Three takes on the Algarve’s native grape

The unusual Negra Mole grape was once the most-grown variety in the Algarve, making the vast majority of the light, fruity but rather rough wines that used to be sold in five-litre flagons back in the day.

Today, however, most of the high-quality wine production in the Algarve is focused on better known Portuguese or international varieties, but a few of these producers have gone about reinventing Negra Mole with some very interesting results.

This grape variety is unusual in that the bunches usually contain a mixture of red, white and even pink grapes, which macerated and fermented together create a light style of red wine, often similar to a Clarete, but sometimes with a style and structure similar to Pinot Noir.

My first experience of the new wave of Negra Mole was when I tried what is still the best in my opinion, João Clara (pictured on the right).

Last weekend I decided to taste it alongside another two Negra Mole varietals from other Algarve wineries, all purchased at my local Intermarché supermarket priced at €9.28 (Cabrita), €10.61 (Paxá) and €17.69 (João Clara).

Cabrita’s Negra Mole is quite different from the other two in that it is un-oaked. This is a fresh and fruity wine, which is best enjoyed either slightly or fully chilled.

Paxá’s version, after six months in oak is more rounded but still light bodied, very easy drinking either chilled or at room temperature.

The more expensive João Clara is quite different. This is a more sophisticated wine, still light bodied but with a silky-smooth tannic structure, similar in many ways to a decent New World Pinot Noir.

It is well worth the price difference when compared to Cabrita’s Negra Mole, but the best value for money of the three is undoubtedly from Paxá.

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