Last post on Portugal, we’re going to hit a few red wines…
Check out my Top Portugal 10—10 ‘quick facts’ to know about Portugal as a wine producing country.
And don’t forget about the white wines of Portugal.
For a general overview on Portugal, please see Wine Region Overview: Portugal, based on WSET Level 3
PORTUGAL TASTING—RED WINE
Maritime climate with high annual rainfall that falls mainly in spring and autumn, thus disrupting late-ripening varieties, such as Baga.
Soils are fertile alluvial soils near the river and limestone-clay on the slopes—good for Baga.
Baga: late ripening, productive variety thus needs the warmest sites possible. Typically planted on south-facing aspects, protected from cold north winds by the eucalyptus and pine forests. Does well on limestone-clay soils, balancing water retention and drainage. Soils also reflect sunlight back into the vines to aid ripening. Green harvesting also beneficial to increase concentration—fruit removed sometimes used in sparkling wine production.
Baga was traditionally grown at high yields, and still is for the production of rosé. However, in recent years, private companies have made more quality-focused expressions.
Modern producers de-stem, whereas more traditional producers practiced fermentation on stems (hence the reputation of needing age to be palatable). Some producers will use whole bunch fermentation for fresher fruit/increased aromas or partial stem inclusion for greater structure—the latter typically for those that will be intended for aging. Fermentation vessels are mixed: stainless, concrete, lagares. Maturation commonly carried out in large barrels.
‘Baga Friends’ is a small group of producers banded together to promote high quality wines from Baga.
NOTE: wines labelled Baga Classico must contain 50% Baga and a minimum of 85% of any blend of Baga, Alfrocheiro, Touriga Nacional, Jane and Camarate. These grapes can also be made into rosé.
Wine: V Puro Alias Bairrada Tinto 2017
Appearance: pale ruby
Aroma: medium (+) aromas—red cherry, strawberry, raspberry, black cherry, charred wood, hint chocolate, seaside minerality (salinity?), green vegetation
Palate: dry, high acid, medium (grippy) tannins, medium alcohol, medium (+) flavor intensity—as above; fruits are fresh in nature; red fruits dominate; adding a hint of eucalyptus or pine wood
Finish is medium (+) in length
Conclusion: This is a very good wine that has a wonderful intensity of fresh red fruits that dominate both the aroma and the palate. There are subtle secondary characteristics reminiscent of pine wood and/or eucalyptus (although the latter could be coming from the wine itself) as well as just a hint of toasted wood and chocolate from possible oak maturation. The tannins are fine-grained, though grippy, but do not overwhelm the fruit nor completely dry out the palate, providing a nice textural experience as well as adding to the overall medium body of the wine. The high acidity is refreshing against those grippy tannins and does well to keep those primary fresh fruit characteristics front and center through the length of the tasting. The finish does fall just shy of long at a medium (+) and thus I cannot rate the wine as outstanding, but it is very good quality.
Suitability for Aging: I struggle with whether this wine is suitable for extended aging. Certainly the structural components are present—acid, tannin, alcohol, and intensity of fruit. However, I get a sense that while the wine could hold, the nature of these fruits would not develop into anything more complex or interesting—in fact, the joy of this wine is in the vivacity of those fruits and age will just deteriorate those fresher expressions and the wine could become muted, dull, and/or the extremely high acidity will stick out awkwardly. Thus, I am concluded that this wine is not intended for extended bottle age.
Climate—The demarcated region follows the Douro river. It is divided into three subregions:
- Baixo Corgo (west side—Atlantic influence, thus cooler, wetter than the other two regions)
- Cima Corgo (middle—warmer, drier)
- Douro Superior (east side—hot, arid)
The western limit is marked by Serro do Marao, a mountain that shields the Douro region from the cooler, damper Atlantic weather, thus the region has a warm continental climate.
Soils—bedrock is schist covered with shallow topsoil maid of decomposed schist. It is low in organic matter and stony in texture, thus very well-draining. HOWEVER, the bedrock splits into vertical layers and vines can root through in search of needed water. NOTE: Vineyards are not set up for irrigation due to the many hillside locations. And this is a drought-prone environment. BUT when drought stress is extreme and jeopardizes quality (not quantity) AND where the topography allows, irrigation is allowed. (Producers need to let the IVDP know)
Wine: Wine & Soul Quinta da Manoella 2017
60% Touriga Nacional— mid-ripening variety, thick-skinned, producing wines with deep colour intensity and high levels of tannins; retains acidity well and displays concentrated flavors of black fruit and floral aromas; wines are said to have long ageing potential and hence it is often a component of the premium, long-matured wines. It can suffer from excess vegetative vigour, which needs to be managed through summer pruning, and is susceptible to coulure, which can lower its yields substantially and cause vine imbalance.
25% Touriga Franca—late ripening variety, thus suitable for growing in the warmest sites (low altitude, south-facing); has tight bunches of thick-skinned grapes, therefore resistant to fungal diseases; it can be vigorous and needs to be managed, usually by summer pruning. IN A BLEND: It contributes color, tannin and acidity, red and black fruit flavors and floral aromas
10% Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo—early ripening variety best grown in cool sites, as it can suffer from water stress; high yields need to be limited otherwise the wines can lack concentration.
5% Tinta Francisca
Appearance: medium ruby
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—black cherry, star anise, black berry, blueberry, clove, sandy earthiness, toasted wood, tobacco leaf, fresh leather
Palate: dry, medium (+) acid, medium (+) soft, mature tannins, high alcohol, medium (+) body, medium (+) intensity—confirms the nose; fruits are fully ripe in nature
Finish is medium (+)
Conclusion: This is a very good wine that has excellent integration of primary, secondary, as well as a hint of tertiary characteristics. The medium (+) acidity does well to add a freshness to this overall medium (+) body wine, promoting the primary characteristics, which are fully ripe in nature and are appropriately complemented by the mature, soft/plush tannins. Those full plump fruits are further complemented by the level of alcohol—though marked as high, the alcohol does not overwhelm or overheat the palate, instead adding a bit of decadence and body to the wine as a whole. Primary characteristics aren’t all fruit-based; indeed, there’s some depth of flavor/aroma with the addition of fresh tobacco leaf and a kind of sandy-earthiness. There are notes of barrel use in terms of spices like anise, clove, toast, wood, as well as a hint of fresh/young leather that could be the beginning of some tertiary characteristics. This wine clearly exemplifies complexity in style and production. Though well-balanced, well-concentrated, with depth and complexity, I found the finish to be just shy of long at a medium (+) and thus cannot rate the wine outstanding. However, that being said, I do think the wine has the potential to become outstanding with age. (See below.)
Suitability for Aging: I do think this wine has the potential to age further in bottle. The fully ripe fruits are concentrated and thus the nature of the fruits are well structured to lend toward longevity. The tannins, soft, and mature, are still in a place where they can soften further, become more integrated into the wine. Further, the wine’s structure has high enough acid, tannin, alcohol, and fruit concentration to lend to longevity.
Climate is Mediterranean: hot dry summers, mild winters; inland areas have most extreme temperatures. Annual rainfall 500-800mm, falling mostly in autumn and winter. Long periods of dry weather means drip irrigation is common.
Landscape is made of plains and gentle slopes. There is a wide range of soils: granite, schist, limestone, textures range from sandy to clay.
Northern subregion is cooler, producing wines with fresher fruit and higher acids.
Wide range of grapes are permitted and single varietal wines are common.
Wine: Esporao Reserva DOC Alentejo Portugal 2016
40% Aragonez/Tinta Roriz/Tempranillo— early ripening variety best grown in cool sites, as it can suffer from water stress; high yields need to be limited otherwise the wines can lack concentration
30% Alicante Bouschet— red-fleshed, contributing deep color, acid, tannins, and red and black fruits
20% Trincadeira— susceptible to rot, but suitable to dry climate; can produce high yields; medium tannins and acid; blackberry and spice flavors
10% Cabernet Sauvignon
Appearance: deep ruby
Aroma: medium (+) intensity—black cherry, blackberry, chocolate, vanilla, black plum, hint capsicum, hint black pepper, charred wood, anise/licorice
Palate: dry, medium (+) acid, medium (+) body, high alcohol, medium (+) course tannins, medium (+) intensity—confirming the nose
Finish is medium (+)
Conclusion: This is a very good wine that has good concentration of primary fruit flavors—all of which are on the border of over-ripe and ‘cooked,’ as the plum and black cherry almost have a jam or compote-like flavor to them, as does the anise/licorice note. These primary fruits are excellently balanced with notes of spice and smoke from what I assume is time in wood. While the alcohol is high, it does not overwhelm the palate or take over the primary fruits, instead adds to the body of the wine and to the decadence of those fruit flavors. The tannins, though course, again, do not dry out the palate completely or overtake the more pleasant fruit characteristics, instead adding to the body and texture. Course in nature now, I do believe these tannins will soften with time and become more integrated into the wine as a whole. Though well balanced with a good intensity and concentration of fruit and clear notes of complexity in winemaking style, the finish does fall shy of long at a medium(+), thus the wine is not of outstanding quality, but it is very good.
Suitability for Aging: I do believe that this wine is suitable for extended bottle aging. Structurally all components are there—acid, tannin, alcohol, concentration of fruit. Further, the nature of the fruits are such that they can continue to evolve/develop into more complex expressions of cooked, and dried forms which will add to the overall complexity and decadence of this wine. Lastly, as mentioned above, the tannins will benefit from some time in order to better integrate with the wine.
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