Spotlight on Portuguese Dry Wine: Chocapalha Branco Reserva 2005

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Today I move away from the famous Douro Valley to the less well known Estremadura region located near Lisbon. Part of its lack of notoriety arises from the fact that many wineries are decidedly mediocre here, even though it produces the most dry wine in Portugal. However, there have been a small number of new wave producers that are introducing high quality wines to the region. Chocapalha is one of these wineries.

A New Wave in the Estremadura

Now owned by Alice and Paulo Tavares da Silva, Chocapalha’s vineyards date back to the 16th century. Alice and Paulo’s daughter Sandra, winemaker at Quinta Vale Dona Maria. Chocapalh’a is still growing and learning the ropes, having experimented with various vines and only recently settled on the appropriate root stock on which to graft. A new winery is planned for this year.

That Portuguese red wines are still struggling for attention on the world stage does not bode well for the mostly lesser white varieties. However, the best producers are making truly exceptional white wines that are being ignored by most consumers. This is a shame as these wines carry even better price tags than the red wines.

Weight and Flavour

Chocapalha’s vines grow in calcerous clay soils. The Grapes are de-setmmed and undergo a cool pre-fermentation maceration before fermentation in the traditional Portuguese lagares. Lagars are stone troughs where the grapes are trodden and fermented.

This wine is also a fascinating combination of an international and an indigenous grape. At around 65% Chardonnay and 35% Viosinho, there is a classic chard texture and aroma to this wine, but the mid palate and finish have a distinctly deeper minerality and savory character than I’d expect. Viosinho adds structure and flavour. Generally Viosinho is one of the promising white grapes in Portugal and I think it blends very well with the Chard.

The wine pours a deep golden and opens with floral aromatics filled with honey, lemon and bright minerality. On the palate this is quite expressive, with medium+ to full body and great length and a unique mineral/savory element that keeps interest. A rounded wine that drinks well above its price point.

Very Good+
$34 at Everything Wine

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