Estremadura is one of Portugal’s less well-known wine regions, and understandably so. This fertile land north of Lisbon has plenty of vineyards, but they have long been the source for fairly undistinguished bulk wines. But change is afoot, not least a whole new name for the wine region, which is to be re-christened ‘Lisboa’ as its appellation. Several smaller estates are planting noble varieties and making much more serious wines, and some believe that Lisboa has a real future as a very high quality wine region.
Already making a name for itself is Quinta de Chocapalha (shock-a-pall-yho), a family-owned estate whose wines are made by daughter of owners Alice and Paulo Tavares, Sandra Tavares (right). Sandra is one of Portugal’s hottest winemaking properties, both here at Chocapalha, and in the Douro where she and husband Jorge Borges run an estate called Pintas (Jorge is ex-winemaker for Neipoort and Quinta do Passadouro). At Chocapalha, Sandra used robotic lagars and all French oak in a meticullous operation that has taken the wines of Lisboa to new heights.
Both indigenous and international grapes are planted. For reds these include Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Castelão, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, whilst for white wines Chardonnay is blended with Arinto, Viosinho and Vital. The wines are decidedly modern in style, but are very carefully made and marked by a noteable power, married to harmony and balance throughout the range. Corney & Barrow are UK Agents for Quinta de Chocapalha, but supplies are limited and stocks sell quickly. See current availability at www.corneyandbarrow.com.
See all stockists of Quinta de Chocapalha on wine-searcher.com.
Quinta de Chocapalha, Branco 2008, Portugal
This white wine is a blend of the local Arinto grape with Chardonnay. It is a very fresh, zingy white with lime and floral notes, but on the palate there’s a fatness and weight that fills the mouth. It’s all about freshness and fruitiness, yet has a serious seam of concentration too. 88/100. £9.52 from Corney & Barrow
Quinta de Chocapalha, Branco Reserva 2006, Portugal
A blend of Chardonnay with Arinto and Vital, aged seven months in French oak, the Reserva has an attractive lemon meringue pie character, combining fresh citrus with bakery notes and a creaminess. There’s a freshness too, with a little leafy, herby lift. On the palate I like the decisive, dry, pithy grapefruit and lemon character here, with a lean minerality that cleaves its way through richer, more toasty and vanillin tones. Quite a concentrated and powerful wine this, with a long, very focused finish and real staying power. Impressive. 90/100. £12.29 from Corney & Barrow
Quinta de Chocapalha, Tinto 2006, Portugal
Dense, dark and liquoricy on the nose, this blend of various Portuguese grapes with a touch of Syrah has a serious, sinewy quality with edgy cherry and dark plum fruit, and a savoury, earthy appeal. On the palate it is firm and focused, with a lean, blackcurrant and olive seam running through the wine. This is the opposite of jammy, the edgy, savoury quality staying fresh and focused with juicy tannins and acidity and considerable length. 88/100. £9.99 from Corney & Barrow
Quinta de Chocapalha Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
There’s a certain delicacy, or rather, refinement about this wine, with its ripe strawberry and blackcurrant fruit quality and little note of herbal freshness. On the palate there’s an intriguing broadening out: it maintains that juicy, sweet-fruited clarity, but a robust, chunky tannic framework adds a certain muscularity, with broad, oaky tannins too, though the freshness is maintained with very good acidity. A savoury and fresh, appetising wine this. 89/100. £13.00 from Corney & Barrow
Quinta de Chocapalha, Tinto Reserva 2006, Portugal
The Reserva is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Syrah, aged 19 months in French oak, 80% of which is new. There’s a beautifully fragrant oak quality here, with delicate Sandalwood and floral spices, and a supporting seam of gentle vanilla. The fruit is dark and autumnal, but with a great ripeness at its core. On the palate this fills the mouth with that black berry fruit, but as with the Tinto 2006, a lean, taut, grippy edge of liquorice and some minerality adds drama and tension. Lovely freshness again, and a long, composed finish. I’d recommend decanting this for a couple of hours before serving. 92/100. £17.49 from Corney & Barrow
Quinta de Chocapalha, Tinto Reserva 2005, Portugal
This 2005 has an extra year in bottle under its belt, and whilst the winemaking is identical, there is no mention of Syrah on the back label this time. It has a very fragrant nose again, with tobacco and spices, and that little kirsch-like, floral lift to the black fruits. On the palate perhaps just lacks a touch of the glossy plushness on the mid-palate, but that’s a small complaint as that same classy structure and vitality comes through, and the fruit is balanced into the long, sweet-fruited finish. 91/100. £17.49 from Corney & Barrow See all stockists of Quinta de Chocapalha on wine-searcher.com.