The Wines of Setubal, Portugal

These notes accompany a in-depth feature on Setubal, Portugal. For profiles of all of these estates please see Regional report: The wines and Setubal.



JP Azeitao Branco 2009
An easy-drinking blend of Moscatel and Fernão Pires, the 2010 was being bottled at my visit and this 2009 was not fabulously fresh, but had vestiges of quaffable fruit and good acidity. 81/100

Catarina 2009
According to Vasco, the first barrel-fermented white wine in Portugal and one of the oldest white wine brands from the 1980s. It is a blend of barrel-fermented Chardonnay with Fernão Pires and Arinto. Very nice nose, with honey and soft almond notes, and crisp, lemony fruit. Nice and fresh, with the crisp character extending the finish. 85/100


JP Aseitao, IGP
This is the top-selling bottled wine in Portugal according to Vasco, mainly through supermarkets. The majority of the blend is Castelão, with some Syrah, Alicante Bouschet and Aragonez. Crisp and fresh, it has a good fruit and nice balance. 85/100.

Meia Pipa 2008
Designed for the UK market, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Castelão is aged for 12 months in small French oak barrels. Very bright, focused fruit, a nice black fruit sheen, nice little hint of violet. The barrel adds a little creamy component. A touch short however, just faing quite rapidly on the finish. 84/100

Tinta da Anfora 2007
Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro and Cabernet Sauvignon are aged 12 months in French and American oak. Very appealing, graphite and lightly cedary nose to crisp black fruit. The fruit is racy and fine, with very supple tannins and a nice spicy finish. Very good value at around £6.00. 86/100.

Quinta do Carmo 2007
Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah aged in French oak. Lovely depth of blue/black fruit, with a schisty quality. Lots of solid, pure black fruit, with a lovely finish. 88/100.

So Touriga Nacional 2007
So means ‘lonely’, a play on it being a mono-varietal wine. Seventeen months in new Alliers and American oak. Lovely graphite and cedar over black cherry, it is very bold and has lots of juicy fruit quality. The palate has lovely pure fruit. 89/100.

Palacio da Bacalhoa 2007
A selection of grapes from the Quinta da Bacalhoa, mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with 25% Merlot and 5% Petit Verdot. Aged 15 months in small, new French oak. Lovely balsamic note to this, with very good Bordeaux expression. Lots of smoky notes and a terrific core of fruit. Fine balance, the tight, grippy tannins and a little spice giving lots of structure. Very long. 91/100.

Tinta da Anfora Grande Escolha 2006
Aragonez, Touriga Nacional and Cabernet, aged 20 months in French oak, around 70% new. Lovely lifted nose, with a floral, geranium lift that is very fragrant. Absolutely lovely fruit and black chocolate palate, with a silkiness to this and a smooth, very supple fruit and tannin balance. 91/100.

Quinta da Bacalhôa Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, IGP
14.5%. Aged 11 months in new oak barrels, some Merlot in the blend. Blackcurrant fruit, a little plummy, almost chocolaty quality, quite deep and ripe and clean. The palate is dominated by very grippy tannins at this stage: a big, powerful and extracted style, this does have a juiciness to it, but perhaps needs a little time to soften. 89/100.


Moscatel de Setubal 2004
This wine macerates until after Christmas, then spends a minimum of three years in small oak barrels. Ruby hue to the tawny colour. Lovely sweet strawberry fruit to the toffee and deliciously raisiny charcter. The palate has delightful sweetness too, with a balanced, delicious acidity to offset the sweetness (167g/l) and a tang of marmalade richness. 17.5% alcohol. 89/100.

Bacalhôa, Moscatel de Setúbal Colheita 1999
182.20 g/l residual sugar. 18.5%. Deep golden colour. Intense, almost eau-de-vie like notes that are balsamic and rich, with raisin and walnut, but an intense, lifted aromatic too. On the palate the wine is marmalady and rich, but has immediate concentration and acidity that grips. There’s a lovely glycerine richness, the palate rich and full with orange and nutty flavours, but fabulous acidity. 93/100.

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Domini Plus 2008, Douro
A wine from the Douro, not Sétubal, made from Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz from 35-year-old vineyards in the Douro Superieur. Started as a joint venture with Christian Van Zellar. Nice fragrant wine, the 60% Touriga Franca giving touches of elegant, even floral notes. The palate has a lovely fresh appeal, with big tannins suggesting it need considerable time, but the black fruit and sinewy, tight edge of tannins and acidity giving lovely structure. Very refined really, with nothing chunky. 91/100.

Periquita Superyor 2008, Palmela
92% of this wine is 35-year-old Castelão, with 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and 2% Tinta Francisca aged in French oak. Big meaty nose, with lots of deep, sinewy, plummy fruit. A big wine this, the palate having very good freshness with racy acidity and very quite grippy, chunky tannins. Very juicy, the tart cherry skin quality of the juice adding lots of grip and lip-smacking appeal. 89/100

Hexagon 2007, Palmela
Domingo says that ever since he finished his studies at UC Davis he had in his mind the idea of a great wine, the style of which he had as a plan that might take 20 years, to identify and plant exactly the right grapes in the right spot, and waiti for them to reach suitable maturity. Tasting a barrel of Tinta Cão, he felt he had the basis for making this wine which became Hexagon. In fact the blend is Touriga Nacional, Tinta Franca, Tinto Cão, Trincadeira, Shiraz and Tannat. Cedary and elegant on the nose, it has meaty black fruit, but is quite clear and fruity, with lots of spice and that subtle oak and earthiness coming through. The palate has plenty of fruit: really bold and chewy, with big tannins adding a pleasant roughening texture to quite smooth fruit. That bloody, gamey ripeness is there, with nice acidity into the finish too. 92/100

José de Sousa Mayor 2007, Alentejo
Made in the Alentejo in clay pots and lagars for fermentation a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez and Grande Noir aged in French oak. This has a lovely bright fruity lift, with a creaminess of berry fruits and some cassis intensity coming through. The oak is very much in the background, but this does hint at a chocolaty depth. Very silky, very ripe on the palate with creamy tannins and plenty of acidity from the Grande Noir to make the finish very fresh. 92/100.

José de Sousa, J 2007, Alentejo
Only 12.8% alcohol, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Grande Noir combine in a really spicy, more exotic wine with lots of ripe plum fruit and a hint of coffee and chocolate. The palate has delicious fruit again, with a smooth mid-palate and again that juiciness that pushes this through into a long, richly fruited but tight and fresh finish with bold tannins that are also quite muscular, sinewy, but refined too. 91/100


Alambre 20 year old Moscatel de Sétubal
Nutty nose, with a flood of orange fruit, toffee and old polished wood. The palate is flooded with beautifully mellow, sweet fruit, but that resonating core of lemony acidity pushes through, giving this lots of precision in the finish. 90/100

Domingos Soares Franco Coleccão Privada Moscatel de Sétubal Roxo 2001
Has a lovely smokiness, some stewed tea and gently rosehip notes, as well as that walnutty background and caramel. On the palate it has that lovely delicacy, with the a red fruit character and lovely bite and delicacy. 92/100

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Saramago 2007, Vinho Regional
Most of Saramago’s grapes come from 20-year-old plus vineyards and are vinified in lagars before being aged in mostly French oak, with a touch of American oak. The blend is predominately Castelño (85%) with some Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet. Strong, animal and game aromas, quite reductive and charry too, but not entirely inviting. Massive fruit here on the palate, but those slightly resinous, still animal notes are difficult. Big, firm fruit on the palate, lots of bold, spicy, but always edgy red and black fruits. Great concentration and persistence, with lots of fresh, grippy, high acid in the finish. 88/100 for an intriguing more than totally convincing wine.

Saramago 2005, Vinho Regional
All Castelño in this vintage, with an extremely spicy nose, plenty of exotic, incense-like aromas, again that charry, slightly animal note detracts a little, though there’s a huge density of black fruit. The palate has very big, chewy tannins, with a certain sweet elegance to the fruit that persists, the crunchy, bold acidity, but does have a lovely fleshy power and deep-set, resonating depth. Massive and needs time. 90/100.

Saramago Dúvida 2005, Vinho Regional
2000 bottles of this wine are produced, a blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira and Grande Noir. Fermented in lagar with a long pre- and post-fermentation maceration, the fruit comes from high, schisty vineyards at 400 metres in the Alentejo and the wine is aged in 100% new oak for one year, then racked back into tank, then back into other 100% new oak again, so 200% new oak in total. A further 18 months in bottle before release. Massive balsamic nose with, with lots of high, almost gamy aromas, lots of intense floral glimpses, but those schisty notes and charcoal persist. Quite a noseful. Very powerful palate too, with huge grip and thick, sweet balsamic grip, but liquoricy depth and amazing length and focus. Layered complexity and the grippy finish buttressed by fine acidity and a raciness to the tannins. This is not a perfect wine, yet there is something intriguing about it. 93/100.


Saramago JMS Moscatel de Setubal Superior 1993
Only 1000 bottles if this were produced, when it was bottled in January 2010. Lots of firm, resinous, shellac-like aromas that are oxidised and quite high and spirity at first, but there is orange peel tang and inviting nuttiness. Caramel and sweet balsamic strawberry fruit, with an absolutely fabulous palate, with exquisite balance, the pear and apple-like acidity against the sweet caramel and walnut depth, and all the time that orange and marmalade richness and depth. The finish is crystal clear, and goes on for minutes. Fantastically intense experience like an essencia or Seppeltsfield Para or other great fortified wines, but with massive acidity. 94/100. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

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Regional tasting


Cooperativa de Santo Isidro de Pegões, Nico Ten Branco 2009, IGP
10% alcohol and 10% residual sugar. Sweet, bright, floral and grapey fruit. The off-dry palate has a fresh, crisp flavour and nice sipping appeal. 84/100.

Casa Ermelinda Freitas, Sauvignon Blanc & Verdelho 2009, IGP
13.5%. Hints of a tropical fruit quality, with plenty of orangy fruit and a glimpse of green fig. The palate hints at being off-dry, but then decent acidity comes through, though the wine seems a little disjointed to me – sweet, a touch dilute on flavour, with some alcoholic heat. 83/100.

Malo-Tojo Estates, Platinum Reserva Branco 2009, IGP
13.5%. Chardonnay with 10% Arinto, fermented and aged 3 months in French oak. The barrel marks this quite strongly with a toasty, vanillin note, and beneath there is bold orchard fruit. An attractive Chardonnay character. On the palate this has very good acidity and lots of pleasing, punchy, bold, lemony fruit and acidity (possibly the Arinto influence), but the juiciness of the tart apple charcter again and then just softened and teased in the finish by a lovely quality of oak. Yet another Chardonnay? Possibly, but very stylishly done indeed. 8./100.

Adega de Palmela, Vale dos Barris Branco 2009, IGP
13%. A blend of Fernão Pires and Moscatel. Nicely floral and leafy, a hint of geranium and plenty of crunch. The palate has fresh, appetising fruit and a finish that hints at being off-dry. 84/100.


Adega de Palmela, Vale dos Barris Syrah 2009, IGP
14%. Slightly neutral nose, a little soft cherry fruit. Quite fresh, with a nice grippy black cherry quality. Firm, chewy tannins in a fresh, unoaked style. Grippy and good quality. 86/100.

Marcolino Freitas e Filho, Fontebarreira Tinto 2009, IGP
13%. Castelão and French varieties. Nicely rounded nose, plenty of ripe black fruit. Firm and juicy palate, quite aggressive tannins again but that does give it great freshness. Juciy finish. 85/100.

Sivipa, Ameias Syrah 2009, IGP
14.5%. Very round and forward berry fruits. Nice black cherry sweetness. Nice tannins here, but retains a nice violetty lift to the fruit. Plenty of grip and decisive tannins and really very attractive. 88/100.

Sivipa, Ameias Aragonês 2009, IGP
14%. A slightly more meaty, earthy but less distinctive nose. The fruit is less pronounced, but this has a dry, rustic appeal, though it is dry. 85/100.

Casa Ermelinda Freitas, Trincadeira 2008, IGP
14.5%. Masses of minty, modern and flashy new oak here, lots of chocolate and coffee and glossy black fruit. On the palate the fruit is ripe, thick and black, with great concentration and a long, bittersweet finish. Very modern, very international, but good. 88/100.

Adega de Pegões, Touriga Nacional 2008, IGP
13.5%. Eight months in small oak barrels. Slightly reductive, this does begin to show some cherry and blackcurrant fruit. Maybe just a glimpse of something more floral, but pretty closed. The palate has a juiciness to it, and a nice quality of sweet black fruit comes through. This has considerable concentration and a grippy, grainy tannic structure, but does finish with plenty of fruit. Another interesting wine that might be better in a few years. 89/100.

Lobo, Syrah / Touriga Nacional Colheita Seleccionada, IGP
14%. Eight months in small French oak barrels. Ripe red fruits, a certain smokiness, a touch of red liquorice. The palate has juicy fruit, the dry, cherry skin tartness of the acidity giving a nice bittersweet grip along with firm tannins, the oak just adding a slightly drying note to the finish. 87/100.

Malo-Tojo Estates, Platinum Reserva 2008, IGP
14%. Big, ripe, glossy nose, lots of chocolate and black plum depth. Some nice oak here, and a certain blackcurranty depth of fruit. (Might be some Cabernet in the blend?). The palate has lots of sweetness, the chewy, deep fruit offset by lots of French oak, but this is excellent in a very international style. 89/100.

Companhia das Quintas, Pegos Claros Garrafeira Tinto 2005, DO Palmela
14.5%. 40-year-old Castelão vines, fermented in lagars and aged 24 months in French oak. Quite meaty, quite cedary and dense, with a great depth of fruit and the rounding vanillin note of the oak. The palate has a lovely sweet depth of fruit, the grippy, sandy tannins and good acidity playing against that plumskin, roughening depth of fruit. Plenty of spice, but finishes with nice length and persistence. 90/100.

Companhia das Quintas, Pegos Claros Tinto 2005, DO Palmela
14%. 40-year-old Castelão vines, fermented in lagars and aged 12 months in French and Portuguese oak. Smoky bacon fat notes, lots of toasty barrel showing here, with sweet black fruit striking the palate, quite chocolaty and rich, the sweet fruit and charry component making this rich but with plenty of easy-drinking charm too. 88/100.

Hero do Castenheiro, Tinto 2005, DO Palmela
14%. Oak-aged Castelão. A fair bit of maturity to the colour and the nose here, with coffee and earthy notes very appealing, the fruit spicy and quite bright and cherryish. The palate is perhaps a little lean, the fruit just falling away slightly, but it has a very pleasing balance of tannins and acidity, the oak adding some plumpness and spice. Drinking really well now, but not for keeping. 87/100.

Sociedade das Soberanas, Herdade da Soberana Tinto 2005, IGP
14.%, Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet and Alfrocheiro aged 18 months in French oak. Developed colour and aromas, big, soft, open nose with a depth of gently smoky fruit, plenty of cedary oak and a sense of plump, rounded, softening character. The palate has lovely harmony and composure, the fruit melded very harmoniously with the oak and the tannins a touch dry but adding lots of spicy grip and a little liquorice nip. 90/100.

Sociedade das Soberanas, S de Soberana Tinto 2005, IGP
14.5%. Made only in exceptional years, 100% Alicante Bouschet aged 32 months in new French oak and a further year in bottle. Hugely ripe, almost bloody nose, with those gamy qualities melding with a little leather character and supporting oak. The fruit is to the fore here though. On the palate this has fabulous sweetness: yes, it is a modern, flattering style, but the espresso-licked depth of the cassis and plum fruit is joyous, and the creamy tannins and good acidity, as well as that supporting oak breadth, make for a seriously impressive mouthful of wine. 91/100.

Casa Assis Lobo, Lobo Mau Tinto 2004, DO Palmela
14%. 85% Castelão, 15% Touriga Nacional. 24 months in Portuguese, French and American oak, then one year in bottle. Maturing rim of brick red, and maturity on the nose too with some gamy charcter and a touch of Muscavado sugar, some brackeny qualities and nice berry fruit beneath. The palate has perhaps a little less fruit than I would like, though it finishes with a pleasant, savoury depth. 88/100.

Hero do Castenheiro, Hero da Machoca Grande Escolha Tinto 2001, DO Palmela
14.2%. Castelão-based blend, aged in oak. Lightly oxidised, with some brown sugar and berry fruit. A touch of creamy oak with that hint of decaying leaves of an old wine. On the palate plenty of sweet, old fruit. Soft oak and nice tannins make for a really pleasing drink: plenty of pleasure to be had here for current drinking. 88/100.


Casa Agrícola Assis Lobo, Lobo Roxo Moscatel de Setúbal 2007
17%. Quite a dark amber/tawny. Very leafy and geranium-like, with hints of nuttiness. The palate has a lovely marmalade tang, the rich, round fruit is deliciously mouth-filling and the acidity is balanced. 88/100.

Venâncio da Costa Lima, Moscatel de Setúbal
17%. Bright golden colour. Again that definite geranium lift, with plenty of bright, floral and herbal aromatics. The palate is quite luscious and honeyed, with more bright, tangy, apricotty flavours and relatively soft acidity. 88/100.

Venâncio da Costa Lima, Reserva Moscatel de Setúbal 2003
17%. Dark, tawny colour. Nutty and deep, with more coffee and raisin qualities, obviously much longer time in barrel for this. Some of that leafy, floral charcter too. The palate has those developed honey and tea-like flavours, delicious toffee sweetness, and a fine acidity to balance and extend the finish. 90/100.

Horácio dos Reis Simões, Moscatel de Setúbal Superior 10 Anos
195.60g/l residual sugar. 17%. Dark, nut brown/tawny colour. Has a subdued, older character with little of the Muscat’s floral exuberance. Aromas are more of stewed tea and nuts, a little caramel. The palate has full sweetness, the marmalade orange tang and cappuccino richness of the wine giving huge depth and intriguing layers of contemplative complexity. Fantastic acidity sparks it into life, in a profound and deliciously alive wine. 93/100.

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