Quite da Fonte Souto in the Alto Alentejo close to the São Mamede mountains in southern Portugal is the Port giant Symington’s first venture outside their native Douro region. The 43 hectares of vines of the 207 hectare property of chestnut groves and cork oaks on schist and granite soils at an altitude of 490 to 550 metres on the slopes of the São Mamede mountains in Portalegre in the far north of the Alentejo close to the border with Spain, are planted with Aragonês (Tempranillo), Alfrocheiro, Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon together with experimental plantings of Encruzado, Alvarinho, Verdelho, Fernão Pires. The region produces some of Portugal’s most exciting and refined wines.
The first vintage under Symington family ownership was the 2017. The five wines (2 whites and 3 reds) were released this year. Joanna Lock MW wrote: “ ….our long and close working relationship with the Symington clan has secured us (The Wine Society) early access to the first vintages of this exciting new venture to be released in the UK. What struck me at the outset when tasting these wines was that these are not attention-seeking blockbusters… rather wines that grab your attention for their balance, freshness and elegance. This is an exciting new venture for the Symingtons, and for Portugal, and we commend these new wines to you unreservedly!…Be among the first to try them.“
Last Sunday we did just that!
- Quinta da Fonte Souto Florao Alentejano 2018 – (£11.95): A blend of Arinto and Verdelho, fermented and aged for 4 months in stainless-steel tanks. Fresh, fruity and appealing. (15)
- Quinta da Fonte Souto Branco Alentejo 2017 – (£17.00): 75% Arinto and 25% Verdelho. Fermentation started in stainless-steel tanks but immediately after the start of alcoholic fermentation, 60% of the must was transferred to 500-litre new French oak barrels to complete fermentation and age for 8 months on lees. Rich and elegant and fantastic. A wine to cellar. (16)
- Quinta da Fonte Souto Florao Tinto Alentejano 2017 – (£11.95): Aragonêz,Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet, Syrah. 50% of the blend was matured for 6 months in third and fourth year 400 litre French oak barrels. Soft and fruity with good poise. (15)
- Quinta da Fonte Souto Tinto Alentejo 2017 – (£17): A blend of Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Alfrocheiro. 50% of the blend was matured for 6 months in second and third year 400 litre French oak barrels. Lovely. (15.5)
- Quinta da Fonte Souto Vinha do Souto Alentejo 2017 – (£47.00): The flagship wine of the estate is a blend of 52% Alicante Bouschet and 40% Syrah, 80% of the blend matured for 11 months in new French oak barrels (65% of 400 l and 35% of 225 l) and 20% in second year barrels. A lovely, elegant wine with a great future. (16.5)
Many members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society are familiar with Alentejo wines having visited Dona Maria, Esperao and Cartuxa during an extensive wine tour of the region in June 2016. An Esporao Reserva 2017 and Cartuxa’s 2013 Pera-Manca were tasted with the two Fonte Souto whites to asses any quality differences between the higher altitude wines and those from established and rated producers from the Alentejo plains.
Esporao Reserva Branco 2017: A blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro made by David Baverstock and Sandra Alves. Fruit is fermented in stainless steel tanks and French and American oak barrels and aged for six months with lees contact. Alcohol 14.5%. (£15.15 HMWS). (15.5)
Pera-Mancia Branco 2013, Cartuxa: A blend of Antao Vaz and Arinto, fermented in stainless steel tanks and French oak barrels at 16 degrees C and aged on lees for 12 months. Alcohol 13.5%. To drink from 2018. (The vintage is not available in the UK now.) Hint of oxidation. (16)
Julia Harding MW states on jancisrobinson.com: “The fact that the Symingtons bought (Quinta da Fonte Souto) just in time to make the 2017 vintage suggests that the wines are only going to get better once they have had time to do more in the vineyards and see which varieties are best suited to their sites.”
We will watch with great interest.
(All the wines were from The Wine Society. They will be available shortly from Fells – Symington’s UK agents. Wines can be shipped from Portugal Vineyards)
Alfrocheiro: “A Dão grape by origin, but has spread southwards into the Alentejo because of its ability to retain good acidity even in hot climates. The wines are rich in colour with firm but ripe tannins and good acidity and attractive, berry fruit aromas. The vines are vigorous, requiring attention to keep the vegetation under control, and are prone to oidium and botrytis.” (Vinha)
Trincadeira: “Rich in colour and with good acidity, Trincadeira makes wines of serious quality when ripe. They have raspberry aromas tempered by herby, peppery, spicy, floral complexity, and can age well. Yields are generally high and it is sensitive to rot. It does well in hot, dry places, and is therefore particularly at home in the Alentejo.” (Vinha)
Encruzado: “It is one of Portugal’s best white grape varieties. The best examples have delicate aromas of roses and violets, light citrus notes, a touch of resin and, in certain conditions, intensely mineral notes. Amongst its virtues is the ability to maintain almost perfect balance between sugar and acidity, making serious, rich, structured wines with extraordinary ageing potential. It is used both as a single variety and as a star ingredient in many Dão blends. The Encruzado vine yields well, presenting no major problems in the vineyard.” (Vinha)
Roupeiro: “Roupeiro (Siria) is the most-planted white grape in the Alentejo. Because it has a tendency to oxidise, Roupeiro is a wine to drink young, In its youth it is exuberantly aromatic, citrus and floral, with hints of peach, melon and bay. It does better in the cool uplands of the Beiras than in the heat of the Ribatejo and Alentejo, and is particularly successful in the Pinhel region in the northern sector of the Beira Interior. It gives high yields, and both bunches and grapes are small.” (Vinha)
Arinto: “It makes vibrant wines with lively, refreshing acidity, often with a mineral quality, along with flavours of apple, lime and lemon. Arinto-based wines can keep well but are also delicious young. Because it keeps its acidity even in hot climates, Arinto is often added to other lower-acid white grapes to improve blends – especially in the hot Alentejo. Its good acidity also makes it a great ingredient for sparkling wines. Arinto’s medium-sized bunches are tightly packed with small grapes.” (Vinha)
Antão Vaz: “Well suited to the warm and sunny climate on the great plains of the Alentejo, it is reliable and productive, consistent in its ripening. The bunches are big and not too tightly packed, the grapes large, with tough skins. As a rule it produces firm, full-bodied, well-structured wines. Made as a single variety, it has lively aromas, with hints of ripe tropical fruits, tangerine peel and something mineral, along with good structure and body. If picked early, it gives wines with vibrant aroma and crisp acidity. Left to ripen longer, it can reach high levels of alcohol, making it a good candidate for barrel maturation. It is often blended with Roupeiro and Arinto, which contribute refreshing acidity.” (Vinha)