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The wines of Chocapalha, Estremadura, Portugal

Chocapalha is a relative newcomer to the Portuguese wine scene. The winemaker is Sandra Tavares, who works for Christiano van Zeller (Quinta do Vale D. Maria) in the Douro and also makes one of the new Douro cult wines, Pintas, with her husband Jorge Borges. Chocopalha comes from the estate owned by Sandra’s parents (Casa Agricola das Mimosas). There are 45 hectares of vines altogether, although most of the grapes are still sold - just the best are retained for making Chocapalha.

I first tried the Chocopalha wines a couple of years ago in the Douro (report here), and was very impressed. I tried them again a year ago, and then again this May (2004) – the style has progressed. The first time I tasted the 2000 Tinto it was very seductive and showy; 2001 and 2002 are in a slightly more serious, structured style. They’re very nice wines.

They are available in the UK from Corney & Barrow, who also carry the other wines Sandra works on, Quinta do Vale D. Maria and Pintas. 

Jorge Borges and Sandra Tavares

Chocapalha Branco 2003
60% Chardonnay fermented in French barriques, and 40% Arinto that’s seen only stainless steel. Fresh nose of bright lemony fruit with a hint of toastiness. The palate is crisp and fresh with good acidity and lovely bright fruit. Very good+ 89/100

Chocapalha Tinto 2002
A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Castelão and Alicante Bouschet that has spent 14 months in French oak. Fermented in lagares. This is good considering that 2002 was a tricky vintage. Quite bright savoury nose with plum, cherry and berry fruit. The palate is savoury and spicy with chewy fruit and some tannic structure. Tasty stuff for current drinking. Very good+ 87/100

Chocapalha Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (vat sample of final blend)
Nice savoury blackcurrant fruit nose with lovely spicy fruit character on the palate. A lovely smooth-textured wine. Although it rained a lot during the harvest the thick-skinned Cabernet was able to hang to achieve full ripeness. Very good+ 89/100

Chocapalha Cabernet Sauvignon 2001
Distinctive spicy, herby nose with dark fruits and a hint of greenness. The palate is open and herby with taut dark fruits and some spice. A nice savoury wine – good with food. Very good+ 88/100

Chocapalha Tinto 2001
Lovely rich intense nose with lots of ripe fruit. The palate is savoury and dense with spicy dark fruits. Good acidity and quite a bit of structure. Good food compatibility. Very good/excellent 90/100  

wines tasted May 2004

see a more recent report from April 2007

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