Herdade do Portocarro

A producer to watch

Earlier this month I made a visit to one of the Portuguese wineries that has most captured my interest over the last year or so. Last year I wrote about the wines of Herdade do Portocarro twice, once about their premium label red Cavalo Maluco that sells for over €50 a bottle and another time on their rosé, Tears of Anima, which I consider to be the best (well, at least my favourite) rosé made in Portugal.

One of the reasons for the visit was that I had been unable to find a bottle of their red Anima label for sale anywhere here in the Algarve. Anima and Tears of Anima are both made from the Italian Sangiovese grape. I love good Chianti, and so the chance to try a Portuguese red made from the same grape lured me to visit the winery. I should note that this was by special arrangement, as the winery is not open to the public.

The wine did not disappoint. I sampled the 2010 Anima whilst there and brought home a bottle of the 2007, which, at the time of writing, I had not yet tried. But it is the fact that the 2007 was available that has prompted me to write about Herdade do Portocarro yet again. For this winery has been holding back between 300 and 600 bottles of each of its wines to release onto the market after 10 years of bottle-ageing.

The owner and winemaker, José Mota Capitão, a Lisbon-based agronomist who owns the estate located on the border of the Setúbal and Alentejo regions, near Alcácer do Sal, set out to create wines that are, above all, original. And whilst not actually an organic producer, he avoids the use of chemicals where possible, making wines that are, in essence, natural and benefit from bottle-ageing.

Alongside the reds and the rosé, he has a small but growing collection of whites, including one stunning example made from the rare Galego Dourado grape. This is a variety traditionally used to make fortified wines in Carcavelos, near Lisbon, and today he is one of only two producers in Portugal growing the grape.

The wine is yet to be launched onto the market and the first vintage, 2015, whilst already showing great promise, still needs a few years in the bottle to develop its potential. Another varietal white being made here (also not yet released) is a Sercial, one of the typical grapes of Madeira wine, which I also tried.

Both of these varietals are unoaked and fermented and aged on the lees with batonnage creating whites of body and structure, and will command premium prices.

Their main white, Alfaiate, a blend of Arinto with Galego Dourado and Sercial, is well worth trying, to get an idea of the quality of white wine offered by this producer (€14.99 at Apolónia).

The main label Herdade do Portocarro red, a blend of Aragonez and Touriga Nacional with Cabernet Sauvignon, is excellent value at €9 in Apolónia – a smooth and ripe medium to full-bodied wine with soft tannins and a long fruity finish.

By Patrick Stuart