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Portugal's Alentejo
Part 2: Herdade da
Malhadinha Nova

When I was making plans to visit the Alentejo, I asked Dirk Niepoort if there’s anyone he thought I should visit besides the obvious choices. He texted back a message including the name ‘Peceguina’. It’s the second wine of one of the Alentejo newcomers, Herdade da Malhadinha Nova, and so a month later I found myself checking out this new estate – I’m very glad I did. 

I dislike hype, and I’m aware that media folks have a tendency towards hyperbole. That said, I genuinely regard Malhadina Nova as one of the most exciting new properties I’ve visited, and I’m confident saying that this is perhaps the Alentejo’s leading estate, even though they’ve only been going since 2003, the first vintage here.  

Luis Duarte, and Rita and João Soares, pictured in their vineyard

It’s the baby of the Soares family, who own a successful chain of wine shops (Garrafeira Soares) and a distribution business in the Algarve. I was met by Rita and João Soares, and consulting winemaker Luis Duarte was also on hand. Luis spent 18 years working with David Baverstock at Esporão and now consults for a range of properties including Quinta do Mouro and Herdade Grande in the Alentejo. As well as 18 hectares of vineyards, this new venture has a lovely family home (the Soares clan use this as their weekend getaway - it's not far to the Algarve where they work), cork oak forests populated by black pigs, and wheat fields. The pigs deserve a special mention: they are the breed of black pig that makes the fantastic pata negra ham. In order to qualify for this, they must be fed solely on acorns from the cork oaks, which necessitates a hectare of cork forest for each pig (they're pictured below - they are black, but covered in red dust). 

The black pigs

The focus here is firmly on quality. The vineyards are beautifully maintained, and the winery is something else. It's beautifully constructed in a gravity flow system, so pumping isn't required. At the top are the numerous small open fermenters, and then various sizes of tanks, finishing up with the larger blending and storage tanks  

But vineyards and winery aside, it's the wines that caught my attention. They are fantastic. They're modern, but in the best possible way, showing lovely expressive fruit that still manages to retain a sense of place - these aren't dull 'international'-styled wines that could have come from anywhere.

Of the 18 hectares of vineyards, 2 are dedicated to the white varieties Antão Vaz, Arinto, Roupeiro and Chardonnay. The red varieties grown here are Touriga Nacional, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Aragonês, Alicante Bouschet and Alfrocheiro. Grapes are harvested by hand into 12 kg boxes, then sorted at the winery. Each parcel is fermented separately after destemming and crushing.

The wines

Rosé de Peceguina 2004
Made initially for Algarve tourists (but it's been a success everywhere), this is an unashamedly commercial style - fruity, fresh and a little sweet. More-ish and accessible. Very good 84/100


Monte de Peceguina Branco 2004
Quite a deep yellow colour. Bright, fresh fruity nose of some depth. The palate is quite fresh with good depth and weight. Nice definition and good concentration; modern but good. Very good/excellent 91/100

Malhadinha Branco 2004
Very toasty, rich and broad on the nose. Very refined, creamy and smooth with a nutty edge. The palate has a wonderfully rich texture and weight. Complex and fine, this is a serious wine: it has a rich texture and plenty of weight, combined with freshness. Very good/excellent 93/100

Monte de Peceguina Tinto 2004
Fantastic nose showing ripe, smooth, sweet red and black fruits with good definition. The palate shows wonderfully defined ripe fruit, great concentration and freshness, and good savoury structure. Brilliant effort and a bit of a bargain at under 15 Euros. Very good/excellent 94/100

Maladinha Tinto 2003
Super-smooth, intense, lush berry fruit nose. The palate is intense, ripe and concentrated with lovely fruit sweetness and structure. Dark and intense, this is accessible yet still quite serious. The oak (12 months in new French barriques) is in check. A new Portuguese cult wine in the making. Excellent 95/100

See also: a more recent report (July 2011) on these wines 

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