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The Phaunus "orange" is all Loureiro, with 8 weeks of skin contact and lees aging in 1,300L clay Talha amphorae from southern Portugal. The wine has nice lift from the natural acidity of the Loureiro grapes, while the maceration and lees aging give it texture and structure. As winemaker Miguel Viseu says, it's a wine "made in silence," with harvest by hand in the early morning, and no electricity used at any point in the process. A truly curious approach with a delicious result. Drink chilled, but not too cold. Eben Lillie
100% Vital from 35 year old vines, planted in Serra de Montejunto, about 10 miles from the Atlantic. The wine is macerated for 3 days and then pressed to ferment with native yeast in old Burgundy barrels for 11 months. Vital, a rare variety only grown in Western Portugal, is characterized by it's lower acid content and fleshy profile.This carries over to the Vital Blanco, with gorgeous notes of green apple, minerals, a slight creaminess, and fresh green herbs. A savory spice is in the palate, while the nose shows orchard fruit, white flowers and almond skin. The wine is medium body and on the richer style, similar to a lovely Rhone Valley white. This would pair well with dover sole, seafood stews, or chicken in a cream sauce. JDC
A delightful and idyllic orange wine from Tiago Teles and Antonio Marques-da Cruz. 100% Vital - a rare local grape from the Serra de Montejunto near Lisbon, with two weeks of maceration on the skins, and aging for about a year in old barrels. From my little experience with Vital, there is a LOT of character, but it's not overwhelmingly fragrant on the nose. Along with subtle overtones of stone fruit and salt, there are lovely aromas of crushed skins that are given a chance. Delicate tannins, and a finish that is a bit more refined and long, compared to the young and vivacious 2018 Vital white. We are still learning as we drink "orange" or skin-contact wines, and there are many to try. Some derived from aromatic varieties like Muscat and Gewurztraminer, can be wildly interesting but quite pronounced. Others, from long macerations, can be particularly astringent from high tannin levels. Here is a noteworthy contribution to the mix. Elegant, and food friendly. Well worth a try for fans of skin contact (or what we could just call good) wines. -EL
Victor Claro started the Domino project after spending some time making wines and learning from Dirk Niepoort. He parked himself in Alentejo, and began making his own wines quite recently. The Colar Branco is all Malvasia, from limestone soils in the Colares region. Though not from the sandy oceanside vineyards that Colares is famous for, the wine still expressed undeniable seaside character, with saline and tropical notes, and zippy acidity. 50% crushed and 50% whole cluster fermentation and aging in a combination of stainless steel and some barrels. It's showing a bit of reduction on opening, so open before serving or decant. -EL
Folias de Baco was started in 2007 by Douro native, Tiago Sampaio. The vineyards are located in the Alto Douro, on soils of schist and granite. He is reviving old traditions by making fascinating field blends from indigenous varieties, and at the same time exploring his love for Pinot Noir, which he developed while studying winemaking in Oregon. This wine is 100% Tinta Francisca, a native, but almost forgotten grape. Grown in granite and schist soils at 600 meters of altitude, it's dark in the glass, elegant and chalky on the palate. A beautiful wine with some crunchy red fruit and great acidity. In 2016, Tiago had to buy one new barrel, which he aged a small part of the Tinta Francisca in. This lends some subtle notes of oak, that have integrated nicely in the bottle. Lovely now, this is a great wine to keep in mind for fall feasts. -EL
The Xisto Ilimitado is a delightful entry into the wines of Luis Seabra's latest project. This is a red blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz, Rufete, Tinta Barroca, Malvasia Preta and Deonzelinho Tinto. It shows soft tannins, notes of pepper, spice, smoked meat, and bright dark fruit. Backed by a strong mineral presence and great acidity, this wine shows a velvety depth in the finish. Almost Saint-Joseph in profile, this wine will age incredibly well, but can be drunk now with any roasted meat or game. JDC
Having spent nearly a decade shaping the wine program at Dirk Niepoort’s eminent Douro estate, Seabra’s wines are a sublime example of the terroir of his native Douro Valley. His wines are always terroir-driven, and his dedication to expressions of schist-soil is the most important factor in his wine-making. Xisto Illimatado Branco (a Portuguese analogue to the idea of a “village” level Burgundy) is a field-blend of Rabigato, Codega, Gouveiu and Viosinho from 30-45 year-old vines, planted at high elevation in Cima Corgo, a subregion in the Douro Valley that experiences extreme variances in temperature (allowing an extended hanging period for the fruit). The wine offers the closest expression to Chablis outside of Burgundy: bright acidity, ultra-expressive minerality, with notes of ripe citrus, green apple, slate minerals. Seabra’s wines can be aged for another decade, but can be enjoyed today with oysters, scallops, and rock shrimp tempura. JDC
Lúcia Freitas manages Quinta da Mariposa, located in Carregal do Sal in the Dao región of Portgal. The Dao is home to Portugal’s oldest varieties, Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz. Mariposa’s 2015 tinto is a blend of both of these varieties and a little bit of Jaen (or, Mencia). It shows notes of wild strawberry, bramble, some brown spice and fresh herbs. JDC
Antonio Marques da Cruz runs the Quinta do Serradinha winery, Portugal's first certified organic estate (Organic since 1994). The winery is located north of Lisbon and wines are quite traditional here, with stone lagars for crushing and big old barrels for aging. The Branco is a fascinating blend of Arinto and Fernão Pires, two local grapes. Aromas of anise and herbs, with some salinity and citrus on the palate. The Arinto delivers fresh acidity that frames the long finish. A dynamic white wine and with uniquely Portuguese character. -EL
From Portugal's oldest organic certified estate, this is a red from the Castelão grape, a distinct Portuguese variety that has some family ties to Alfrochiero, and is mostly found in the southern part of the country. This is de stemmed, then foot stomped in stone lagars before aging in large old barrels. Like Alfrochiero, Castelão offers rusticity, and some dark fruit and foresty aromatics. There are subtle tannins here, but it's truly a very elegant and graceful wine, with all elements in a nice balance. -EL
We are so happy to have the latest vintage of the Ramilo family’s Malvasia, one of the most special wines to come out of Portugal. From two hectares of rare and ungrafted vines in Colares, about one kilometer from the Atlantic. The soil here is made of clay, under about a meter of sand. The vines lie 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 traditionally in stainless steel, while 50% of the wine is fermented on the lees in an open air lagar for seven days. This skin contact gives the Malvasia gorgeous notes of orange blossom, sea spray, plush flowers and salty minerality. 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
Sidónio de Sousa's Reserva Tinto is a savory, medium to full-bodied expression of Baga, from clay-limestone soils in the Ancas-Bairrada. Pressing and fermentation happens in traditional small cement lagars, with aging for a year in large 4000L barrels, and a further two years in bottle before release. Pepper, black currant, oregano, and fresh earth abound. For a wine under $20, this traditional Baga over-delivers, providing the leather and cedar notes of a fine Bordeaux mixed with the finesse of Nebbiolo. Perhaps an old fashioned wine in style, this is no fault! A great value. -EL
Tiago’s RAIZ Tinto is a co-ferment of roughly 90% Alfrocheiro, 10% Bical. From vines planted on clay-limestone soil, the grapes are hand-harvested in September, destemmed and co-fermented in 1000 liter tanks, followed by a short maceration and light pressing and 10 months in contact with the lees in raw cement tanks. Light bodied and zesty, Tiago’s wines are always backed by a heavy mineral presence. The palate shows notes of green herbs, slight grapefruit, sour cherry and some spice, with bright acidity and lovely structure. The wine certainly benefits from a slight chill before drinking. JDC
Tiago wasn’t born into a winemaking family. He began his career as a wine critic, travelling around his native Portugal, while yearning to be closer to the land. In 2012, Tiago and his father leased a vineyard in Bairrada, where his father is from, about 15 kilometers from the Atlantic. His project is not based on specific varieties, but a devotion towards crafting wines that reflect the influence of the ocean, and his sandy, clay-limestone terroir. The Raiz Macerado is 100% Loureiro which spends two months in concrete tanks macerating and aging, before being aged on the lees for about eleven months. The contact with the skin gives this white wine some soft tannin with zesty notes of lemon, flowers, green herbs and spice. JDC