Feb 06, 2018
There is always something to get excited about when it comes to wine—and I get excited a lot.
It's also important to acknowledge, there is always more to learn.
This past fall I visited two regions, while not obscure, they are overshadowed within their homeland. Often these places are the most interesting to investigate, because there's been less written about them.
It also makes them a challenge, you're not preaching to the converted, you're taking on the task of being an ambassador.
While educating people on what these regions have to offer, you hope that it rub off on folks enough to encourage interest and ergo, importers.
One of those regions is Lisboa.
Formerly known as Estremadura, Lisboa is anchored by the city of the same name (Lisbon), and runs north (along the Atlantic) and east of Portugal's main city.
While the region does specialize in some of Portugal's key 250 autochthonous varieties, they have more international varieties (such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet) planted than other regions. Which makes for a dilemma for international buyers who are seeking Portugal's singularity.
Additionally, Lisboa, due to its volume is known for co-operative and large production/bulk wines. That's not necessarily a negative, in many ways it allows a good entry-level source of wines to hit the market, which introduces many to Portuguese wine.
Despite this, there are large producers making truly tasty wine, and also a significant amount of smaller producers making exciting wines from both native and international varieties.
This last visit was a return for me—but it had been almost a decade since I was in this region, it was still Estremadura and my visit wasn't as comprehensive, but I was still wowed by the region and its offerings.
Lisboa has nine subregions: Alenquer DOC, Arruda DOC, Bucelas DOC, Carcavelos DOC, Colares DOC, Obidos DOC, Torres Vedras DOC, Encostas d'Aire DOC, Lourinhã DOC (aguardente).
The two latter overlap into other regions, Beiras and Tejo (Alentejo) and the two Cs (Colares and Carcavelos) close to Lisboa, have been whittled down to almost nothing, as urban sprawl takes over their space.
The regions's main indigenous varieties are: Arinto, Fernão Pires, Malvasia, Vital.eds: Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Castelão, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira.
Aruda and Alenquer have more relaxed stances on international varieties, and allow new indigenous and international varieties, such as: Touriga Franca, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
The Atlantic has great influence over the region, as a moderating influence, but inland, protected by coastal ranges, warmer pockets allow for sturdier red varietal ripening.
I first visited this producer in 2008 and their portfolio has not shrunk in the least. In fact, DFJ makes 110 wines (although many of those are private label).
DFJ makes a broad mix from indigenous and international varieties, from cheap and cheerful to premium.
Established in 1999 by Jose Neiva Correia, who is one of the country's most prolific winemakers. Certainly, when DFJ makes 2-3 million liters of wine per year, the majority from Lisboa, but a small portion from Douro and neighboring. Setubal. As owner and partner with his siblings, Carreia represents one of the largest agricultural holdings in Lisboa, that spreads across Torras Vedras and Alenquer.
Additionally, a handful of the wines make their way into our market.
Grande Arte Alvarinho, 2016: Mineral tones and notable freshness. Lively acidity—crisp, fresh and drinkable. Good length and concentration.
Pedras do Monte 2014: a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon & Tinta Roriz, which is available in the LCBO and in BC. Expect blueberry and raspberry and juicy and sweet-—approachable. A nice mouthfilling red with good structure.
Escada 2015: Made from Touriga Nacional this wine is a top seller in Norway, unoaked sweet, rich and ripe and fruit-forward. Not lacking structure.
Escadea Touriga 2016: a bit more savoury, supple and sweet juicy red, better structure and savouriness
Alta Corte Caladoc/Tinta Roriz, 2016: Made for the Northern European market, this red has Good fruity Grenache-type character. Forward bouncy structure. Delicious.
Campanhia Agricola do Sanguinhal
One of the oldest and most interesting producers in Portugal, Sanguinhal was established in 1926 to manage three properties: Quinta de S. Francisco (main property, where wine production takes place); Quinta das Cerejeiras (the oldest--established in 1850s); Quinta do Saguinhal (the historic cellars and distillery, which celebrates wine tourism). A family owned and run company, Sanguinhal specializes in spirits (aguardente and licoroso) and offers a broad range, alongside their table wines, made from local and international varieties. They are also the foremost producer of leve wines (leve wines are light, fresh and low alcohol wines, developed to compete with the north's Vinho Verde).
Lisboa is known for its brandy production and Sanguinhal is home to the largest and oldest distillery in the region, it was built in 1871.
Sottal 2016 ‘Leve”: Moscatel (50%), Vital (10%) and Arinto. A vivace wine,
very floral and expressive, charming and fruity. Racy dry finish.
9.5% alcohol, Leve is between 9% and up to 10.5%alc. Very quaffable and tasty.
Quinta Cerejeiras Branco 2016
Made from Firnao Pires, Arinto and Vital. Fresh and floral and mineral, racy citrus and crunchy white fruits.
Sartal owns most Vital in region and that is 10hec. Mouthwatering, oily and pithy, good structure. Attractive phenolic finish.
Quinta de S. Francisco, 2016: From Obidos, this white has a racy nose. Made from Firnao Pires, Arinto, and Vital (50-60%) you can expect fleur de sel characters (stands to reason as they are 12km from the ocean). Umami, mineral and lime notes layered with crunchy white fruits. Restrained and focued, a precise wine.
Sanguinhal Chardonnay & Arinto, 2016:
From Obidos, where the wines are known to be age-worthy.
More spice and oak notes here—rich and oily nose. Oak notes comes from the Chardonnay which has new oak contact. It is buttery and spicy, is still wonderfully fresh with a pithy and oaky finish.
Quinta das Cerejeiras Reserva, 2015: Obidos. Buttery and spiced, nutty and oily, burnt honey and lemon and lanolin. Great freshness and weight, spice and concentration, oak is handled well on palate. Pithy finish. Weighty and concentrated with good focus and precision. This is going to be considered a gran reserva in 2016. Fermented in French oak and aged 6mos with battonage.
Final blend adds Arinto and Vital.
Rose Casabel Special Selection, 2016 Lisboa: Confectionary strawberries, marshmallow, pink colour, off-dry, good tannins and acid. A slighty sour finish.
Castelao, Aragonez, Syrah—value.
Cerejeiras Tinto 2016: Sweet, meaty and savoury, smoky bacon fat and pleasantly bitter finish. Aragonez, Castelao, Touriga Nacional blend. Value wine, textural with good and weight and concentration.
Casabel 2016 Vinho Regional Lisboa
Rich, earthy, wild berry (just bottled) still a bit tight/closed
Good weight and balance, the tannins are chewy but ripe and polished. Mouth-filling, savoury but balanced with fruit, less acid, more chew
Casteao, aragonez, touriga nacional.
Quinta de S. Francisco, Obidos, 2015:
Amazing intensity and concentration, sexy, flamboyant nose with beautiful floral notes, blueberry and black raspberry, sarsaparilla, baking spices. Lush and plush and intense, so supple and silky and chocolaty. Delicious.
Made from Castelao, Aragonez, Touriga Nacional
Quinta Das Cerejeiras Reserva, Obidos 2011: (Castelao, Touriga, Aragonez).
2011 was a great vintage in Portugal, was warm. Shows its place, very Portuguese in character.
Peppery spices, smoke and spice, quite well-melded. Earthy and spicy palate too, along with chocolaty espresso. Acidity, balance and structure all checked off, not sexy, but more muscular yet silky. Pleasing bitter finish.
Quinta de S. Francisco Coheita Tardia 2010 Late Harvest: Oily, lanolin and mineral, guava skin, very unique very waxy,
70% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Firnao Pires. 100% botrytis.
Sartal is Quinta da Vassala e Vale Nova
Quinta S. Jeronimo Chardonnay, 2016: Extremely aromatic, very peachy/musque-like with orange blossom notes—very pretty. Dry and crisp nose, racy and crunchy.
Quinta da Vassala Branco Chardonnay Reserva 2016: Acacia and peaches, again quite aromatic with woody undertones. Good body and structure, zesty finish with oak spice on finish.
Quinta S. Jeronimo Syrah, 2015: Peppery with wild red berry aromas. Great body and weight, supple and generous style. Nice textural cocoa tannins—palate is spicy and chocolaty.
Quinta do Vassala Reserva Red 2013: Made from Syrah, Alicante Bouschet and Merlot. An attractive red, honest. Chocolatey and supple, a generous palate, which is spicy and rich. Good complexity overall.
Quinta Do Gradil
A historic estate, which once belonged to the Marquis de Pombal (a famous 18th century statesman). Quinta do Gradil winery is located alongside an estate palace built in 1780 (which they are revovating) and it also home to an outstanding restaurant.
Quinta Do Gradil Viosinho Regional Lisboa 2015: waxy nose, lime and lemon balm, attractive bitterness. Very Umami in nature and salty—great food wine.
QdoG Reserva Regional 2016 Regonal Lisboa: Chardonnay and Arinto. More floral and waxy. Some buttery, toasty and spiced layers. Aged in allier oak and lees stirred for 120 days. Oak shows but is balanced. Good freshness.
Escondido Alavinho and Arinto 50/50 (one barrel made) 2015: By Anibal Coutinho. Fresh and lively nose, waxy, oily, complex and fresh. Good precision, good balance. Floral and citrus ad weight acidity. Structure and elegance.
Quinta Do Gradil ‘Mula Velha, Region Lisboa, 2016:
Touriga Nacional, Aragonez, Castelao
Spicy and meaty, fruity and plush. Modern drinking wine. Same on palate—modern and fruity. Straightforward but very tasty. Good tannin structure. One of best sellinfg Portuguese wines in BC
Quinta Do Gradil Syrah, Touriga Nacional and Alicnte Bouschet 2015: Meaty and more rustic in nature. Savoury and peppery and plush with good bones. Slightly more international style, good tannic structure—somewhat chewy.
Quinta Do Gradil Syrah, Lisboa 2015: Meaty and floral with purple fruits, wild and cohocolaty with cedar and cocoa. Plush, structured and well-made.
Quinta Do Gradil Reserva 2015: Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Alicante Bouschet. Nice muddled nose; rustic and earthy, wild purple and red fruits. Great weight and balance, acidity and silky texture with a juicy finish. Has a nice muscular frame. but elegant as well. Well made.
Astronauta Touriga Nacional 2015, IG Lisboa (IG is the same as Vinho Regional Lisboa). By Anibal Coutinho. Plush and chocolaty, spicy and intense. Powerful, extracted, potent and mucular but plush, very structured and statuesque.
Escondido Merlot 2012: By Anibal Coutinho. Smoky and slightly oxidative. Savoury, umami and spicy, cigar and earthy with dried fruity flavours.
Quinta do Rol
A gorgeous family estate, agritourismo and equestrian center, Quinta do Rol specializes in fresh and vibrant wines, with a strong focus on sparkling and international varieties.
Arinto 2015: Fruity, juicy nose, very floral and fruit cup notes. Apple-y fresh precise. Racy acidity.
Unoaked Branco Seleccao VRLReserve, 2012: Alvarinho, Arinto and Chardonnay made in concrete and SS with some battonage. Racy acidity—lovely textural and phenolic white. Focus, character and complexity. Nice pithy finish.
Fernao Pires 2015: Fermented and aged 9 months in old oak casks. Creamy nose—tastes and smells like orange creamsicle. Vanilla, creamy leesy with distinct orange flavours. Very unique and interesting. Delicious, purity and unique. (natural yeasts only)
Rose Pinot Noir 2015: Attractive salmony/copper colour with bright and tart red fruits, tealeaf and cedar. Dry, focused and delicious. Tangy and nicely weighted. A serious style but not overly powerful. Mouthwatering finish.
Rose Pinot Noir Barricca (oak aged) 2015: Fermented and aged 9 months total in old oak. Ths is a serious Pinot (grown on clay soils) with impressive structure and some malolactic notes.
Good intensity with savoury undertones and mouthwatering acidity.
Grande Reserve Rose Espumante 2009: 7 years on lees in the cellar. A brilliant salmony-hue. Tangy, good richness on the palate, great acidity. Foamy and creamy, rich and complex. Brilliant orange peel and cedary finish.
Grande Reserva Extra Bruto Blanc de Blanc Espumante: Leesy notes with brioche, cream, roasted buttered nuts, mineral and roasted lemons. Outstanding creamy sparkling with focused acidity. Solid character, posture and complexity. Earthy and saline. Weighty and complex.
Tictac Merlot Garrafa 2012: Only 1700 bottles made. Rich and plummy, sweet vanilla, black raspberry, dried violets, chocolaty. Textural and structured. Dried flowers.
Some nice lifted minty/herbal notes; agood mouth-filling wine, nice spiciness. Rustic but classic. A winemaker label (not Quinta do Rol)
Pinot Noir 2010: Aged 18 mos in French oak cask. Nice liquer-like nose, cedar and raspberry tea, cranberry, tart cherries. Sweet expressive fruit, amazing conentration, baking spices and plush silky character—good powerful finish. Lengthy, studious and spicy. Quite gorgeous, shows some of its age on the palate, hinting on dried fruits, but decidedly robust as well. Not really a feminine style. Love it, delicious and exuberant. Earthy forest floor secondary and herbal notes.
Casa Santos Lima
I first visited this estate in 2008 and since then they have doubled in size. They produce 40% of the region's wines, and are available across Canada. This family-owned company make a large range of wines under a number of labels, from indigenous and international varieties. Casa Santos Lima has 300 hectares at their site in Lisboa, and also own land in the Algarve, Douro and buy from growers in Alentejo.
Joya Leve: Arinto, Fernao Pires and Moscatel blend. It shows the floral and fresh peachy tones and orange blossom. Slightly prickly palate and off-dry, fun and fresh wine with a dry and juicy finish. Straightforward and quaffable.
Quinta das Amoras Reserva 2016: Firnao Pires, Arinto, Vital and Chardonnay. Fresh and lively, citrusy. Tangy palate with good depth; minerality and complexity. A food wine, nice weight and concentration.
Palha Canas 2016: Arinto, Firnao Pire, Chardonnay and Viognier. Mineral—lemony and lime focus, waxy notes and white flowers.
Mouth is the same, waxy and very citrus-y. Mouthwatering and lingering, tart and savoury finish.
Joya Castelao and Camarate Rose, 2016:
A bit of CO2 adds spritz and this rose has some residual. Pale pink with strawberry, candied marshmallow and chreries. Off-dry with a good clean finish. Quaffable and very drinkable.
Passion of Portugal Reserva, 2015: (biggest seller in Ontario Portuguese red ingeneral list) Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barocca, Syrah. Savoury chocolaty, and fresh nose ad palate. Solid style, good structure.
Lab Castelao, 2015: Tinta Roriz, Syrah, Touriga Nacional. Sold across Canada—notes of cherry and spice—fresh on palate. Lively and tangy, easy to drink and tasty. Value wine, easy to drink, solid and tasty.
Bons Ventos 2015 (Castelao, Camarate, Tinta Miuda, Touriga Nacional): Classic rustic Portuguese wine. Juicy loads of expressive red berry fruit, fine spices. Solid, very good structure and chocolaty finish. Very good.
Bonavita 2015: Touriga Franca, Tnta Roriz, Casteao, Syrah: Meaty savoury, spicy and purple berries. Good acidity, easy to drink and approachable. Bright tart finish. Very good value wine.
Confidencial Reserva 2014: a blend of 10 local and international varieties). Blueberry and raspberry aromas, cherry and chocolaty. Delicious, fresh, plush, juicy and textural. Good textural tannins, solid finish. Dry tannins but ripe. Very good—attractive weight and style.
Colossal Reserva 2015: Touriga National, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Roriz.
Rich, earthy and savoury. Sweet and supple, raspberry and chocolaty and structured. Bold, chewier—a steak wine. Brawny but fruity.
Palha Canas 2013: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Castelao, Camarate. Spicy and meaty and ripe—chocolaty and chewy, floral with bold fruit. Big but well situated—loads of tannins, ripe and dusty. Potent and muscular.
Casa Santos Lima Cabernet Sauvignon 2015: Bold cassis with good representation of the variety. Structure, acidity and balance all in check. Good and bold.
Casa Santos Lima Reserva 2013: Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Tinta Roriz, Syrah. Liquer-like intensity, ripe and rich and potent fruit, inky and robust, extracted and powerful. Dry tannins with almost over-the-top intensity. Muscular and brooding. Loads of fruit, but also lots of tannins and oak. Well-knit.
Casa Santos Lima Arinto~Chardonnay Espumante: Good yeasty autolytic notes; lemony and fresh, moussey, good depth and complexity. Spent six months on lees. Classic method fizz with good depth and weight. Delicious.
Quinta S. Sebastiao
Established as a monestary in 1775, in Arruda dos Vinhos.
Located 10km from the Tejo River and 30km from the Atlantic, the estate has 35 acres, of which 10 is planted to vine.
The estate was brought back to life by a hotelier and producer of Portuguese soap operas (just watch the video on the home page of their site), Antionio Parente. Quinta S. Sebastio is his smallest enterprise but he's been dedicated to the wine production of the estate since 2006. He also purchases a large amount of grapes from local farmers to assist them, making the wine under labels without "quinta".
Perhaps equally compelling, Antonio's other love, Lusitano. The majestic, trained horses are nothing short of exhilarating to watch.
S. Sebastio Arinto, 2016: floral and waxy lemony and fresh. Mineral and saline, peachy, honey and white blossoms. Bracing acidity. restrained.
Quinta de S. Sebastiao Branco, 2016:
Cercial, Arinto, Sauvigno Blanc and lemony and salty and crunchy white fruits and honey. Quite powerful and intense loads of savoury umami and salty and citrus. Heavier and more intense. With a mineral finish. Fruity peachy finish.
S. Sebastiao Rose, 2016:
Made from Syrah and Touriga Nacional, it offers strawberry, cedar and fine spice with orange peel. Nice dry style with good grip. Dry finish, dry style. Good power.
Quinta de S.Sebastiao, 2014: The entry level red of the quinta, it is made from equal parts Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. It is spicy, savoury and juicy with a peppery nose, high-toned red fruits and rustic character.
Quinta de S. Sebastiao Reserva 2014: Merlot Touriga Nacional and Syrah, it spent 12 months in maturing in new French oak. Big, meaty, fruity and peppery/ spicy. Supple and structured.
Good balance and power. Somewhat brooding but fresh.
Grand Escolha Touriga Nacional 2012: Touriga Nacional, which spent 18 mos new French Oak.
Only 1200 bottles made. Intense and sweet wild black berry and red fruits, layered with minty/eucalyptus notes. Lengthy, extracted, spicy with chocolaty finish. Bright and exclusive
Only in good vintages, the next vintage of this wine will be 2015.
A family venture—"A family adventure" might be just as well suited to this idyllic working farm in Mafra, just 30 minutes from Lisbon.
Quinta de Sant'Ana
The stunning hilltop estate began its life in the 1600s (the oldest part still stands) and was expanded over the centuries.
It is now home to Brit, James Frost and his wife Ann, and their seven sons.
It's a magical compound of gardens, vines, farm animals, streams and historic structures (including a chapel), where weddings and social gatherings are commonplace. Frost's German wife Ann, inherited this estate from her father Baron Gustav von Furstenburg, who bought it is the 1960s, after vacationing in Portugal. They lived on the estate from 1969-1974 and left during the Portuguese revolution. Luckily the estate was not taken back by the Portuguese. nor destroyed.
James (right) and Ann (one of the Baron's seven children) came to visit in the early 1990s, and fell in love. They turned it into a destination, both living and working on the estate, and began planting vines in 1999; they began making boutique wines with a serious focus in 2005.
Quinta de Sant'Ana is wonderfully symbiotic; destination weddings, wine and a romantic setting.
They make organic wines: a lovely Alvarinho and a Riesling, Pinot Noir and a rose made from Merlot, Pinot, Aragonez and Touriga Nacional.
Hungarian-born, Portuguese via Brazil Manz Wines owner,
Andreas Manz, was a football player who turned fitness and health into a business.
He moved his family to the tiny 13th century village of Chelios near Lisbon, but discovered all the young people had left—preferring to makes their lives in the big city. There was no more interest in the hard farming life—sad for a region, which used to supply Lisbon with its wine. 60-70 years ago, the region winemaking in the region began to die off, so Manz decided to purchase an old vineyard from a widow who could no longer work it.
The soils here are tough, what used to be ocean is covered in pink granite, beautiful, but hard to work.
Along the way he came across a variety thought extinct, Jampal. A white grape, the 200 vines of Jampal are the last known in Portugal. Manz decided to capitalize on that, making a wine, no one else in the world had.
The cellar and tasting rooms in the middle of the village are 500 years old, renovated they are charming and give a true sense of what life was like, so long ago.
Rose 2016 Quite floral and juicy, red bright fruits (jolly rancher style), nice pale and pretty salmony pink-hue. Delicious and wild berries fruit with red apples and spices finely ground. Mouthwatering finish tart and tangy.
Textural mineral tannins cling to the palate long after the finish.
Dona Fatima Jampal 2015:
Still the only wine in the world made 100% Jampal. Lemony waxy notes, lanolin, lemon pith and pomelo. Racy acidity, focue and weight, very mineral-driven textural finish. Rustic and simple but in a good way. It has potential to give more aromas, but they try to restrain that.
Intense yet and distinct minerality, oak needs to be tamed in this wine, let the fruit shine through.
Penedo do Lexim 2015:
Touriga Nacional and Arogonez, this wine is made to be simple and easy going, entry level.
Raspberry and blueberry, very fruit-forward and expressive, spice sweet floral notes. Dry, textual and very good structure.
Manz Lisboa 2015:
80% Touriga Nacional 20% Castelao, which spent 8 months in American oak. Nice bright raspberry and cherry aromas with vanilla, licorice undertones and floral. Supple entry, oak texture and spice, dusty and grippy. Good structure and honesty—you can taste the terroir.
Manz Platonico 2015: Touriga Nacional and Castelao, Arogonez, Syrah.
Meaty and savoury, herbal and bittersweet palate. Juicy and textural with cocoa fine spice and oak—lean finish. Honest and rustic. Tightly wound, needs time. Grippy tannins
Pomar de Espirito Santo Reserva 2013: Touriga Nacional, Castelao, Arogonez. Dried figs, bruised apples and cedar, tealeaf and cigar. Silky entry, showing some age, but is still juicy with firm fine tannins.
~Daenna Van Mulligen