Old vines and medieval winemaking in the backyards of Portugal

It's rare that we discover a wine with a great backstory, which is doing good, and which tastes utterly delicious and authentic in a way we've never encountered before. That's what we have for you today. Read on...

In the countryside north of Lisbon, old vineyards are scattered about. These 'backyard' vines were traditionally used to make wine for local families, but increasingly the tradition is falling away and they lie neglected - you might say, 'condemned'.

The Uncondemned Medieval project is taking some of these vineyards and bringing their lost wines back to life. Their red wine, “Palhete”, is from vines between 120 and 150 years old and is made using an old (medieval) method where red and white grapes are combined part-way through fermentation. Made by André Gomes, the highly accomplished winemaker at Quinta do Montalto, the result is authentic, unique and delicious - an intense, tangy red which has wonderful lift and fragrance thanks to the white grapes in the blend.

Mid cherry red and surprisingly deeply coloured for a wine that has 50% light-skinned grapes. A slightly smoky/rubbery reductive note at first though this soon blows off with aeration, then peppery and tangy dark-ref fruit, delicate but definite notes of white pepper, maybe even celery salt, and deliciously aromatic, opening up to wild scrubland and grasses (the Portuguese equivalent of southern French garrique) – ie scented in a wild sort of way rather than perfumed – but still deliciously tart and tangy fruit. On the palate, this has terrific (old-vine?) intensity, like essence of untamed fruit. Tannins are firm, gently chewy and the finish mouth-watering. The alcohol has given a fuller body than I expected and just a little bit of heat on the finish but it's not intrusive. Juicy and persistent. It may age longer than this but the fruit is so pure and vibrant now, why wait?

16.5 points

Julia Harding MW, Jancis Robinson.com, 15/03/2020

If you're in need of something unique, fresh and uplifting this might just be it.