These notes accompany our in-depth feature on The Alentejo.
Herdade do Mouchão
These wines are imported by Alwin Barratt Siegel and Berry Bros. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Herdade do Mouchão, Dom Rafael Branco 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Rich yellow colour, and a ‘natural’ feel. Antao Vaz and Arinto. Lovely rich fruit skin aromas, with confit lemon and orange, and a fine minerality and touch of saltiness on the palate, fruity and deep, with delicious weight and texture. Lovely, the 8g/l of residual sugar not really felt, more as weight and texture. 88/100.
Herdade do Mouchão, Dom Rafael Tinto 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Mostly Trincadeira, a proportion spends 12 months in new French oak coopered in Portugal. Liquorice and delightful black cherry fruit, has a cedary note and a nicely green note that fits so nicely in the profile. Beautiful palate – fresh and vital, with a gorgeous dry juiciness. Long and delicious. 88/100.
Herdade do Mouchão, Ponte das Canas 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Meaty and earthy, a much gamier and slightly more wild character from 10-year-old vines of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Syrah. But then it has a floral and peppery lift and a really dense creamy dark fruit. Tightly wound, liquoricy, with very focused black fruit, plenty of extract here for Mouchao – made to a different pattern. 89/100.
Herdade do Mouchão, Mouchao 2009, Alentejo, Portugal
A blend of Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet, it has a fabulous nose, with such a lot of floral character, so many wild and scented aromas of garrigue and complex touches of game and leather and mint. Fantastic palate, so pure and cool, with the tight focus of the cherry and plum, dark berry fruit, and a fine, tight core of tannins, beautiful acidity and layered, silky depths of sweetness. 93/100.
Herdade do Mouchão, Licoroso 2009, Alentejo, Portugal
First made in 1929, from Alicante Bouschet. Love the freshness and ashy dryness of this, notes of coal dust and tar and flowers. Fantastic richness and sweetness, with chocolate and cherry and kirsch, all that combination of flowers, sweet kirsch, coal dust. 94/100.
Herdade do Mouchão, 1929 Solera Licoroso, Alentejo, Portugal
Fabulous, just touched with tawny on the rim, complex tobacco, leaf tea, fig and walnut, so rich and toasty. The palate has immense juiciness and sweetness, fabulous wine, unending, complex, unfolding. Sadly not a commercial product, but it shows the quality and potential to make amazing wines 95/100.
Monte de Penha
These wines are not imported into the UK at present. See worldwide stockists on wine-searcher.com
Monte de Penha, Reserva White 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Arinto, Fernão Pires and Roupeiro with a touch of Trincadeira das Pratas which gives acidity. Francisco does not like a lot of alcohol so this has 12.5% abv, and reds almost always 13.0 to 13.5%. Sweet and fresh, lots of citrus and fresh apple crunch. 85/100.
Monte de Penha, Montefino 2009, Alentejo, Portugal
The entry level red. Plummy and rich, a good sweetness to the fruit, with a dry, raspberry and cherry dry juiciness and nice bite of roughening tannin. 86/100.
Monte de Penha, Montefino 2010, Alentejo, Portugal
Has a slightly bretty note perhaps, certainly something a little gamy and earthy. Iron oxide and very dry, but some lovely fruit comes through on the palate, lots of sweetness and a tight, quite long finish. 85/100.
Monte de Penha, Tinto 2009, Alentejo, Portugal
Mostly Trincadeira with a little Touriga nacional in this blend. Creamier and sweeter on the nose, more vanilla and sweet, ripe and fleshy fruit, lovely richness and a much more seductive style, but long and focused. 88/100.
Monte de Penha, Tinto 2010, Alentejo, Portugal
Oak is a little prominent at this stage, with again a touch of brett showing in this vintage, and this does feel a little stripped. 84/100.
Monte de Penha, Montefino Reserva 2005, Alentejo, Portugal
A touch curranty and slightly baked and a little closed. The palate bursts with sweet fruit, with a lovely level of dry extract, moderate tannins though grippy, good cherry skin acidity and a great core of fruit. Spicy and though not hugely complex, has such lovely fruit and depth. 88/100.
Monte de Penha, Reserva 2003, Alentejo, Portugal
More than 50% Trincadeira, from the old vineyards. Has a maturing nose, with undergrowth and smoke, but it is quite animal and gamy, with a real feeling of terroir, baked earth and sweet fruit, with a lovely finish, developing a little chocolate. 87/100.
Monte de Penha, Reserva 2004, Alentejo, Portugal
Significantly cleaner than the 2003, with some currant and cherry and some herb and cedar notes coming through. The palate has a drying but balanced character, and very nice harmony with enough juiciness and fresh red fruit aromas. Long and the most complete wine so far. 90/100.
Monte de Penha, Reserva 2005, Alentejo, Portugal
A touch of game, but a delightful fruit concentration and very tight, a much sharper profile altogether, and the fruit juicy and edged with tangy cherry-skin brightness. 88/100.
Monte de Penha, Reserva 2007, Alentejo, Portugal
Sweet and orthodox nose, with a touch of tobacco and spice, and a rich bramble and berry fruit. The oak is very nicely handled, with a dry tannin across the palate, drying the fruit slightly more than I might like, with currant and slightly baked qualities, though there is a spicy, fruit concentration in the finish. 87/100.
Monte de Penha, Reserva 2009, Alentejo, Portugal
There is a rich gravy browning character to this, with quite a lot of oak over the fairly modest fruit. The palate is vinous and balanced, with a real juiciness at the core, seems more fresh and vital than some of the other vintages here, with that juice at the core and no sign of the baked or slightly bretty character. 89/100.
Monte de Penha, Reserva 2010, Alentejo, Portugal
Very slightly bloody, but not the more obvious bretty notes in the other two 2010s. A little mineral character to the black and red plum and berry fruit. Juicy and fresh character, with a lovely juiciness again. Another much more convincing wine with good fruit and savoury freshness. 89/100.
Monte de Penha, Grande Reserva 2005, Alentejo, Portugal
50% Alicante Bouschet, and 25% each of Trincadeira and Aragonez. 12 months in Alliers oak. Maturing and more elegant than the Monte da Penha Reserva 2005. Not hugely aromatic, but attractive smoky-bacon and red fruits. Savoury, meaty, but retains all that tight tannin and juicy fruit acidity. The palate is a touch drying arguably, but it is so well-balanced, juicy and fresh. 90/100.
Monte de Penha, Geracoes Reserva 2004, Alentejo, Portugal
A selection of the best casks of the Grande Reserva went into this wine. A little dank, a little weedy now, with a slightly dried out character, maybe a touch maderised. Still has some quality, and the balance is pretty good in the finish. 86/100.
These wines are not in UK at moment, but I was told the winery is in discussion with a major UK supermarket to take their ‘600’ entry level range. See worldwide stockists on wine-searcher.com
Altas Quintas, 600 Branco 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Arinto it a little Verdelho. Discreet aromas, just a touch of creamy ripe apple. The pate is fairly neutral too, but quaff ably clean and fresh, dry with a squirt of orange acidity to lift it. 85/100.
Altas Quintas, Crescendo Branco 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
From vineyards at 600 metres – the highest vineyards in the region. Arinto and Verdelho, this time with a small proportion in new French oak with American oak heads. Creamy hazelnut background, ripe apples and a touch of herbs, very attractive. The palate is juicy and clean, but with a big step up in intensity. 88/100.
Altas Quintas, Branco 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Fermented in French oak with American tops, Arinto from old vineyards with 23 years. lovely herb infused nose, fruit skin richness, the oak gentle and mealy. The palate has a powerful intensity, grippy with a fruit skin richness and leesy weight. Joao says it can age 8 to 10 years. 89/100.
Altas Quintas, Crescendo Rosado 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Aragonez rose, six hours of skin contact. Deep colour and a dullish pink, almost brick. Savoury and not aromatic, the palate is lean and has a pleasing lightly earthy savoury cherry fruit, and although it’s really not an appealing rose style for today’s market, I can see it working really well as a gently spicy, savoury food wine. 85/100.
Altas Quintas, 600 Tinto 2009, Alentejo, Portugal
Whites are only 10% of production. This is Aragonez with a little bit of Alicante Bouschet. Only a tiny bit of the wine sees oak. Sweet, rich and slightly Port with tobacco and currant notes. The palate is savoury, with a rustic gripping tannin and plenty of acid. It’s a nice, easy drinking but bold and simple red. 86/100.
Altas Quintas, Crescendo Tinto 2008, Alentejo, Portugal
Same blend but more Alicante Bouschet (40%) and subsequently more oak. Ripe and much juicier and fresher, still has some smokiness and now a little cherry and floral touch. The palate has delicious sweetness and good length too, with plenty of freshening acid and still peppery, grippy notes in the finish. 88/100.
As the wines move up the range the Alicante Bouschet content rises.
Altas Quintas, Tinto 2007, Alentejo, Portugal
10%Aragonez, now mostly Alicante Bouschet and a touch of Trincadeira. 26k bottles and about to move on to 2008. Big fragrance here, a lovely cherry and incense lift and there is a touch fudge And sweet stewing blackberries. The palate has lovely fruit, with masses of sweet fruit and powerful concentration into a long finish. 90/100.
Altas Quintas, Mensagem Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Alentejo, Portugal
One year in French oak. All Cabernet, with a nice smokiness and obvious ripeness, a little game and earthy green note that is very pleasing. The palate is fairly lean with the tight tannins and a hot, baked earth touch, juicy and spicy, grippy but quite smooth tannins. 88/100.
Altas Quintas, Reserva 2007, Alentejo, Portugal
Alicante Bouschet 90% with Trincadeira. Meaty and rich, with some leather and game, some cedar, and a very solid core of fruit. There is layering of oak, but it is savoury and meaty too. Loads of juicy fruit freshness, plenty of cherry and vine fruits, and very nice fresh acidity. Long and fine, with smooth but spicy tannins and a touch of coffee. 90/100.
Altas Quintas, Obsession 2007, Alentejo, Portugal
Alicante Bouschet with maybe just 1 or 2% Trincadeira. Not made every year. Two years in new French oak. Fabulous nose of cedar and dill like herbs, bloody and gamy, with a big core of black fruit and just hints of cherry brightness. Lovely palate – very pure and saturated with flavour just as the wine is saturated with colour. Bold, sweet, earthy and a fine orange acidity. Lovely spice, weight and intensity. 92/100.
UK importer is Atlantico. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Adega Mayor, Caiado Branco 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Bright and easy with ripe and quite grassy and citrus fruit, very refreshing and juicy. Very nicely and cleanly made with a nice pithy dryness and a touch of that melon skin grip. 84.
Adega Mayor, Caiado Rosé 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Touriga and Castelão. Bold pomegranate colour. Lots of cherry and a little bit of redcurrant and cranberry dry red fruit concentration. The palate has delicious fruit: juicy and creamy soft red berries, just the smallest touch of tannin and a fine, lemon zesty acidity. A hint of structure in a wine that is also nicely quaffable. 86/100.
Adega Mayor, Rosé 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Lovely pale Pinot, was destined for sparkling base but quality so good they will bottle. Lovely pale colour, excellent fruit and balance. Could join the Cesar range of varietals. 88/100.
Adega Mayor, Monte Mayor 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Verdelho 60% with Arinto and Anton Vaz. A little floral aspect to this, with sherbet lemon and plenty of verve and life about it. Very crisp, elegant and sweet fruit moving to the tropical, but finishes on a squirt of pithy, dry citrus juice and pith. Refreshing. 87/100.
Adega Mayor, Monte Mayor Reserva Tinto 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Nacional and Aragonez, part of it aged in oak before blending. Tight, charcoal-touched, clean and earthy, lightly inky black fruit. A little herby, grassy aspect too. Plenty of juicy freshness on the palate too: it’s a wine with that tight, inky-dry black fruit juiciness, but at its core lovely sweetness and crunch, finishing dry with that hint of rusticity about the tannins. Not quite on the market yet. 88/100.
Adega Mayor, Comendador 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Lots of creamy vanillin oak, with a custardy note at first and plenty of ripe juicy apple and oatmeal character. The palate has really nice fruit, with lots of sweet fruit that fills the mouth, and has plenty of dry extract, and the oak has very good quality. Long, and whilst it is a terrific white of lovely quality, the oak is just a little too obvious, and a little too. 90/100.
Adega Mayor, 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Alicante and Syrah, 12 months in oak. Lovely lift and floral aspects, a touch of herbaceous quality, with plenty of oak in the background, with a dry tannin character that maybe needs to soften a little, but it has a lovely blend of powerful substance and delicate aromatics and fruit flavours, again the oak a little too youthful but quality of the wood is excellent and in a few years this should really sing. 90/100.
Adega Mayor, Reserva do Comendador 2002, Alentejo, Portugal
Powerful and youthful nose, meaty, still oaky, possibly slightly too much adding a resinous note, with deep-set black fruit and a certain prune or raisin note, coffee coming through, but not lacking freshness, with a long and juicy finish. 88/100.
Adega Mayor, Special Release ‘8’ Tinto 2007, Alentejo, Portugal
Bottled 8th of the 8th 2008. Earthy, rich and coffeeish, with some smoky wheat germ notes, a dense black fruit beneath. The palate has a big, lean stripe of tannin, very dry, the combination of oak and that ripe but powerful fruit very impressive, so sweet fruited, but a little overpowering. 89/100.
Adega Mayor, Special Release Tinto Cesar 2009, Alentejo, Portugal
100% Alicante. Again lovely lift and Alicante’s floral and kirsch like lift over the plummy depth of fruit and plenty of coffee and vanilla. Such lovely fruit here, buoyant and creamy, with ripe and full of blue-black solid fruit. Big, but super delicious and with plenty of tannin and juicy acidity. 91/100.
Terras de Alter
Imported into the UK by James Fleetwood and Gordon McPhail. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com
Terra d’Alter, Siria, Viognier, Arinto 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Beautifully crisp, fresh and herby, a lovely juicy vitality, really crisp and easy to drink, but lovely grippy touches of the Arinto, lovely freshness 87/100.
Terra d’Alter, Aragonez Touriga Rosé 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Lovely fresh nose, with real finesse and freshness, with very dry fruit, small raspberry and redcurrant, but again the acidity, realty fresh again a little grip of tannin and spice. 86/100.
Terra d’Alter, Alvarinho 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
A newly planted vineyard, because the Alvarinho they were taking form a neighbour wasn’t good enough. A little floral lift to this, a small percentage of old oak I not perceptible as aroma, but it has loads of citrus and juicy orangy acidity, a little hint of saltiness, and it has lovely style. 87/100.
Terra d’Alter, Verdelho 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Juicy, dry and appley, with a very distinct clarity and white fruit dryness, a little star fruit and Asian pear freshness but hinting at the tropical, before a really good, fresh, long and gently spicy finish. 88/100.
Terra d’Alter, Viognier 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
The aromatics are gentle and pear like, just a touch of orange and peach, but it is fairly subdued in this tank sample. Bursts into life on the palate, a really vivacious style with bags of sparky flavour, all sort of more lifted and floral aspects to it, and a long, shimmering finish. 89/100.
Terra d’Alter, Siria 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
There’s a mealiness to this but it is fresh, crunchy and citrusy, but again lots of lemon and lime, , grapefruit and a nice touch of plum skin tartness. Lovely. 88/100.
Terra d’Alter, Reserva Branco 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Has some of the Douro’s Viosinho in the blend – round 15%. Around 40 – 50% in older barrels, all the components made separately, and blended at the end. Peter says it ages beautifully. Oak imparts only a tiny touch of nuttiness and creaminess, but the nose is really focused on the fruit, with a gently earthy character that is typical natural ferment. The palate has beautifully focused minerality, lovely sense of harmony, finishes with great joie de vivre. 90/100.
Terra d’Alter, Telhas Branco 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
The name means ‘rooftop’, because the vineyard is full of terracotta roof tile fragments, on the site of a Roman village. Very long period on skins for Viognier, fermented in barrel long and natural yeast. Lots of spice and floral, peachy Viognier character, really comes through beautifully “My take on Condrieu, which I can’t afford to drink.” With fabulous structure and tannin, lots of richness, lots of tang and vibrancy, with both juiciness, the barrel giving supporting vanilla touches, and a bracing long finish Fab stuff. 93/100.
Terra d’Alter, Trincadeira, Aragonez, Syrah 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Nicely fresh and open, with sweet earthy notes, lots of red fruits and lovely juicy fruit matching with ripe tannins, the berry fruit and dry sweetness in the finish, that touch of currant or prune dried fruit sweetness. 85/100.
Terra d’Alter, Alfrocheiro 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Nice light colour (“Portugal’s Pinot Noir”) and lovely soft nose, the creamy French oak and a nice briar note, with 20% whole bunches and stems giving lovely soft berry fruit and briar, long with gentle spice and lovely balance. Yummy. 88/100.
Terra d’Alter, Touriga Nacional 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Pleasing floral lift, with a touch of game and real perfume. The palate is cool with black cherry and nice berry fruit, but the big powerful tannins come through, drying the finish and giving this lovely structure without any heaviness: nicely concentrated but still crunch and freshness in the finish. 87/100.
Terra d’Alter, Alicante Bouschet 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
A cross between Petit Bouschet and Alicante (Grenache). Typical, lovely liquorice notes and red cherry, so buoyant and fresh, and beautiful chocolate-touched richness and yet clarity. The palate has great weight and structure, really meaty and ripe tannins, loads of substance and body, yet the little hints of spice and floral character never gives up. Lovely. 90/100.
Terra d’Alter, Aragonez 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
3% of Viognier skins, which Peter thinks softens the tannins in the Aragonez. Smoky, tobacco, ripe berry fruit. Dry and firm, but that sweet, sweet ripeness of fruit persists even against the dry, beefy tannins, but lovely balance, and good acid too, in a long, big, but juicy wine. 88/100.
Terra d’Alter, Aragonez Zero s02 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Absolutely pristine stuff, with lovely juicy black fruit and tight tannins, there is plenty of structure and beefiness to this, but absolutely nothing volatile or awkward: it is just juicy and fruity, with lovely tannin structure, and the extra year in bottle makes it so deliciously drinkable. 89/100.
Terra d’Alter, Reserva Tinto 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira, Tinta Caiada and “various other bits and pieces.” Gorgeous nose, crammed with berries and pot-pourri flowers and spices, there is a notable oak content, and that coal dust and tobacco dry, earthy freshness. The palate has lovely juice and black fruit sweetness, really ripe and mouth-filling, lovely soft structural elements giving it length and spice, the tobacco and spice of the finish staying juicy and ripe, 91/100.
Terra d’Alter, Telhas Tinto 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
From austere granite soils. Syrah and Viognier, co-fermented, juice run straight into 100% new American oak, with barrels seasoned for four years in the open air. Beautifully scented and lifted, creamy black berries, again that spice and tobacco, with pure, elegant, refined smooth sweetness, bittersweet dark chocolate and a little violet lift, lovely smooth, long, beautifully juicy yet creamy and ripe into a long finish. 92/100.
Terra d’Alter, Outiero 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
50% of Syrah and Petit Verdot, from a high vineyard. Coffee and earth, pepper and spice, and I love the lift on this with some herbal and cool game notes, but really all about the black fruit again. There’s a sophisticated layer of creamy but also fragrant oak, adding vanilla and more spices, but a lovely freshness again, and a big, dry tannin background. Lovely again, and so layered and complex. 91/100.
Terra d’Alter, Late Harvest Viognier 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Beautiful racy lift of pear and peach, so juicy, it’s a late harvest with no botrytis 100gl of sugar, and all the raciness you could want. No heaviness, and lovely dash and verve. 90/100.
J. Portugal Ramos
J. Portugal Ramos, Loios White 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Arinto, Rabo de Ovelha, Roupeiro, aged in oak. Juicy, fresh, crisp apple and citrus with a touch of residual sugar just to soften
the edges. Good commercial style, and with 12.5% alcohol, a nice summery aperitif style. 84/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Pouca Roupa 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
A new wine, that has quite a funky package to attract the younger drinker. Sauvignon Blanc, with selected yeast to enhance
the thiols. Gently grassy and fragrant, with quite punchy character and a touch of herbaceous character. 85/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Marques de Borba White 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Arinto, Antao Vaz, Viognier. Much more perfume than the Loios, more exotic and peachy fruit, a simple and fresh nose with
lovely attractive, tropical fruit. Very tangy on the palate too, almost a strawberry sweetness and plenty of acidity playing
against the sweet fruit. Lovely commercial style. 86/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Villa Santa Reserva White 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Arinto, Alvarinho and Sauvignon Blanc, partial fermentation in French oak. Nutty, almond nose, and a dry Cox’s Pippin fruit
and lemon. The palate is full and richly textured, a lot of fresh squeezed lemony acidity, and a fine structure here, the
touch of creamy texture and vanilla playing nicely. 88/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Pouca Roupa Rosé 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional. Good colour, very pale and peachy. Gentle fruit skin nose, a touch of melon
and yellow plum. On the palate there is a touch of sweetness (around 8g/l apparently) that softens and sweetness the finish,
but it is essentially quite a savoury and juicy style, rather than a floral or red fruited. 84/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Loios Red 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Aragonez, Trincadeira and some other grapes. Slightly reduced, meaty nose, with a slightly baked quality to the fruit. Masses
of rich, sweet fruit and very soft, tannins and acidity quite dry, but soft and finishing with a sweetness and easy drinking
style. 85/100. This wine is sold as F’OZ in the UK.
J. Portugal Ramos, Smart Dog Red 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Syrah and Trincadeira. Pingo is JP’s father’s dog. Not quite as striking as the 2013, and seems just a little too sweet in
this 2014 – apparently the same 8g/l in 2013 – but feels a little clumsier, and less pure, though of course it is a good
commercial wine with a bit of personality. 85/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Ramos Reserva Red 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira, Aragonez, Syrah. Part barrel aged. There’s a little lift of herbaceousness to this, a gentle earthiness and
touch of smoke to very ripe red berries and cassis. Rich black fruit on the palate, and a nice dry finish, the tannins quite
fine and sandy, with a juiciness that persists. 86/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Marques de Borba Red 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional. Aged in second use oak barrels. Attractive touches of slate and
coal dust giving a dry, savoury edge to the tight black fruit. A nice hint of herbaceousness again (João later confirmed it
had a little Cabernet and Petit Verdot in the blend). The palate has a fuller character, and seems slightly less sweet than
the Reserva, with more juiciness and savoury quality, long and balanced, and a much more attractive style for me, tannins
still silky, but the less sweet fruit profile and more savoury aspects work well. 88/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Villa Santa Reserva Red 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Made in lagares, and aged in barriques. Quite smooth and sophisticated, with a tight black fruit intensity, not as much
dimension as the Marques de Borba, but again that tell-tale herbaceous hint that says there is probably a bit of Cab in here.
Smooth and refined, with a cool juiciness. 90% of this brand is sold in the Swedish market apparently. 87/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Quinta da Vicosa 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon. Cabernet on Limestone and Touriga on Schist, from the organic vineyard I visited.
All lagares, all
barriques, 12 months in new French oak. Lots of minerality and green capsicum Cab notes dominating, very savoury with lovely
floral aspects too from the Touriga giving this lift and fragrance. The palate has a really silky texture and very smooth core
of sweet cassis fruit, and this has lovely juiciness and length. 90/100.
J. Portugal Ramos, Marques de Borba 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Cabernet Sauvignon. Foot trodden in the marble lagares again, and 18 months in small
French oak barrels. Pleasing nose, but not so striking – perhaps mainly down to the quality of the vintage which was not
quite as good as 2011. There is a nice soft earthiness to it, and a lift of smoke and exotic spice comes through. The palate
comes through very nicely, very dry, but a beefy, bloody note of concentration and seriousness, and the fruit has a fresh
cherry bite of acidity in the finish. 89/100
J. Portugal Ramos, Estremus 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet from calcareous/marble soils. Lagares again and aged in small French oak again. Meaty,
with some dense animal notes, there is a touch of undergrowth and truffle, and there is an inky, almost mineral quality.
That slightly meaty quality persists. The palate has lots of spice, cedar and meatiness too, in a dense wine with a huge
core of fruit sweetness at it centre, and very silky tannins, chocolaty and rich, with a tart plum skin grip of acidity
and dryness. One for the future. 91/100.
Fita Preta, Branco 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Antao Vaz, Roupeiro and Arinto. Creamy and appley, this comes from an old mixed vineyard. it has an earthiness
and feels very natural with a straightforward fruitiness and very good acid balance giving zippy character and lovely subtle
Fita Preta, Branco da Talha 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Whole bunch fermented, made in amphora, this has a nutty hint but it does not feel like oxidation, with waxiness too and a dry
Cox’s pippin fruit. The fruit on the palate is delicious, a burst of clear, fresh and juicy fruit. Hugely interesting, long
and layered. 90/100.
Fita Preta, Palpite Branco Reserva 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Arinto 60%, Antao Vaz, Verdelho.
A much more orthodox wine in some ways, with a lovely quality of French oak. It is 100% barrel fermented, one third new. Cool
apple and almond, and a nice sense of ambient yeast light earthiness. Fresh lemony palate, lovely texture and mealy qualities,
a gentle, long finish that tapers to a really elegant, fine point. 92/100.
Fita Preta, Branco Indigenous 2010, Alentejo, Portugal
All Arinto with no added yeast and no temperature control during fermentation in new barrels. A little oxidised waxy and
funky, somewhere between Jura and old Riesling, the sweetness of the fruit floods the palate, with a creamy nuttiness and
full texture. Long and sweet. A little like an old Champagne without bubbles in the finish. 91/100.
Fita Preta, Tinto Castelão 2010, Alentejo, Portugal
“Not trying to make it anything it’s not,” says Antonio. Quite a light, natural colour. 30 days on skins and 24 months in old
barrels before 15 months in bottle. Really nice fruit with a touch of dry curranty character, a sweet and floral perfumed
note and some
briar. The sweetness is striking, with a juicy currant and plum skin tartness and grip. Has a raciness despite the
very obvious ripe fruit. 91/100.
Fita Preta, Tinto 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet. 50% barrel fermented. Delightful buoyant nose, with a juicy cherry and red plum,
but that typical little floral lift of the Alicante. There’s a liquorice stripe of tannin and
bittersweet Asian dried plum. Long, oak filling in with some coffee and a long, well balanced finish. Orthodox
beautifully done. 89/100.
Fita Preta, Sexy 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Touriga with Aragonez, and some Cabernet and Syrah.
Glossy and deep but has a light gamy edge too, with both a modern sheen and a natural earthiness, and a touch of floral/fresh
green herb character. The palate is super-sweet and smooth but there is a little ash and lightly feathery green note. But
lovely length, keeping that ripe, glossy svelte character but still just hints of a wildness. Moving and changing, and
really quite complex. 92/100.
Fita Preta, Palpite Reserva 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
18 months in barrel, half new. 72% Aragonez with Touriga and Cabernet. Beautifully fresh and lifted aromatics, some violet and
some dry tobacco and gentle woodsmoke character over solid black fruit. Juicy on the palate, with big fresh, bursting
blackcurrant ripeness and acid bite. Smooth and creamy tannins and excellent balance. 91/100.
Fita Preta, Baga Al Sul 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
100% Baga. Fresh herbaceous lift, fresh red berry and cherry, and just hints of a damp forest walk. Light and red cherry
fruit, but it has a plum skins giving grip, and a real freshness of tight tannins and cherry juice acidity, a little spice
in the finish. 91/100.
Fita Preta, Preta 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
From a really special year – perfect year across Portugal. Touriga, Alicante and Aragonez.
Gorgeous nose. So dense is the blue black fruit, fully ripe and svelte, with a huge depth of fruit weight and concentration, but no
sign of any raisining. Smoothly suede-like and velvety. Coffee and chocolate weight and richness to the sweet and svelte
black fruit. Retains a little roughening edge of tannin and tart plum skin gripping acidity. Delicious and long, with a
great sense of purity. 93/100.
Carmim, Monsaraz Branco 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Siria and Gouveio, no oak. Fresh and mealy, with plenty of sweet apple fruit and a juicy and well-balanced palate. 85/100.
Carmim, Regia Colheita Reserva 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Lots of toasty character, the oak pretty much dominating, whisky barrel and lots of fruit that is sweet and full, perhaps too much oak, but a nice balance and freshness in the finish.
Antão Vaz and a tiny part of Arinto. 85/100.
Carmim, Monsaraz Antão Vaz 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
A tiny nutty character, but not terribly expressive. More aromatics and a hint of sweetness on the palate. 85/100.
Carmim, Monsaraz Tinto 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet, some ‘oak alternatives’ used – medium toast staves, French and American. A touch of liquorice and a slightly roasted character, but sweet and deep black berries on the
palate and just a rustic spice and grip to the finish. 85/100.
Carmim, Monsaraz Alicante Bouschet 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
100% French oak in new barrels for 50% of the blend. A nicer oak character, with plenty of depth – a lot of it – and a meatiness and floral lift of authentic Alicante. Big and bold, lots of fruit sweetness
and alcohol, hot and powerful, and a coffee and sweet black fruit. 87/100.
Carmim, Monsaraz Touriga nacional 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
All French oak, one third new Alliers. Lovely Touriga herbs and flowers, very expressive, has some light and shade compared to the Alicante. A touch of game. The palate has very dry tannins, with a good
balance though perhaps just lacking a touch of mid-palate sweetness, it does have lovely spice, fruit and acidity in the finish. 89/100.
Carmim, Monsaraz Reserva 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
60% old vineyard Alicante, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. 15% alcohol again. Very sweet, dense and deeply glossy blue/black fruit and oak, the obvious smoothness and toast/coffee, attractive but powerful.
Big, juicy, bountiful, with lots of velvet tannins and sweet fruit and oak. Long, huge, but attractive. 89/100.
Carmim, Monsaraz Premium 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Same as above but Syrah replaces Trincadeira. 14 months in oak, then longer bottle age before release. Kirsch and cherry lift, the Syrah adding some extra fruit sweetness and lift of violet, but the oak is
pretty dominant again. The palate is not quite so massive as the Reserva, a little more tempered and juicy. 89/100.
Carmim, Reguengo Garrafeira dos Socios 2008, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira and Aragonez, a little Alicante and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon. 24 months in barrel and the same in bottle. The nose here is lovely with more cedar and graphite, more touches of earth and herbs,
a lovely inviting style. A lovely palate, with juiciness and creaminess, but the savoury, dry complexity is good and it does not feel nearly so alcoholic despite the same 15%. 91/100.
Esporão, Monte Velho Branco 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Antão Vaz, Roupeiro and Perrum. A bit of Sauvignon-like character with grassiness and a touch of flowers and lime. Lovely fresh and fruity mouthfeel, with real citrus zing and a zip in the finish.
Extremely well made and a big success in this cooler vintage. 86/100.
Esporão, Verdelho V 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Much more grippy and skinny, melon skins and citrus skins, a touch of peach, grapefruit and lime. In the mouth more mouthfeel and grip and richness, but abundant fruit and lovely delicate acid finish
to balance. Bolder and more complex than the Monte Velho, and a lovely wine. 88/100.
Esporão, Test 2.1 Vermentino Organic 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Almost Gewurz-like with honey and honeysuckle, and bursting with juicy orange and lime jelly. A little phenolic grip, a touch of pleasing bitterness in the finish. 88/100.
Esporão, Test 3.1 Vermentino 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Much less aromatic, crisper, leaner, with a dry grapefruit zest and pith, seems to have a touch of RS, but could just be the ripe fruit, because the streaking acidity powers through. Fascinating. 88/100.
Esporão, Reserva Branco 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Arinto, Antão Vaz, Roupeiro and 10% Semillon. Lovely creamy almond and oatmeal character, with plenty of oak showing at this very young age (bottled for only one month and not yet released).
Lots of apple and lemon, direct but juicy. The palate has a lovely weight and texture, with lots of lemony zesty quality. 90/100.
Esporão, Reserva Branco 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Lovely wax and honey notes to the ripe apple and peach, with a big juicy character, turns dry racy, carrying through the lemon and gentle butter and wax, finishing very cleanly and very fresh. Delicious and so well balanced. 91/100.
Esporão, Reserva Branco 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Gorgeous honey and nut nose, with a note of toast and lime and butter. 90/100.
Esporão, Monte Velho Red 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Aragonez, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional and Syrah with around 30 other varieties in small proportions, just like the white. Very nice black and red fruit, with a touch of dusty, slightly inky quality,
but the pure blue/black fruit comes through. Nicely managed tannins, smooth and juicy, but refined compared to the rustic tannins in some of the entry level reds of this region. 86/100.
Esporão, Reserva Red 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante and Cabernet vinified separately, A lovely ripe, rich, sweet black fruit with plenty of chocolate and mint, very ripe and crowd-pleasing, with plum and cassis.
Creamy and deep black fruit floods the mouth, with coffee and chocolate, and a very sweet and deep black fruit. Structured and chocolaty tannins, good and fresh acidity, a cherry bite of freshness,
and a long, smooth as satin finish. 91/100.
Esporão, Reserva Red 2007, Alentejo, Portugal
Light, soft and fresh with a touch of lean and savoury with orange and lemon freshness. 87/100.
José de Sousa, Montado Branco 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Quite a distinctive nose because of the aromatics, very ripe pear and star fruit, a touch of something exotic, the palate cool and refreshing with a taut apple acidity. Lovely easy drinking in this 39C heat, the slightly dilute finish adding to the easy drinking charms. 84/100.
José de Sousa, Montado Tinto 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira, Aragonez, Alicante and a touch of Syrah. Some fragrance, with an unusually high, perhaps slightly volatility, a very high floral note, a great deal of sweetness on the palate and the juiciness of ripe berries and cherries comes through. Very dry tannins in the finish, but quite refined, just grippy and ultra dry. 86/100.
José de Sousa, Ripanco Private Selection 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Aragonez, Syrah and Alicante, 4 months in oak. A dry coal dust and Indian ink character, dusty fruit and a little floral and cherry lift. Hugely sweet attack, the fruit surprisingly sweet and 9gl of sugar, finishing with a dry, slightly rustic tannin grip. 83/100.
José de Sousa, Tinto 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Around 50% oaked, about one third new. Ripe cherry and red berry fruit, a lot more edge and grip, the palate is dry and savoury, but flows through well rather than the schism in the middle. Stays focused on blue/black fruit to the finish. 87/100.
José de Sousa, Mayor 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Old vines, 1952 to 1982. same 3 varieties, half of the blend made in the lagares and clay pots. Majority Grand Noir 50% with Trincadeira and Aragonez. Earthy, leathery, with deep black fruit, some herb and gently funky notes to warm berry compote notes. Liquorice and black fruit, a lovely natural concentration, powerful and long. 92/100.
José de Sousa, ‘J’ 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Made with same method Only made 2007, 2009, 2011. Same three varieties plus Touriga Nacional. Selection is made in the vineyard – does not believe in sorting table for this, prefers to-do it like the old days.
Lovely ultra pure fruit, chocolate rich and tobacco and coffee, some green herb notes, edging into floral, but really big and plush. Big dense wine, all about plushness and richness, and well balanced of
its big booming style. 91/100.
COOPERATIVA DA GRANJA
Encostas de Alqueva, Piteira 2012, Alentejo, Portugal
Arinto and Roupeiro. This one made with modern technology. There is a herby and citrus skin nose then plenty of sweetness and then a shock of pithy acidity that is fresh. 85/100.
Cooperativa da Granja, Amareleja 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Nose is not so appealing, a bit dank and fairly rough on the plate. Not for me. 78/100.
Encostas de Alqueva, Piteira Vinho de Talha 2010, Alentejo, Portugal
Sold in a miniature Talha clay pot. Interesting herby and slightly medicinal nose, with a crisp and juicy character. Lovely quality with texture and grip and a mineral and salt acidity. Delicious in fact. 89/100.
Encostas de Alqueva, Piteira Encostas da Pias 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Alfrocheiro, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet. Smooth and clean with quite bright cherry fruit. Vinous, black cherry and very smooth, though fairly high acid which gives nice structure. 87/100.
Cooperativa da Granja, Terras de Suao 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Tight black fruit aromas, black plum juice and cherry, really very tight and fresh, the high quality oak is glossy. Again the acidity is quite pronounced with grippy tannins and some extra alcohol but there is violet and chocolaty in the finish. 88/100.
Cooperativa da Granja, Talha Moreto 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Very fresh and lifted aromas, lots of liquorice and flowers and a very high acid style, almost like Vinhão from the Minho with a solid black cherry bite and firmness. Unusual and interesting high acid style red, but refreshing and intense with such a juicy and vibrant quality almost a hint of spritz it is so bright. 90/100.
Cooperativa da Granja, Granja Amareleja Moreto PE-franca 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
The same grape but made in classic methods in stainless steel. Ripe and very similar in style not quite so sweet and intense. The floral character and that liquorice intensity. Not quite the integration and vivid character of the 2014 – but then it is a different vintage. 88/100.
Encostas de Estremoz
Encostas de Estremoz, DJ Branco 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Fresh pear and melon skins, from this un-oaked wine made from Roupeiro and Arinto. Lots of Jaffa orange and juicy citrus.
Clean, fresh and appetising. 85/100
Encostas de Estremoz, DJ Rosé 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
The second year of production for this rosé made mainly from Aragonez aka Tempranillo. Nice juicy and fresh cherry
and redcurrant. Balanced and fresh. 84/100
Encostas de Estremoz, DJ Tinto 2014, Alentejo, Portugal
Aragonez, Castelão and Trincadeira. A fairly light ruby with a fairly dumb nose with decent fruit, fairly rustic. 83/100.
Encostas de Estremoz, DJ Escolha de Enologa 2013, Alentejo, Portugal
Rich if slightly stewed and pruney, this is a blend of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet that spends some
time in older barrels.
Sweet fruit and quite a bit of cedar spice, again fairly rustic although the sweet fruit does come through. 84/100.
Encostas de Estremoz, Enjetado 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet. Plenty of new oak, a touch custardy, plenty of sweet red fruit, very modern and plush,
but well made. 85/100.
Encostas de Estremoz, Prodigo 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. Much more elegant and subtle, more floral, with sweet fruit and a racy balance, much
more energy than the Enjetado. 87/100.
Encostas de Estremoz, Grandest Escolha 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
Cabernet in the blend here. Again a slick and modern oak and cassis nose and palate that, for me, could be from Chile or a
number of other places. It is well balanced, but I confess the whole portfolio is leaving me a little unmoved. 86/100.
Encostas de Estremoz, D.Joana Reserva 2011, Alentejo, Portugal
The top wine, and Joana says the next release will be the 2015 “hopefully,” as the wine is only made in the best years.
Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira and Touriga Nacional this spends more
time in wood, and all new oak. Plenty of oak, vanilla and chocolate on the nose, very slick and modern. Creamy tannins
and a little gamy note, a little too slick and lacking terroir authenticity. 87/100.