These past couple of months, I have been recounting a press trip that I took to the Alentejo region of Southern Portugal. It was an incredible trip, filled with great food, stunning landscapes, historical towns, clay amphorae, and of course great wines.
While the trip has long since ended, it has been wonderful reviewing scores of photos and pages of notes that I took during the trip and organizing them into a few cogent (hopefully) posts that provide some sort of insight to the region.
A few weeks ago, I received several bottles of Alentejano wine to review. While I am not sure if it was the intention, I was curious if I would feel the same about these wines tasting them in my Houston home as I did trying them against the backdrop of a Portuguese sunset. I was sent five wines, four from wineries that I had visited on the trip, and even though the setting had changed, the beauty within the bottle remained.
2013 Adega da Cartuxa “Évora” Tinto Colheita Alentejo DOC: Retail $22. Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, and Trincadeira. Named after the Carthusian monks that inhabited the area in the 16th Century, Cartuxa is a fairly large producer in Alentejo that simultaneously honors the past while modernizing for the future. Dark red berry fruit, clove, and just a bit of heat, this wine seems to be fairing much better after having been open for a solid 24 hours. Rich, fruity, depth, this is more than an everyday drinker even though the price is certainly palatable. Given the lack of tannic presence on the finish and its fruity and full nature, this is a wine for short-term consumption, which is fine since it’s delicious. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2014 Esporão Reserva DOC Alentejo, Portugal: Retail $25. 40% Aragonez, 30% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Trincadeira, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. A bit of a kitchen-sink blend with three of the most popular red varieties in Alentejo dominating the wine. Quite dark in the glass with small dark berry fruit, mocha, black pepper, and tobacco prominent. On the palate, yum. And yum again. I am not a dark wine kind of guy, but this wine forces me to re-assess that assertion: rich and full, the dark fruits (blackberry and plum) are pronounced but far from dominant. Plenty of acidity and tannin bracing the fruit like bookends, with depth and earth on the mid-palate. The finish is lengthy with plenty of tannin nearly four years after the vintage. This wine is fantastic, but will likely get better—like that 6’3” freshman that comes out for the basketball team sporting size 16 sneakers. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2015 Herdade da Malhadinha Monte da Peceguina Alentejo: Retail $25. Aragonez, Alicante Bouschet, Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira. On my trip to Alentejo last year, I was fortunate enough to stay at Heredade da Malhadinha and it really is a spectacular place. I even planted a vine there—and although that vine will not be producing fruit for another couple of years at least, the grapes it eventually bears will likely go into this blend. And that will certainly make me proud as this is a stellar wine: dark ruby-red in the glass with blackberry, cassis, chocolate, and both black and white pepper. On the palate, holy cow. Rich, luscious, fruity, and deep, this is simply stellar. Dark berry fruit is balanced by plenty of acidity and just a touch of tannic grip. This could go another few years, but it is fantastic now. Whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.
2014 Piteira Vinho de Talha Tinto DOC Alentejo: Retail $15. 100% Moreto. On my trip to Alentejo, I did not visit Piteira, but we did visit several wineries that used the large clay amphorae, or talha, to ferment or age (or both) wine. Even though this wine was made using a traditional, even ancient method, the wine strikes me as decidedly modern: oodles and oodles of fruit on the nose (blackberry, plum, black pepper) and even more on the palate (blackberry, dark cherry, rhubarb). While the fruit here is a bit overpowering for me, this is likely a real crowd pleaser with the multiple strong flavors and joyous nature. Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Herdade Do Rocim Alentejo Olho de Mocho Reserva: Retail $15. 100% Antão Vaz. Antão Vaz is widely considered the Alentejan white and many producers in the region employ it to underscore that great white wines can be grown in hot climates. I was impressed with this wine when I tried it at the winery, and that did not change when I placed this bottle on my dining room table. Clean and bright brilliant pale yellow with citrus, tropical fruit, and mineral notes. Round and full on the palate, unctuous and tasty with ample acidity. The minerality shines here, and lasts well into the medium to lengthy finish. Solid. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.