From €14.70, £17, $25
Think of the Symington family, think of port and Douro wines. Think again.
While maintaining their several estates and many hectares of vines in the Douro Valley, they have for the first time ever ventured much further south within Portugal – to the Alentejo.
Quinta da Fonte Souto, which they bought in the summer of 2017, comprises 207 ha (511 acres) at an elevation of around 500 m (1,640 ft) on the slopes of the São Mamede mountains in Portalegre in the far north of the Alentejo, close to the border with Spain, as you can see on this map of Portugal.
I am delighted that the new 8th edition of The World Atlas of Wine, published last week, maps Portalegre in detail because in this subregion, the elevation, the predominantly granite soils and a climate that is generally cooler and wetter than in the south combine to produce some of Portugal’s most exciting and refined wines. (You can see the exact location of the Quinta da Fonte Souto just above the red Portalegre label in the brand new map below.)
Having tasted all five of their impressive 2017 first releases, I found it hard to choose a single wine as wine of the week. There are two first-level 2017 wines labelled Florão, two main estate wines from the same vintage, labelled simply Quinta da Fonte Souto, and one more expensive red, the Vinha do Souto.
The Florão red and white are excellent value: currently £11.95 from The Wine Society in the UK and €9.85 from Portugal Vineyards, who are based in Portugal but ship throughout Europe as well as to Canada, Singapore, South Korea, Macau, Hong Kong and Australia.
But it’s the estate red and white Quinta da Fonte Souto 2017 Alentejo that I would particularly like to recommend, for quality, deliciousness and value.
The Quinta da Fonte Souto Branco 2017 is a blend of 75% Arinto, 25% Verdelho. Fermentation begins in stainless-steel vats but immediately after the start of alcoholic fermentation, part of the must is transferred to 500-litre French oak barrels. The must is left in contact with the lees with frequent stirring. 60% of the blend was fermented and aged eight months in new 500-litre oak barrels (French oak, Central European oak and acacia wood), in contact with the lees.
I found the aroma rich and creamy/leesy, with the oak influence evident in the mealy aroma but all in harmony with ripe citrus and green fruits. It’s powerful and intense on the palate, full bodied, with some spice on the tip of your tongue. There’s a creamy texture, mouth-filling fruit but it is still very fresh. There's a woody/cedary quality too. The Arinto gives a zest to the fruit in this wine that you could drink now but should age well. The finish is long and savoury. I scored it 17 out of 20 and I think you could drink it now or any time over the next 3-4 years.
The Quinta da Fonte Souto Tinto 2017 is a blend of old-vine Alicante Bouschet (40%), Trincadeira (25%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Syrah (10%) and Alfrocheiro (10%). 50% of the blend spent six months in second- and third-year 400-litre French oak barrels and was bottled in March 2019.
The Alicante Bouschet has given a very dark colour. The aroma is an intense mix of ripe but fresh and spicy fruit, both red and black, and it’s very open and expressive. Even so there is a more savoury character here too and this is more evident on the palate, which balances that ripe fresh fruit depth and gives it a more serious side. It's persistent and deliciously dry in texture with finesse thanks to a fine-grained, dry tannin texture. It will be even better after a year or two in bottle but you could drink it now with food. The sweet fruit and spice of the Alicante Bouschet, which has found its true home in the Alentejo, dominates the finish. As with the white, I scored this 17 out of 20 and reckon it will age well over the next decade.
The fact that the Symingtons bought the property just in time to make the 2017 vintage suggests that the wines are only going to get better once they have had time to do more in the vineyards and see which varieties are best suited to their sites.
They have already top grafted 3.5 ha (8.5 acres) of Aragonez to Touriga Nacional, 1.42 ha of Aragonez to Syrah and 1.48 ha of Cabernet Sauvignon to the white variety Arinto. They also have experimental plantings of varieties such as Grand Noir and Tinto de Olho Branco that were traditionally part of field blends in Portalegre, according to Dominic Symington, who looks after Fonte Souto. Other experimental plantings include Encruzado, Alvarinho, Verdelho, Fernão Pires for whites and various different local clones of Alicante Bouschet.
In the UK, The Wine Society is selling the red and the white at £17. They currently have the exclusivity on these wines but they will be more widely available from the end of October. (You have to be a member to buy from them but the one-off joining fee of £40 is well worth a lifetime of great wines at better than reasonable prices, as we frequently repeat on this site.)
In the US, the wines are available pre-sale for shipping to California, Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Louisiana, Washington DC, Virginia and Florida from Vintage and Fine Wines. They had hoped to have stock by now but apparently shipment to the US has been delayed because of bad weather.
For most other locations, Portugal Vineyards is a good option. They deliver to the UK, much of Europe, as well as to Canada, Singapore, South Korea, Macau, Hong Kong and Australia.