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    Quality and Sustainability from the Alentejo Region of Portugal

    Vineyard 1The wines of Portugal have been recognized more and more on the world stage over the past decade.? High scores from the major wine reviewing publications, and spots on Top 100 lists reinforce it annually.? This country has a wine history as long any, and wine is an integral part of their heritage.? Whites, reds, fortified wines; you can find anything you want here.? I have long been a fan.

    No one would argue about the tradition and worldwide reputation of the great port wines from the Duoro region.? Aged, vintage port is one of my favorite things in the world.? We’re not going to talk about port in this article though, nor about the Douro region.? Here we’ll talk about the Alentejo, where my favorite non-fortified wines from Portugal are made.? This is a large region, covering about a third of the country’s total land area, and almost all of the southern part.? It is a hot region in the summer, with the highest average summertime temperatures in all of Europe.? Reds are more prevalent than whites, however there are excellent white wines here.? We’ll review one of them below.

    It is not the easiest place in the world as far as growing wine grapes is concerned.? Varietals need to withstand Sustain Logoscorching summer heat, limited water and cold winter temperatures.? Supporting the long term health of the wine industry in this region is an important task, and the mission of the Wines of Alentejo Sustainability Program (WASP).? The initiative was launched in 2015 to reduce costs and increase economic viability.? It addresses a series of environmental and social issues including biodiversity, ecosystems, soil management, water conservation, recycling and reduced energy use.? Members are certified by an independent third party.? To date, almost 400 producers are certified members of the program, representing almost 50% of the wine growing acreage in the Alentejo and most of the major players.

    You can read more about the initiative on their web page at?http://sustentabilidade.vinhosdoalentejo.pt/en.

    The wines we review here are all from member producers, and active participants in the sustainability program.? Here they are:

    2018 Espor?o Colheita Branco – all fruit is from organic certified vineyards.? The wine is left on the lees forIMG_0441 four months.? Herdade do Espor?o has been leading efforts to identify which indigenous grape varieties are best suited for the changing climatic conditions in the area.? The wine:

    A light, brilliant, golden color, this has a nose filled with lemon and herbs. On the palate it has good texture and body, a streak of minerality and a long finish.? It’s a substantial white at 14% alcohol, but still fresh.? It’s a blend of Ant?o Vaz, Viosinho, Alvarinho and others.? It is an excellent value at $16.? I really like this wine.

    2018 Casa Relvas Sul Red Blend –?this red is a blend of mostly indigenous varietals with a little international IMG_0440grape juice added in.? To be exact, the blend is 50% Aragonez (otherwise known as Tempranillo), 30% Alicante Bouschet, 15% Trincadeira and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon.? Grapes are night harvested, and it spends time in stainless steel vats with oak staves.? Casa Relvas uses sheep to control weeds in the vineyards when the vines are resting, reducing the need for herbicides.? Our thoughts:

    A dark, ruby red, this has some barnyard on the nose, along with burnt tobacco and dark fruits.? This is smooth, with mild tannins and brisk acids.? It’s medium bodied, with 14% alcohol that is somewhat surprising.? On the second day the barnyard had faded, and the tobacco notes were more prominent.? Another good value at $12.

    2017 Herdade de Coelheiros “Coelheiros” Red?– Herdade de Coelheiros is currently converting to 100% IMG_0437organic farming.? The fruit here is all dry farmed, with no irrigation.? It is a blend of 50% Aragonez and 50% Alicante Bouschet.? Herdade de Coelheiros also uses bat shelters? to encourage bats settling in the vineyards, in a natural effort to keep the insects down.? Our impressions:

    This is dark ruby in color, with a lot of caramel on the nose, framed with dark fruits.? It’s medium bodied, and not as rich as you expect from the nose.? Initially this has a little bitterness at the end, but that goes away as the wine opens.? Acid is brisk, and the wine is nicely balanced.? Also 14% alcohol, this retails for $20.

    2014 CARMIM Reguengos Garrafeira dos Sócios? –?this is a cooperative of grower-members, which IMG_0439collectively bring centuries of experience to the wine-making.? The winery itself is state of the art.? This wine is 65% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Touriga Naional and 15% Trincadeira.? It is aged for 14 months in French and American oak.? CARMIM composts all of their organic waste from the winemaking process into fertilizer.? They have also added solar panels at the winery.? Here are our tasting notes:

    The color is a brownish, ruby red.? On the nose the wine is a bit reductive right out of the bottle, with a little touch of spray paint aerosols.? That fades away.? Dark fruit and caramel aromas dominate.? This is full bodied, with cherry notes, very brisk acid and noticeable? alcohol.? It reminds me of a good Montefalco Sagrantino.? We left it overnight, and on day 2 it was smoother and more integrated, showing more spice and some macerated cherry.? This is really excellent and a world class wine.? Suggested retail price of $48, and worth it.

    2018 Herdade dos Grous Red?– this is a mix of 35% Alicante Bouschet, 35% Aragonez, 20% Touriga Nacional IMG_0438and 10% Syrah.? Harvest was extended over a month, allowing extra hang time for heightened concentration and flavors.? Herdade dos Grous has reduced their bottle weights across their entire line to use less resources.? Our thoughts:

    This is purplish red, with a nose of red fruits, citrus and a strong herbal quality.? On the palate it is just full bodied, with nice balance and a very long finish.? On day two the nose was more closed, and there was a touch of watermelon in the fruit profile.? This has a suggested retail price of $19.

    The Alentejo region produces a wide range of world class wine, using predominantly indigenous grapes with more international varieties being added.? If you are a red wine lover this is a region you need to explore, but do not overlook the equally impressive whites.

    You can read our earlier reviews of some other Alentejo wines by clicking here and here.

    A votre santé!

     

     

     

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