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Alentejo, Continued…
By Rich Cook
Jan 24, 2024
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In last month’s column there was so much to write about going to Portugal’s Alentejo region in November 2023 from a travel standpoint that there was only room for a single review of a wine that got my attention while I was there.  Since you are likely mainly here at Wine Review Online for wine recommendations, I’ll spend this space focused on that.  Though there will be more forthcoming, here are some of my other top scoring wines from the trip – I’ll note the sub regions within Alentejo where the producer is located in each review to assist you in planning a trip should a particular wine entice you into your own journey to this beautiful part of the world.  

A couple of general observations about the wines: The region has in the past been known for high octane (read alcohol) red blends that tend toward the bombastic, but that’s not at all what I found.  Quite the contrary, the wines were mostly balanced across a spectrum of ripeness levels and price points, with finesse, brightness and that intangible “alive” quality that makes fine wine such a pleasure.  The Consorzio has been relentless in pushing education, cooperation and quality focus, and it bears out in the bottle.  But let’s get down to specifics!

Fitapreta, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Red Wine “Tinta Carvalha” 2021 ($80):  Fitapreta is just north of Evora in the heart of the Alentejo.  Think of Carvalha as the Pinot Noir of the region.  It’s a half-sister of Castelão and Moreto, for this bottling planted in the Chão dos Eremitas or “soil of the Eremite monks.”  It shows light color and body and a specific black olive aroma.  It’s pulsing with flavor – the olive character olive comes through alongside black cherry and Asian spice, finishing long and silky.  Beautiful!  Made by Antonio Macanita and Sandra Sarria.  94

Fitapreta, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Red Wine “Preta Cuvée Grande Reserva “ 2019 ($60):  This wine is not made every vintage, but only when conditions allow for such an age-worthy expression.  It’s sturdily structured, showing weight without heaviness, good acidity, umami texture, blackberry fruit and a little balsamic note.  It’s finishing very long already, and promises a long life ahead.  Contains 30% Alicante Bouschet, 20% Aragonez, 20% Castelão, 10% Trincadeira, 10% Tinta Miuda, 5% Tinta Carvalha and 5% Baga.  Beautiful.  95

Natus, VR Alentejano (Portugal) White Wine “Vinho Branco” 2022 ($35):  Just west of Vidigueira, Owner/Winemaker Hamilton Reis brings us this unique wine.  It’s a field blend that was harvested from pergola trained estate vines and nearby old vine sites.  Picked for high acidity and a low finished alcohol level, it was foot crushed, with the juice going into in Talha and the solids into barrique.  The Talha portion was added back to the barrel, and no temperature control was used.  Composed mainly of Antão Vaz and Roupeiro, it shows a fine balance that allows rich brightness.  Aromas and flavors of almond, melon, lemon, abound and linger long.  Delicious!  93

Natus, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Red Wine “Vinho Tinto” 2021 ($40):  Made in the same way as the white, this blend of Castelão and Trincadeira is even more impressive.  It is fresh, with light body but bold flavors of cherry and spice that ride on pulsing acidity through a long, mouthwatering finish.  I don’t know if winemaker Hamilton Reis knows the show “Hamilton,” but this wine is destined for the same rave reviews.  If ‘ya don’t know, now ‘ya know.  94

Adega Marel, Alentejo DOC Vinho de Talha (Portugal) Red Wine “Tonico” 2020 ($21):  From the Granja/Amaraleja sub region, this is a more traditional Talha wine, Showing a tomato leaf nose with hints of tart cherry and blueberry.  The palate flips the script with the fruit up front and complementary vegetal notes – it’s not bell peppery, just pleasantly accented.  90

Talha Mafia, Alentejo DOC Vinho de Talha (Portugal) Red Wine “Revolver” 2021 ($25):  In the center of the town of Vidigueira, The Talha Mafia is a collection of friends that is dedicated to the Talha method, and they take the wine seriously while taking themselves a lot less seriously, naming the wines for the crime family arsenal.  The Revolver is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Syrah, and Aragonez.  It’s quite serious, delivering a bright mixed berry fruit profile with powdery graham cracker, easy spice, firm structure, textural richness and great length.  Leave the cannoli, take the wine!  94

Honrado, Alentejo DOC Vinho de Talha (Portugal) White Wine “Talha Premium” 2021 ($35):  I included the red version of this wine in the previous column.  The white comes off like a like a dry-style Madeira without the concentration, which makes it very food friendly.  It’s all about the aromas and flavors of nuts and dried apricot, with an enticing, mildly oxidative character.  92

Quinta da Cegonha, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Syrah 2021 ($12)  A surprise in both grape variety and in price, this delightful Syrah displays light body, full throttle black and blue fruit, and rich savory character, with a supple grip and a long, fully integrated finish.  California producers might be a little envious of the quality-to-price ratio here.  It’s an amazing buy at twelve dollars.  92

Cartuxa, VR Alentejo (Portugal) Red Wine Tinto Colheita 2019 ($25):  The Cartuxa tasting room is inside the walled city of Evora not far from the Franciscan cathedral and the Chapel of Bones.  This fairly common regional blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet is made in what some might call the old school Alentejo style, showing a full throttle nose of blackberry liqueur, menthol and a little tar.  Bold yet balanced save for a little evident heat, the Syrah-like palate sings with savory notes over deep black fruit and brown spice.  The finish is long, meaty, and peppery with a firm grip now, so I’d rest it a few years to let it achieve full resolution.  92

Cartuxa, Evora (Alentejo DOC Vinho de Talha, Portugal) Tinto 2019 ($40):  A very clean, bold style Talha wine – it’s rich and deep on the nose, with liqueur like aromas of blackberry and root beer with hints of tar, mint and spice.  It’s quite long, well integrated, and age-worthy, and don’t be frightened by the 16% alcohol; just think along the lines of Amarone.  95

Cartuxa, Evora (Alentejo DOC, Portugal) Espumante Bruto 2015 ($15):  Yes, there are a few sparkling wines in the region, and this is a top-flight example.  Crisp, bright, and fresh, it shows sea spray, strawberry, raspberry, and soft zest in finish with a berry push in the finish.  It’s a style that can run all the way through a meal.  92

Casa Relvas, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Red Wine “Heredade de Sáo Miguel ‘Pe de Mãe’” 2020 ($75):  Near Redondo northeast of Evora, Casa Relvas turns out about eight million bottles a year under various labels that run the price gamut.  This wine sits perched at the top end, and its worthy of the seat.  It’s somewhat unique, complrised nearly entirely of Trincadeira, and it’s leaning toward Pinot Noir in style.  It’s fleshier though, carrying blackberry, black cherry, and cedar spice.  From 22-year-old vines, it’s silky at entry, and woodsy in the finish without stomping out the fruit character.  Cellar this – it will fully integrate in a few years.  94

Casa Relvas, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Red Wine “Sáo Miguel do Sul 2022 ($12):  A traditional blend, this wine is made to be a “hello, we’re here!” to export markets.  Bodied aromatics, typical red/black fruit, fruit forward with layers of pepper and brown spice, medium bodied in mouth, full flavored, delivers nose, med.  It’s a solid bargain and a great way to introduce the world to Alentejo.  90

Ravasqueira, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Touriga Franca 2019 ($25):  An amazing carriage museum is an additional attraction at Ravasqueira, located just north of Evora.  Though more associated with Port and the Douro region, here Touriga Frnca makes a full throttle red, juicy and plush, with fine grained tannins and a firm grip that adds a big black and blue fruit finish push.  Zinfandel drinkers will love this.  93

Carmim, Alentejo DOC (Portugal) Red Wine “Reguengos Trifolium Grande Reserva” 2019 ($20):  Carmim is a co-op of several small growers in the Reguengos area southeast of Evora.  It’s a traditional blend that saw 12 months in new French oak and some American oak, and two 2 years in bottle prior to release.  It features blackberry liqueur aromas with lively spice tones.  It’s structured, powerful, layered, serious, long and age-worthy, showing what possible through the power of cooperation.  93

Adega Mayor, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Branco White Blanc “Reserva” 2022 ($25):  Located northeast of Evora and just south of Portalegre near the Spanish border, Adga Mayor is a must visit.  This no-oak Reserva shows great depth of aroma and flavor with a lemon focus.  It’s a crisp refresher, that finishes very long with a mixed citrus push – purity on display!  93

Adega Mayor, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Tinto “Esquissos Tudo ao Molho” 2021 ($25):  This is a real pleasure.  A traditional “Palhete” wine (a style that’s having a moment in the area) it’s a red/white field blend, 50% whole cluster, done as a cold ferment in stainless steel.  Let’s call it Rosé plus – it’s colored like a dark Tavel and smells of wildflowers and red fruit, and is pleasantly reminiscent of fruit punch in a vinous form.  Bright and tart on the palate with some rustic tannins and faint carbonic notes, if finishes long and pleasantly.  It could take a little chill, and you can serve it with just about anything.  A delight!  93

Heredade Aldeia de Cima, VR Alentejano (Portugal) Red Wine “Garrafeira, Serra do Mendro” 2019  ($200):  Located south of Evora near Portel, Aldeia de Cima is a small but mighty project producing ultra-premium wine and Aguardente de Medronho, or Madrone Brandy.  This “Garrafeira” (wine cellar) bottling is amazing – my top wine of the trip.  It shows perfectly balanced earth and fruit aromas that translate directly to rich flavors.  The palate is structured, concentrated and deep, with a firm grip holding up black and red fruit with peppercorn accents.  It’s extremely long, and just beginning to show itself.  Riveting wine!  96

Quinta do Quetzal, Alentejo DOC (Portugal) White Wine “Reserva Branco” 2021 ($30):  Vila de Frades is a tiny town near Vidigueira that’s home to the modern Quinta do Quetzal, which is a winery/restaurant/art museum.  There’s art happening in the winery as well as the museum as evidenced by this 100% Antão Vaz.  It’s a bright, tropical expression with passion fruit and stony mineral aromas, along with a lively palate that shows a viscous texture that delivers on the promise of the nose, finishing long and delicious.  If you’re a fan of Viognier, Antão Vaz is for you.  93

Esporão, Alentejo DOC (Portugal) Alicante Bouschet 2015 ($45):  Reguegnos de Monzaraz’ Esporão is likely the best known Alentejo producer outside of Portugal, and their wines are always solid buys.  This ‘15 Alicante Bouschet is part of a series that shows off grapes that are typically blended as stand-alone wines.  It’s sourced from three different vineyards, and it’s quite an assemblage.  The variety is a Teinturier, meaning the skin and the pulp are both red, or in this case, almost black.  This iteration brings throbbing black and blue fruit, bright acid and tannins that are fully resolved, yet the balance tells me that it will hold for quite a while.  As in life, it’s all about balance!  94

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There you have it – twenty of the Best that Alentejo has to offer, among others that have already or are yet to run in our “Reviews” section here at WRO.  I hope you’re getting the sense that this is a trip worth putting on your wine travel bucket list – I know I can’t wait to go back!   

More wine columns:    Rich Cook
More wine reviews:       Wine Reviews