Following on my previous post about the Alentejo wines tasting in Lisbon, here are two wines that impressed. I got a bottle of each to retaste in more comfortable circumstances (the tasting was overcrowded and wines were not at optimum temperature). So we did open them yesterday night in the Dão with my cicerone Rui Lourenço Pereira, at the Os Antónios restaurant in Nelas with some lovely traditional inland Portuguese food such as fried garlic sausage and roast kid.
And so Margarida Cabaço‘s Monte dos Cabaços 2007 Reserva is a fantastic creature for Alentejo. Surely it is rich, brooding and ripe-fruity as befits this region but also shows admirable restraint and fresh complexity, something that makes it taste like more northern-grown wines such as those from the Beiras region. This is partly because of the winery’s position in Estremoz in northern Alentejo, less semi-desertic and torrid than the rest of the region, and partly because the blend relies heavily on Cabernet Sauvignon, another point of difference when most top Alentejo bottlings will see a dominant of Aragonês (Tempranillo), Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet. With its mix of fresh herby and ripe fruity notes, the Monte dos Cabaços went brilliantly with food (no wonder since Margarida also runs one of Alentejo’s premier restaurants, São Rosas) and has good ageing potential. At the public tasting I also tried the 2005 which was still showing young, and two vintages of the top bottling, Margarida: the 2008 is a Syrah-Viognier with great depth and restraint while the 2009 is a 100% Alicante Bouschet with a more meaty, savoury profile, and perhaps more interesting. The Reserva retails for 17€ and is a great buy.
My other wine tonight comes from Joaquim Arnaud and is called Arundel. It is another 20-€ overdeliverer, although in a quite different style: big, ripe, fat and creamy, rather than contradicting the Saharic Alentejo stereotype it takes it to a high level of quality and personality. The acidity is low, the tannins are very soft and at mid-palate amongst the wave of sweet ripe plummy fruit, there is almost an oxidised nutty, rancid element that adds spice. Although very ripe, this wine actually develops well in the glass, gaining more depth and definition. It is not a Bordeauxesque wine like Cabaço, more of a Southern Rhône style perhaps. Arnaud’s other wines such as the entry-level 2008 Terras de Pavia and mid-range 2009 Arundel Petit are showing a similar wildness at heart with roasted Mediterranean herbs and stewed fruit. Yet they avoid the bombastic Shiraz style. Recommended.
Both wines kindly made available for tasting by the producers. My trip to Portugal including flights, accommodation and wine tasting programme is sponsored by Quinta Wine Guide.