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The rare ramisco grape grows ungrafted in the sands (arenae) of the Atlantic coast north-west of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. Unique and distinctive, this wine offers floral fragrance and firm structure reminiscent of north Italian nebbiolo, with marked tannins and a refreshing wild-cherry freshness.
Product Code: PW7831
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The Adega de Ramisco co-operative is a big deal in the Portuguese region of Colares on the Atlantic coast, making 51% of the wine produced there, though this is a dip from the days between 1934 and 1994 when the Junta Nacional dos Vinhos responsible for regulating the wine industry required that 100% of all wine from Colares was made at the Adega. Viticulturist and oenologist Francisco Figueiredo oversees production at the beautiful 19th century cellars and he is a local boy dedicated to preserving the unique characteristics of the vines and wines of Colares, themselves the product of a unique terroir. Colares is the most westerly wine region in Europe, a sliver of land edged by rugged cliffs on the Atlantic coast north-west of Lisbon, where the soils are sand or clay dominated. In the early 20th century, when the rest of Europe was trying to get over the devastating effects of the phylloxera louse, Colares was largely protected because of the sandy soils which inhibited the pest and the wine was much in demand all over the continent. Indeed, part of the reasoning behind the stringency of the Junta regulations mentioned above was the authorities desire to protect the good name and market of Colares wines from unscrupulous adulteration and mislabelling from outside the region, in those days a by no-means unheard of practice. Today many of the vines in the sandier soils are a century or more old and remain ungrafted, and in alliance with the effects of the nearby ocean provide unique circumstances for growing two rare native grape varieties, the malvasia de Colares and ramisco. In addition the vineyard work here is very traditional, eschewing the use of chemicals, leaving vines untrained until the summer gets very hot at which time the canes are lifted to prevent the hot sand scorching the grapes. The vines are protected from the Atlantic winds by stone walls and cane fences. It almost goes without saying that all work is done by hand. In the winery some new methods have been introduced, such as temperature controlled stainless steel vats, slower fermentations and longer skin contact for whites, but otherwise things remain old-school. Natural yeasts are used, and old wooden vats (including some foudres from Brazil) are used for maturation.
Like its neighbour Spain, Portugal has been undergoing something of a quiet revolution over the last twenty years or so. A reluctance to follow trends and plant international grapes is now paying dividends and the new breed of full-blooded, fruit-filled wines are more than able to compete on the world stage. The unique flavours that are the hallmark of Portugal's indigenous grape varieties have become its trump card. Vinho Verde, sometimes spritzy and youthful and sometimes made with the aim of creating a more serious white wine, is in the verdant north-west, bordering the Spanish province of Galicia. A wet and fertile area, the grapes ripen with moderate sugar levels and refreshing acidity, meaning that the wines are usually lowish in alcohol at about 10-11%. Astringent, low alcohol red Vinho Verde is also produced. Trás-os-Montes is a remote region of harsh winters and hot, dry summers in the north-east of the country is bound on one side by high mountains and on the other the border with Spain (the name means 'behind the mountains'. The schistous soils and the grapes are similar to those of the Douro. Reds are often lighter and more aromatic than those of neighbouring Douro.The Douro is one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, and deservedly Portugal's best known, the Douro has quickly emerged to lead the way as the country's premium wine region and there is a real pioneering spirit amongst the winemakers here, port shippers included. Although there is an enormous variety of different terroirs within the Douro Valley, this is essentially a sparsely populated, hot, arid region where grapes are grown on spectacularly steep terraced slopes. Wine grapes are the same as those that go into Port. Wines tend to be high in tannin and flavour.Dão is south of the Douro on granite slopes protected by high mountains and pine forests. The region produces one of Portugal's better-known reds of the same name. Once dominated by rather lack-lustre co-operatives, the area now has a whole clutch of dynamic, small producers making elegant, approachable and enjoyable wines.Between the mountains and the coast, on fertile clay soils, is Bairrada (barro is Portuguese for clay). Better known for red wines, this is one of the only wine regions in Portugal to be dominated by a single grape variety,the tannic, high-acid baga, making wines that can be tough and astringent in their youth but which soften with age, becoming beguilingly perfumed. These days many blend baga with non-indigenous grapes to make a friendlier style, but the greatest are pure baga. The area also benefits from late-afternoon breezes which favour the production of fresh, food-friendly whites and increasingly popular sparkling wines.Beira Interior is a rather disparate region covering a vast swathe of inland Portugal south of the Douro and east of Dão. Vineyards are grown at altitude on granite soils. In the north, grapes are similar to those of the Douro while the south has a whole mix of varieties. Lisboa is a large, coastal region that runs north from Lisbon. Atlantic breezes help cool the vineyards and maintain the fresh acidity and aromatics in the mostly white wines. North of Bucelas, on the Atlantic west coast lies the strip of rolling countryside that contains nine separate DOCs under the umbrella name of Lisboa. This is Portugal's largest wine producing region in volume terms.Bucelas was the first wine The Society ever sold! This tiny DOC is one of the closest to Lisbon. It produces breezy dry whites which are popular locally.Tejo was formerly known as Ribatejo is known for good, everyday drinking wines in a range of styles from a wide range of permitted grapes. This region lies on either side of the River Tagus Lying across the mouth of theTagus river, the Península de Setúbal is a flat, sandy region with the exception of the Serra da Arrábida a short chain of mountains with clay and limestone soils. There are two DOCs here, Palmela north-east of the peninsula where the castelão grape is ideally suited to the sandy soils, and Setúbal, where a sweet fortified wine is made primarily from muscat of Alexandria.The Alentejo province stretches south from the Tagus to the Algarve and east to the border with Spain and covers almost a third of continental Portugal. Divided into seven diverse sub-regions, the undulating hills are home to many crops. Despite the challengingly arid climate here, this is a dynamic region, referred to sometimes as Portugal's 'new world'.
Generally a successful vintage throughout Portugal, though high temperatures in Alentejo meant that there were some unbalanced wines. A very wet winter caused problems of soil erosion in parts of the Douro but topped up groundwater levels, and this proved extremely helpful throughout an exceptionally hot July. When the remainder of the summer settled down it was followed by good harvest conditions and a good crop.
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