Posts Tagged : Alentejo

Monte da Ravasqueira presents Summer collection and also…

Text João Barbosa | Translation Bruno Ferreira

Returning to Ravasqueira is a pleasure. The property is beautiful, imposing and well arranged. I went back there this Spring and I saw, for the first time, the buffer coupling car collection, all in immaculate condition, the oldest being from the eighteenth century.

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The buffer coupling car collection – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

The wine was, again, the reason for this visit. The offer is already broad. This time I got to know novelties and I was introduced to new editions of some references, such as Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs. Since summer is upon us, comes the pretext of telling about the suggestions of this Arraiolos firm.

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Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

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Monte da Ravasqueira Syrah + Viognier 2015 – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

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Monte da Ravasqueira Viognier 2013 – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

The Syrah grape variety and the Alentejo have a long and happy love relationship. The same happens with the Viognier. The Monte da Ravasqueira Syrah + Viognier 2015 was made with the grapes mixed during fermentation, in the fashion of Côtes du Rhône. The Monte da Ravasqueira Viognier 2013 is in the form of sin. It’s confirmed the mutual passion between the land and these grapes.

As for the summer, this house features two whites and one rosé, all from the year 2015 and demanding sand and salt water, shade and pool, living and grills.

The Monte da Ravasqueira Sauvignon Blanc 2015 is fresh and the citric character seasons the grape variety’s tropicality. Feels good and is great for the conversations of the endless afternoons.

The Monte da Ravasqueira white 2015 is more complex and more interesting. The winemaker Pedro Gonçalves Pereira created a ball of Alvarinho, Arinto, Semillon and Viognier. The grape varieties complete themselves rather than trampling each other. It’s good to drink by itself, but the ideal is to have it with food.

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Monte da Ravasqueira Sauvignon Blanc 2015 – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

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Monte da Ravasqueira white 2015 – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

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Monte da Ravasqueira Rosé 2015 – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

But the one that delighted me the most was the Monte da Ravasqueira Rosé 2015, made with the Aragonês and Syrah grape varities. This one wants to party! Asks for conversation, food and pool jumps.

Did I say findings? Yes, I did say. Touriga Franca and Sangiovese.

Touriga Franca in Alentejo? Sangiovese in Alentejo? Yes, it’s true. The adaptability of the first outside of the Douro is a rarity. At least, a clearly positive result. The second one is a rarity in Portugal. However…

However, at Monte da Ravasqueira in Arraiolos, the two varieties are grown and have already given grapes for wine, both are from 2012. At the lunch table, Pedro de Mello and Filipe de Mello asked by desires. Once the requests were made, came the bottles.

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Monte da Ravasqueira SG 2012 – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

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Monte da Ravasqueira TF 2012 – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

The Monte da Ravasqueira SG 2012 is stunning. Also stunning is the Monte da Ravasqueira TF 2012. One thing leads to another, and we took advantage of the absence of the winemaker to play of sorcerer’s apprentice. The blend was made by eye with 70% Sangiovese and 30% Touriga Franca. I think adding 5% to the Italian and removing from the Portuguese will make the wine better.

But, my business is not oenology… I leave a pungent appeal: Pedro Gonçalves Pereira think about it! Make 1,000 bottles and I’ll buy them all! Since I mentioned it… it never hurts to hear “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, symphonic poem by Paul Dukas inspired by a work of Johann von Goethe. By the way, watch or rewatch “Fantasia”, the animated film that Disney made in 1940, based on the work of this French composer of the nineteenth century, in which Mickey Mouse plays the role of a wayward youth.

Contacts
Monte da Ravasqueira
7040-121 Arraiolos
Tel: (+351) 266 490 200
Fax: (+351) 266 490 219
E-mail: ravasqueira@ravasqueira.com
Website: www.ravasqueira.com

Adega de Vidigueira, Inspiração and Bonança

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Bruno Ferreira

Once upon a time, in a land far away named Alentejo wine region were conjured some “fairy godmothers” and each one of them had the power to create their own Adega Cooperativa. Thus were created the Cooperativa de Borba, Portalegre, Redondo, Reguengos de Monsaraz, Granja/Amareleja e Vidigueira. For decades these cellars were the epitome of the subregions of where they were inserted, the wines differed among themselves and showed with panache the characteristics of these regions and grape varieties which back then were almost unique to one or the other. Then came the dark times, the magic that was wrapping the Adegas Cooperativas got lost because of the stoppage in time, which literally swallowed the vast majority. Added to all this, a new wave of producers hungry for recognition has led to a wave of new labels to appearing on the shelves at breakneck speed. The consumer, the consumer got confused and not knowing where to turn. On the one hand he had at hand the wines that he always used to have at the table, on the other hand there were also many “toys” calling out for the consumer’s attention. So, the much needed investment in expansion and renewal of the Adegas Cooperativas portfolio went through, with the introduction of new products but essentially with the redesign of the entire image, which meant a breath of fresh air bringing back to life some of them.

The Adega de Vidigueira is one of this cases with happy “ending”, where the renewal was put into place and which is now showing its results. I recall you that is was recently considered the “Cooperativa of the Year 2015” by Revista de Vinhos. On a journey that tries to bring closer the cellar and its village, Vidigueira, to the achievements of other times, to the link with Vasco da Gama – the Count of Vidigueira – the intention is to fulfill the discovery promise and claim a region so deeply marked by the culture wine. The portfolio was thus divided into seven acts (O Prenúncio | A Partida | A Saudade | A Inspiração | A Decisão …) that connect themselves through a journey around the region, culture and history, always a state of discovery.

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Vidigueira Alicante Bouschet 2014 – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

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Vidigueira Reserva 2014 – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

In Act IV – Inspiration comes this Vidigueira Alicante Bouschet 2014 showing all of the grape variety’s temperament, austerity with very ripe fruit along with jam, cocoa, and needing some time in the glass because it is initially very wrapped in a very fresh mantle. A wine that is as intense as gluttonous, young and ready to last in the bottle, the palate is full of energy meaning it is a good match for good seasoning dishes. In Act VI – Bonança arises Vidigueira Reserva 2014, a 12 months aged in new French oak barrels 100% Syrah. A beautiful wine with everything to please and conquer immediately, full and fleshy, very juicy and gluttonous with fruit bursting with flavor in the mouth, warm and silky touch resulting in a wine with beautiful structure and firmness. The freshness packs it all without letting the fruit fall into ordinary temptations, juicy, complex and dangerously attractive, opulent and lustful Syrah. To be opened in a time where bonanza deserves to be celebrated.

Contacts
Bairro Indústrial
7960-305 Vidigueira
Tel: (+351) 284 437 240
Fax. (+351) 284 437 249
E-mail: geral@adegavidigueira.pt
Website: www.adegavidigueira.com.pt

Herdade de Vale Barqueiros

Text Bruno Mendes

A few kilometers from Alter do Chão we find Herdade de Vale Barqueiros. With an area of around 800 ha it was founded in 1853 and belongs to Comendador Vasco Faria’s family. At the moment it has 368 ha of olive grove and 122 ha of vineyards, in which are mainly planted the grape varieties as Arinto, Fernão Pires and Antão Vaz in the whites and Aragonês, Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional in the reds. But they also bet on the international grape varieties such as the Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and the Cabarnet Sauvignon.

This Herdade also holds 140 ha of cork oak and stone pine, 2 dams, 3 ponds, a hunting area, a sport fishing club and has its own winery where the wine is produced making use of the most modern technologies without ever neglecting the tradition and the knowledge acquired over the more than 25 years producing “Vale Barqueiros” wines. Since 2010, Joachim Roque is the one in charge of the oenology and seeks together with his team to create personalized wines with above-average quality that reveal this estate’s “terroir”.

To get to know more details about this estate see the video below:

Herdade da Comporta

Text Bruno Mendes

Herdade da Comporta, a property located 1 hour south of Lisbon, on the Alentejo coast, between Alcácer do Sal and Grândola. The landscape is stroke by beaches, dunes, pine forests and rice fields which provide a unique beauty and very desirable to tourism.

With 12,500 hectares Herdade da Comporta is one of the leading national agricultural producers. Here you can expect to taste quality wine as well as horseback riding, golfing, beach, yoga, bird watching, among others. A world of experiences awaits you. The video below reflects some of the magic that you can find in this Estate.

Herdade das Servas 2013 wines with friends

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

Three beautiful Alentejo wines for a chat between an iconoclast and friends. Of true Alentejo character, aromas and flavours. Brave, for the strong food of this province. However, there’s another thing…

The term ‘iconoclast’ is a hyperbole. I am not a Taliban who breaks holy, unquestionable rules, nor do I make idols out of icons. Actually, I find savagery (poetic ugliness) more interesting than transparent sectarianism (because the former results from ignorance). A word is missing: “once-in-a-while-misaligned-just-because-and-also-to-maintain-a-good-level-of-sanity.”

Why this introduction? It means to prevent you from taking me for a fool or for being arrogant. The topic is how wine can be gastronomic. Should wine be “gastronomic”? Is it advantageous? Is wine only good when it must be taken with food?

This is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage. I think either harmonising wine with food or not is equally valid. Going straight to the G-spot… does it give pleasure? Pleasure must be its sole purpose. The wine is important, the food is important, and… who ever is sitting with us or without us is just as important, if not more.

The Portuguese repeatedly boast about their wines for being “very gastronomic”. This praise usually follows an applause for its Mediterranean background, with a cult and liturgy of food.

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Herdade das Servas – Photo Provided by Herdade das Servas | All Rights Reserved

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Herdade das Servas – Photo Provided by Herdade das Servas | All Rights Reserved

Of course I want the wine to be appropriate for the food. This doesn’t mean I despise the appropriateness of a wine, food, or utensils, but meals are most pleasurable to me when shared with friends – friendship is what we celebrate in social gatherings.

Half of me comes from Alentejo; this fact sometimes leads me to jokingly state that I am from Alentejo. Where from? From Campo Grande, Lisbon. “My” area of Alentejo has no wine. There are no vineyards in my family’s fields.

I do not drink borrowed Alentejo. But there is a specific Alentejo wine that belongs to me, and it tastes of, or reminds me of evenings by the fireplace… quiet men listening patiently as the ladies list family ties, estates and lives.

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Harvest – Photo Provided by Herdade das Servas | All Rights Reserved

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Herdade das Servas wines – Photo Provided by Herdade das Servas | All Rights Reserved

I have been introduced to three wines: Herdade das Servas Colheita Seleccionada Red 2013, Herdade das Servas Alicante Bouschet 2013 and Herdade das Servas Touriga Nacional 2013. They were served during a meal composed only of traditionally Alentejo dishes, in O Galito restaurant, in Lisbon. The perfect match as it always should be.

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Talhas – Photo Provided by Herdade das Servas | All Rights Reserved

The wines that bring up this conversation are beautiful specimens from Alentejo. Harvest after harvest, Herdade das Servas has been proving to be a good bet. They all have good structure, firm tannins, and tastiness, and they all last on the mouth. I will not use descriptors, but they are obviously different… two are varietal and the other is a blend of Touriga Nacional (40%), Alicante Bouschet (30%), Aragonês (20%), and Trincadeira (10%).

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Winery – Photo Provided by Herdade das Servas | All Rights Reserved

Now, to enter the outer layer of “taste”: the Alicante Bouschet left a stronger mark on me. I am not a big fan of Touriga Nacional from Alentejo; however, this variation of the grape variety in Herdade das Servas is capable of belonReserved”that Alentejo”, which I confess to long for… actually, those three wines do.

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Distribution Room – Photo Provided by Herdade das Servas | All Rights Reserved

What should I eat with them?! The classic answer works every time. I am most interested in conversations with nice people, especially with varietals. I don’t care if I will or will not be able to stand up straight; I don’t plan on driving.

You can read more about Herdade das Servas here and here.

Contacts
Serrano Mira SA
Herdade das Servas, Apartado 286
7101-909 Estremoz -Portugal
Tel: (+351) 268 322 949
Fax: (+351) 268 339 420
E-mail: info@herdadedasservas.com
Website: www.herdadedasservas.com

Precision Engineering: Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha Das Romãs

Text Sarah Ahmed

I was bowled over by Monte da Ravasqueira’s latest releases, especially Monte da Ravasqueira Premium White 2012, Premium Rosé 2013 and Vinha das Romãs 2012.  A case of third time lucky because, although invariably well made, this Alentejo’s producer’s wines were not an instant hit with me. Did I miss something? Even the best wine tasters sometimes get out of bed on the wrong side!

A vertical tasting this June went some way to answering my question.  Looking at different vintages of the same wine is my favourite way to assess, not only the impact of the ‘hand of god’ (vintage variation), but also the human hand – changes in viticultural and winemaking approach are laid bare too. So what did I learn from looking at three vintages of Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs (2012, 2011, 2010)?

If we’re talking ‘hand of god,’ each vintage lived up to expectation.  The 2012 was elegant with good structure.  The denser 2011 had more powerful fruit.  As for the 2010, it was relatively open-knit and, with a splash of Alicante Bouschet, a touch rustic – significantly the least age-worthy of the trio (even taking into account its relative age).   All in all, it seemed to me that the 2012 had an extra degree of refinement – greater finesse.  With brighter, better-defined fruit, it was more balanced than the teetering towards over-ripe 2011. In fact, contrary to received wisdom about these vintages, I reckon the 2012 will comfortably outlive the 2011.

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Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs Single Vineyard 2012 – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

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Chief Winemaker Pedro Pereira Gonçalves – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

How come?  The varietal mix (70% Syrah, 30% Touriga Franca) is the same, as is the winemaking; I don’t think a year’s difference in vine age matters a jot (as a general rule, wines attain better balance with age).  For me the answer lies in Monte da Ravasqueira’s adoption of precision viticulture in 2012 (and the dynamic incoming Chief Winemaker who implemented it, Pedro Pereira Gonçalves).

To borrow from The Oxford Companion to Wine (Jancis Robinson MW), precision viticulture means “vineyard management is targeted rather than implemented uniformly over large areas.” It involves using technologies like infrared imaging, global positioning systems (GPS) and geographic information systems (GIS) first to assess, then manage, vineyard variables (such as soil type, depth and structure) which influence wine quality, quantity and style.

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An aerial view of Monte da Ravasqueira – Photo Provided by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

For Gonçalves, managing the variables within each of Monte da Ravasqueira’s 29 vineyard blocks, even within the same variety, has been the key to a “true interpretation of terroir.”   Returning to the sheer balance of the 2012, one senses that each vine performed to the best of its ability, making it easier to pick at lower baumé before grape sugars shot up and while natural acidity was good.  At any rate it surely explains why the 2012 vintage is a full degree and a half lower in alcohol by volume.

When I subsequently checked out my impressions about the 2012 with Gonçalves, whilst acknowledging the ‘hand of god’ (“2012 was a fantastic year for Syrah and Touriga Franca”), he enthusiastically agreed.  To borrow from Jennifer Aniston (!) this time, “here comes the science bit.  Concentrate.”  According to the winemaker, “with the information that we have from the precision viticulture techniques, it was possible to look at the spots in the vineyard with more balance and separate them from the others. It doesn’t mean that the others were less quality, but they were not what I look to for the Vinha das Romas wine, that is a balance between alcohol, tannins and acidity, quality of tannins (high values of anthocyans and IPT’s (anthocyans+tannins) and type of fruit flavours (more complex flavours, black fruit and spicy characters without that easy red fruit that sometimes we see on Syrah).”

Here are my notes on the wines from Vinha das Romãs.   Incidentally, Romãs refers to the vineyard’s previous incarnation – it was a pomegranate orchard until 2002 when a five hectare parcel was replanted to Syrah and Touriga Franca.  The plot is vinified and bottled separately because it produces particularly ripe, concentrated grapes.

Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs Single Vineyard 2010 (Vinho Regional Alentejano) – a blend of mostly Syrah and Touriga Nacional with a small percentage of Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Franca (despite the name, the concept of a single vineyard was not implemented here because “Vinha das Romãs” vineyard is only planted to Touriga Franca and Syrah).  The 2010 was aged for nine months in French oak barrels, less than half the time of the 2011 and 2012.  This together with the vintage itself perhaps explains why it is significantly paler and less structured than other vintages.  On nose and palate it has a distinctive menthol, spicy character and pronounced iodine note which I recalled from my first tasting of the 2012 earlier in the year.  Gamey undertones to the 2010’s open-knit sweet and yielding plum fruit put me in mind of Rhône Syrah.  The tannins are ripe and a touch rustic.  Drinking very well now this is not a keeper.  14.5%

Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs Single Vineyard 2011 (Vinho Regional Alentejano) – this spicy blend of 70% Syrah/30% Touriga Franca was aged for 20 months in new French oak barrels.  It is the darkest, densest wine of the three.  Concentrated ripe black berry and riper still (arguably over-ripe) black olive notes are well framed by ripe but present tannins.  A firm thrust of acidity pulls out the fruit over a long finish.  A vigorous wine.  14.5%

Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs Single Vineyard 2012 (Vinho Regional Alentejano) – the same blend and elevage as the 2011, but this is a more animated, motile wine.   Though its blackberry and plum fruit is poised, very well-defined, it has an exciting spatial quality which gives room for this vineyard’s distinctive spicy liquorice, eucalypt and iodine notes to shine.  I remain impressed by the fresh profile and dry, firm, pomegranate-like pithy tannins of this intense but elegant wine – qualities which suggest it will age rather well – for a decade at least. 13%

Contacts
Monte da Ravasqueira
7040-121 ARRAIOLOS
Tel: (+351) 266 490 200
Fax: (+351) 266 490 219
E-mail: ravasqueira@ravasqueira.com
Website: www.ravasqueira.com

Monte da Ravasqueira and the unusual wines

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

The wine growing history in Monte da Ravasqueira goes far back. Work on the vine started in 1998. The first plantation happened in 2000, and the first vintage to go on the market was in 2002, released in 2003 with Fonte Serrana. However, this property in Arraiolos county has been there for a long time, despite the close family ties between the current owners and the contemporary history of Portugal.

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Monte da Ravasqueira – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

The land used to belong to Dom Nuno Álvares Pereira, a Portuguese constable and strategist, who lead Dom João (future João 1st of Portugal) and his party to victory in the succession war against Dom João 1st, King of Castile and León, between 1383 and 1385. The land was handed over along with the title of Count of Arraiolos, nowadays belonging to Dom Duarte Pio de Bragança (25th owner), the 24th Duque of Bragança, and heir to the Portuguese Crown.

However, with time, Herdade da Ravasqueira has seen different owners and boundaries. In this story, it’s most important to look at history from 1943 onwards, when it was inherited by the Mello family, who owned a business emporium at the time, created by Alfredo da Silva with Companhia União Fabril.

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Herdade da Ravasqueira – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

The revolution on the 25th April 1974 obviously caused upheavals. Politics tended towards the left wing, especially the Portuguese Communist Party; the Mellos went into exile, and their property was nationalised. Herdade da Ravasqueira was occupied by workers in a process known as Land Reform.

With the return of political stability, and when Portugal was included in the East-European family of democracies, the Mellos were able to return and newly take up their place as business leaders in the country. In addition, this land in Alentejo was handed back to its previous owners in 1980, but is practically decrepit due to abandonment and negligence.

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Cattle – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

Herdade da Ravasqueira has about 7413 acres, about 3700 of which are forested. Cattle count goes up to 500 heads of bovine, a cross of mertolengo with limusine. The olive trees also take up a small parcel. The biggest activity is wine, with 111 acres of vines split into 29 plots.

This Alentejo area is on a slope, which allows for different shades according to the different heights. At the same time, the soil is very variable, with ten different formations, and clay-calcareous soil being dominant, although the vine is located in areas with outcropping of granite and schist.

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The Vines – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

The degree of clay is somewhere between 20 and 30%, according to Pedro Pereira Gonçalves, the director for wine growing and oenology. The soil composition allows for water retention deep down, which causes some water stress, in turn forcing hard work on the plants. If necessary, a drop-by-drop watering system is available. “It’s better if the vine asks us for water rather than having us water it.” – says the expert.

Pedro Pereira Gonçalves has been working for this producer since 2012. Although young, he already has a good resume and a reputation. They have been betting on freshness, harvesting the fruit earlier than the rest of Alentejo. This way, they can make nectars of high alcohol levels, which are rare today – although the trend tends to go that way.

“Ravasqueira has a lot of bodies of water, and it’s in a valley, so you obtain more freshness”, notes Pedro Pereira Gonçalves. Well, the alcohol level in the whites was raised up to a surprising 11.5%, sometimes reaching 12.5%. In the reds, the scale goes from 13% to 13.5%.

One of the decisions of this young oenologist was – still a rare thing in Portugal – to have a photographer shoot the land while on a plane using different spectral bands. “It enabled the harvest, which was performed plot by plot, to be performed by area.” – says the expert.

Thanks to this additional insight, it’s been possible to coordinate the wines with the desired profiles. Precision agriculture “allows us to make the wine on the vine”. Since Pedro Pereira Gonçalves arrived, the number of proposals from a higher end of the range has raised, namely reserves and monovarietals. Diversity makes a production of seven monovarietal wines possible: Alvarinho, Nero D’Avola, Petit Verdot, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Touriga Franca and Viognier. Next year, they will be releasing a sparkling wine.

The Alvarinho variety originates in Northwest Portugal, where the climate is cooler. If mishaps in Vinho Verde region can sometimes generate orange juice (fortunately, it doesn’t always happen), in hot Alentejo, they sometimes melt into sweets – a little heavy, and thus nauseating. There is nothing more unusual than what’s produced at Monte da Ravasqueira, where the variety was planted in a more airy and cooler area.

Monte da Ravasqueira Alvarinho 2013 includes notes of tangerine, it’s mineral and elegant, revealing a potential for ageing in the bottle. If you close your eyes and allow yourself to dream a little, it will even whisper the word Chablis… mind you, it’s but a gentle suggestion.

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Monte da Ravasqueira Alvarinho – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

Monte da Ravasqueira Reserva White 2013 was made with Alvarinho (40%) and Viognier (60%); it’s slippery, so… be careful. This wine has good texture in the mouth, and aromas of lime and peach.

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Monte da Ravasqueira Reserva White – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

MR Premium White was made in honour of the father of the current generation of Grupo Mello owners, José Manuel de Mello. According to the oenologist, this wine isn’t consensual, “but it wasn’t meant to be either”. It’s a repository of all the honoured person’s favourite varieties: Alvarinho, Aringo, Marsanne, Semillon and Viognier. In the 2013 edition, Pedro Pereira Gonçalves chose a more New Zealand-like approach: to close the wines inside casks for one year. Notes of vanilla, rich tea biscuits, white chocolate and plum notes emerged. Very elegant, and once again, slippery.

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MR Premium White – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

Monte da Ravasqueira Rosé 2014 was made from Touriga Nacional grapes, harvested early from the many plots it was planted in. It’s refreshing, and although the variety offers violets in the Dão region, here it reveals a bouquet of roses instead. It’s a pretend-sweet wine. A very interesting rosé.

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Monte da Ravasqueira Rosé – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs (Pommegranate Vine) is, as you can tell by the name, a product of a particular spot, where Syrah and Touriga Nacional varieties occur. In the 2012 edition, the French variety provided 70% of the grapes. It’s a very dry wine, albeit not austere. It promises to endure in the bottle.

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Monte da Ravasqueira Vinha das Romãs – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

MR Premium Red 2012, as a result of the variety of cultivars, is very rich and complex in what comes to aromas, which follow one-another, then match, split, make up, single or accompanied by the same partner. It shows a notable dash of nature in Alentejo – which I am a fan of – and it’s holly oak timber. In the mouth, it’s also a pretend sweet. It has the speed and bite of a roadster. I think it could also develop well in the bottle.

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MR Premium Red 2012 – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

Monte da Ravasqueira Touriga Franca 2012, to a fan of the variety – me –, is an itch. On a whim, I would forbid planting it outside Douro. I think that, after all the trips they made, few are able to achieve the charisma of that Northwestern Portuguese region. This doesn’t mean the quality isn’t there, it’s only an intellectual pet peeve.

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Monte da Ravasqueira Touriga Franca – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

In Ravasqueira, Touriga Franca proved to be an Alentejo variety in the 2012, with aromas of stubble and the oak and holly oak groves. It’s dry in the nose and the mouth reveals minerality, while also evoking chalk. It has fantastic tannins, it’s racing and elegant, let’s say it has the temper of a nobleman when in his rural property. Now, it needs decanting with some violence, or to be opened in advance. And it will last for years. I can see it’s a beautiful Touriga Franca!

Monte da Ravasqueira Syrah and Viognier (2012), 3% of which is the white variety, is a refreshing and lively wine, which evolves well in the glass and is quite interesting. I tasted it after the previous wine. It’s beautiful, although still a child comparing to the big boy. I would use the idiomatic expression “azar dos Távoras” (meaning the bad luck of the Távoras family when they were chased by the first marquis of Pombal, who ruled the country in the 18th Century, and ordered for almost the entire family’s arrest and murder).

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Monte da Ravasqueira Syrah and Viognier – Photo by Monte da Ravasqueira | All Rights Reserved

Summing up: freshness, and an unusual disarray of profiles, pretend-sweetness (good!), complexity and a promise of longevity.

Contacts
Monte da Ravasqueira
7040-121 ARRAIOLOS
Tel: (+351) 266 490 200
Fax: (+351) 266 490 219
E-mail: ravasqueira@ravasqueira.com
Website: www.ravasqueira.com

Herdade do Sobroso, Alentejo wines with a special temper

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

My memory is not what it used to be, but I can still remember visiting Herdade do Sobroso a few years ago, when everything was still setting off. The essential was already there: the vineyard, the forest and the kindness.

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Herdade do Sobroso – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

Now returning with more time, I am better equipped to observe the property development that has settled there since, both in terms of wine growth and wine tourism. It binds Alentejo, in its hot hues, to the city – thanks to the contemporary mode, and without the usual coldness. This tasteful architecture is linked to Architect Ginestal Machado’s stroke, him being a reference in the renowned Escola do Porto, and having given Portugal two Pritzker Architecture Prizes – the Nobel Prize in architecture.

When Ginestal Machado bought these 3950 acres in 2000, there was nothing there, due to the previous owners’ lack of dedication. A lot has been done and there is no stopping nature. This territory is also a hunting ground. Not surprisingly, I observed a broad variety and large number of animals when Filipe Teixeira Pinto, an employee and resident oenologist, brought me on a tour on 4×4.

I felt as if I were in a report for National Geographic Magazine: deer, mouflon, rabbits, hares, partridge, quail, black boar, wild ducks… The story says Sus scrofa (oink oink) are usually big and heavy, and one day, one of those black boar almost double the average size ever seen in Herdade do Sobroso was hunted.

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Pool – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

Wine isn’t everything, but it is the subject of this chronicle, and I have already rambled a little. Alentejo is a big region, the biggest in Portugal – about a third of continental Portugal, covering over 37,735 square yards – but many different realities take place inside. Herdade do Sobroso, Vidigueira, is an area with Designation of Controlled Origin, and famous for its white wines. Thanks to its orography and the margin of the Guadiana river, this area can achieve freshness often not present in Alentejo essences. Filipe Teixeira Pinto can count on Luís Duarte’s consulting support.

Out of the 3954 acres, only 128 are growing vines. The vinestock is composed of local, national and international varieties. All the white varieties are Portuguese: Alvarinho, Antão Vaz, Arinto, Perrum and Verdelho. The reds are more “travelled”: Alicante Bouschet, Alfrocheiro, Aragonês (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Tinta Grossa.

The first wine went on sale in 2008, and was made from the 2006 harvest. The main theme of the wines is freshness, which conveys wines their elegance. I think they are very wisely bringing down the alcohol levels, an almost inevitable feature in hotter regions. The rosé has 12.5% alcohol and the whites 13%, which is quite rare nowadays.

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Sobro Rosé 2014 – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

Judging by the alcohol levels, it’s easy to see that the rosé is not a by-product of the reds. Its grapes are harvested before the white ones. Sobro Rosé 2014 can combine two wishes, because it works (dangerously) well with relaxed chats, and makes an excellent accompaniment for delicate food. It was entirely made from Alicante Bouschet grapes.

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Anas white 2014 – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

The many wild ducks living there inspired the low-end brand, Anas – the family this webfooted bird belongs to is Anatidae. Anas Branco 2014 is a dialogue between Antão Vaz, a warm Alentejo variety, and Arinto, a national and very refreshing variety. They work well together (many producers have been resorting to this match), especially since the autochthonous variety has been pulled to a stop for being too heavy because it was harvested “too early” (at the right time). It’s delicious, and requires a chair and a pleasant view.

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Sobro white 2014 – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

Sobro white 2014 is more appropriate for food. Once again, the technical team kept the Antão Vaz grapes from crushing the wine. Perrum and Arinto were added in.

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Sobro red 2014 – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

Sobro red 2014 was made with Aragonês (Tempranillo) , Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes. My note goes to the beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes it more virtuous. Unfortunately, in Portugal, not everyone knows how to work with this variety – or they aren’t supposed to due to inadaptability. Sweet pepper is not the case here.

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Herdade do Sobroso red 2013 – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

Inside Herdade do Sobroso red 2013, I found Alentejo. The others have it too, but this one “was born there and lives there”. The lot has a singing accent, because of the Aragonês (Tempranillo) , Alicante Bouschet and Alfrocheiro grapes. Watch out for the red fruits and the chocolate, they pull your focus away like goblins… 14% alcohol. It’s time to eat, and the only thing I can think of is “carne de alguidar”, a traditional Alentejo specialty consisting in seasoned ribeye steak with sweet pepper pasta and a lot of garlic, with a side of migas (seasoned and moist bread made into a firm crumble).

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Herdade do Sobroso Cellar Selection red 2013 – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

Herdade do Sobroso Cellar Selection 2013 (red) is quite unique; it represents the owners’ taste, a signature wine. The match between Alicante Bouschet and Syrah is astounding and, once again, its freshness makes it dangerous. This is 14.5% alcohol. It’s a great wine. In terms of personal taste, this is my choice.

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Herdade do Sobroso Reserva red 2012 – Photo Provided by Herdade do Sobroso | All Rights Reserved

At last, the tippy top. Herdade do Sobroso Reserva 2012 (red) is also a wine of excellence, with elegance, requiring food and a long chat in an endless evening. The lot is made of Aragonês (Tempranillo), Alicante Bouschet and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In this case, the most notable is the French variety, adding “a bite”, spices and greens seasoning the baking chocolate, ripe cherries and vanilla. Once again, a short leash: 14.5% alcohol.

Contacts
Pedrógão, Apartado 61
7960-909 Vidigueira, Portugal.
Tel: (+351) 284 456 116
Mobile: (+351) 961 732 958
E-mail: geral@herdadedosobroso.pt
Website: www.herdadedosobroso.pt

Alentejo is a great region

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Jani Dunne

This text is but a very personal opinion about the land and region where I was born, Alentejo. I love walking around there; I love being carried through the scents and flavours that branded my memory from a tender age. It’s the motherland calling, the family calling, whom I was pulled away from when life had other plans for me; it is now so far, I cannot hold it whenever I please.

My destination was the same as that of many other generations born in Alentejo, the latter a poor land which has always thrived on the blood, sweat and tears of its people. That same old fate: moving to the city in search of a better life. In my case, I came to Lisbon to study, 125 miles away from my hometown, Vila Viçosa, and stayed. I have always made sure I live near fields; the fields that whether green or gold continue to feed and to season every generation.

That very need also generated an aroma-influenced style of cooking, which collected the best of every influence left behind by each civilisation passing through. This style, so rich and unique that it still delights so many people, was the same that fed those, who in difficult times had to make do with very little; and those who, although unaware, slowly composed the cuisine, some times on par with a luxurious Conventual Confectionary growing simultaneously taking root in the long line of religious orders settled in the many convents of the region.

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Alentejo – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

But wine shall be the subject of our interest. It was brought by the Roman culture in clay pots, their own technique still used in our days. Although the technique for designing the pots was forgotten in time, that does not stop producers from North to South of Portugal from searching for said pots. We will very soon be seeing that “trend”, which is not new at all, emerge in the market from Vinho Verde to Douro, Bairrada, and Lisbon.

As for more modern times, Alentejo wine has conquered the Portuguese market in its own merit when it comes to sales. They needed only a decade, if so much, to shift from what was at the time an uncomfortable position to a permanent spot in the top sellers. Quality has always been present in the wines since early in the day; to confirm that, one need only travel back a few decades, passing through a few of the most important references in oenology from that region, and why not, even nation-wide. Anyone who can point a finger at an entire region to accuse its wines of lacking freshness/acidity, and of being unable to age in a bottle with dignity, simply have no idea what they are talking about. From the most recent articles about visits to Alentejo-based producers to the more classical examples of iconic wines that made it in great shape until today. And the list is as long as the years of harvests, even leaving the 90s out – because that would make it much longer – I will cite a few earlier examples such as José de Sousa Tinto Velho (Old Red) 1940 or even 1961 and 1986, Mouchão 1954 or 1963, Quinta do Carmo Garrafeira 1985 or 1986, Tapada Chaves 1971 or the 1986, Adega de Portalegre 1986, etc.

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Alentejo – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

Then came the wine revolution, leaving the past behind. In the following years, a part of Alentejo wine was held hostage to experimentation and adaptation by people who were making wine for the first time, and unable to fully guarantee their ability to properly outline a new profile for the region. Only now is that revolution beginning to reap its benefits alongside others, which meanwhile acquired the title of the region’s true classics. This rebirth, of sorts, of an entire region together with a new batch of fresh wines, which often counteract with elegance, and with a more austere profile ensuring a healthy longevity, although maintaining the charismatic Alentejo touch until the end. Just as the styles and varieties, aromas and flavours spread, so do the many sub-regions, or even the grounds where variety allows us to find schist, clay, sand or limestone. Adding gastronomy and the people, my beloved Alentejo has all it takes to remain one of the best regions in Portugal.

Adega de Borba Garrafeira red 2009

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

When cooperative cellars emerged, they brought with them concerns about quality, which at the time were unheard of in Portugal. On the other hand, they allowed farmers to make a higher profit than that big companies make in sales, many of which were just warehouses where everything was mixed together.

In the 80s (of the 20th century to be specific), cooperative cellars in Alentejo aimed further, and brought oenology technologists in, thus enabling the creation of higher-level wines. João Portugal Ramos, now an independent producer and with business in many regions, was the first(!) Portuguese leading wine maker.

However, winegrowers started to crop up in the following decade. They believed in the quality of their wine, and that they deserved higher earnings than those produced by sales to cooperatives and big operators in the market dealing wine in bulk, or almost.

They had the courage to put their head on the chopping block, risking money, working furiously towards success, which cannot be done by somebody else. Some did not make it, but many more did, and that number has grown.
The market – that shapeless creature which appears in different costumes – was delighted, and punished cooperative cellars; sometimes fairly, and other times with no excuse. I think they all suffered with the deprecating label “the market” put on them.

I don’t know the whole story of Adega Cooperativa de Borba, but it mustn’t have been free of misfortune. The past doesn’t matter here, only the present. Today, that animal called “consumer” acknowledges quality and doesn’t care about the word “cooperative”.

This company’s success has to do with the competence of those in charge of the partners, those who assemble the lots in the cellar, and those who manage in a modern and competent fashion. All of the above makes the salesmen’s job much easier.

There’s a myth – perhaps with some truth to it – that Alentejo wines have no longevity. Two or three years ago, I tasted Adega de Borba Rótulo de Cortiça 1964 (red – there was no white) and it was “esmigalhador” (crumbling).

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Vines in adegaborba.pt

April 24th 1955 marked the founding of Adega Cooperativa de Borba. At the time, there were 13 partners; today, there are about 300. Altogether, the land represents about 4942 acres of vineyards, of which 70% grow red varieties.
The Portuguese “consumer” is stubborn with wine – which is acceptable, just like their stubbornness in other aspects – and demands freshly made wines as much as freshly fished fish. This makes it unfair for wine, and consequently for the producer, and for the consumer, who does not drink wines that deserve more time to mature. One often hears the expression “wine paedophilia”.

The treasury of winegrowers and the opportunity to ship products are the reasons for the presence of young wines on shelves and in wine menus. A big establishment, such as Adega de Borba, finds an advantage in this, as long as it is well managed.

To create a wine for the rack, and to put it on sale five years after the vintage is practically a luxury. Adega de Borba released Adega de Borba Garrafeira red 2009 with its registered designation of origin as Alentejo – although they could have specified Borba as the sub-region.

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Adega de Borba Garrafeira red 2009 in adegaborba.pt

This wine was made with grapes from the Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês and Trincadeira varieties, all of which have firmly established roots in calcareous and clay-rich soil. The lot rested in American and French oak casks for one year, then slept in the bottles for 30 months.

Opening them no longer falls within “wine paedophilia”, but I think they deserve to stay in store longer. How long? Just like with the lottery, there are always surprises – good or bad – when wine is stored for many years. I won’t put my word forward; I will, however, cite the oenologist’s advice: “up to ten years”.

When I am asked about the relationship between the quality and price of a wine – or anything else, really – I say I don’t know. The value we give money, the level of demand we place on a wine, financial availability, the moment, and
the purpose all form an equation only solvable by the individual himself/herself.

To me – this is only my opinion and should in now way be considered an answer to the question of the relationship between quality and price – Adega de Borba wines are priced prudently and present above-average quality as well as a lower price than others on the same level.

Adega de Borba white, Adega de Borba Rosé white and Adega de Borba red are sold at 2.89 euros, a price set by the producer. It’s easy to argue at this level given a more-than-affordable price. If what you really want is an Adega de Borba Garrafeira red 2009… it’s best to compare it to fellow officers in the same rank, preferably with the help of a winery keeper. The producer sells it at 15.75 euros.

Contacts
LARGO GAGO COUTINHO E SACADURA CABRAL 25, APARTADO 20
7151-913 BORBA, PORTUGAL
Tel: (+351) 268 891 660
Fax: (+351) 268 891 664
Website: www.adegaborba.pt