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Grape Spotlight: Alentejo's Portalegre DOC and Arinto

By Winecompass
Grape Spotlight: Alentejo's Portalegre DOC and ArintoLocated along the Spanish border, the Portalegre DOC is Alentejo's northernmost subregion and is completely different from the rest of the Alentejo -- from the altitude to the soils, from the vineyard sizes to the age of the vines. The vineyards are located at the foothills of the Serra de São Mamede mountain range, between 600 and 700 meters above sea level. Thus the climate is cooler and wetter than the baking plains of southern Alentejo. And it receives influences from both the Atlantic and Mediterranean. The soils are primarily granite and interspersed with small patches of schist in the lower areas. Vineyards tend to be fragmented in the hills, divided into numerous small plots of very old vines -- many of which may be seventy years old.  In general, these conditions help produce fresh and elegant wines, yet equally powerful.

Arinto is a late-ripening, medium-sized yellowish grape that's naturally high acid content makes it well suited for the hot Alentejo environment. And the tightly packed bunches are shaded from the hot sun by the vine's large leaves. The grape provides a range of profiles from grapefruit to lemon and lime and green apple to some stone fruits. 

Grape Spotlight: Alentejo's Portalegre DOC and ArintoThe Adegas de Portalegre Winery was founded in 1954 by a small group of winegrowers and is actually located in a Natural Park -- the Natural Park of Serra de São Mamede. This means the vines are planted at high altitudes, between 600 and 700 meters, and the average age of these vineyards are 70 years old. We received a sample of their Conventual Reserva Vinho Bianco 2018 which is a unique blend of Arinto, Fernão Pires, Syrah, and Bical. The Syrah grapes were harvested from the Serra da Penha vineyard -- an eight-hectare granite soil plot that starts at 450m and runs to the top of Serra da Penha at 650 meters. The other grapes were grown in the Quinta da Cabaça vineyard, an even higher plot with clay and granite soils. The wine is very complex starting with a white flower aroma, then moving towards a saline and white peach profile, and ending with excellent acidity. The 14% alcohol is unnoticeable. Grape Spotlight: Alentejo's Portalegre DOC and ArintoThe Herdade da Torre de Palma is located in Monforte, Portalegre, and farms seven hectares in their estate vineyard, which interestingly enough, is planted with seven different grape varieties. The vineyard consists of light clay soil on top of the granite with smaller instances of limestone, schist, sandstone, and marble. The vineyard receives wide diurnal temperature swings which extend the maturation period - leading to increased acidity. The wines are created by enologist Duarte de Deus who tends towards a minimalist approach. That being said, the Torre de Palma Arinto - Alvarinho 2021 was fermented and aged on its lees in French oak. There is definitely a sense of depth in this wine with a strong citrus profile, complemented by a touch of tropical notes and minerality. 

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