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Portugal's Alentejo Wine Region
Part 4: Quinta do Mouro

[N.b. This article is from a visit in July 2005; it was updated in December 2008 with some new tasting notes.]

Quinta do Mouro is one of the Alentejoís leading estates, but rather than adopt a new world approach, Mouro does things in a distinctly old world manner. The well situated vineyards have a natural, almost organic feel to them (see above), and no irrigation is used Ė this is rare for the hot Alentejo. Like many great Bordeaux properties, the centre of this estate is a large Chateau. Itís a grand old house that was purchased by the Louro family some 30 years ago. Winemaking didnít start here until the early 1990s, and the first commercial release of Mouro was in 1994. Vineyards are largely planted around house, and the original 6 hectares has now grown to 22 (including some vines around Estremoz). 

Luis Louro showed us around. Heís son of the owner and founder, Miguel, and has studied in Lisbon. Since 1998 Luis Duarte has been consulting here (we met him earlier in the series at Malhadinha Nova). The winery occupies the bottom floor of the ĎZí shaped house. Now for the details. Everything is harvested by hand into 20 kg boxes. During vintage the courtyard area is covered over and houses the destemmer and some open fermenters. Grapes are crushed by feet for two days and then go into the winery. The cap is pushed down and pumped over three times a day. Most vintages, some 70 tons are crushed. A mixture of French and Portuguese oak is used. But, of course, while the methods are important, weíre interested in the results. And they're pretty impressive.  

Wines tasted in July 2005; More recent notes from 2008 are below these.

Zagalos 2001
Zagalos is the given name of the second wine. A blend of Trincadeira (50%) with lesser amounts of Cabernet, Touriga Nacional and Alicante. Luis points out that Trincadeira is problematic in Estremoz, showing lots of vigour in the vineyard and little body or tannin in the winery. This wine has a fresh, bright nose with some juicy herbal character. Dense, savoury, spicy palate with a dusty savoury edge. I like this a lot: savoury and satisfying with a lot of weight. Very good/excellent 90/100

Zagalos 2002
A difficult year. It started raining on September 12th and didnít stop for ages. Mouro had 80% of their grapes in the winery at that stage. This wine has a dark, fresh fruity nose which is quite savoury. The palate is full with dense dark fruits and some richness. An expressive wine with an earthy edge, and nice balance between fruit and structure. Very good/excellent 90/100  

Zagalos 2003
Ripe full red fruits nose with a herby edge. Fruity, rounded palate is juicy but a little simple at the moment. Very good+ 88/100  

Quinta do Mouro 1998
Mostly AragonÍz and Alicante. 1998 was the worst Alentejo vintage in the last 50 years, with lots of rotten grapes. Much less was made this year. Perfumed, evolved earthy, herby nose. The palate is open and rounded with some evolution. Nice red fruits to this midweight, savoury wine that should be drunk soon. Very good+ 89/100

Quinta do Mouro 1999
This was aged in 100% Portuguese oak, and when it was young Luis says that no one liked it because of its hard tannins. Luis clearly likes Portuguese oak, which is quite different to French and American. The wine has a dark, complex spicy nose with hints of tar, wood and herbs. Itís still quite tight. The palate is savoury, firm and complex with a tarry spicy profile and red and black fruits. Still firm and structured with some medicinal notes. A big, dark wine thatís slightly unusual but shows lots of potential. Very good/excellent 92/100

Quinta do Mouro 2001
More French oak than Portuguese for this one. A little shy on the nose, although there are minerally, herby and medicinal hints. The palate shows appealing red fruits, juicy and vibrant but buttressed with a dark tarry edge. Nice balance between the fruit and the structure. Very good/excellent 92/100

Quinta do Mouro 2002
Dark spicy nose of intense red and black fruits. Savoury dense and full; hints of chocolate. The palate is concentrated and full with lovely spicy savouriness. Dense, structure and quite elegant. A lovely wine and you'd be hard pressed to tell this was a tricky vintage. Very good/excellent 94/100

Quinta do Mouro 2003
Dark, rich and full on the nose with lots of pure fruit. The palate shows medium concentration with supple structured fruit. Youthful, tight and well balanced. Very good/excellent 91/100

Quinta do Mouro Touriga Nacional 2003
Aged in new French, Hungarian and Portuguese new oak. 3000 litres made. Wonderful open Touriga nose of ripe red and black fruits with a lifted herby edge. Open, concentrated palate is juicy and rich, showing vivid fruit and well integrated oak. Big and bold. Very good/excellent 93/100  

Notes from wines tasted in November 2008:

Quinta do Mouro 2005 Alentejo
Deep coloured.
Sweet, aromatic ripe dark fruits nose with hints of spice and chocolate. The palate is focused and bright with lovely sweet, ripe berry and cherry fruit. Really nice structure and definition. 93/100

Quinta do Mouro Gold Label 2005 Alentejo
Just made in the best years, this is aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak. Deep coloured. Very expressive sweet aromatic nose with ripe but well defined blackberry fruit. The palate is dense and intense with sweet dark fruits hemmed in by nice structure. A delicious, well-defined wine. 94/100

Quinta do Mouro 2004 Alentejo
Focused, taut, fresh dark fruits nose. The palate is fresh and ripe with lovely focused, structured raspberry and blackberry fruit. Nice structure under the fruit. A lovely wine. 92/100

Vinha do Mouro Tinto 2006 Alentejo
Entry level wine from this producer. Sweet, pure and quite lush on the nose. The palate is juicy, pure and vibrant with nice sweet fruit. Tasty and ripe. Lovely open wine. 87/100

Casa dos Zagalos Reserva 2005 Alentejo
Lush and ripe with nice juicy, spicy fruit. Good definition. A really drinkable wine with a serious side to it. 88/100
 

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