Alentejo times two
Two Alentejo wines to report on. I follow Portuguese wine quite closely - it's a country I was switched onto in the mid/late-1990s when Fiona bought me a surprise bottle from Bentalls wine department - an Alentejo red from Cartuxa. It was complex, more-ish and really caught my imagination.
The two regions with the lion's share of top Portuguese wines are the Douro and the Alentejo, but they're quite different places for growing wine grapes. The Douro, in the north, is reliant on short-ish hot summers and schistous soils, with proximity to the river and altitude (as it's a valley, the two are quite closely correlated), as well as aspect, as the important factors for shaping the wines' personalities. The Alentejo is in the sunny south, and here we have sun-baked plains, resuling in wines in more of a new-world sort of style. Of course, there's more to it than this, but in general the Alentejo wines are riper and more accessible than the Douro wines. Red is king in both - although some nice whites are being made also, they're second fiddle to the red wines.
The two Alentejo wines here show distinct personalities. The first is tighter and more savoury; the second more forward and sweet. Both are very good and are worth the asking price. Which you prefer may well be a question of personal stylistic preference.
Pedra Basta 2005 Vinho Regional Alentejano
This is the wine from (writer) Richard Maysonís Quinta do Centro, made by Rui Reguinga. Itís a blend of traditional varieties Trincadeira, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet with Cabernet Sauvignon, aged for a year in French oak barrels and weighing in at 14.5% alcohol. Itís a bit restrained and tight on the nose at the moment, not offering a lot. Closed? The palate is savoury with brooding dark fruits and a distinctive minerally, earthy seriousness. This is ripe, but itís fresh and well defined at the same time Ė not as showy or new-worldy as some Alentejo wines can be. Although this is a little angular and closed at present, I think itís quite a serious effort and I suspect this will age well in the medium term. 90/100 (£9.95 The Wine Society) (You can read Richardís informative diary here)
Howardís Folly 2006 Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal
A blend of Syrah, Alicante Bouschet and Touriga Nacional, made by Portuguese-resident Aussie winemaker David Baverstock. Itís a deep-coloured wine with a seductive nose of sweet dark fruits and nicely integrated oak. The palate is broad and sweetly fruited with nice density and some freshness. Ripe, full and generous; made in a modern, new world style but it seems to me that this is still retaining a sense of Portugueseness (albeit only just). 89/100 (£8.95 UK agent Charles Hawkins)