Text João Barbosa | Translation Bruno Ferreira
There are people who need several lives. One of them is Aníbal Coutinho, who is not satisfied with only one task. He sings in the Gulbenkian Choir, he’s vintner, a oenologist, a consultant in Continente’s wine area, a wine critic and author of wine and food tours, and he worked as a sommelier in Jacinto restaurant in Lisbon. All these activities allow him to have a wide view over wine.
Now matters his most personal wine. More personal, because the vines that give the fruit are at the family’s estate where he spends the holidays. The first Escondido to be revealed was the 2006 vintage. This is the fourth that has been revealed to the world.
The reason because only 4 editions were shown along the ten years is related to the fact that this wine is a project that, while not being a game, lives around the family and the time available for field work.
It’s not a game! Aníbal Coutinho takes it very seriously, in terms of personal, professional and obviously financial investment. Moreover, it is a high quality wine. If the agriculture, meteorology and the day-to-day work do not cooperate, Escondido stays home.
Besides the family, there are two other major contributors: Vera Moreira and António Ventura, winemakers of the Parras Group. Here I have to put a sign! António Ventura is one of the Portuguese winemakers for whom I have great respect. He’s a Sir who handles many million liters. His goldsmith oenology is always impressive, but the sheer volume of work requires accuracy and concentration that not everyone knows how to do.
The vineyard, with 15 years, is located in the football field used in family games … a football field that does not have the maximum dimensions, which are around one hectare. It has the minimum 0,4 hectares. But Aníbal Coutinho ensures that is not even enough for indoor soccer.
Well, it might not be possible to fit 22 players and four referees there, but the Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Touriga Nacional grape varieties surely can. This choice of frape varieties is related to the Atlantic climate characteristics of the property. Aníbal Coutinho got inspired in Bordeaux and its vineyards, he says. The second last named variety, originating from the Côtes du Rhône, is planted inside the vineyard, in order to get shelter.
The land, with clay-limestone soil, is located in Olelas, between Sabugo and Almargem do Bispo, in the municipality of Sintra, near Lisbon. As the crow flies, the sea is between 10 to 15 kilometers, says Aníbal Coutinho. This ocean proximity has caused unpleasantnesses … an oversight and there go the grapes. Moreover, treatments are not made, which makes the grapes even more vulnerable. That is the reason why in ten years only four vintages were made public.
Escondido 2012 aged for 24 months in wood, splitted into a used French oak barrel and a used American oak barrel for 15 months, and a new American oak barrel for the remaining nine months of the second year.
For historical reasons, and certainly also by religious influence, the Portuguese are afraid of the word luxury. But things are what they are. The Escondido is a luxury wine! Receives all the cares needed to be a luxury, it has the required great quality and quantity is small. If the agricultural year is lost or if the quality does not reach the level that the producer wants, the wine is to be drunk only by family and friends. The Escondido 2012 had a production of 500 bottles of 0,75 liters and 100 magnum bottles.
The location’s freshness can be felt on the glass. It’s a wine asking to be drunk at the table, around a substantial dish. It is to be drunk very slowly. The Escondido 2012 that I was shown at Jacinto restaurant was joined by a Cozido á Portuguesa. A very successful combination, because it is a wide diversity meal of meat and vegetables, which cannot be eaten in five minutes.
One aspect to note is that, although it handles perfectly a heavy dish, Escondido 2012 is not a winter wine. I would not drink it with a salad, but it does not require to be served when fat food reigns at the tables. It is a fresh and complex wine with great elegance and a long finish. It evolves very well over the course of the meal.
It has time to live and everything needed for a long life in the bottle. I do not venture myself in guessing deadlines, but as for longevity, Aníbal Coutinho thinks it can grow up to 20 years.