TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

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Tomás Costa
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TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#1 Post by Tomás Costa » May 14th, 2020, 5:18 pm

Along with Dirk Niepoort, António Maçanita is, in my opinion, the most interesting and provocative oenologist currently working in Portugal. He has two major ongoing projects: Fitapreta, in Alentejo, where his quirky, refreshing wines stand in direct contrast to the powerful, unctuous Alicante Bouschet reds that are the region's flagbearer, and the Azores Wine Company, through which he has almost singlehandedly revitalized winemaking in the Azores and crafted wines from near extinct grape varieties in a soil both deeply volcanic and Atlantic - at a heftier price, given the local price for grapes (4€ each kilogram, in contrast to an average of 0.50€ in the Douro).

I've revisited three of his creations these past two days:

O Tinto do Pote de Barro 2018
1957 bottles were produced in this item of Maçanita's 'Signature Series', a sub-portfolio in which creativity takes the front seat over balance. Translating to 'the red wine from the clay pot', this is a 'talha' (amphora) wine - a tradition in Alentejo harking back to Roman times - which, for undisclosed reasons, was forbidden to be marketed and sold as a talha wine by the criteria of the region's overseeing comission.

Made of a blend of old vines, this does screams talha in every direction. The nose is earthy and rustic, though full of vibrant cherry. Unlike in many other talhas I've tasted, the wet cellar and clay profile is unashamedly dominant in the mouth, with pronounced acidity and wild red berry fruitiness balancing out what would otherwise be indiscreet alcohol levels. When compared to the more famous talha wines by Herdade do Rocim this is definitely defiant and provocative, though it did make itself more cooperative with food.

A Laranja Mecânica 2018
Another limited edition - 2356 bottles - of Maçanita's take on the orange wine: doubly pressed, with a 7 day maceration inbetween. It is worlds away, however, from the funky, opaque orange natural wines I have tried before. It's transparent, pure and chiseled despite its amber color: tangerine zest, quince and a vague honey trail on the nose, medium acidity, with a balanced yet slightly tart mouth of persimmon and golden berries, and an afterglow that reminds me of toned down whiskey. It would be truly terrific were it not for a certain lack of persistance and length in the aftertaste, though this is still a worthy alternate companion to dishes that typically ask for a structured, oaked white (we paired this with salted cod).

Fitapreta Branco 2018
This is the entry level white in Fitapreta's Terroir series, which express the peculiarities of specific vines. Two were sourced for this wine: Vinha de Nora, grown biologically since 2015, and Vinha do Vale do Cepo. Together these are a blend of Roupeiro, Rabo de Ovelha, Arinto, Tamarez and Alicante Branco.

If there's any fault to this wine, it's that it doesn't taste like an entry level. The nose is wide and generous, simultaneously fresh and seductively sweet, with lemon meringue and ripe apricot on display and a focused, alcoholic afterglow which gives off a hint of anise and gravel. The mouth is zesty and abundant, with racy, mouthwatering acidity. An unbelievable bargain at 10,80€, with half of the proceeds from Fitapreta sales going to the Portuguese Red Cross during the current pandemic crisis.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#2 Post by Markus S » May 14th, 2020, 5:53 pm

Thanks for posting, Tomas! Do you happen to know about how much production the Azores Wine Co. is of total Azores? I seem to think that most wine there is done by coops, with a (very) few independent producers.
$ _ € ® e . k @

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#3 Post by Tomás Costa » May 14th, 2020, 6:22 pm

Markus S wrote:
May 14th, 2020, 5:53 pm
Thanks for posting, Tomas! Do you happen to know about how much production the Azores Wine Co. is of total Azores? I seem to think that most wine there is done by coops, with a (very) few independent producers.
Hi Markus! The Azores Wine Company is currently producing around 150 000 bottles a year, on 100 ha of terrain in the Pico island. There are some 20 producers in the archipelago, with three of them being cooperatives (one for each island in which a DOC has been established - Pico, Graciosa and Terceira, where the DOC is restricted to the tiny parish of Biscoitos). Apart from Maçanita, I would say Anselmo Mendes is the most noteworthy player in the Azores at the moment. He is most famous for his work in the Vinhos Verdes (a pioneer in oaked, full bodied Alvarinho), but collaborated with the Biscoitos cooperative along with Diogo Lopes, the oenologist who had already teamed up with him in AdegaMãe, in the Lisbon region. Their wines in the Azores, called Magma, are very fun but not at all consensual.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#4 Post by Tomás Costa » May 17th, 2020, 3:58 pm

António Maçanita Tinto de Castelão 2018
Since I had another of my 'Signature Series' wines from António Maçanita's Fitapreta project tonight, I thought I might as well post it here. It is, yet again, a complete subversion of everything that would identify Alentejo in a blind tasting. Castelão is an old, traditional grape variety from the region, one which predates the Alicante Bouschet craze which started in the 1980s at places like Quinta do Carmo and Herdade do Esporão, and which is still the 3rd most planted Alentejo variety. Castelão is everything which a 'modern red' is not: translucid, fresh, earthy.

The nose on this was intensely fragrant: wide and penetrating, like perfume, full of eucalyptus, rosin, blue flowers, fresh wild berries and herbs. The mouth was satin-like yet penetrating: the tannins revealing themselves harmoniously, though with scope and presence, as well as with a vivacious, alcoholic finish which felt like the sign of youthful wine with a long way to go. All of these 'signature series' Fitapreta wines are beautifully creative essays by one of Portugal's most exciting current oenologists, and fantastically affordable at 20-25€ a bottle given that there is limited production.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#5 Post by Eric Ifune » May 17th, 2020, 4:05 pm

I believe Herdade do Mouchao planted the first Alicante Bouschet in the Alentejo in the late 19th century.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#6 Post by Tomás Costa » May 17th, 2020, 4:30 pm

Eric Ifune wrote:
May 17th, 2020, 4:05 pm
I believe Herdade do Mouchao planted the first Alicante Bouschet in the Alentejo in the late 19th century.
Correct, yet this vastly predates its predominance in local winemaking. The Reynolds family focused mostly on the cork business at Mouchão, and didn't bottle any wine until the mid 20th century. The Portuguese dictatorship deliberately structured Alentejo as the breadbasket of the country, privileging grain production over other goods, and there was little wine industry to speak of other than artisanal/domestic production (with notable exceptions such as Tapada do Chaves, whose bottlings from the 1960s are still for sale). The Castelão grape is a living testament of those days. Mouchão, along with most privately held large estates in Alentejo, was forcibly collectivized in 1975, and this process wasn't reversed until the next decade. It was this, along with European funds and the first generation of trained oenologists in Portugal, that really made Alentejo the wine producing region we know today.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#7 Post by Eric Ifune » May 17th, 2020, 4:34 pm

Tomas, how are those 1960's holding up? I may try to get some old Mouchao.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#8 Post by Tomás Costa » May 17th, 2020, 4:55 pm

Eric Ifune wrote:
May 17th, 2020, 4:34 pm
Tomas, how are those 1960's holding up? I may try to get some old Mouchao.
I've never had any, but the 1960s Tapada dos Chaves are on sale at Garrafeira Nacional. Actually, there's quite a lot of 1940s-1970s Portuguese wine on sale at GN, mostly from the old cooperatives. I'm usually wary of buying table wine which is that old (we have a 1964 Barca Velha at home and might be opening it, but I'm not keeping my hopes up), and especially with Portuguese wine it will probably be a mixed bag, given the absence of winemaking knowledge at the time. Fernando Nicolau de Almeida was a visionary for applying malolactic fermentation in Barca Velha: most red Vinho Verde being exported was blowing up en route because winemakers didn't know it existed. It wasn't exactly Bordeaux first growth.

I would probably not buy anything pre-1990, but that's just me. I think you can still get the 1996 Tonel 3-4 and the 1993 regular Mouchão, which must be at an interesting stage. I have a 1991 Herdade do Esporão Reserva I'll be opening at a special occasion (I think I may have bought the last one... I can only spot 1994 and afterwards at GN right now). I would recommend that you get the 2001 Tapada de Coelheiros, which is one of my favorite Alentejo reds of all time and drinking gorgeously, and the 2001 and 2003 Cortes de Cima Reserva. The 1998 Coelheiros is also available and quite fine, but that 2001 just felt special to me. It was both intellectually stimulating and utterly delicious.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#9 Post by Eric Ifune » May 18th, 2020, 2:42 pm

I've had the 1985, 1992, and 1995 Mouchao. All were terrific. The 92 and 95 were still unready a few years ago.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#10 Post by Tomás Costa » May 18th, 2020, 3:38 pm

Eric Ifune wrote:
May 18th, 2020, 2:42 pm
I've had the 1985, 1992, and 1995 Mouchao. All were terrific. The 92 and 95 were still unready a few years ago.
Amazing. How would you describe 'unready'? I can't imagine wines that old being too primary. Of course, this is all a matter of taste.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#11 Post by Eric Ifune » May 19th, 2020, 3:12 pm

I like old wines. Full tertiary but with some fruit. The 1995 still had a tannic backbone and still could improve, but quite very enjoyable. The 92 was more resolved and still had some primary flavors. The 1985 was gloriously mature.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#12 Post by Adam Frisch » May 19th, 2020, 6:15 pm

I work in Portugal at lest once a year in my other profession, and always have amazing wines. But for some reason I can never remember or get my head around Portuguese regions/styles/wines. And I leave as clueless as when I arrived. It's embarrassing - I need to start paying attention. Thanks for the recommend!
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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#13 Post by Tomás Costa » May 19th, 2020, 6:50 pm

Eric Ifune wrote:
May 18th, 2020, 2:42 pm
I've had the 1985, 1992, and 1995 Mouchao. All were terrific. The 92 and 95 were still unready a few years ago.
I should have mentioned this to you before, but if you ever find any wine from Cooperativa de Produção Agrícola 25 de Abril, that is actually Mouchão - in a cooperative with another estate I can't recall - from the period 1975 - 1985, during which the Reynolds (and virtually every large landowner in Alentejo) were expropriated and estates were ran by workers' communes/cooperatives. I have no idea how good those wines might be, though.
Adam Frisch wrote:
May 19th, 2020, 6:15 pm
I work in Portugal at lest once a year in my other profession, and always have amazing wines. But for some reason I can never remember or get my head around Portuguese regions/styles/wines. And I leave as clueless as when I arrived. It's embarrassing - I need to start paying attention. Thanks for the recommend!
It could just be that our relative lack of implementation in foreign markets makes us not so memorable, in terms of references (producer names, grape varieties, etc). This is especially true if you're a life long wine consumer and can know what to expect, reasonably speaking, from an appellation you've known all your life, and would rather invest in that. I suffer from the opposite problem: having always restricted my wine consumption to my own country, I'm only just beginning to understand the world which most other people take for granted.

I usually only post TN here when I drink something above average. I'm not sure how many of my 'daily drinkers' make it out of the country, and even if they do the import costs make them less of a bargain than they are here anyway (20€ is already premium pricing for wine in Portugal, relatively speaking. There's a staggering amount of good wine for under 10€). Even then I think of these TN as mostly myself thinking out loud, because the chances people will recognize what I'm talking about, or be able to access what I'm talking about, are slim. Eric here is a notable exception.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#14 Post by Rauno E (NZ) » May 19th, 2020, 7:01 pm

Nice notes Tomas, would love to explore more. I went to a (very nice) Portuguese restaurant in NYC a couple of years ago and happily threw myself on the mercy of the sommelier. I have no idea what we had, but we liked it.
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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#15 Post by Tomás Costa » May 19th, 2020, 7:13 pm

Rauno E (NZ) wrote:
May 19th, 2020, 7:01 pm
Nice notes Tomas, would love to explore more. I went to a (very nice) Portuguese restaurant in NYC a couple of years ago and happily threw myself on the mercy of the sommelier. I have no idea what we had, but we liked it.
I don't know how often you go to NYC, but if you ever find yourself at a restaurant named Tocqueville, you will be served by the greatest Portuguese sommelier I know, Bruno Almeida. We need more people like him 'mining the field'.

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#16 Post by Eric Ifune » May 20th, 2020, 2:12 pm

I should have mentioned this to you before, but if you ever find any wine from Cooperativa de Produção Agrícola 25 de Abril, that is actually Mouchão - in a cooperative with another estate I can't recall - from the period 1975 - 1985, during which the Reynolds (and virtually every large landowner in Alentejo) were expropriated and estates were ran by workers' communes/cooperatives. I have no idea how good those wines might be, though.
I was told by Ian Reynolds that the vineyards were very neglected in that period and the wines suffered as a result. But I guess he is pretty biased!

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Re: TN: Three wines by António Maçanita (Fitapreta)

#17 Post by Tomás Costa » May 21st, 2020, 1:34 am

Eric Ifune wrote:
May 20th, 2020, 2:12 pm
I should have mentioned this to you before, but if you ever find any wine from Cooperativa de Produção Agrícola 25 de Abril, that is actually Mouchão - in a cooperative with another estate I can't recall - from the period 1975 - 1985, during which the Reynolds (and virtually every large landowner in Alentejo) were expropriated and estates were ran by workers' communes/cooperatives. I have no idea how good those wines might be, though.
I was told by Ian Reynolds that the vineyards were very neglected in that period and the wines suffered as a result. But I guess he is pretty biased!
I'm sure he's right. What happened during that period was tragic, economically and politically speaking, and it obviously goes far beyond winemaking. Imagine you come home to find that your housemaid has changed the lock and appropriated the house for yourself. Nevertheless, we were simply not doing things the right way, for the most part, until European funds (after we joined the Union in 1986) and regulations liberalized our markets and modernized our wineries and viticultures. Cooperatives are sort of the symbol of the substandard wines of those days, especially in the Dão.

The old archaic, protectionist system remains in place in the way Port wine is regulated, but I would argue that it has its benefits, and, in the long run of History thus far, the benefits outdo the negatives.

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