Chocapalha: a leading winery from Portugal’s Lisboa wine region


Paulo Tavares de Silva had a career as a naval officer, but with his wife Alice nurtured a dream to live in the country, close to the city, with their three daughters. Their wider family owned a 400 hectare property in the Ribatejo, but as it was a big family, it was hard for Paulo and Alice to gain control of the whole estate and make it theirs. So instead they purchased Chocapalha in what was then known as the Estremadura wine region (now Lisboa): conveniently close to Lisbon, but properly in the countryside. Two of the three daughters now work at Chocapalha: Sandra Tavares has been winemaker here since the first wines were made in 2000, and seven years ago her sister Andrea joined after leaving her career as an economist. The third, Sofia, is a medic.

The soils on the estate are clay/calcareous, with the whites mainly planted on north facing slopes: Chocapalha is quite a hilly site, with lots of microclimates. The white grapes here are Arinto, Viosinho (from the Douro) and Chardonnay. Reds are primarily Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a bit of Castelão. The area under vine totals 45 hectares.

Alice, Sandra and Paulo

From the 1980s when the family purchased the property until 1999, the grapes from the renovated vineyards were sold to other wineries. But Sandra studied as an enologist, and began working for Cristiano van Zeller in the Douro at Quinto do Vale Dona Maria. She used her professional skills to renovate the old winery and begin making estate wines there. Debut vintage was 2000. Sandra is now doing this alongside the Douro wines she makes with Wine & Soul

Steel lagares with robotic treader

There’s now a lovely new winery, sunk discretely into a hillside. This has ideal conditions for fashioning top wines, and even has some nice stainless steel robotic lagares which are used for making the top reds. These are well made wines that aim for elegance over power, and have a track record for ageing well.


Quinta de Chocapalha Arinto 2019 Lisboa
12.5% alcohol. This is fresh and bright with crisp citrus fruit and a slight stony edge. Fruity and zesty. Pretty style. 88/100 (06/20)

CH by Chocopalha 2017 Lisboa
12.5% alcohol. A tribute to the family’s Swiss roots, this is a varietal Arinto from old vines. Full yellow in colour. It’s powerful and lively with keen acidity and a mineral core, plus some rich toasty notes from barrel fermentation. Complex and multidimensional, covering a wide spectrum of flavours, the minerality and acidity from the Arinto is balanced by the barrel ferment character to create a distinctive, compelling white wine with a nutty, savoury aftertaste. So interesting. Drink soon I reckon, as it’s already very rich and complex. 92/100 (06/20)

Chocapalha Vinha Mae 2015 Lisboa, Portugal
14.5% alcohol. From some of the oldest vines on the property, this is a blend of varieties fermented in lagar and aged 22 months in French oak. It’s fresh and classic with nice gravelly, chalky, spicy notes under textured blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Nice density and focus here: a polished, sophisticated wine with ripeness allied to structure and sympathetic oak use. 93/100 (06/20)

Quinta de Chocopalha Tinto 2016 Lisboa, Portugal
14% alcohol. 45% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, 15% Touriga Franca, 10% Castelão, 10% Alicante Bouschet. This is a lovely balanced red, with a dense, gravelly, chalky structure under sweet cherry and blackberry fruit with good tannins and nice brightness. Really sophisticated with an old-world sensibility. More Bordeaux than Burgundy, this is structured, but approachable too. Potential for development. 93/100 (06/20)

Guarita da Chocapalha 2015 Lisboa, Portugal
15% alcohol. This is from old-vine Alicante Bouschet. This has amazing concentration, with powerful, intense blackberry and black cherry fruit. Such amazing depth to this wine: it’s an absolute wall of tannin and rich fruit. There’s a bit of olive and spice here, as well as sweet black fruits. It’s not a subtle, elegant wine, but it has immense appeal with great density. Distinctive, but quite wonderful in its style. 94/100 (06/20)

Notes from 2017

Quinta de Chocapalha Arinto 2016 Lisboa, Portugal
This is fermented cool (13 C) with wild yeast in tank, and has 6 months lees contact. Tight and fresh with nice pure citrus and pear fruit. Lovely freshness and a salty, mineral twist. 89/100 (Portugal retail €8) (07/17)

Quinta de Chocapalha Branco 2016 Lisboa, Portugal
This is 90% Viosinho and 10% Arinto. Tank fermented with 6 months of lees work. Very fresh with lovely grapefruit and lemon notes, and some lemon peel and pear. 89/100 (Portugal retail €8) (07/17)

Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva Branco 2015 Lisboa, Portugal
85% Chardonnay, 15% Arinto, barrel fermented with 40% new oak, some of which are 500 litre. Nice concentration. Nutty with a bit of spicy oak. Has tension and depth with some nice citrus and pear fruit. A dense, rich style with good acidity. 89/100 (Portugal retail €13) (07/17)

CH by Chocapalha Branco 2015 Lisboa, Portugal
Old vine Arinto aged in old barrels. The CH is a tribute to Alice’s Swiss heritage. Fresh grapefruit and lemon notes on the nose. Powerful and a bit spicy on the palate with some dense nutty notes and some lemon and minerals. Expressive with real intensity. 92/100 (Portugal retail €24) (07/17)

Quinta de Chocapalha Castelão 2015 Lisboa, Portugal
Fresh and juicy with lots of bright red fruits and nice weight. Fine spiciness. Pretty, but with some tannic structure. 88/100 (07/17)

Quinta de Chocapalha Tinto 2013 Lisboa, Portugal
A blend of lots of varieties. There’s a slight meaty spiciness here with ripe cherry and blackberry fruit. Nice savoury twist to the palate. Delicious stuff. 90/100 (07/17)

Quinta de Chocapalha Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Lisboa, Portugal
There’s around 2 hectares of this variety planted, and it’s now 30 years old. Bright and vivid with a hint of pepper and fresh red berry fruits. Bright with a slight savoury, stony edge. Supple. 88/100 (07/17)

Quinta de Chocapalha Vinha Mãe 2013 Lisboa, Portugal
40% Touriga Nacional and equal parts Tinta Roriz and Syrah. Fermented in lagares. This was labelled Reserva Tinto until 2009. Structured and dense with a savoury edge to the sweet fruits. Structured, weighty and delicious with a nice savoury edge to the black cherry fruit. 92/100 (07/17)

Quinta de Chocapalha Vinha Mãe 2012 Lisboa, Portugal
This is 60% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz and 20% Syrah. Brooding, floral black fruits nose. Structured and dense on the palate with sweet blackberry and black cherry fruit. Has grippy tannins and nice weight. Weighty and tannic. 91/100 (07/17)

CH by Chocapalha Tinto 2013 Lisboa, Portugal
Very floral and exotic with fresh herb-tinged black cherry and plum fruit. Fresh and expressive with lovely purity. Fresh, juicy and refined, showing lovely fruit and good structure, with a subtle mintiness and faint herbal notes. Lovely wine. 93/100 (07/17)

It was a real treat to try the first two wines made from this domaine. Back in 2002 I attended a dinner in the Douro at which several winemakers gathered to present their work. At the time, Sanrda Tavares was the winemaker at Quinta do Vale D Maria, working alongside Cristiano van Zeller. She brought along a wine from her family’s property, which she also made: Chocapalha. This was the debut vintage of the Reserva, and I really liked it. Now, 15 years later on a visit to the domaine, I got to try this wine again, and also the regular Tinto from the debut year. Both were in really good shape, and drinking beautifully.

Quinta de Chocapalha Tinto 2000 Estremadura, Portugal
This was a blend of Castelão, Trincadeira, Camarate and Alicante. 12.5% alcohol. Sappy with some iodine and a bit of spice on the nose. Very elegant, showing some evolution, but this wine has also preserved its cherry and plum fruit well. Such lovely drinking now: elegant, fine, digestible, midweight and fine. 93/100 (07/17)

Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva 2000 Estremadura, Portugal
Varietal Touriga Nacional. Fine, leafy, earthy and gravelly on the nose with lovely inviting aromas of black cherries and plums, as well as some fine green notes. There are hints of mint, herbs and spice. The palate has lovely density and shows grippy, herb-tinged spice and black cherries, with some plums and fine herbs. Complex and nicely dense, this has aged beautifully. 94/100 (07/17)

Older notes:

Quinta do Chocapalha Arinto 2008 Estremadura, Portugal
The first vintage of the Arinto. Fresh and a bit oily at the same time. Nutty with nice spiciness. Juicy and lively with nice purity and a hint of toast. 90/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva Branco 2010 Lisboa, Portugal
85% Chardonnay and 15% Viosinho (a variety from the Douro). Fresh with nice spiciness and a bit of nut and pith, as well as lively citrus and pear fruit. Still youthful and lovely with some bitter tastiness. 91/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Tinto 2005 Estremadura, Portugal
There’s some nice cedar and tar and herb complexity here to the black cherry and black berry fruit. Nice grainy tannins. Very stylish with a lovely savoury twist. Good structure here. 92/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Tinto 2007 Estremadura, Portugal
Used oak for 16 months. There’s a lovely freshness to this wine with sweet strawberry and black cherry fruit. Lots of weight and structure. Very pure still, with some grip. 91/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Estremadura, Portugal
Have 2.5 hectares of Cabernet on the estate, which does well. Grainy and nicely savoury with good structure and full body. Dry finish to the sweet black fruitys. Focused and grippy. Very stylish wine. 90/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 Estremadura, Portugal
Fresh and aromatic with a nice leathery edge to the sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. So fresh on the palate with nice structure. Very pure. 93/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva 2003 Estremadura, Portugal
This is now the Vigna Mae, and it’s made from the oldest plot of Touriga Nacional (70%). The vines came from Dão. Floral, herbal edge to the nose with nice spiciness. Concentrated and structured on the palate with spicy fruit and hints of mint. Lovely. 92/100

Quinta de Chocapalha Reserva 2007 Estremadura, Portugal
Very fresh and detailed with nice bright, grippy berry fruits. Has real structure, with depth and richness allied to freshness. Developing really well. 92/100

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