Alicante Bouschet may not be native to Alentejo, but the region has been growing this varietal for over a hundred years. “Ali” as it is fondly referred to, is the star grape varietal of southern Portugal. Originally a French varietal, it has found a second home in Alentejo.
Alicante Bouschet is a varietal that every wine lover, wine geek, and wine enthusiast will love. The varietal was first cultivated in 1866 as part of a science experiment, when Henri Bouschet created a cross between Petit Bouschet(created by his father, also an obscure cross between Teinturier du Cher and Aramon) and Grenache.
The varietal has a deep intense red color and was widely used as a blending grape. Red-fleshed, Alicante Bouschet in Alentejo is fondly known as Tinta de Escrever (“writing ink”) for its ability to produce inky-red wines.
Introduced to the Alentejo from France in the late-1800s, Alicante Bouschet was first planted at Herdade do Mouchão. Today it has become the region’s flagship red. It is a star varietal amongst the 250-plus indigenous varieties.
Known for its massive structure and firmness, Alentejo winemakers have learnt how to tame tannins. Alicante Bouschet shines in Alentejo because of its ability to retain acidity – a big plus in the hot arid climate of southern Portugal. Below you will find six incredible Alicante Bouschet that will take your palate by storm.
Dona Maria Grande Reserva 2012, $45
From an estate that belonged to an 18th century king and where grapes are still foot-trodden. Today, it is home to one of Portugal’s oldest Alicante Bouschet vineyards, The wine is 50% Alicante Bouschet, with Petit Verdot, Syrah and Touriga Nacional.
Dona Maria Grande Reserva has a deep intense color, with lovely aromatics. It is a wine with great depth and intensity. Layers of black fruit, violets, black pepper, vanilla and baking spice. The wine is rich, round and smooth. Tannins are silky and will continue to age elegantly over the next several years.
Esporão Vinha das Palmeiras Alicante Bouschet 2013, $45
One of Portugal’s largest and best-known estates, Esporão is family owned and its winemaking head is Australian, David Baverstock. This single-vineyard-wine, made only in the best years, is a perfect example of Esporão – honoring traditional methods while using new technology and empirical research to refine what is there.
This limited production wine is a classic example of Alicante Bouschet. The wine is rich, bold and generous. This full-bodied wine exhibits rich black fruit, floral notes, black pepper and licorice. Sexy, bold and intriguing, the wine will continue to evolve in the bottle. A great wine to cellar and age for at least another decade. A wine that WOWS the palate and will only get better with age.
Herdade dos Grous Moon Harvested 2017, $25
This Alberrnoa-based estate is a perfect example of the questing, always seeking-to-improve spirit of Alentejo, taking advantage of both mainstream and more alternative techniques. Grapes are hand-picked when the moon exerts the greatest pull on the life-giving sap.
The wine is intensely dark. Deep color with intense aromatics of dark cherries, blackberries and spice. Smokey tannins with a long savory finish.
Rocim Alicante Bouschet 2016, $20
The estate is located in Southern Alentejo which, counterintuitively, enjoys one of the most temperate micro-climates in the region, thanks to the Vidigueira Fault. Cool air from the nearby Algarve coast comes down the escarpment’s slopes. Grapes thrive on the terraces’ infertile volcanic soils of granite and schist, yielding wines with a lovely mineral note.
The wine has a dense rich purple hue. On the nose there is black cherries, dark plums and cloves. Intense and concentrated with grippy tannins. Still a young wine and will age beautifully over the next few years.
Mouchão Red 2013, $60
“Mouchão, the home of Alicante Bouschet” – is only made in exceptional years. This is a single-vineyard wine from the Carapetos Vineyard in the Portalegre area.
This wine is definitely one for the cellars. It has a wonderful texture and mouthfeel with rich tannins and bright black fruits. A wine with beautiful structure, depth and balance.
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