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.

Notes in orange were recently tasted and updated on August 12, 2021 by TR.

Granito Cru Alvarinho 2019 Vinho Verde, Portugal
This is Seabra’s line of wines exploring grape (in this case Albariño) and terroir (the granite soils of Vinho Verde). This Alvarinho came from three plots of 25+ year old vines, rooted in the granitic soils of the village of Paderne, Melgaço. The destemmed fruit was native fermented and aged in used, oval 1000L and 2000L oval vats of eastern Europe oak. It remained there, with no sulphur, for 12 months on lees, without bâtonnage, prior to a 5 month stint in stainless before bottling. Hay and straw lead into a streamlined palate of tight lemon, green pear, verbena, wild mint, and ample granitic buzzing salinity that lingers far beyond the wine. There is a gentle pad of lees on the core to cushion, and counter the citrus tightness. Lovely energy and freshness here. 92/100 (TR)

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)

Granito Cru Branco Dão 2018, Dão, Portugal
This is the first vintage of Granito Cru from Dão, and the 35+ year old vines of Encruzado, Bical and Sercial are rooted in the high altitude granite soils off the Serra da Estrela Mountain, in the village of Vila Nova de Tazém. The wine was native fermented and aged for 1 year in 500 L used barrels, and then into stainless for 6 months prior to bottling. This pours a hazy / cloudy pale yellow hue, and teems with wild lemon, meadow grass, subtle lemon blossom, verbena, and crushed stone. Acidity is easily lofted, steaming this to an amply saline and lengthy finish. Subtle, yet striking, this is a charmer. 92/100 (TR)

Xisto Ilimitado Branco 2019 Douro, Portugal
Ilimitado is akin to Seabra’s village wine. This Branco comes 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. 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 bâtonage. Broken stones rule this textural wine, moving subtle quince, pear skin, tangerine pith, wild melon, green apple along a streamlined, saline, schistous frame. Striking and memorable. 92/100 (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)

Luis Seabra Véu de Xisto 2016, Douro, Portugal
*This is the released wine of the unnamed experiment Goode tasted above. Being a fan of wines aged under veil of yeast in an oxidative way lead Luis to experiment aging a white wine for 3 years under flor. Rabigato, Códega, and Gouveio from 30 year old vines in Douro Superior’s Meda region were native fermented in 2x 500L barrels, and were left under the thin film of yeast, with no topping. It was moved to stainless for another 2 years’ rest prior to bottling in July 2020. Pouring a lightly deeper lemon hue, this fuller wine opens with an earthy hay, lemon / orange whiff and ample oxidative flor energy before moving to a ringing palate of brown butter, honeysuckle, lemon verbena, lemon pith, and flake salts, extending long along the palate. So much energy and life in this characterful wine. Only 890 bottles were made. 92/100 (TR)

Xisto Cru Branco 2019, Douro, Portugal
From sustainably farmed Douro Superior vineyards planted from 1920-1933 on mica schists at 650-700m, this is a blend of 70% Rabigato, balanced out with Codega, Gouveio, Viosinho, and Dozelino Branco, native fermented and aged in French 229L barrels. It remained there on lees, with no bâtonnage, for one year, and then headed to stainless for a 6 month stint prior to bottling. This opens with ample lemon and pine nuts, before moving to a fuller, lightly waxen palate of kernel, quince, hay, and brown butter. This is a savoury, serious wine that ends with ample salinity and a flinty flicker. 93/100 (TR)

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 (according to Seabra). (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 2018, Douro, Portugal
Illimitado is a soil survey of the schist-driven terroir in the Douro, irregardless of grapes. This year, field blends of grapes from Cotas and Ervedosa do Douro in the Cima Corgo were sourced, with vines between 35 and 60 years, planted in Patamares and large terraces from 400-550m, predominantly on loamy clays and yellow slate. 40% of the grapes were fermented whole cluster in Lagares, foot trodden, with 8-10 days maceration. The remaining 70% fermented whole cluster in stainless tanks, with 20 to 30 days maceration. Both lots aged for 14 months in used French barrels. This is certainly schistous, with a tight stony grip holding ripe plum, wild blackberry, fragrant blueberry, pink peppercorn, and rockrose, with naturally elevated acidity holding all aloft. Tannins are long and firm, framing this to a lingering wet slate finish. Great energy here in this savoury red, drinking very well now and with time ahead. 92/100 (TR)

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