Bojador: authentic wines from the Alentejo

Treve Ring reports on the wines of Bojador, Pedro Ribeiro’s project looking to make balanced wines true to the traditions of the southern Alentejo

Pedro Ribeiro is the general manager at Alentejo producer Herdade de Rocim. Bojador, named for the western Sahara Cape that Portuguese sailors navigated around in 15th century explorations, is his long-realized side project. ‘This is a personal project that brings to life and old dream – transforming into wine my love for the Alentejo,’ he says. ‘The first steps were taken in 2010 and I chose Vidigueira to start.’ Pedro and his wife Catarina Vieira moved to this Southern Alentejo region specifically to produce wines that are true to the historical traditions of that region. ‘Here, in this unique place, with a millenary tradition of wine and vineyard dedication is where I make my wines.’

Pedro Ribeira

‘The main idea is to obtain grapes who can show the minerality and freshness of the region,’ he says. The old vines he tends to carefully are farmed organically, and he always uses field blends. Fermentation is with indigenous yeasts and winemaking is low intervention. ‘My main concern is to provide the extreme terroir experience in the glass of wine.’

He is also one of the growing ranks of Portuguese winemakers working with Talha, the traditional amphorae of the region. Vinho de Talha are traditional to Alentejo, and now also have their own classification within DOC Alentejo. The Talha wines represent 10% of his production, and are in high demand (and sell for a higher price). The talha tradition, and this project, are very close to Pedro’s heart, and reflected in his winery name. In the early 20th century Messagem, by Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, it reads ‘Who wants to pass beyond Bojador, Must also pass beyond pain’, referencing the risk and reward of Portuguese sea exploration. Pedro’s Bojador project is not without risk, but the rewards are certainly evident.

Goode and I met Pedro in the spring of 2019; I had tried a few of the wines previous to that, and we both tasted through the new releases in November. Notes from Treve Ring (TR) and Jamie Goode (JG).

Bojador Branco 2017 Alentejo, Portugal
This, entry-tier wine is a blend of antao vaz, arinto, alvarinho fermented and aged in stainless for a few months, followed by two months in bottle. Tight grippy and nimble, with potent apricot, white peach, grapefruit, mandarin through a slender, fresh palate. There’s a welcome cushion of less to counter the youthful, exuberant fruit. 88/100 (TR)

Bojador Branco 2018 Alentejo, Portugal
12.5% alcohol. 50% Antão Vaz, Arinto 30%, Alvarinho 20%. Fresh and lively with crisp, linear citrus fruit. There’s a nice brightness here, with good acidity, a hint of grapefruit pith and some tangerine lift. Juicy and linear. 88/100 (JG)

This organically farmed field blend of antão vaz, arinto, and alvarinho was native fermented and aged in stainless for a short stint. Perfumed lemon balm, melon, verbena, is lit with a swell of mineral acidity and calmed with a fine layer of lees. Slender, elegant, and very complete. 90/100 (TR)

Bojador Tinto 2017 Alentejo, Portugal
This, entry-tier wine is a blend of aragonez, trincadeira, and touriga nacional, foot-trodden, and fermentated for 21 days in small, stainless tanks before aging in used French oak for six months prior to filtration and bottling. Plush purple and black fruits are ripe with sunshine and framed with French oak. Tannins are soft and cushy, as is the palate, with a slight welcome rusticity on this bigger red wine. Well suited to sausages and grilled mushrooms to counter the warming 14 degree finish. 88/100 (TR)

Bojador Tinto 2018 Alentejo, Portugal
14% alcohol. 50% Aragonez, 30% Touriga Nacional, 20% Trincadeira. Concentrated, with a savoury, spicy, slightly cedary edge to the dense black cherry and blackberry fruit. There’s a gravelly character, too. Has bright fruit with firm tannins. Hints of pepper. 90/100 (JG)

This organically farmed blend of aragonez, trincadeira, and touriga naçional was foot trodden and native fermented in stainless before aging in used French oak for six months. Dusky cherry, black raspberry, medicinal red currants, mineral salts are tightly wrapped by grippy tannins. Youthful and energetic, but very finely formed. 89/100 (TR)

Bojador Rosé 2018 Alentejo, Portugal
12.5% alcohol. 55% Aragonez, 45% Touriga Nacional. This is fruity, rounded and generous with bright mandarin and red cherry fruit. This has lovely precision and focus, with a gentle character to the fruit. 89/100 (JG)

This gracefully pale rosé is a blend of organically farmed aragonez and touriga nacional, with short time in steel to preserve freshness. Salted strawberries, pomegranates, red currants glide along a slight palate, with the thinnest slick of lees bedding the stony palate to a very saline finish. Very smart, and smashable wine. 89/100 (TR)

Bojador Reserva Tinto 2015 Alentejo, Portugal
14% alcohol. 60% Alicante Bouschet, 30% Touriga Nacional, 10% Aragonez. This is dense and structured with a lovely savoury edge to the firm blackberry fruit. Confident, structured and stylish with an appealing savouriness as well as dense fruit. A proper wine. Has potential for development. 93/100 (JG)

This Reserva is a gutsy, ripe blend of alicante bouschet, touriga naçional, and aragonez, spending 16 months in barrel and one year in bottle prior to release. Dark chocolate, wild blackberry, kirsch, thorns and dusky, dark plum on a grippy, fuller palate, with firm tannins lining the long frame. Drinking beautifully now. 91/100 (TR)

Bojador Vinho de Talha White 2016 Alentejo, Portugal
This wine was fermented in the impermeable clay pots called Talha, seen on the label. Ribeiro’s talha keep the wine protected from oxygen with a seal of olive oil. This is a blend of 60 year old, dry farmed antao vaz, perrum, rabo de ovelha, and manteudo, basket pressed and fermentated in aforementioned 200+ year old talha for four months, punched down thrice daily, and then bottled unfiltered. A streaming apricot oil, quince, bergamot nose opens this very naturalist wine, with a slight waxy note, and ample riffing acidity. There’s a savoury slick of salted brown butter on the finish, held snappy and en pointe. Tight and nimble on the streaming palate, with fine grip and super intriguing herbaceousness offered through grapes and process. 91/100 (TR)

Bojador Vinho de Talha White 2018 Alentejo, Portugal
12%. 40% Perrum, 30% Roupeiro, 20% Rabo de Ovelha, 10% Manteudo. Golden colour. This has really distinctive flavours of stone, clay and spice, with some honeyed citrus fruit and a bit of baked apple. There’s a touch of mint, too, which brings out the freshness. Has a long, textured, grainy finish. Quite distinctive and structural, but with some delicacy too. 92/100 (JG)

As a tribute to the region, they ferment this wines in impermeable clay pots called Talha, seen on the label. This is a blend of Perrum, Roupeiro, Rabo de Ovelha and Manteúdo, basket pressed and fermentated in aforementioned 200+ year old talha for four months, punched down thrice daily, and then bottled unfiltered. There’s an alluring subtle texture here, with roasted hazelnuts, quince, apricot oils and an exceptionally salty, lingering, bergamot-lined finish. 92/100 (TR)

Bojador Vinho de Talha 2016 Alentejo, Portugal
The Talha Tinto is sixty+ year old trincadeira, moreto (bara) and tinta grossa (tinta barroca) native fermented in the aforementioned 200+ year old talha. Super peppery and herbal, with wild, red, bitter and sapid berries, gripped with textural terracotta framing and buoyed with a core of juicy, sour cherry and cassis fruit. Sharper edged, and very natural, this may be a divisive wine, but it’s an important one. 91/100 (TR)

Bojador Vinho de Talha 2018 Alentejo, Portugal
40% Trincadeira, 30% Moreto, 30% Tinta Grossa. This is textural and expressive, with appealing sweet cherry and plum fruit. There’s a very fine texture to the wine, which has a brooding savouriness expressing itself as a subtle stony, chalky undercurrent. This is so appealing with a sense of real harmony. Juicy finish. 93/100 (JG)

This blend of organically farmed trincadeira, moreto, and tinta grossa was vinified in the traditional earthen jars (talha), native fermented and without any additions or subtractions. Cloudy by authenticity, this medium bodied red is threaded with wild herbs, dried red currants, raspberry, wild plum, and savoury salts. 92/100 (TR)

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Treve Ring

Treve Ring is a wine writer and editor, judge and speaker, and perpetual traveller. [She is also Correspondent Anorak.]