Wednesday 30 March 2011

Portugese Wines with Isidoro Oliveira from Quinta da Atela

We are all familiar with Port, but Portugal also makes decent still wines from indigenous varietals such as Alvarinho and Touriga Nacional. Since joining the European Union, Portugal has been undergoing a wine renaissance, with new winemaking equipment and a focus on producing quality rather than quantity. 

Quinta da Atela is located in Ribatejo, located in central southern Portugal about 100 km from Lisbon. It has a moderate maritime climate with warm summers and wet, mild winters. Most of the wines from this region are classified as Vinho Regional rather than the stricter DOC category.  

Isidoro brought four wines with him, three reds and one white. We started with the 2010 Casa da Atela Gewurztraminer and I was interested to see that the alcohol level for this wine was only 12.6%. Gewurztraminer is a grape varietal that achieves flavour ripeness particularly late, resulting in high alcohol, slightly flabby wines. Harvesting earlier generally yields wines that are perfumed but lack complexity and richness. This particular example was exceptional, combining delicate aromatics with intense flavour and bracing acidity. I believe that this is the result of carefully hand-picking the grapes and pre-fermentation skin contact to extract flavour and aromas. It is a wine that truly shows the skill of the winemaker, António Ventura. Alsace be warned, you may finally have a worthy challenger.

I also tasted the 2007 Casa da Atela Touriga Nacional, made from 100% Touriga Nacional grapes. Better known as a component of Port, this varietal is capable of producing deeply coloured, rich reds. At four years old, this wine maintained a marvelous deep ruby robe. The tannins were soft and integrated, making this wine a joy to drink by itself. It would be interesting to see how this wine changes with further aging. 

Wine consumption in Singapore is still skewed towards Australian and French wines, but Portugese wines represent excellent quality at a very friendly price point. The use of indigenous varietals adds to the charm as well, since it makes the wines stand out from the more common Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in the market. 

More information on Quinta da Atela can be found at


Am currently pursuing a two year Diploma in Wines and Spirits from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. During the duration of this course I will be making some postings to organise my thoughts and hopefully aid in remembering the wines I have tasted.