2022(Mateus Nicolau de Almeida)
Light straw. Discrete aromatics with yellow fruits, flowers and a mineral touch. More expressive in the mouth, with good volume, it’s fruity, fresh, and with a nicely integrated acidity.
Simplesmente… Vinho is an independent wine festival held annually in Porto. It’s for artisans and family businesses, for wines that respect terroir and tradition. As the organizers say, “sincere wines with a healthy dose of madness and poetry”.
Nowadays it’s held on the first weekend of July, in the open air of the gardens of the Casa Cor de Rosa of the Faculty of Architecture of Porto (FAUP). This tenth edition featured 101 vignerons from Portugal and Spain.
This year I tasted quite randomly in no special order. I will still try to categorize them for you. It is always a pleasure to taste the wines of producers like Tiago Sampaio, Antonio Madeira, Niepoort, Quinta de Carolina and Quinta do Infantado. However, here I will highlight some of the producers that I didn’t know that well. Yes, I knew about them and I had tasted some wines, but this was the first time I tasted their whole range. Three to watch were Quinta da Pôpa, Quinta da Poeta (both Douro) and Quinta do Escudial (Dão). There were also a couple of discoveries on a trip to the Vinho Verde region. These you can read about in a forthcoming article.
Muxagat was created in 2002 by the Almeida and Lopes families, in the village Muxagata of Douro Superior. Today Muxagat has its own winery in Mêda, where most of the grapes are sourced. It’s a minimal intervention project, also without addition of yeast. Susana Lopes and her family, with the help of Ana Silva, resident winemaker, and consultant Luis Seabra, make stylish, fresh wines in a region famous for heavier stuff.
I liked the whole range, from the fresh white wines (one of them an off-dry riesling), via the elegant light extracted rosé to the various shades of red. Here come a few of the best. Tinta Barroca 2021: Young colour with violet hints; mature dark and wild fruits (cherry, blackberry), flowers; luscious with fresh acidity – a serious glou-glou wine! The Tinta Francisca 2017 had more developed colour, an earthy, mineral aroma with red berries and white pepper, and a lightly structured palate. I also liked their regular Tinto 2017, a classic and complete red. Vale Cesteiros 2018, from older vines, is dark in colour with wild fruits (blackberry) and some balsamic; potent, still elegant, and with an integrated acidity. Cisne 2015 and 2016 were made from tinto cão 90% and rabigato, aged two years in wood. They showed some evolution, with earthy and fresh red fruits, then a powerful structure and a rich mouthfeel. The 2016 was the most powerful of the two.
Miguel Morais came to what is now Quinta da Costa do Pinhão, fell in love with it and knew he had to dedicate himself to the difficult task of working that land. Miguel says that 2014 was his first serious vintage. Over the years he has learned to understand the place better, respect the land, the plants, the animals, and cut on the chemicals, he says.
Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Branco 2019 was destemmed and fermented with skins in used barrels, and can be called an orange wine. Golden colour; mature apples, yellow fruits (tomatoes) and wet stone; rounded and balanced. The red Marufo 2019, from the rare grape of that name, was light, with currant colour; ripe raspberry fruit, spice; soft on the palate, balanced, and with a beginning evolution. The red with the company name was also of a classic style. Quinta da Costa do Pinhão Peladosa 2019 is a field-blend of 30 different varieties, a hundred years old vines on 1 hectare. Whole bunch pressing was carried out in a 500 litre barrel. Dark and wild fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry), menthol; concentrated flavours and delicate tannins.
There is nothing better than a little slowness in this era, says Rodrigo Martins of Espera (meaning: wait). He continues, we should give the wines time for maturation to deliver authentic and genuine aromas. He has 5 hectares of vineyards in Alcobaça, region of Lisboa, where the simple winemaking styles of the Cistercian monks is an inspiration. The idea is to be patient, and the ambition is to offer a unique quality product, at the same time unpretentious.
I really appreciate the elegant, low-extracted Atlantic style of this producer, and all wines could be highlighted. Here follow four of them. The Bical & Arinto 2020 from a young vineyard with low yield stayed 8 weeks in oak. It shows yellow fruit; is round, tasty, and concentrated. The Curtimenta 2021 stayed 17 days on skins. Light yellow, slightly cloudy; delicate skin-character (lemon peel); grapefruit in the aftertaste. The Espera Palhete 2021, a field-blend of some 20 varieties (70% white) was really delicate and delicious: Light red; raspberries; crisp acidity and a delicate texture. Espera NatCool 2021 is made for the Niepoort-distributed series of low-extracted natural wines in one-litre bottles. It’s made solely from castelão, is light red; with lots of red fruits (raspberry), a touch of flint; delicate, uplifting acidity.
Amoreira da Torre is one of the producers that manage to make fresh, varietal-scented wines from Alentejo, otherwise known for developed, jammy aromas. I tasted a few wines some years ago, and this was a good opportunity to re-discover. 20 hectares with Portuguese varieties from the region was planted in 2001 by Paulo Sendin and converted to organic four years later. The terroir at the estate in Montemor-o-Novo (on the highway to Évora) is characterized by granitic soils, abundant groundwater and a Mediterranean climate.
The Zebro line features some delicious, fruity wines of several colours at an un-beatable price. The microclimate is good for white wines, with water in the subsoil where roots go deep. Zebro Blanc de Noirs 2020, a varietal aragonêz, is made with very light pressing (“lágrima”), then immediate separation of the must. It’s quite unctuous, or broad, with anise and bitter almond notes; full and somewhat structured on the palate. Amoreira da Torre 2021 (aragonês, trincadeira, some cabernet sauvignon, 6 months in used oak) is youthful dark; fruity, dark and red fruits (morello, plums), green pepper, herbs and eucalyptus; rounded tannins, fresh and not overdone.
Look for next article from the Simplesmente fair, when there will be an update on producers already known on the blog.
In the first part from this year’s Simplesmente Vinho we highlighted some producers from outside the famous regions. (Read here.) In this long overdue second part two I would like to focus on producers from well-known wine districts that I didn’t know from before or wanted to re-taste.
From Douro, where the fair is located, I tasted several, like Quinta de Zimbro and Conceito, and also Luís Seabra, who is a little in and out of the Douro valley. Add to this one of few port wines, the lovely organic ruby from organizer João Roseira and his Quinta do Infantado, and the picture is a bit more complete, at least for me – this time.
While I missed Ana Maria Hespanol this time, her partner Hugo Mateus was there. He showed an impressive line of wines.
Traditionally Ana’s father Manuel had a good grip on the heady Douro reds. I think they have lifted the quality a couple of flats, especially with the other side of the assortment, or to bring it more in line with the times is maybe more fair to say. Anyway the whites are now often very good. Their Branco 2017, from mostly viosinho, and bottled in 2020, was harvested early to retain the acidity. Lots of primary fruits, like apples and pears. In the mouth it’s quite full, rich and long. It’s part of their often innovative, or modern, Grau Baumé line.
They have a serious orange wine, Undo Curtimenta 2020, a blend of usual Douro grapes like viosinho, rabigato, and gouveia, with 31 days of skin-contact. It’s quite textured, but yet with some feeling of lightness, aromas of white flowers, herbs and peel.
Rita and Miguel, winemakers from Conceito in the Teja Valley, showed again their impressive range, with very good prices too. Their selection falls mainly into two categories, Conceito and Contraste. Conceito is meant to be the flagship range, but I must admit that I not always understand where the dividing line is, as they both contain quality wines that sit somewhere between the classic and the modern. A wine that has not been highlighted (by me) is their Contraste Rosé, now in its 2020 vintage. It’s from higher (more than 600 meters) granite soils: Very light in colour, with raspberry and whitecurrent aromas. On the palate it’s both mellow and easy, but with a nice acidity and a serious charm. Legítimo is now in its2018 vintage. This one is made with stems of touriga nacional, tinta roriz and touriga franca, with no sulphur. It’s dark cherry, dark fruits on the nose (blackberry) and also plums, with lactic notes (yoghurt?), and elegant tannins in the mouth. The Bastardo 2019 is, as always, superelegant, uplifting, truly inspiring. It comes from a 50 year old vineyard and ripes earlier than the others, end of august. It’s made with stems, and just a little SO2 before bottling. It’s “surprisingly” (well, not anymore) light, with a lot of raspberry and flowers, evident but light tannins.
Like many of the other producers here, to present a short report about Luís Seabra, doesn’t give him justice. He excels both in red and white, and both “xisto” and “granito” soils that are often presented on the labels. Everything is good to outstanding, from the entry-level white and red Xisto Ilimitado, via the monovarietals to the cru wines. All right, let me chose one of each. The red Xisto Ilimitado 2019 is made from a blend of touriga franca 30%, tinta roriz 20%, tinta amarela 20% and 10 each of rufete and tinta barroca. It’s clear red; aromas of fresh red berries, some balsamic and herbs; fruity and dry, with a light structure. Mono C 2019 is a castelão (that is in fact authorized in the Douro): Cherry red; red fruits (cherry), stone fruits (plum), with some herbs; lightly structured with fresh acidity. For me this wine is delicious, and ready to drink now (I have the previous vintage at home, maybe at its peak now). There are several wines with the same name. This one is from Vinho Verde: Granito Cru 2019 from alvarinho grapes is from near the river Minho in the Melgaço municipality. It’s light yellow; citric with elements of honey, lightly spicy and a touch of vanilla (after one year in barrel); good concentration in the mouth, dry, a stony minerality and great lenght. Wait two years, and it’s perfect! OK, an extra speciality for you my friend: Véu de Xisto 2015! Véu denotes that it has spent two years under flor in a barrel from Jura, France. It’s golden, but also lightly greenish; smells of yeasts, flowers, iodine; full in the mouth, rounded. By the way, the grapes are rabigato 70%, côdega do larinho 15% and the rest gouveio.
From nearby Amarante of Minho we have Quinta de Palmirinha. Fernando Paiva, biodynamic pioneer in the Vinho Verde region, never stop to impress, with both azal and arinto. But his loureiros are the stars. Really interesting from his current selection is the Leviano 2020, a “curtimento” (orange wine). Leviano denotes in Portuguese a person that doesn’t care about anything, says Fernando. But he cares about the most, from vineyard to table. Noteworthy is his use of chestnut flowers to avoid use of SO2. The Leviano spent two weeks on skins, that gives a golden hue, an aroma of ginger and white flowers. In the mouth it’s in a way gentle and mellow, but it has the unmistakable acidity from the loureiro grape.
South to Dão I had the opportunity to try the wines of Casa de Darei, that I hadn’t tasted since the opening of their “lodging” facilities (that I also used), some 20 years ago. Then José Ruivo was “chief”. Now it’s his son Carlos who is in charge. Their reds are lovely, not least the entry level Lagar de Darei 2015 from the “usual suspects” touriga nacional, tinta roriz, jaen and alfrocheiro, with its red fruit and balsamic pinewood nuances, and its luscious mouthfeel. All reds came in the 2015 vintage. New launches that “old” is quite unusual these days. I also like their rosé 2020, easy-to-drink, with its lovely raspberry character and low alcohol.
I also tried a couple of the fantastic and diverse wines of João Tavares da Pina, kindly offered by him and his wife Luisa at a lunch. Read more about one of these wines here.
Quinta do Olival da Murta is located in the Cadaval area of the Lisboa region, near the mountain range Serra de Montejunto. It’s here that Joana Vivas, who is in charge of the family business, got the inspiration for the label Serra Oca. It’s only 15 kilometers to the Atlantic ocean, which is noted in the wines, that are always made in a simple way. They have an interesting moscatel graúdo called simply Serra Oca 2019, fermented in 1000 liters oak vats, with all the lovely moscatel virtues: Golden, floral, honeyed, and with a very good acidity. More ususal local grapes, like arinto, fernão pires, were used together with the moscatel in another Serra Oca 2019 wine. This one had three days of skin-contact, partly fermented in barriques and inox. This had an interesting mix of developed and fresh aromas and taste, as if it played with oxidation; golden/brownish colour, aromatic, citric and flowery, in the mouth full with lovely acidity. If my memory doesn’t fail me it was one months before its bottling. I have not forgot their reds, that they began with in 2013 (three years before the whites), but let’s save them for a later occasion.
From down in Alentejo I found Argilla, and tasted the wines while the local student choir was singing a wide selection of songs, many of them medieaval. The winery is located at the foot of the Montargil mountains in Alto Alentejo (northwest of Évora and Estremoz). They put a lot of effort in talha wines, made in the Alentejo style of clay vessel, and also smaller amphorae. But first: I really liked their Rosa d’Argilla 2019, some kind of a clarete, made from alicante bouschet with only 20% skin-contact. It’s clear ruby; aroma of red fruits (raspberry); only slightly structured, juicy and delicious. From the Talha Argilla range I tasted 2019 white (appley, with some earthiness from the clay), and the red 2018 (red fruits and licorice, with tannins from petite verdot), both from a selection of grapes. Then came a varietal, Alfrocheiro em Talha de Argilla 2017. This was a relatively young wine, dark with a blueish hint. The flavours were very balanced; red fruits, flowers, some earthiness, – and rounded in the mouth. Rita offered more wines, that I tasted, and they were all interesting. Sorry, but this was at the very end, and I had to concentrate on the music for a while. This time it was Transmontuna, a student choir from Vila Real.
Thanks to João Roseira and the other organizers who managed to set up a magnificent fair in “times of trouble”. And the band played on…!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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”.
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.
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…
Simplesmente… Vinho is the kind of wine fairs that I love, where you meet only individual producers off the beaten wine track. I have already published a short report from the fair itself, I presented a wine from Dão in my weekly column, one from Algarve, then one from the Açores, and finally one from Douro. I visited Rodrigo Filipe’s Humus in the Lisboa region before the fair, and lastly I also prepare an article from my visits in Dão. Here are just a few of the rest.
Quinta da Palmirinha
Fernando Paiva was one of the pioneers of biodynamic farming in Portugal, in the unlikely region of Vinho Verde, a humid region with a strong Atlantic influence. When looking closer at the map he is based in Lixa, near Amarante in the southern part, not far from Douro. His wines are wonderfully balanced, flowery, and with the acidity in percfect harmony with the rest. The main white grape is loureiro. The Quinta da Palmirinha Loureiro 2016 was oh so light, fresh and citric, with balsamic (pine) notes, and with a fresh natural acidity perfectly well integrated. The red Palmirinha 2016 (vinhão-espadeiro-azal tinto), no sulphur added, was dark, with ink, plums, and aciditywise it was in line with the whites (high but hidden). Paiva is also involved in the Mica project, where four producers are joining forces, making greatly enjoyable wines at a lower price. I liked the 2017, an azal-treixadura-avesso tropic/mellow blend at 17 g/L residual sugar.
Vasco Croft went biodynamic since the beginning, at his farm near Ponte de Lima, where he has 18 hectares, uses own sheep compost. All wines are made using native yeast.
Vasco Croft (right) talking to Brazilian reporter Didu Rosso
Aphros Loureiro 2016 is light, with lemon, flowers, slender, citric, and with a good, steely acidity. Daphne 2016 comes from a different plot, granitic, more rocky (while the others are sandy). It had 12 hours skin-contact, was then fermented in concrete eggs of 1600 liters and stayed there untill bottling. This wine was full, a bit darker, with aroma dominated by apple. Phaunus Loureiro 2016 stayed 6-8 weeks in amphora, with olive oil on top. The colour was yellow, towards orange; with that white flower aroma that amphoras can enhance; quite full on the palate, somewhat richer, and with a pleasant structure. Phaunus Pet-Nat 2016, bottled while still fermenting; yellow apples, some citrus, and good acidity. The Rosé Vinhão 2017 (sample) had a cloudy peach colour, and a promising acidity. Phaunus Palhete 2016 is a fresh and lovely amphora-elevated wine, made from both red and white grapes with skin-contact for 6-8 weeks. I will come back to this in a wine-of-the-week post. The Vinhão 2017 was pressed by foot, fermented by itself, and no further extraction: Dark, with a violet hue; dark fruits, blackberry, flowers, raspberry, and decent acidity. Lots of character and energy!
Over the border to Spain, and two Galician wines we tasted at the DOP restaurant, run by the celebrated local chef Rui Paula.
Finca Teira 2014(Manuel Formigo) comes from the inland DO Ribeiro: It’s made from godello, treixadura and torrontés. The wine is light yellow; a little buttery, mineral, with darker citrus (orange/mandarine); broad, full on the palate, with the acidity to match. Traste 2015 (José Aristeguí) is another inland Galician wine, this time from Valdeorras (neighbouring the Castilan region of Bierzo). The grapes are garnacha tintorera (alicante bouschet) and mencía. Dark; rich and warm (15% alc.), hints of morello, and some coffee; tough tannins, the alcohol shows again in the finish, but it’s not without charm either.
Here we are talking about a collaboration with Raúl Pérez, especially known from Bierzo, Spain. These are stylish wines. Mirandela 2015 (from Tras-os-Montes north) is a white field blend of moscatel-malvasia a.o.: Pear, citrus; quite full, good acidity. Tinto 2010 from tinta amarela, tinta roriz and touriga nacional: Dark; very fresh for a 10, red fruits, good structure.
Among the rest from this region the following stood out. Quinta de Arcossó Reserva 2009: Dark colour; dark fruits (morello, blackcurrant); powerful, evident tannins, some alcohol in finish.
Rita Marques has impressed for some years with remarkably elegant wines for a hot region like Douro. Near Vila Nova de Foz Côa in the Douro Superior her ranges are called Contraste and Conceito, and she also makes some port.
Contraste 2016 from various grapes: Light; very fresh, citric, herbs; luscious, soft and natural, with an integrated acidity. Conceito 2016, fermented in barrel, a field blend: Light; white flowers, peach, some vanilla, honey; full on the palate. Ontem (=yesterday in Portuguese) 2016, Terras de Beira, in other words from outside the Douro. The grape varieties include encruzado and rabigato, and the soils are granitic. It’s a flowery, fruity, full wine with vibrant acidity and evident mineral tones.
Contraste 2015: Cherry red; red fruits; soft, some tannnin structure. Conceito 2015: Dark colour; dark and red berries, some vanilla, mint, some toast, but fruit-driven nevertheless. Legítimo 2016: A carbonic maceration wine: Purple, violet; dark fruits, pepper, a bit lactic; young tannins. Outem 2015, a wine made from baga 60-70%: Bright red; some green pepper, raspberry; cool and fresh, and some structure.
Rita and Manuel
The Verdelho family is found near Vila Nova de Foz Côa too, and I have tasted many of their Dona Berta wines through a mutual friend. The wines, made by professor in oenology Virgilio Loureiro, I have learned to recognize as well-made wines, more robust than elegant. They are proud of their rabigato, and deservedly so. The Rabigato Reserva Vinhas Velhas 2016 made in inox was full and creamy, with notes of citrus, nuts, wax and melon. Among the other wines worth mention were first Sousão Reserva 2013, dark and fruit-driven, juicy with some spice and lickorice. Then the Reserva 2013, an “entry-level” blend: This is a fresh red, with notes of red berries, plums, an earthy touch, but with a quite elegant structure. Tinto Cão Reserva 2012: A structured wine with red fruits, blackberries, solid tannins and good acidity.
Quinta do Romeu
This is one of the most northern wineries in the Douro Superior, a really cool place north of Vila Nova de Foz Côa. They work biodynamically, and have organic certification. It’s always spontaneous fermentation, and SO2 only after malolactic and before bottling.
Quinta do Romeu 2016: Open, immediate and aromatic, with red fruits and herbs; smooth, glyceric, and a good acidity. Quinta do Romeu Rosé 2016: Light salmon colour; strawberry, gooseberry; fresh, with a good natural acidity. Quinta do Romeu Tinto 2011: Dark cherry red; red fruits; juicy, luscious, cool and fresh on the palate. Quinta do Romeu Reserva 2015: Made from touriga nacional, touriga franca and sousão, fermented in lagares of granite, moderate extraction: Dark red; smells of dark berries, tobacco; full on the palate with a good acidity. Quinta do Romeu Touriga Nacional 2015: Dark, dense, violet; aroma of dark fruits with leather; young and robust tannins. They also make a colheita port.
Folias do Baco
Tiago Sampaio is the winemaker of Folias de Baco, a project he started in 2007. He never forgets the roots and the terroir, but it’s always something creative about his wines. And though he can experiment at every stage of the process, the extraction is always very gentle. He is found in Favaios, the traditional moscatel stronghold, in the sub-region of Cima Corgo, and the vines are on schist and granite at an altitude between 500-700m.
When he came back from Oregon with a degree in oenology in 2007, he established the brand Olho no Pé. The latest editions however, come under the name Uivo.
I tasted a cloudy, fruity and very tasty Uivo Pet Nat from the very early harvested 2017 (started 8. August), a very fresh, flowery Olho no Pé Moscatel from the same vintage, smooth but also with a lovely acidity, and the Olho no Pé Vinhas Velhas 2016, a no SO2, skin contact, barrel-fermented wine with more colour, somewhat tropic, waxy aroma, and a glyceric appearance in the mouth – a wine for keeping.
Among the reds there was the Uivo Renegado Tinto 2017 (a field blend with both red and white grapes, so to call it rosé is maybe better), a little turbid, earthy, strawberry/raspberry, and a tough grapefruity acidity, and the light, transparent Olho no Pé Pinot Noir 2014 with raspberry, full and round. Uivo Tinta Francisca 2016, had a deeper colour, very fruity with red berries and plum, juicy and grapey in the mouth, with a graphitic mineral touch. The last wine I will mention here is the impressive Olho no Pé Colheita Tardia 2012, an orange/amber wine with sweet honeyed bouquet from 100% botrytisized grapes.
Quinta do Infantado,João and Álvaro Roseira
Infantado was the first winery to export directly from the Douro valley in the 1980’s, and I visited them twice shortly after. They weren’t given first priority in the tasting hall this time, but at the DOP restaurant of Rui Paula we tasted two ports and the Roseira 2011, a project from Joaõ Roseira of Infantado (and Simplesmente Vinho, of course). Dark colour; red berries and forest fruits; good tannins, still young (good with baby goat). Two well-matured ports: the Colheita 2007, a tawny with vintage, had a young, red colour, beginning developement; figs, nuts, berries, elderberry; fruity, not very sweet, long. Vintage Port 1997 (magnum): Very fruity (blackberry), but also with some chocolate, spices and a warm, raisiny hint. Lots of tannin in the mouth, matching acidity, and still fruity after all these years.
Casa de Saima
This was an occation to meet the lovely Graça Miranda again, whom I had not seen since I visited the winery in Sangalhos many years ago. Saima was known as a tratitional producer, and I have still a few older vintages in my own cellar, such as the superb Garrafeiras 1991 and 2001, and I remember a foot-trodden rosé with more than 10 years of age when it was released. But they also embraced the new opportunities that appeared some years ago, with new grape varieties such as merlot.
The white Vinhas Velhas 2017 (sample) was light; fruity, with citrus and apples; full, concentrated, good acidity, fresh. I think this will be great in a not too distant future. The same wine from 2016 (a hot year) was waxy and herby, but also with fine flower notes; full in the mouth, with a fine acidity. Garrafeira 2015 (the first garrafeira white), made in old oak with 3 months of batonnage in big 3.000L vats: Darker, more creamy, quite waxy, with a touch of honey, concentrated, glyceric, smooth, and long. Promising.
The Pinot Noir 2015 I found interesting; fruity and saline. Baga Tonel 10 2014 (10 is the name of the vat [tonel in Portuguese], while 14 is obviously the vintage): Light colour; red berries, forest fruits, some greenness; luscious in the mouth, tannins still come creeping, and a good acidity ends it all. Baga Vinhas Velhas Grande Reserva 2014: Grande Reserva means here that it must be in oak for at least 24 months. The wine is cherry red, has some greenness, good fruit, lots of tannins, and good acidity. Maybe a classic Saima with great ageing potential.
Quinta do Montalto
I have known André Pereira of Montalto and Pedro Marques of Vale da Capucha for some years, visited their quintas and met them at fairs, such as the London natural wine fairs. André not only makes good wines, but with an almost unbeatable quality-price ratio. His farm is in Ourém, in the Encostas d’Aire area, some of the vineyards in Leiria, but most of the wines are classified as regional Lisboa.
André is currently experimenting with amphora, coated with natural resin. An clay-aged fernão pires from 2017 (the name is to be announced, possibly something with ‘talha’, denoting clay wines in Portugal), harvested early, was light in colour; flowery, fresh, fresh, but also nutty and a bit waxy, and full of life. His Medieval d’Ourem 2017 (DOC Encostas d’Aire) is based on an old Ourém tradition. It’s defined in the strict DOC rules that it must be 20% red and the rest white grapes (here tricadeira and fernão pires). The 2017 was light red, with a lovely raspberry scent; luscious and round, but also with a citrussy freshness. Although the alcohol is 14,5% (spring was hot and dry) this must be the best “medieval” wine I have tasted from André so far.
A Touriga Nacional 2017, this one also aged in amphora: Dark, violet; aroma of flowers, red fruits, blackcurrant; a touch of tannin, and also a bit warm at 14,5%. As the name suggests Cepa Pura is a series of varietal wines. Cepa Pura Baga 2016 was totally destemmed, put in 50% used barrel, and the rest inox. 2016 was a difficult year here, with a great loss because of rain and fungus. The wine was nice, with and aroma of red fruits, green pepper, cherry, and some spice; fresh and luscious in the mouth, with soft tannins. Cepa Pura Fernão Pires Late Harvest 2015: This is another example of fernão pires’ many talents: Yellow colour; aroma of yellow fruits, citrus and honey; semi sweet, rich, and with a good acidity. No botrytis.
One of the big revelations this year was Cabeças do Reguengo. They currently have 11 ha. vineyards, in the north of Alentejo, near the São Mamede national park. Rui Felé tells that they encourage the biodiversity, with man, wildlife, olives, other crops and vines in harmony. The grape harvest is all done in a single day and in the cellar there is very little intervention. The only product used is a little SO2. The wines stay in old oak, and in the near future only black oak – the autochthonous species.
One of the wines that stood out was an orange wine called Luminoso 2016. It’s made from arinto, fernão pires and rupeiro, had 10 days skin-contact, no SO2. The colour is orange/amber; aroma of peel, nectarine, mandarine, a touch of honey; full, structured (tannin), and fruit all the way. The red Felisbela (“my mother”, says Rui), no SO2: Dark cherry; dark fruits, blackcurrant, forest fruits; a bit carbonic, a feature that matches the slightly warm fruit. Courelas da Torre 2015, aragonêz, trincadeira, alicante bouschet: dark; mature fruits, blackcurrant, round, full, some lickorice. There was also a pleasant rosé, quite dark and with some structure: Courelas da Torre Rosé 2016.
Under the Cabeças label came wines like Equinocio 2015, aged in mainly old wood for one year: Some butter, nuts, and full on the palate. Seiva 2014: Red and dark fruits, concentrated flavours, long. Solstício 2015, made with whole bunches: Dark colour; wild fruits; rich and a bit tannic.
Quinta do Mouro
Quinta do Mouro is one of the famous producers of Alentejo, based in the northernly Estremoz, and one of the few (maybe together with Herdade do Mouchão) who strongly believed in the variety alicante bouschet at a time with castelão (locally called periquita) was popular with both producers and local wine authorities. I meet Miguel Louro father and son, the father fronting Mouro and the son both this and his own project. Mouro is about as good as Alentejo gets, and they have a freshness that is difficult to achieve if you’re not located near the mountains in the Portalegre sub-region. So here are a few, only briefly described (partly because I visited them late in the evening when the crowds came in and the music was turned louder, and I actually was “on my way” back to the hotel for a rest).
From Miguel junior’s project Apelido 2016, a fresh and clean white, a wine with the 1 o (primero =first) symbol), Nome 2016, full, rich on glycerine, with good acidity, and Apelido 2015, a dark, fruit-driven red, also with some earthy notes.
Some brief notes on the Mouro range too: Zagalos Reserva 2013: Dark colour; wild fruits, blackcurrant, blackberry; full in the mouth. Quinta do Mouro 2012: Dark; red and dark fruits, balsamic (menthol); full and complete. Quinta do Mouro (Goliardos) 2012, a wine made with some cabernet in the blend, various types of oak, in collaboration with the Goliardos (see an interview with Silvia here): Very dark, dense, almost opaque; still cool fruit, balsamic: a lot of tannins, but not aggressive at all.
Rita Marques is one of the new Douro comets. She has some terrific reds, such as a very personal take on the red bastardo variety, and some good ports too. But it’s maybe the whites that most of all cought my attention from the beginning, with their purity, freshness and elegance.
She is found by the Teja river, a tributary to the Douro that ends near Symington’s Vesúvio estate.
This wine is made from very old vines, primarily of the rabigato and côdega do larinho varieties (40% each), with arinto.
The must was spontaneously fermented and raised in inox tanks and used oak, with 5 months on the lees. It clocks in at a mere 13% alcohol.
Contraste Branco 2016(Conceito Vinhos)
Light yellow, greenish hue. Flowery aroma, slightly waxy, with peaches and pears, and herbs underneath. Full on the palate, a salty minerality and with a limey acidity in a long aftertaste.
Food: Grilled seafood, white fish, some bacalhau dishes, salads
As the name suggests this wine originates from quite high (500 meters) vineyards on schistous ground near Foz Côa high up in the Douro. I tasted the wines in Lisboa, and I fell particularly for the whites. Those who know me would maybe say that I am not particularly fond of oak. But I am no fanatic either. Here the balance is so neat, and the complexity great. For this one the grapes are only rabigato, cold fermented and aged (for around one and a half years) in French oak and cement using indigenous yeasts.
Os Xistos Altos 2011 (Muxagat)
Yellow with a green tinge. Aromas of white flowers, mature apple, ginger, some smoke and with a salty minerality. Full on the palate, great concentration and good acidity. It shows some oak at the moment, but it has many years ahead.
I was invited by winemaker Pedro Marques to taste his wines, and also some from his friend António Marques da Cruz, at restaurant Areeiro 3 in Lisboa. OK, this was a while ago, but this blog is new, and I want to include some events from the last months of 2014. Areeiro 3 is managed by Pedro’s brother and takes its name from the street adress, and you see it once coming up from the underground of metro station Areeiro. Both wineries, Vale da Capucha and Quinta da Serradinha respectively, is located in the north of the Lisboa region, in Carvalhal (Torres Vedras) and in the Leiria area. We tasted some really nice wines from Portuguese white grapes like arinto, alvarinho, antão vaz, fernão pires (and some French too, like viognier) and red touriga nacional, aragonês, castelão, and not to forget baga. Among the wines you should try once in Portugal are the white Capucha 2011 from alvarinho on limestone ground, a salty, mineral wine, still somewhat young and closed, and Serradinha Rosé 2013, red-orange coloured wine raised in 800 liter amphoras, with peach, rhubarb, strawberry, and some milky notes from malolactic fermentation. Another interesting wine was his red Quinta da Serradinha 1999, based on baga, and still full of life.
I was also invited to the Vinho ao Vivo, a terroir focused fair showing predominantly organic wines. I didn’t know about it then, but it proved to be a really charming event to visit again. It’s organized by wine bar and restaurant Os Goliardos down by the Tejo river next to the Discovery monument near Belém, and it includes local artisan food and live jazz. Who could ask for more, really? There we met several old friends, all with new wines to discover, and some other nice people. André Gomes Pereira who runs Quinta do Montalto, in Ourém, was there with his well-made wines. I knew his reds and rosés, but this time he also brought a white wine from fernão pires, a really interesting golden/orange coloured sparkling wine from 2005, that had spent 8 years on lees, and a “medieval” mix of red and white wine. Vasco Croft of Aphros Wines was there with his marvellous red and white “green wines”. His Aphros Loureiro 2013 is a different interpretation of the grape of that name, with a deep aroma, still with a steely acidity, but wrapped in a full, fruity taste. And who says a vinho verde can’t age? Well, the Aphros Vinhão 2009 isn’t that old, but many would not believe that a five year old wine from that region should be so full of energy as this one.
And who else was there, if not the one and only Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno of Quinta das Bágeiras! This time equipped with his new Pai Abel entry level wine, together with the delicious reservas and garrafeiras, premium examples of the traditional style baga from outside Sangalhos, Bairrada. The oldest one this time was a Garrafeira 1990, a sublime pure baga wine, with red fruit aromas, the usual peppery notes, hints of smoke and a bit of raisin. He also brought an outstanding white Garrafeira 2012. These are all wines made in the deepest respect and understanding for their tradition. One can hardly claim they are modern, but they surely are complete.
Hey: Mário Sérgio is here!
But he was not the only one from Bairrada. Campolargo was there, I have heard, though I didn’t see him (so little time…). Up and coming organic producer Vadio I saw. They brought some really nice wines, also based on the baga grape, but with a bit more modern touch. They use “wild” yeasts to start the fermentation, but some cultivated yeasts later in the process, some French oak (never exaggerated), resulting in robust, but not aggressive, wines. The Grande Vadio 2011 was a wine for long ageing, a lot of tannins and super acidity, and a very supple fruit to go with it. They also brought superb citric, flowery whites from old vine cerceal, along with arinto (and also a bical version). Ataíde Semedo, known for Quinta da Dôna, was there. He had now brought a pure baga, and a 50/50 baga/touriga. Tired of oak, he sold all his barrels some years ago, so these wines are very pure, some maybe a tough too much “worked”. I particularly liked his Colheita 2013, a fine baga on the light and elegant side.
Quinta da Pellada of Dão was represented, so was Infantado (Douro), a couple of producers from Colares and many more. I tasted some wonderful whites from Muxagat (Douro), such as a 90% rabigato, and a barrel-fermented 100% rabigato called Os Xistos Altos 2011. I never made it to the fortified wines like Barbeito of Madeira (sorry, Ricardo, next time!).
There were also visits from abroad. Juan González of As Furnias had travelled over the border from Rías Baixas’ subzone Condado do Tea with his interesting low-sulphured, low-barriqued natural wines from several local grapes.
Prominent guests from Italy, such as piemontese Luca Roagna and Giuseppe Rinaldi, were also there. I didn’t see them, but their wines surely were present. So were the wines from French domaines Gonon (Rhône) and Maréchal (Burgundy).
Tune in next Friday, when our Wine of the Week will be one that we tasted during this fair.
The sun was down, the moon was up, the discoveries lay behind us, time to find a hotel bed… And the band played on!