The wines of Júlio Bastos/Dona Maria, from Portugal’s Alentejo

Júlio Bastos is one of the leading winemakers in Portugal’s Alentejo region, and his family property, located near Estremoz, is Quinta de Carmo. While wine has been made for a long time here, it’s only since the late 1980s that its wines have achieved international acclaim, under the direction of Júlio.

In 1992, he sold 50% of Quinta do Carmo to Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite). At this stage the winery and office operations were transferred to the Carvalhas estate, where a new winery was built. But Júlio later ended up selling his stake in the winery, and returning to his own operation. While he still owned Quinta do Carmo itself (the house), he was no longer able to use the name. So he started a new operation, Dona Maria.

One of the main emphases of Júlio is to work with the same special old clone of Alicante Bouschet that was at the heart of the classic Quinta do Carmo Garrafeiras. This was a tasting of the current releases, which blend tradition and modernity in a nice way.


Dona Maria Amantis Viognier Reserva 2018 Alentejo, Portugal
13.5% alcohol. This is a rich, dense expression of Viognier with a slightly oily edge to the rich, cedary, spicy, sweetly fruited palate. It’s pear and peach with a touch of fennel, and some oak notes. But there’s also some nice apricot and spice varietal typicity here too. Nice weight and richness, while staying in balance. 89/100

Dona Maria Júlio Bastos Touriga Nacional 2016 Alentejo, Portugal
14% alcohol. This is really appealing: it takes a while to open out, but then shows really lovely floral red berry and cherry fruit with a hint of mint and dried herb, and a silky texture on the palate. There are some fine green notes in the mix, too. Delightful stuff. 93/100

Dona Maria Júlio Bastos Petit Verdot 2016 Alentejo, Portugal
14.5% alcohol. Foot trodden in lagares then aged for a year in new French oak barrels. There’s such an intensity to the fruit that it swallows up the oak. Dense, grippy, a bit tarry and spicy with vivid black cherry and blackcurrant fruit and some savoury, cedary undercurrents. Grippy and dense, this has a good future ahead of it, although it is perhaps a little stern now. A really impressive, structured Petit Verdot. 92/100

Dona Maria Grande Reserva 2015 Alentejo, Portugal
14.5% alcohol. This is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet, Petit Verdot and Syrah, from old vines. It’s fermented in lagares and then aged in new oak for a year. The result is a classically styled, rather heady concoction showing sweet black cherry and blackberry fruit with some fine green notes and also some spice and vanilla hints from the oak. Overall, though, this is quite a seamless, stylish wine: the oak integrates well into the fruit, and there’s lovely texture and depth to the ripe fruit. A bold, rich, balanced and ageworthy Alentejo red. 93/100

Júlio B. Bastos Alicante Bouschet Grande Reserva 2015 Alentejo, Portugal
13.5% alcohol. This is a bold, dense, but fresh tannic red with good acidity supporting the vivid blackberry and blackcurrant fruit, with notes of tar and herbs, as well as a bit of spicy oak. There’s a touch of mint here. It’s quite tannic, but not clumsy. There’s a nice savoury edge here, with a bit of development, but it’s got the concentration and tannin to keep developing for another decade. Lovely balance and classical styling, and stays interesting three days after opening. Old school, in a good way. 93/100

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