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Morgado do Quintao: Coastal Wines from Southern Portugal

Morgado do Quintao: Coastal Wines from Southern Portugal

For those in the know, Portugal has been the go to stop for delicious inexpensive wine from grapes varieties rarely seen outside of its borders. For a number of reasons, Portugal never “internationalized’ its wine industry. While you can find Pinot and Chardonnay, they are rare compared to the many indignious varieties that have been tended to for centuries. This has left Portugal with an abundance of small, old-vine vineyards that a new generation is beginning to mine for enological gold.

Perhaps there is no better example of this phenomenon than Morgado do Quintão. Owned by Filipe Vasconcellos, this historic estate with thousand-year-old trees is located in DOC Lagoa in the Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal. The property encompasses 60 hectares of vineyards which have been in his mother’s family for generations. Recognizing the potential of these old vines, Filipe began searching for someone to help realize that potential. 

Pretty soon after Filipe met Joana Maçanita, he knew she might be the one. She had viticulture insights and the minimal interventionist approach to winemaking that matches Filipe's family’s philosophy. Born in Lisbon with family from Algarve, Azores and Alentejo, Juanita  brings not only engineering and agronomy degrees but also an extensive knowledge of Portugal’s terroir and a commitment to the same mission as Filipe: to show the potential of indigenous grape varieties Crato Branco and Tinto Negra Mole.

These ancient grapes, Portugal's oldest varieties, are at home in the ideal conditions of the estate. The vines are only 5 miles from the Atlantic Ocean’s cool maritime influence yet warmed by the Levante winds from Africa, and the average yearly temperature is between 57-60 degrees F. Sunny Algarve is known for exceptional ripening conditions, with 3000 to 3500 daylight hours per year. The soil here is known as arenitos: iron-rich sandy loess mixed with limestone.

These old varieties are known to be finicky, ripening unevenly thus requiring multiple passes during harvest. Careful grape selection is key here as there is very little intervention in the cellar. Once fermentation is complete the wine heads into stainless steel for aging in order to enhance aromatics and retain a fresh, electric quality. Never fined or filtered, the  wine gets a small dose of sulfur before bottling.

The resulting wines are very poised and aromatically pure. These are elegant wines that are true to their coastal roots. Both the whit a red share and almost sea air minerality and freshness. One sip and you are transported to a white washed seaside town. Grab a can of your favorite conserva and some cheese for a bit of seaside European fun in your own backyard. 

Morgado do Quintão, Lagoa Branco, 2019

From a single, organically farmed vineyard ,Morgado do Quintão Branco made from Crato Branco (also known as Roupeiro or Códega), the oldest known grape in Portugal.  A joyous lemon yellow, the nose is filled with aromas of pineapple and tropical fruit overlaid with green leafy notes. On the palate, tense yet ripe, with tropical fruit flavors, persistent minerality and bright, clean acidity. The finish is long, precise and mouthwatering.

Morgado do Quintão, Lagoa Tinto “Clarete”, 2019

This  Clarete is 100% Tinta Negra Mole from a single vineyard of 40 year old vines. It was formerly reserved only for family and friends of the winery, but can now be enjoyed by all. Ruby red core with purple hues running throughout. Elegant, lively with ripe red and black currant lift on the front palate with hints of lavender, mace and allspice filling out the finish. A dried black cherry note lends weight without heft. As in the noble tradition of French Claret, this wine is not over-extracted and is exceedingly drinkable.