Algarve in a bottle

Over the following months, I will be dedicating my column on a more regular basis to Algarve wines. What we are seeing in the region really is quite impressive both in terms of overall quality and innovation.

As I have stated here before, great results have been achieved with foreign grapes such as Syrah and Viognier, not to mention some of the flagship Portuguese varieties.

The fact is that the Algarve, often referred to these days in marketing blurb as “The California of Europe”, has better conditions for winemaking than much of the Alentejo. It’s only a question of time before the region gains the recognition it deserves and all the hard work and investment of the many producers will start to pay off.

Alongside the fully-fledged producers in the region, there is an ever-growing number of small projects such as this unusual and interesting wine Almundim. I had previously tried the very pleasant white, a lightly oaked wine with quite some body, and so was surprised by this light-bodied and un-oaked red.

The naïve, and I think rather endearing label design, is inspired by the legend of the Algarve’s Moorish ruler Ibn-Almundim who planted almond trees around his castle so that his sweetheart, a princess from northern Europe, could be reminded of snow by the almond blossom.

In keeping with this Algarve theme, the wine is made entirely from the region’s traditional variety Negra Mole. This is a grape variety with huge potential, as demonstrated by producer João Clara (Algarve Resident, February 28, 2014 edition) whose considerably higher priced and infinitely more classy Negra Mole varietal is one my favourite Algarve wines.

I first discovered Almundim at Terroir, the wine shop and restaurant in Carvoeiro that can always be relied upon to unearth interesting new wines from small producers.

I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to see it on sale at Apolónia this week, currently on special offer at €8.99 (until May 15).

What we have here, when compared to João Clara’s Negra Mole, is a more humble rendition of the variety. On the nose, there is very little going on in terms of fruity aromas, but rather a subtle earthiness which is typical of the grape variety. In the mouth, however, the wine is soft, smooth and altogether very pleasant with gentle yet seductive red fruit flavours.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]