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The wines of Dona Maria, Alentejo, Portugal

Website: www.donamaria.pt

Júlio Tassara de Bastos (pictured) is one of the leading winemakers in Portugal’s Alentejo region, and his family property, located near Estremoz, is Quinta de Carmo. While wine has been made for a long time here, it’s only since the late 1980s that its wines have achieved international acclaim, under the direction of Júlio.

In 1992, he sold 50% of Quinta do Carmo to Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). At this stage the winery and office operations were transferred to the Carvalhas estate, where a new winery was built. But Julio later ended up selling his stake in the winery, and returning to his own operation. While he still owned Quinta do Carmo itself (the house), he was no longer able to use the name. So he started a new operation, Dona Maria.

Júlio currently has 53 hectares of vineyards, an area that he plans to expand further in the future. One of his focuses is to work with the same special old clone of Alicante Bouschet that was at the heart of the classic Quinta do Carmo Garrafeiras.

The first grapes from Dona Maria were harvested in 2003. From the wines I tasted, I’d say that Júlio is right there at the forefront in the Alentejo, making some really special wines.

Dona Maria Rosé 2007 Alentejo
Very light in colour. Lovely, beautifully poised nose is delicate and beautifully expressive with sweet, fresh, gently strawberry flavoured fruit. Really elegant and fantastic. 90/100

Dona Maria Branco 2007 Alentejo
A blend of Arinto and Antăo Vaz, unoaked. Fresh, citrussy nose is bright and expressive. The palate is lemony and crisp with lovely brightness and subtly herby fruit. Very stylish. 90/100

Dona Maria Amantis Branco 2007 Alentejo
Amantis is Dona Maria’s modern range of wines. This is mainly Viognier aged in French oak. Beautifully aromatic, expressive nose with typical peach/pear Viognier characteristics. The palate is concentrated and intense, with rich yet fresh fruit. Really serious wine that finishes tight. 92/100

Dona Maria Tinto 2005 Alentejo
Nicely aromatic, fresh, cherry and berry fruit nose. The palate is fresh and elegant with a lovely earthy spiciness. Real character to this beautifully balanced red wine. 90/100

Dona Maria Amantis Tinto 2005 Alentejo
This is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petit Verdot and a little bit of Touriga Nacional. Vivid nose of bright red and black fruits with a savoury, spicy, slightly medicinal edge. The palate is dense, spicy and firm with a lovely medicinal, savoury edge. Has dense, firm tannins. 91/100

Dona Maria Reserva 2004 Alentejo
A blend of 50% Alicante Bouschet with 25% Syrah and the remainder split between Cabernet and Aragones, aged in French oak of which 80% is new. Ripe, forward and intense spicy dark fruits nose, with a dense savouriness. The palate is concentrated and intense with firm, structured spicy dark fruits. Finishes tight and savoury – a rich, intense wine. 92/100

Dona Maria Reserva 2005 Alentejo
A blend of 50% Alicante Bouschet with 25% Syrah and the remainder split between Cabernet and Petit Verdot, aged in French oak of which 80% is new. An amazing tight, concentrated wine. Dark, brooding and tannic with lovely pure tight fruits bolstered by massively intense structure. Quite fantastic. 94/100

Dona Maria Júlio B. Bastos Alicante Bouschet 2004 Alentejo
A varietal Alicante Bouschet made from a special clone and named after Júlio’s father. Aromatic, spicy dark fruits nose is lush but full with a nice spicy edge to the sweet fruit. The palate is lush and dense, with great concentration and some spicy oak influence, as well as a bit of tannic firmness. Finishes tarry and spicy. Remarkable stuff with real intensity and length. 94/100 (11/08)

Wines tasted 11/08  
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