Tag Archives: Portugal

White contrasts

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.

Price: Low

Food: Grilled seafood, white fish, some bacalhau dishes, salads

Quinta das Bágeiras: As traditional as they come in Bairrada

I have recently been in Bairrada visiting some of the best producers. While I am working on a longer piece (and have indeed finished one for the Norwegian magazine Vinforum) I here give you another wine as our Wine of the Week. Last time I talked about the project of Dirk Niepoort, that together with Filipa Pato can be called the leading “modernist” producers, at least in the subtle, low-alcohol, low-extraction style. Compared to these, Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno can be dubbed “traditionalist”. But they are all “Baga Friends” (as the name of their group suggests), and I would say that the similarities overshadow the differences.

Quinta das Bágeiras produces wine from own vineyards at Fogueira, in northern Bairrada. Fogueira means something like bonfire in Portuguese, and you may have seen the flame on the labels. Mário Sérgio leads the family firm, and his son Frederico is now under education in enology. Winemaker Rui Alves (a defender of traditional expertise) and other good helpers have been with him for many years.

2017-08-31 16.24.52 - Mário Sérgio Alves Nuno og sønnen Frederico Nuno Mário Sérgio and Frederico Nuno

The vineyards are treated in a natural way, without spraying and fertilizing, no yeasts are added, there is whole-bunch fermentation, foot-trodding in lagares of cement, and ageing on big wooden vats.

Mário Sérgio has always convinced us with the qualities of his colheitas, reservas and garrafeiras, both red and white. Quite recently he has expanded his portfolio with wines called Pai Abel (a hommage to his father, wines from a single vineyard on clay and limestone by Ancas, close to Fogueira) and Avô Fausto, a nod to his grandfather, who established the first vineyards).

I was tempted to chose his Super Reserva Rosé 2011, a super rosé with 12 months skin-contact and five years on the lees, a complex, tasty, herby sparkler. But the red bagas are the most prominent wines throughout the quinta’s history, and we end up with the Garrafeira 2005. It is approaching its peak (where these wines can stay for a long time).

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Quinta das Bágeiras Garrafeira 2005

Dark, deep, showing beginning development. Super berry fruit (cherry, morello), but also some coffee and earthy, darker aromas. And here are enough tannins and acidity for a long life. Power and finesse!

Price: Medium

 

Two Portuguese wines at Tati, Lisboa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baga in a different direction

I am in Baga country, Bairrada, with a bunch of dedicated wine people.

There are various styles from that grape, reds, rosés, sparkling, and big variations between each of them. I believe that baga and Bairrada could have been marginalized, almost forgotten, had it not been for the revitalization of the classical styles a couple of decades ago – and now the “Baga Friends” group, seven producers with a real passion for that grape (some of them also the main players behind the revitalization I talked about). Baga is difficult to grow, the climate in Bairrada is challenging, but when all is under control the wines can have a great personality, rich in tannin, acidity, and with a unique aromatic profile – something unique in the wine world.

20170902_154703 Dirk Niepoort talking to journalists in the cellar

Today we visited Quinta de Baixo, in Cantanhede. I visited this southern Bairrada winery some ten years ago, just after the former owner had raised the yellow adega building. In 2012 Dirk van der Niepoort acquired it, and is now taking it in a different direction.

-Bairrada does not need to rely on power, says Dirk Niepoort, -I believe the baga wines from limestone soils can have light colour, low alcohol, good acidity, chalkiness and elegance. So from the beginning we decided to work with earlier picking, no extraction and with a lot of whole bunch pressing. And he continues: -With baga it’s important not to play too much with oak (and that’s good music in my ears…).

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Baga from a more than 100 years old vineyard just above sea level at Cantanhede

Poeirinho refers to the former designation of the baga variety and is a tribute to the Bairrada wines of the past. Those were were light in colour and low in alcohol, but still with ageing potential.

Poeirinho 2015 was vinified in lagares for 4 weeks, and it stayed in the same large, used vat through alcohol- and malo-lactic fermentation and 20 months ageing, before it was bottled unfiltered.

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Poeirinho 2015 (Quinta de Baixo)

Light red with violet hints. Expressive aroma of cherry, with a touch of spice and some chalky elements. It’s a pure and juicy wine with elegant tannins and a refreshing acidity, concentrated yet pleasant to drink now, with a low 12% alcohol (the previous one had only 11).

Price: Medium

Food: Red meats, roasted lamb, suckling pig, sausages, ham, cheese, bacalhau, salads…

 

Stavanger fair III: Portugal

Portugal came somehow in the shadow of the many Spanish contributions of the fair. However there were some old favourites. Alvaro Castro continues to do an excellent job near the Serra da Estrela national park. Two of my favourites are his lovely, fresh young Saes Dão 2015 from a traditional Dão blend -dark berries, mountain vegetation, a touch of spices-, and its more ambitious touriga-based brother Quinta de Saes Reserva 2012.

From Douro I had the pleasure to retaste one of Niepoort‘s bestsellers, a typical Douro blend that changes its name according to market. If I remember right it started in Germany as Fabelhaft, and in Norway it’s translated into Fabelaktig, now in the 2015 vintage. This one too is a fruity, almost silky red, with aromas of red berries, some spice and just a slightly sweet oak-tone.

Luís Seabra was represented by Xisto Ilimitado 2014. His project is characterized by a wish to express the terroir, low-intervention vinification, ageing in big, used vats. His favours were hired by Dirk Niepoort a.o., but he finally choose to go solo and made good wines from his first vintage in 2013. This wine was dark, with cool fruitiness, a little spicy, surprisingly light, but with just enough structure to bind it nicely together. As the name suggests the wine has a mineral touch, and the acidity gives it a long and lingering farewell.

IMG_0990 Yes, it takes a little bit of concentration

Luís Pato was represented by no less than twelve wines. Pato lives and works in Óis do Bairro in the Bairrada region, but for political reasons he chose to declassify his production some years ago. The wines are obviously at a high level, and among the many wines I appreciated this particular evening were two of his whites, the Maria Gomes Branco 2014, golden, rich, glycerine-full and a hint of citrus and tropical fruits, and the Vinhas Velhas Branco 2014 (50% bical, the rest sercial and sercialinho), more concentrated, slender, with notes of green apples, yellow plums and a stony minerality. Among the reds I will limit myself to mention three wines, the Baga Natural 2012, a relatively new wine in the portfolio, a no-sulphur-added, expressive, fruity and a little earthy wine in the lower end of the price-scale. Another budget wine is the Colheita Seleccionada 2013 (baga with touriga nacional), unoaked, cherry red, with red fruits and herbs. Then there was the Vinhas Velhas 2011, nowadays more on the fruity side and less woody than it used to be, although it has seen big French barrels for a year. I have recently tasted ’90 and ’95 versions of the wine, both still drinking very nicely. This wine is for considerably shorter shelf-life. All right, I’ll give you one more, the always lovely Vinha Pan, now in the 2013 vintage. This chalky clay-vineyard is harvested twice, first for rosé and sparkling wines, then one and a half months later to give this red wine, relatively dark, with red fruit aromas, decadent underwood, mushrooms, and some notes in the balsamic/lickorice direction. Very “baga”, very good.

Conventially made ports was not the focus of my visit, but I couldn’t avoid noticing that Symington was present.

2017-01-21 13.01.26 In front of the Symington port table

 

IMG_3987 Aftertaste: Yes, another successful fair has come to an end

Organic vintage port: Casal dos Jordões 2004

I am aware that choosing the 2004 vintage may seem a bit strange, since this producer has launched a couple of more recent vintages, like 2011. On the other hand, the ’04 is still in the market and better than ever.

I visited Arlindo da Costa Pinto e Cruz last in 2010, when this picture was taken. The winery is located in Casais do Douro in the municipality of São João da Pesqueira, on the south side of the Douro, along the river Torto. Schist is the predominant soil in their typical terraces found all over Alto Corgo.

IMG_1968 Arlindo Cruz in the main vineyard near São João

Casal dos Jordões dates back to 1870, and has always belonged to the Jordões family. Jordões must have been the first port producer in Douro with organic farming certificates. I even remember a rosé port from my last visit.

IMG_1970 Schist in the vineyard

The wine is made from the normal port grapes (touriga nacional, touriga francesa, tinta roriz and tinta barroca) sourced from their main vineyard and a couple more along the Rio Torto. It’s made with the typical port process, with addition of brandy, kept in barrel for less than two years – and when bottled it has never been clarified nor filtered.

Casal dos jordes 2004

Casal dos Jordões Vintage 2004 (Casal dos Jordões)

Deep dark, showing some development. Mature dark fruit (blackberry, blackcurrant), nutmeg, some chocolate, and a touch of dried fruit. Rich and smooth on the palate, but not too sweet, very persistant. An excellent port from an “off-year” (Arlindo said everybody could make a good vintage port in 2003, so for him that was no challenge…), and it will still age beautifully.

Price: Medium

Food: Blue cheese, desserts (chocolate-based a.o.)

Riesling surprise

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

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

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

antonio_q-santana  António Moita Maçanita, winemaker

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

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

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

Baga & friends from Quinta da Serradinha

I first met António Marques da Cruz and tasted his wines a few years ago, in a restaurant owned by the family of fellow winemaker Pedro Marques in Lisboa. Next occation was a wine fair down by the river Tejo. You can read about it here. Since then I have occationally come across the wines in bars, mostly in Portugal (such as the Café Tati), that specialize in quality wines from artisan growers.

2014-07-10-23-16-41 Meeting António and tasting his wines in Lisboa

It was quite surprising to find a baga from just outside Leiria. But looking at it, the humid climate near the coast and the limestone-clay soils (also with chalk content) are not very different from what you can find many places in Bairrada, where the grape is at it most emblematic. The Marques family was pioneers in organic viticulture and low-intervention winemaking in the area.

The next surprise was that the wine was that old. I came across it this year too, in London, and it had really stood the test of time. Baga is also used in younger blends, giving both fresh and meaty, blueberry and blackberry scented wines.

The Baga 1999 comes from a vineyard planted back in 1957. It has 75% baga, the rest being a field blend of castelão, trincadeira and alicante bouschet. Everything was hand-harvested, the maceration was carried out in 20 days. The wine was aged in big 3000L barrels, and the wine was bottled without filtration. Alcoholwise it clocks in at just 12%. I think at a time the wine was labelled Estremadura (the name of the wine region now known as Lisboa).

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Quinta da Serradinha 1999 (António Marques da Cruz)

Deep cherry red. It still retains some freshness, with blueberry intact, but with aged aromas such as nuts, dried fruits and a touch of raisins. Concentrated, still pretty lively in the mouth, with some acidity. But everything is just so well integrated.

Price: Medium

Food: Many kinds of meat, hard cheeses, lovely on its own

From southern Alentejo

I’m on a mission. And I’m in Alentejo, the apparently flat and harsh (I didn’t say dull) Portuguese region that is the world’s biggest resource of cork oak. This is a modern red wine from the southern subregion of Vidigueira, maybe surprisingly a white stronghold in this area full of surprises.

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Rocim 2012 (Herdade do Rocim)

Dark, deep red. Aroma of red fruits and deep forests, and a touch of eucalyptus, and with a sweet component too. Full on the palate, with young, round tannins and good length.

Price: Medium

Food: I had it with both roast mushrooms with garlic and olive oil and black pig with mashed apples. But any red meat or game would be near an ideal accompaniment

A natural green wine

Fernando Paiva has been one of the pioneers of biodynamic farming in Portugal, making whites from loureiro, arinto, and azal grapes for white, and reds from vinhão. He is based in Sousa, a sub-region of Vinho Verde (literally “green wine”, the Minho region’s wine name) with less than average rainfall and no direct influence from the Atlantic. At the same time the climate is more moderate compared to the extreme cold nights and winters and summer heat of the inland, so we could consider it a transition area. Azal is one of the grapes that benefit from this, as it’s more difficult to ripen, compared to, say alvarinho.

 Life at the quinta

Our wine is a 100% loureiro, a grape that thrieves in the whole region. The must had a spontaneous fermentation, spent almost a year on fine lees, and additions of SO2 is very scarce. It’s rich and smooth-textured compared with more well-known loureiros, but the high acidity (almost 10 g/L) makes it very appealing.

2016-01-22 20.20.38 Simple and delicious fare

Quinta da Palmirinha 2014 (Fernando Paiva)

Quite deep yellow with a greenish hue. Aromas of yellow apple, lime, herbs, nuts and a hint of smoke. Inspiring and fresh acidity, that makes it last in the mouth.

Price: Low

Food: Fish, shellfish, white meat

 

 

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