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Portugal's Alentejo
Part 3: Cortes de Cima

Along the side of one of the vineyards at Cortes de Cima is a long, rather bumpy looking strip, perhaps 20 feet wide - it looks like a couple of vine rows are missing. But this is proprietor Hans Jorgensen's landing strip. Inside a shed at the side of the winery there's a shiny, attractive light aeroplane. This used to be a tool of the trade when Hans worked running sugar plantations in the far east; now I get the impression it is a rather nice toy. Still, he's had rather scared employees hanging out of the side door taking photographs of the vines below in his own take on precision viticulture via airborne monitoring.

Cortes de Cima is one of Portugal's two leading 'new world' wineries (the other being Esporão), and its very successful wines with good international distribution have helped put this region on the map. The new world approach begins in the vineyard, where Richard Smart (an Australian who is one of the best known viticultural experts) has been consulting. 

The vines are trellised here with the Smart-Dyson system (illustrated right). This involves a tall vertical canopy with a special moveable system of catch wires. About half way through the growing season, while things are pretty vigorous, the guidewires are used to catch some of the sprawling shoots and direct them downwards. The result is a large green wall - the aim behind this system is to get vigorous vines (usually a bad thing for quality) in balance and produce relatively high yields of good quality grapes. 

The wines are made in an unashamedly modern mould, and have proved tremendously successful with their accessible, forward fruit. Because of their success, the prices for the top wines are very high in Portugal, which tends to make them look a little expensive in the UK when compared with their peers. Still, you can't blame a winery for their prices: if they sell substantially below market value, then someone else gets to make the margin, which isn't really fare.

I especially liked the Syrah 2002, The Touriga Nacional 2003 and the Homage to Hans Christian Andersen, which I thought were superb. The Chaminé, the cheapest wine in the line-up, is hard to resist with its joyful fruit. 

Cortes de Cima Chaminé 2003
Aragonez, Syrah and Touriga Nacional fermented and aged in stainless steel. Lovely forward fresh berry fruit on the nose, which is vivid and quite bright. The palate is juicy, rich and fruity, but with some nice chewy structure also. This is fantastically fresh and vivid. Very good+ 89/100

Vigorous vines on a high trellis

Hans Jorgensen demonstrates the Smart-Dyson system, catching the foliage with moveable guidewires and directing it downwards.

The result: shots grow down as well as up, creating a wall of vines.

Cortes de Cima Aragonez 2002
Tangy earthy edge to the red fruits on the nose. The palate is savoury and chewy with nice structure. Quite a dense, chewy, earthy sort of wine that’s best with food. Very good+ 88/100

Cortes de Cima Trincadeira 2003 
Fresh red berry fruits dominate the nose, which is ripe and rounded with a subtle tarry edge. Vivid acidity on the palate which has a slightly spritzy edge to it. An unusual wine, but quite nice, still. Very good+ 87/100

Cortes de Cima 2001
A blend of Syrah, Aragonez and Trincadeira with bit part roles for Cabernet and Touriga Nacional. Ripe, open nose with an appealing tarry, spicy richness to the red fruits. The palate has evolved quite nicely with a tarry depth and a spicy finish. Delicious. (Interestingly, this has 5.7 g/litre of residual sugar.) Very good+ 89/100

Cortes de Cima Syrah 2002
Fresh, vivid juicy fruit on the nose – very fresh and clean. The palate shows ripe berry fruit with nice structure and depth. Restrained and quite elegant with a savoury edge. A lovely wine. Very good/excellent 90/100

Cortes de Cima Touriga Nacional 2003
Fantastic open Touriga nose, which is highly perfumed with a subtle herby edge. The palate displays ripe berry fruit with good definition and spicy, tarry structure. Expressive and satisfying, with the fruit having the upper hand. Great balance. Very good/excellent 93/100

Cortes de Cima ‘Homage to Hans Christian Andersen 2005’ 2003
A varietal Syrah, made to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of the famous Dane storyteller. Fantastic nose of perfumed red berry fruit with nice freshness and depth. There’s also a subtle tarry edge. The palate is ripe and full with fantastic weight and richness, countered effectively by spicy structure. Bold but balanced. Very good/excellent 93/100

Cortes de Cima Incógnito 2003
This has become a bit of a cult wine in Portugal. I saw a bottle selling for €70 in one shop. It’s a varietal Syrah, and displays a full, rich, spicy tarry nose with nicely defined fresh red berry fruits. The palate is open with more berry fruits and some lushness. It’s a seductive style of wine. Very good/excellent 91/100

Cortes de Cima Reserva 2001
A blend of Syrah and Aragonez. Ripe, open spicy nose shows some evolution, with spicy, tarry oak evident. It’s quite savoury with some tea like notes. The palate is soft, open and evolved with nice soft spicy structure. Tasty stuff that is evolving nicely. Very good/excellent 91/100

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