In my last Bristol Wine Blog, I said that I had just enjoyed a wine from the most westerly Designated wine region in mainland Europe and left you with the problem of working out where that might be. Congratulations to my fellow blogger ‘intastebudswetrust’ for sending me the correct answer, which, as I’m sure many of you also know (or will have looked up!) is Colares, a short drive west of Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, which lies at 9˚ 30′ W. Sorry no prizes apart from a sense of superiority!
Colares DOC (Portugal’s equivalent of France’s AC) is a tiny (and shrinking) region – less than 20 hectares (50 acres) in total – on a narrow strip of sand dunes overlooking the Atlantic coast. The sandy soil means that the vine pest, phylloxera, has never invaded the place and so, unlike nearly every other vineyard in the world, the vines are planted directly into the ground rather than being grafted onto a resistant American vine rootstock. The vast majority of Colares is planted with a local grape variety, Ramisco, that, as far as I can trace, is grown nowhere else in the world.
On first tasting, the Arenæ Ramisco Colares (Wine Society, £20 for a 500ml bottle) is a little old-fashioned in style.
The colour, a rather pale garnet, reminded me of an aged Barolo, and the nose is an unusual combination of earthy, leathery smells with hints of spices and even of old roses. It’s lighter bodied than the nose might suggest with bitter cherry and raspberry on the palate, alongside the same floral character noted earlier, and the wine is still quite tannic, even though the bottle I had was from the 2007 vintage, so already more than 10 years old.
It’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill red wine and certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste but, as a one-off relic of an almost forgotten style, it’s worth a try (although as production is understandably tiny, you may struggle to find it – apart from the Wine Society in the UK, http://www.wine-searcher.com gives a couple of stockists in the USA).