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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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7960-909 Vidigueira, Portugal.
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