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Posted by portugalpress on June 01, 2018

Alentejo Classic

This is an article that I have wanted to write for some time. Mouchão is one of my all-time favourite Portuguese red wines and has been since I arrived in Portugal some 35 years ago.

I remember tasting some of their wines from the 50s and 60s (20 to 30 years old at the time) and being blown away by the quality and longevity. Then I found out about the grape variety they use, Alicante Bouschet, which led me to plant it at Esporão. We now have 45 hectares of this variety, which forms the backbone of our Private Selection red and also makes an excellent varietal wine.

The Mouchão story is a fascinating one, too complex to go into great detail here.

It began with the Reynolds family, who were mostly involved with cork production back in the late 1800s, although there were also sheep and cattle raised on the property. Vineyards were grown around this time before being wiped out by phylloxera. The winery and distillery were built in the late 1890s, the former being finished in 1901.

Both have been well preserved and are still in use today, along with the original technology – stone lagares, basket presses, and old wooden vats for ageing.

The Reynolds family helped to introduce the grape variety Alicante Bouschet in Portugal around the turn of the century, because it was believed that, due to its red juice (it is a Tenturier variety), it could be a cure for phylloxera and other fungal diseases like mildew and oidium.

None of this proved to be the case, but happily, Alicante found its home in the Alentejo and is probably now the most important red variety in the region, with its ability to handle the hot, dry conditions and maintain colour, tannin and acidity.

Mouchão bottled its first wines in 1949, until then the wine had been sold in bulk. The 1974 revolution saw a downturn in production as the property and winery were expropriated by a local communist cooperative. Stocks of wine were sold off cheaply and the vineyards abandoned. By the time the property was returned to the family, the winery was empty, the wooden vats had collapsed and the vineyards abandoned.

The renascence commenced in 1988 with the planting of a nine-hectare vineyard. Today, Mouchão has 41 hectares of vineyard with plans to increase to 55 hectares.

Mouchão is the family’s emblematic brand, based on 85% Alicante Bouschet and 15% Trincadeira. Other brands now include Dom Rafael and Ponte das Canas, which are more accessible wines, both in terms of price and early drinkability.

The Dom Rafael range includes a nice elegant, fresh white wine. There is also a limited edition of very small quantity Tonel 3-4, created in 1996, based on a superior Alicante grown on a special site, the Carapetos vineyard. The wine is so named because, after the revolution, these were the only two recoverable wooden vats. This wine is only launched five years after the harvest and, to my mind, after tasting the 2011, is the equivalent of any Portuguese top red, including Barca Velha. Completing the range is an excellent licoroso, and an aguardente bagaceira.