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Morgado do Quintão, Tinta Negra Mole “Clarete”Algarve, Portugal 2019 (750mL)

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Morgado do Quintão, Tinta Negra Mole “Clarete” Algarve, Portugal 2019 (750mL)

Fruit
Earth
Body
Tannin
Acid
Alcohol

It’s been a neck-and-neck race with Greece, but Portugal wins my vote for the most dynamic wine scene in the world right now. Specialty importers have proliferated, the trade group Wines of Portugal has been out in the market educating people (with its own dedicated US Ambassador, the delightful Eugénio Jardim), and here at SommSelect, the steady flow of fascinating Portuguese wines has everyone buzzing. Today’s red from Morgado do Quintão is a perfect example: This multifaceted agricultural estate in Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, has been in Felipe Vasconcellos’ family for hundreds of years, but only recently have he and his team exposed the wider world to what’s possible here. 


Working with 60 hectares of heirloom vineyards, Felipe has grown Morgado do Quintão’s production from 2,000 bottles in 2016 (their “first” vintage) to 20,000 today, becoming one of the first Algarve wineries to export to the US. But let me be very clear: We’re not offering “Clarete” because it’s one of the few Algarve wines any of us has ever tasted. We’re offering it because it is strikingly, memorably good. You might think the sun-drenched southern tip of Portugal would produce a massively rich, inky red, but in this case, anyway, you’d be way wrong: This 2019, from the ancient native variety called Tinta Negra Mole, is a study in elegance, energy, and perfectly calibrated rusticity. It’s a stylistic mashup of high-end red Burgundy and something from the Canary Islands, but again, it’s not up here because it’s different—it’s up here because it’s exceptional!



If you’re unfamiliar with the Algarve, don’t fret: Most people are. This is mainland Portgual’s southernmost region, separated from the vast Alentejo plain by a series of mountain ranges that run from the Atlantic coast all the way to the Spanish border. There are four delimited wine appellations (DOCs) spread across the territory, including the Lagoa DOC, which Morgado do Quintão falls within. Its namesake town, Lagoa, sits at the 37th Parallel, roughly the same as much of Sicily, and sees a good 3,500 hours of sunlight a year, but there is also an Atlantic influence moderating the climate. The soils, called arenitos locally, are a mix of iron-rich sand and silt (loess) and limestone/clay.


The native grape used in “Clarete,” Tinta Negra Mole, is better known (if it is known at all) as the preeminent red grape variety on the island of Madeira. It has also been genetically linked to the Negramoll variety of the Canary Islands. Acclaimed winemaker Joana Maçanita draws from 40+-year-old, dry-farmed vines for Clarete, fermenting and aging the wine in stainless steel tanks to retain maximum freshness and transparency. Grown in hills wedged between the Atlantic and the scrub-covered mountains to the north, the wine has an identifiable wildness to it, one I’d call “Mediterranean” if the vineyards were perched just a little further to the east.


In the glass, the 2019 Clarete (an homage, of sorts to the elegant, medium-weight style of Bordeaux the British call “claret”) has a deep ruby-purple hue moving to a magenta rim. The aromas are perfumed and complex, with scents of black currant, black and red cherry, lavender, dried herbs, allspice, and white pepper carrying over to the medium-bodied, seamless palate. The fruit/earth balance, and the tannin/acid balance, are spot-on, reminiscent of red Burgundy more so than Bordeaux. Decant this about 30 minutes before serving at 60-65 degrees in Burgundy stems, and, depending on the company, serve it blind: In addition to being flat-out delicious, this is a wine-geek conversation-starter if there ever was one. For a pairing, check out the attached recipe which, like the wine, brings land and sea together. This is a wine that is truly not to be missed. Enjoy!




Morgado do Quintão, Tinta Negra Mole “Clarete” Algarve, Portugal 2019 - SommSelect

  • CountryPortugal
  • RegionAlgarve
  • Sub-RegionLagoa DOC
  • SoilIron-Rich Loess w/ Clay-Limestone
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendTinta Negra Mole
  • Alcohol13%
  • OakStainless Steel

  • CountryPortugal
  • RegionAlgarve
  • Sub-RegionLagoa DOC
  • SoilIron-Rich Loess w/ Clay-Limestone
  • FarmingOrganic
  • BlendTinta Negra Mole
  • Alcohol13%
  • OakStainless Steel
  • Temp.Serve at 60° F
  • GlasswareBurgundy Stem
  • DrinkingNow-2028
  • Decanting30 Minutes
  • PairingPortuguese Braised Pork & Clams