Herdade do Mouchão, Tinto
Herdade do Mouchão, Tinto

Herdade do Mouchão, Tinto

Alentejo, Portugal 2015 (750mL)
Regular price$59.00

Herdade do Mouchão, Tinto

Even if you’ve got a cellar stocked full of region-defining benchmarks like Rioja’s López de Heredia or Lebanon’s Musar, there’s probably one producer you’re missing out on: Herdade do Mouchão in the Alentejo region of Portugal. Despite being an icon of Portuguese winemaking, despite racking up accolades from the most important voices in the international press, Mouchão remains very much an insider’s secret here in the US. With today’s 2015 Mouchão Tinto, it’s time to consider yourself an insider. This is a rich, dark-fruited, yet supremely elegant introduction to one of the wine world’s most magical hidden corners, a bottle that’s just entering its prime drinking window now, with decades of more dazzle to offer. And while it’s not cheap per se, a quick scan of similarly-priced cuvées from more famous regions reveals that basically none offer as much history, pedigree, and sheer profundity for anywhere near as much value. So load up and consider yourself the newest member of the inner circle!

Though they’ve produced wine since the late 1800s, Herdade do Mouchão was originally established for an entirely different purpose. In 1824, Thomas William Reynolds founded the estate to grow and export cork. But once the unique Alicante Bouschet variety made its way from France to Portugal a few decades later, viticulture steadily grew to become the estate’s focus. Around the turn of the 20th century, the Reynolds family built new structures on the property for winemaking. Those buildings, absent any modern touches like temperature control or stainless steel, are still in use today. The winemaking hasn’t changed in the century and a half of wine production at Mouchão either. Fruit is kept entirely whole-cluster for reds, crushed entirely by foot in old cement lagars, and then aged in very large, very neutral casks. No yeasts added, no wine production by recipe, just perfectly ripe fruit fermented naturally and given plenty of time in both barrel and bottle to become stable.

 Alentejo doesn’t have the international name recognition of Vinho Verde or the Douro, but it may just be Portugal’s most important farming region. It covers almost a third of the country, and it’s a diverse agricultural landscape. Cereal grains grow alongside grapevines. The majority of the country’s cork—Portugal remains the global leader in cork production—is grown in Alentejo. For much of Alentejo’s history, its most prominent red wines have been made from Tempranillo, known locally as Aragonez. That makes Herdade do Mouchão both an outsider and a leader: Alicante Bouschet, a deeply-colored descendant of Grenache, is their main red wine focus. And thanks to the beauty the Reynolds family has coaxed from the variety, the effusive praise they’ve earned from folks like Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, many growers are now grafting their Tempranillo plantings to Alicante Bouschet. But there will only ever be one Mouchão!

The Herdade do Mouchão Tinto is the estate’s flagship wine. In 2015 it was 80% Alicante Bouschet and 20% Trincadeira, aged for three years in large casks, followed by four years in bottle. Alicante is noted for its relative subtlety in youth, but with age, it becomes a dark-fruited powerhouse. The nose here explodes with lush crushed blackberries, black raspberries, dried blackcurrants, lavender, cigar box, fresh leather, cedar, fresh-roasted coffee, and balsamic depth. On the palate it wears its warm-climate origins on its sleeve, enveloping your palate with full-bodied weight and brooding depth, enveloped by a coating of moderate and finely-tuned tannin. But there’s an enlivening freshness here too, something that calls to mind great Priorat or Rioja, a feeling of being unabashedly powerful yet never clunky. It stands with the best Iberian reds we’ve offered here, and is a must-have for any lover of the unique and iconic. Of course, because of Mouchão’s underrepresentation here in the states, it’s also hard to come by. So grab what you can while you can!

Herdade do Mouchão, Tinto

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