The Portugal tendency is growing in many places, as if they have discovered new found wineland... although Portugal as a wine nation is very, very old. Wine is sacred for them and is first of all made because for their love for cooking, grapes were growing everywhere as clean healthy drinking water was not really around, wine was the perfect alternative. Of course as in all European wine producing countries at the time the wine was more of a sugar bomb them the dry, refined, elegant, characterful wines we know today.
This red wine from Herdade do Mouchao is another novelty in my discovery of Portuguese wines so first a refresh on the Alentejo region.
A region not so well known, (compared do Douro) but it is well in the up regarding wine making, well more in the spotlight should I say. The region lays to the south of the country, from Lisbon downwards towards Faro and the Algarve. The region covers about one third of the country, and according to the rumors the other two thirds often complain about the popularity of the Alentejo wines. I must be honest and although I am a fan of Portuguese wines and always open to discover, I haven't heard to much about this region in connection with wine. But as Portugal is open to explore I am all ears and lips to learn and taste.
The region has a long history as there are still sign of the Dolmens, Cromlech. Arab and Roman culture, remnants can be seen all over the region. Sign of live from the past, medieval castle to make a statement. To the northeast of the region (towards Spain) are beautiful towns and castles, making up the Rota dos Castelos or the castle route, Portalegre is a very well known town in the region. One of the most beautiful towns in the land finds itself towards the south of Alentejo "Evora" here the landscape is more open and flatter, but what about the vines?
Well first of all this region is mostly known for its red wines, climate does not really permit for whites to flourish beautifully only a handful apparently (haven't come across), with the right skills and the ideal location.
Alentejo has 8 sub regions; Portalegre, Borba, Evora, Redondo, Reguengos, Granja-Amareleja, Vidigueira, Moura. Here it gets really hot during the summer so it is a challenge to keep sugar under control and acidity alive. But thanks to evolution and trials and error from the past, there are some interesting wines emerging, still there is a lot that does not hold the road.
Besides their wines, this region is also known for its cork, it is here that the best corks are made and they have plenty of it as the population here isn't as dense as more up north around porto. Portugal has a population of about 10.4 million people, it almost 3 times bigger then Belgium and Belgium has 11.2 million people.
The grape varieties used here are predominately, Aragonez (Tempranillo), Castelao, Trincadeira and since late there has been the introduction of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
In all Alentejo has been a key region in the renaissance of the Portuguese wine in the last few decades.
Herdade do Mouchao, Alentejo
The story began back in 1824, when Thomas Reynolds returns from Porto and founds the company " Thomas Reynolds and Son", dedicated to the export of Port, Olive oil, wool and cork, before moving definitely to the Alentejo region to dedicate himself exclusively to the cork business.
Mid nineteen century the Reynolds lease Herdade do Mouchao, the 900 hectares estate was initially to supply cork, a business stared by his grandfather. The family planted then several plots of vines and in 1901 a traditional winery was build. It is thought that John Reynolds was the first to have imported the Alicante Bouchet vine from France, of which Mouchao is now known for its red fleshy variety. The vineyards cover 38 hectares and are planted in different plots. 5 wines are made by this house, we will discover the Dom Rafael 2015.
Dom Rafael 2015 Herdade do Mouchao
The Dom Rafael Tinto is sourced from old Aragonez, Trincadeira, Castelao, and Alicante Bouchet vines from the estate. The grapes are handpicked and are foot trodden then fermented in open lagares, same winemaking method used for more than a century. The wines are aged in oak barrels (not new) for about 12 months.
Grape: 40% aragonez, 29% alicante bouchet, 31% trincadeira
Price: €9 $12 £10 average ex tax
Visual: A medium dark ruby color appears when pouring, a color intensity of 3.75 out of 5, the legs are medium thick, its transparency is crystalline its brilliance bursting, the wine appears young and masculine, fresh and energetic,
Nose: earthy dark fruits, currants, blackberries, black cherries, hints of oak, wet wood, little alcohol disturbance, hints of cardamon.
Palate: The attack is fresh and lively, dry with a medium body, mid palate sits the balance between aromas and acidities fair, it lingers on respectfully, with black fruits tints.
Conclusion: A very interesting discovery especially in its price category, very well set, a wine that is correctly made and a house bringing grapes to the table other then the usual suspect gives a fresh breeze and a pleasant change. Surely in the better category, a good example of well made Portuguese wines.
Score: I rate this wine 17.5/20 75/100 (rated as a good wine)
Until next time please do drink responsibly.