The wines of Luis Seabra, Portugal

Luis Seabra made his name as winemaker for Niepoort, before leaving to set up his own project in 2013. Seabra’s idea was to make uncompromising wines: the sort he wanted to make, without thinking about what the market wants. He wanted to create authentic expressions of these regions. He sources grapes from top vineyards in the Douro and Vinho Verde. Winemaking is low intervention, with natural yeast ferments. All his reds are now 100% whole bunch, and he aims for low extraction, though leaves the wine on the skins for as long as 30 days, extracting very gently. These are wines of balance and finesse, and are worth seeking out. You can see the Niepoort influence here. Notes from Goode (JG) and Ring (TR), tasted on separate occasions.

Granito Cru Alvarinho 2017 Vinho Verde, Portugal
This ferments and ages for a year in a Stockinger foudre, and then is finished off in stainless steel. Stony and mineral with nice density, showing compact citrus fruit with some sweet lemony detail and a long finish. Very fine. 93/100 (JG)

This is Seabra’s line of wines exploring grape (in this case Albariño) and terroir (the granite soils of Vinho Verde’s Monçao e Melgaço subregion). These vines were planted in 1989 at 50-150m. After a four month native ferment in two older oval 1000L vats and one new oval 2000L vat, all Eastern European origin, this went through partial MLF, and spent nine months in said vessels on lees without battonage. Light lime, lemon pith scents the stony palate, one bright with green apple, crisp Anjou pear, and finishing with a kiss of honeysuckle. Tidy and neat, with a fine veil of lees to cushion. All about the place, as Luis attended, and a lovely raw view of Albariño’s expression on granite. 91/100 (TR)

Xisto Ilimitado Branco 2018 Douro, Portugal
Very pretty and detailed with lovely tropical melon and pear fruit with nice brightness. Fresh and pure with a bit of salinity. Stylish and fruit driven. 93/100 (JG)

Xisto Ilimitado Branco 2017, Douro, Portugal
From mica, schist, and feldspar soils (what winemaker Luis Seabra deems the best for whites), this is a field blend of Rabigato, Códega, Gouveio, Vioshino and more, with vines 30-60 years old, and at 400-500m in altitude. Ilimitado is akin to Seabra’s ‘village wine’, while his Cru wines, well, are self-explanatory. After crushing and destemming, the grapes are pressed together, native fermented, and aged in used French oak barrels for 7 months on lees, with no MLF or battonage. The grapes are terroir-transmitters here, imparting broken stone, mineral salts, light smoke and a driving fine acidity, gripping lightly on the finish. Lemon pith, tight quince, hints of tangerine and meadow herbs line a medium-bodied (13.5 degree), lees-plumped palate. 750 cases made. 92/100 (TR)

This is a wine without a name. Luis forgot about a tank, it got flor, and stayed there for 2 years with no sulfur:

Douro Flor – Nutty with apple on the nose. Lovely textured palate with melon, spice and table grape detail. Quite saline and expressive, this is really nice. Rich and complex with a salty tang from the flor. 93/100 (JG)

Xisto Cru Branco 2018, Douro, Portugal
From sustainably farmed Douro Superiore vineyards planted from 1920-1933 on mica schists at 650-700m, this is a blend of 70 percent Rabigato, balanced out with Codega, Gouveio, Viosinho, and Dozelino Branco. According to Seabra, Rabigato is a fairly neutral grape, so is a natural terroir-transmitter. There is no MLF or battonage to blue the story here. Minerality rings from the start, with flinty broken stones, a touch of light smoked stone, meadow herbs, subtle dried quince, light anise and a pad of earthy lees to a flake salt and flint finish. Fantastic structure, finesse, and nonchalance, this is a joy to drink now and in future. Fantastic vintage. (TR) 93/100

Xisto Cru Branco 2017, Douro, Portugal
This is from mica schist soils at 800 m. It’s a 90 year old vineyard and is the last one harvested. Fermented and aged in used barrels. Very fresh and focused with refined citrus fruit and a touch of herbs. Nice mineral detail with keen acidity. Very fine. 94/100 (JG)

Xisto Ilimitado Tinto 2017, Douro, Portugal
This is 12 days ferment in lagar, just trodden once. Gentle extraction here, with the grapes pushed down to keep the cap moist. Very fresh and finely grained with good acidity. This has real precision with freshness and purity. Red cherry and raspberry fruit showing great focus. 94/100 (JG)

A field blend of six varieties planted across three subzones, Illimitado is a soil survey of the schist-driven terroir in the Douro. This year the blend is led by Touriga Franca, and includes Tinta Roriz, Tinta Marcela, and Malvasia Preta in the mix, all sourced from sustainably farmed vineyards planted from 1960-1980, and at 400-600m. Entirely whole cluster, this was fermented 60/40 stainless vat and granite lagares with foot trodding. Opening young and grippy, with plum, wild blackberry, sarsaparilla, worn leather, blueberry on a bed of wet slate. There’s a fine buzz that textures throughout to the lingering finish. 90/100 (TR)

Xisto Indie 2017 Douro, Portugal
Luis Seabra’s Indie is from an 80 year old vineyard in Alijo. It’s fermented in lagar and then spends 2 years in 500 litre barrels. Such elegance here, with a lovely mouthfeel and sweet, sappy, supple red fruits and a long, expanding mineral finish. Well structured with good acidity. 95/100 (JG)

Xisto Indie 2016, Douro, Portugal
This Indie blends Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Barroca, Rufete, Touriga Brasileira, Donzelinho Tinto, Malvasia Preta and Touriga Femea, from a sustainably farmed, blue schist soiled single vineyard planted since 1950 and at 510m elevation. Native fermented, this spent 22 months in French oak barrels and saw very low sulphur additions throughout. It is a serious, structural, sharply savoury red, with crushed leaves, stones, thorns, clad in darker shades of blue and purple fruit. Grippy with white and black peppercorns and mineral salts through to the tight finish. So youthful, this has decade+ to go. 92/100 (TR)

Xisto Cru Tinto 2016 Douro, Portugal
From 100 year old vineyards in Covas and Ervedosa, this is aged in 2500 litre tanks. It is fermented for 28 days, pushed down by hand. Very fresh and structured with firm tannins, good acidity, and great concentration of flavour. Taut and structured with nice freshness and great potential. 95/100 (JG)

Rather than a single vineyard, this is a single soil field blend, sourced from two plots planted on mica schist in the Cima Corgo subregion of the Douro from 1920-1933, and between 400-570m altitude. After a native ferment, this field blend of Rufete, Touriga Franca, Malvasia Preta, Alicante Bouschet and Donzelinho Tinto spent 11 months on lees, and 22 months total in older French oak. Big and structural, yet so well knit, with knotty purple and blue fruit, thorns, worn leather, salts, and dried florals on the savoury, long frame. Tannins are savoury and firm, though very well integrated even in youth. Much time to go ahead. 93/100 (TR)

Mono C 2016 Douro, Portugal
Single vineyard Castelão, fermented in lagar. Two years in 500 litre barrels. This is supple and sweetly fruited with fresh, juicy red cherry and plum fruit. Has some grippy structure with nice freshness. 92/100 (JG)

From 25 year old vines growing on yellow slate and clay soils, this was fermented in plastic and then aged in barrels. Shades of blue : primary plum, blueberry, hints of medicinal cherry, and rock roses are framed by low, downy, grippy tannins to the tight, snappy finish. This was Luis’ first vintage of this wine, and it’s lovely to have the opportunity to taste a straight Castelão, treated with respect. Give it a slight chill and drink now. 89/100 (TR)

See also: Highlight – Luis Seabra Xisto Indie