FX Excursions

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Alentejo Wines

by Eunice Fried

Aug 1, 2018
August 2018

ALENTEJO FANS OUT EAST OF LISBON, an enormous arc of land covering nearly one-third of Portugal yet holding barely 7 percent of the country’s people. What it lacks in population, it more than makes up for in its wines and vineyards, its cheeses, hams, sausages, cork oak trees and the wheat that makes its memorable breads. And it is equally rich in archaeological finds, ancient towns and millennia-old wine methods. Two thousand years ago, the Romans, who had a long stay in what is now Portugal, made their wine in large clay amphorae. During a recent trip through Alentejo, I came across amphorae, both old and new, in a number of wineries and tasted wines being made in them today.

Much of Alentejo’s wines are made from local indigenous grapes, producing wines with distinctive and intriguing tastes. Here are a few of the discoveries Alentejo offers.

At Heredade do Rocim, a large, modern winery, I was especially impressed with its Touriga Nacional 2016 ($16). An indigenous grape, Touriga Nacional is the most prominent red grape in Portugal, and this wine represents many of the grape’s best features: deep color; a floral, fruity, spicy aroma; excellent structure; and a long aftertaste. Rocim also impressed with its Olho de Mocho Reserva 2015 ($18), made primarily of Alicante Bouschet, as an elegant, smooth, balanced wine.

The wines of Quinta do Quetzal are 70 percent reds, most made of indigenous grapes, often with a finishing touch of other European grapes. Its Guadalupe Winemaker’s Selection Vinho Tinto 2015 ($13), for example, combines Alicante Bouschet with a small amount of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Its Quetzal Reserva 2015 ($23) blends Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and Trincadeira for a dark-shaded, full-bodied and toasty wine.

Heredade do Esporão offers, among many admirable wines, Esporão Reserva 2016 ($15), a white wine blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro — rich and balanced with a citrus-like aroma. Esporão is also one of the Alentejo wineries now experimenting with wine produced in clay amphorae.

Alentejo offers many more interesting wines worth tasting; we will talk about them in next month’s issue.

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