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We are excited to offer the very first vintage of the exquisite Colares Malvasia from Casal do Ramilo. This is one of my favorite wines from Portugal; wonderfully expressive through a combination of maritime weather, sandy soils, and masterful winemaking. A true expression of terroir.
Colares wines are always special it seems. Coming from the DOC level subregion within the larger Lisboa appellation, Colares vines are the most westernmost on the continent, situated on the sandy cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This has come at a terrible cost due to the massive expansion of real estate development along the Portuguese coastline. As luxury condominiums rise around the region, the vines have become close to extinction. It is a terrible fact given the history of Colares. Viticulture in the region extends back to the 12th century. Even during the phylloxera epidemic that destroyed over half of Europe’s vines, Colares stood tall; the sandy soils are resistant to root louse, so the vines remained unscathed.
The Ramilo family has been producing wine in the Lisboa region since 1937 working with clay soils in Mafra. When Nuno Ramilo took over his family’s production, his first move was to save a small plot of land in Colares about 1 kilometer from the ocean from a condominium building project. He ended up planting 2 hectares of Malvasia there, experimenting with a variety of traditional and creative techniques on the vines during planting.
To plant his ungrafted vines in the clay under one meter of sandy soils, large trenches had to be dug in the clay, pushing the sand aside until the vines began to grow. As the vines grow, small amounts of the sand are pushed back into the ground. This is important for the region, as vines need to remain close to the ground to allow maturation in the colder regional climate. Though the temperature is low, the sand reflects heat and light onto the grapes in such close proximity, permitting full maturation. Harvest begins in October, when the vines are lifted from the grounds via rods to avoid disturbing the sandy soils.
Nuno also uses some of the most creative techniques in the cellar. Through their viticultural practices, the Malvasia represents terroir and the nature around the vines. But Nuno wanted to go further, by having the Malvasia express tannin, plushness, and strength; by using skin contact in the winemaking. Casal do Ramilo’s Malvasia is vinified 50% in the tradional Colares style: fermented in stainless steel without lees, then aged in oak until blending. The other 50% is fermented on the skin in an open air lagar for seven days.
The wine is an outstanding and complex expression of both a maritime terroir and the Malvasia's skin. Salt, some burnt caramel, orange blossom, white flowers and fresh herbs are all on the nose, while the palate shows a lovely medley of minerals, almond, citrus, savory herbs, acid and sea spray. The wine is built to age beautifully, so it should be showing so well in another decade. If enjoying now, be sure to serve it at cellar temperature after a thorough decant.
This is a truly remarkable wine, encompassing a balance of traditional viticulture, a nod towards the region’s history, and ingenious and creative winemaking. John David Crosby
We are delighted to have the first vintage of the Ramilo family’s Malvasia. From two hectares of rare and ungrafted vines in Colares, about one kilometer from the Atlantic. The soil here is comprised of clay, under about a meter of sand. The vines are trained low to the sand, permitting longer maturation of the fruit, while the light and heat reflected by the sand raises the fairly low temperature. After an October harvest period, 50% of the wine is fermented in stainless steel, while the other 50% is fermented on the skins in an open air lagar for seven days. This skin contact gives the Malvasia gorgeous notes of orange blossom, sea spray, plush flowers and salt. The palate continues these notes, along with the classic Colares profile of minerality, salinity, crisp acidity and tart citrus. This is one of our favorite wines, made for a dish like seafood stews, salt cod, and shrimp tempura. JDC