Portuguese Pinot with pedigree

The Ribatejo region to the north east of Lisbon, with its low-lying farmlands following the course of the Tagus river, was known until quite recently for cheap mass produced wines, the fertile soil of the river valley giving some of the highest yields of any region in the country.

This was certainly the case with most of the region’s wineries, but the historic estate of Casa Cadaval has long been recognised as one of the few to concentrate on quality as opposed to quantity. In fact, more than 50 years ago, the German Count Karl von Schönborn, married to Dona Graziela Álvares Pereira de Melo of the Cadaval family, decided to plant Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional grapes on some of the estate’s less fertile sandy soil.

In 1994, Casa Cadaval was the first major producer in the Ribatejo region to move into quality wine production, and today this Pinot Noir stands out as a notable legacy from the old vines planted back in the 1960s. I would classify it one of the better examples of Portuguese Pinot Noir on the market, representing good value for money at around €15. The wine is on the lighter side of medium-bodied, with the typical cherry and leathery notes of Pinot Noir well evident on the nose. In the mouth the wine is smooth and harmonious with soft, well-rounded tannins and a fresh finish. This 2012 is drinking well, but the wine will certainly benefit from a few more years in the bottle.

By Patrick Stuart [email protected]