I always respect winemakers who go against the grain and are guided not by market trends but by their own philosophy and a desire to create wines with a difference. And the Monte da Casteleja organic winery near Lagos truly encapsulates this philosophy.
Franco-Portuguese winemaker Guillaume Leroux makes some of the most unusual wines in the Algarve, amongst them a remarkable full-bodied “orange” wine and one of my favourite rosés, a wine with real depth of flavour and structure. These are not wines that will appeal to everyone, but rather wines for wine-lovers who appreciate something different.
Guillaume’s latest launch is this unconventional red named after his paternal grandfather from whom he inherited the farm where he makes his wines.
Back in 2005, he planted part of the vineyard with the Alfrocheiro grape, used up until now as part of his red blends. Alfrocheiro is one of the main red varieties of the Dão region where its rich colour and high acidity typically lend freshness to Dão reds. The variety has also been used in blends further south, namely in the Alentejo, but Monte da Casteleja is the first and still the only grower to plant it in the Algarve.
This wine is not actually a pure varietal, as there is a small percentage of the Bastardo grape, but it is the intense aromas of the Alfrocheiro that come to the front, along with a rich spiciness from short ageing in new American oak.
The wine is full bodied in the mouth with supple tannins and great acidity. A fresh and vibrant red, perfect to enjoy very slightly chilled and served with BBQ meats. Only around 900 bottles were produced of this 2018 vintage, which is ready for drinking already but could benefit from another couple of years in the bottle. Look out for it in restaurants or speciality organic shops or visit the Monte da Casteleja farm where the wine is priced at €12.50.