If anyone were to ask me for the name of my favourite Alentejo producer, I would answer, without hesitation, Monte da Penha. I have long been a fan of the wines made here, up in the Serra de São Mamede hills, in the far north of the Alentejo, near Portalegre.
The terroir here is quite unlike the southern plains of the Alentejo, where most of the region’s wine is produced; the cooler climate of the hills and the rocky soil producing wines of great freshness and usually lower alcohol content. But what I like most of all about this producer is that they are one of the few wineries in Portugal to hold back their wines and release them only once they are truly ready for drinking.
I have written about their wines on a few occasions over the years, since starting to write this column, and although I have never had the chance to visit the winery myself, I received a gift from a friend last week who recently went there for a tasting.
This was the first time I have tried one of their white wines, in this case the 2015 Monte da Penha Branco, costing around €12 in shops. This is a pale straw-coloured wine with lovely citric and vegetal notes on the nose, elegant and fresh in the mouth.
Also included in my gift box was a wine I wrote about here before, the excellent 2005 red. This can still be found on the market and I would say it is now at its peak, best drunk over the next year or so.
But the star of the show was the 2004 red “gerações” shown here. I have not seen this in the shops here in the Algarve and, considering that only 5,000 bottles were made in total, this is no surprise.
But when it was first launched in 2007, only 3,600 bottles were released. At that time, it was rated as one of the “50 great Portuguese wines” by British wine writer Charles Metcalfe.
The remaining 1,400 bottles were held back for another 10 years in the cellar and released in 2017. Costing close to €50, if you can find it, this truly is one of the great Portuguese wines. A blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet, now, at 15 years old, it is still remarkably fresh and lively. The wines of Monte da Penha can all be ordered directly from the producer.
Visit montedapenha.com to view the online catalogue in Portuguese or English.