Battle for Alentejo


There is a battle being waged for the soul of Alentejo, that ancient land of corkamorimcork Battle for Alentejo
by Amorim Cork
oaks and olive groves that came very recently to wine and now lists Angola, Brazil and the USA as three largest export markets. In the red corner is Aussie David Baverstock who makes stunning fruit forward wines in an Antipodean style at Esporão. In the white is António Saramago who hates fruit and is pursuing a Bordeaux dream at Herdade dos Coelheiros (below). Yesterday it was Coelheiros. This afternoon, Esporão.

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António (below) is consultant enólogo to the 1000ha herdade which has been transformed by GM José Pedro Simões into a green oasis by the planting of “nugget trees” – nuts, which stay green during the heat of summer. Dryland vineyards see vines go deeper for resources and nearly 90% of production is red, although there is a handy Chardonnay made from a clone imported directly from Burgundy.

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The Cabernet comes from Château Margaux and those intense red and black berry flavours are evident in the Trapada de Coelheiros 2009 (€16.75) and most especially in the 2007 Garrafeira (€38). A chewy blend with Aragonez, this is first growth stuff indeed.

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Luis Maia is resident winemaker (above) posing with a stylized portrait of the owner of the herdade who now lives in Lisbon. Rather than paying the Ah-Ah Consultancy of Sarah Ahmed and Jo Ahearne €300 to advise on the suitability of these wines for the UK market – a project which is increasingly seen as a hilarious scam by Portuguese producers with more conflicts of interest than a chameleon on a box of Smarties – a mixed case of the Garrafeira, 2009 blend and 2007 Syrah (€20) divvied up between the Portuguese restaurants of London would be a far more fruitful way for ViniPortugal to spend their marketing moolah.

After all, it is only the command module of the Portuguese wine rocket that needs to reach escape velocity to orbit the MondoVino and the self-evident quality on show at Coelheiros has no need of expensive bushes supplied by Ah-Ah girls.