The wines of Quinta do Casal Branco
One of the leading estates in Portugal's Tejo region


Jose Lobo de Vasconcelos and Dina Luís

Located on the left (east) bank of the River Tagus, in the Ribatejo (now known as just ‘Tejo’) region, Casal Branco is a significant estate of 1100 hectares, with 140 hectares of vineyards. As well as focusing on wine, Casal Branco is an important stud farm from the pure-bred Lusitano horses, and other agricultural activities also take place.

Jose Lobo de Vasconcelos is the man in charge here. His family has been running the estate since 1775, and he first got involved in 1986. We met with him and his enologist Dina Luís.

Old vine

Previously, there were 200 hectares of vines here, primarily on the less well-suited alluvial soils which were simply too vigorous for quality wine production. There were official incentives to reduce vineyard area in the region, and so these was taken advantage of, with some vines removed altogether, and a shift to planting more vines on the better sandy soils on the estate.

New vineyards

As well as moving and removing vines, Jose and his team changed the varietal mix a bit, introducing the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet. Whites now include Fernão Pires, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Alvarinho and Gouveio (aka Verdelho), and reds include Castelão (a traditional variety for the region that is the most planted here), Cabernet Sauvignon, Trincadeira (it has proved to be too humid here for this variety to thrive), Touriga Nacional, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Alicante Bouschet, Aragonês and Alfrocheiro (the last two are still young and so no varietal wines have yet been made from them).

A new winery has been constructed; this was finished in 2004. Since 1990 there has been quite a shift here, moving from large yields of bulk wine to smaller quantities of better quality wine. In the vineyard, there has been a shift from an agricultural production of grapes to having a team of people just working on viticulture. 

João Portugal Ramos was involved as a consultant here from 1988–2001. Before his involvement ended he prepared a team of people to take over, one of whom was the current winemaker, Dina. 

70% of the production is exported, with the UK and US the most important, but Macau (China) is rising fast. There are 20 different lines of wine. 


Capoeira Branco 2009 VR Tejo
Very well priced (£5.99 retail). A varietal Fernão Pires; 13% alcohol. Fresh citrus pith nose is nicely aromatic. The palate is crisp and fresh with lemony fruit. Nice acidity counters a hint of sweetness (6 g/l rs). 87/100

Terra de Lobos Fernão Pires (70%)/Sauvignon Blanc (30%) 2009
Well priced, again. 13% alcohol. Rounded, bright, fruity and herby with nice freshness. Very fruity and attractive. Still closed but will open up. Lovely. 87/100

Quartilho Branco 2009 VR Tejo
13% alcohol. Varietal Fernão Pires. Lovely fresh grapey, herby aromatics. The palate is vibrantly fruity with some melon, herb, grape and citrus character. Fresh and full flavoured, and very attractive. 86/100

Quinta do Casal Branco 2009 VR Tejo
13% alcohol. Taut, herby, melony and fresh with a waxy, pithy edge. Attractive bright fruit with a herby edge and a bit of pithiness on the palate. Taut and appealing. 88/100 (Laithwaites stock this in the UK at £6.29)

Falcoaria Branco 2007 DOC Ribatejo
Fernão Pires, 50% barrel fermented. Classy nutty, toasty nose with some fresh fruit. Sophisticated, fresh palate with classy oak supporting the fresh, intense fruit. Finishes pithy. Very stylish with a nutty edge. 89/100 (UK retail of £8.99)

Terra de Lobos Rosé 2009 VR Tejo
A blend of lots of red varieties. Pink/red colour. Very fruity and fresh with lovely focused cherry fruit and some herby notes. There’s a bit of grip, too, and good acidity. A fresh, dry style of rosé. 84/100 (£5.99 in Adnams in the UK)

Capoeira Tinto 2008 VR Tejo
Castelão, mainly, with some Trincadeira and Cabernet Sauvignon. Bright, fresh and cherryish wth a nice herby edge to the fruit. Very focused with some savoury, spicy notes. Fresh cherry fruit; easy to drink. 84/100

Terra de Lobos Castelão/Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 VR Tejo
A bit richer and fruitier with nice ripe plummy blackberry and cherry fruit. Juicy and bright with nice focus. Lovely fruit here. 85/100

Quartilho Tinto 2008 (cask sample)
Castelão, Alicante, Touriga Nacional, Merlot and Syrah. Nice elegant, vibrant cherry and raspberry fruit. Juicy with nice fruit purity and good definition. 88/100

Quinta do Casal Branco Tinto 2008
13.5% alcohol. Fresh, focused and bright. Quite elegant with a leafy edge to the fruit. Quite elegant and focused with some Cabernet character. A fresh style. 87/100

Quinta do Casal Branco Touriga Nacional 2007
13.5% alcohol. Very fresh, bright and cherryish with nice floral aromatics and fresh herbiness. Grippy structure on the finish. A light, bright expression of Touriga. 88/100

Falcoaria Tinto 2006
Very nice sweet blackcurrant nose with some lush dark fruits and hints of tar and spice. The palate is elegant with ripe blackcurrant fruit and lovely freshness. Some richness and good quality oak making an appearance, too. 91/100

Falcoaria Reserva Tinto 2007
Smooth, lush dark fruits nose with a bit of tar and hints of mint. The palate is quite fresh with elegant berry fruits, some spice and tar notes, and grippy tannins. Lovely focus and acidity. Needs time to integrate the oak and flesh out a bit. 90/100

Capucho Petit Verdot 2008 (cask sample)
Tarry, spicy and tannic with intense berry and cherry fruit. Savoury and plummy with high acidity – Italianesque. 87–89/100

Capucho Alicante 2008 (cask sample)
Tarry, spicy, coffee-ish nose with some fresh dark cherry and plum fruit. The palate is rich, powerful, plummy and spicy with nice structure and good acidity. Good food compatibility. 88–91/100

Capucho Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
Highly aromatic with appealing green minty, leafy, subtly earthy characters. The palate is fresh and herby with leafy blackcurrant and cherry fruit as well as notes of earth and spice. This is evolving nicely. 91/100

Monge sparkling wine 2007
This is a blanc de noirs made from Castelão, using the Champagne method. 15 000 bottles made. Very fresh, bright and fruity with a subtle herby edge. Attractive with good acidity – a fruity style. 86/100

See also:

Tasting notes of Portuguese wines

Wines tasted 03/10  
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