I used to think that Southern Portugal counted simply as a hot, dry region – but it turns out that’s a serious misconception when it comes to Lisbon and Tejo. Two bodies of water – the Atlantic and the river Tagus (Tejo in Portuguese) – ensure that this west-central slice of Portugal is one of the cooler parts. Historically it’s done little more than churn out cheap quaffing fodder over the decades, but more recently there’s a hotbed of interesting winemaking happening here.
Rodrigo Filipe makes wine under the “Humus” label, working with around 10 hectares of vines on his family’s estate Quinta do Paço. He’s got a bit of an issue with white grapes – there aren’t enough in the vineyards. His creative solution was to take some Touriga Nacional and vinify it as a “blanc de noir”, but that isn’t the whole story. He’s also added a bit of Sauvignon Blanc and Arinto, both fermented with their skins – and then takes those skins and adds them to the pressed Touriga, so it too does a kind of skin fermentation (but just not with its own skins, which would give too much colour).
If this all sounds rather technical, it can safely be ignored while enjoying the Curtimenta 2016, which is a triumph. Despite a mammoth three months of skin contact, fresh tropical fruit aromas have been preserved, along with a sense of purity and liveliness. But the skins have brought a supporting cast of nutty, grippy tannins and a wonderful finish of toasted almond.
Rodrigo has been planting more white varieties, and as he says “There will be more oranges in 2017” – and no, he’s not talking about becoming a citrus fruit grower! I can’t wait.
I caught up with Rodrigo at this years’ Simplesmente Vinho, which has become one of the highlights of my year. It’s a buzzy, alternative wine fair for smaller artisan growers from all over Portugal, and indeed Iberia. More about the other discoveries from this year very shortly.
Rodrigo’s wines aren’t easy to find outside Portugal, but check wine-searcher for the latest information.