Herdade do Mouchao
Mouchao Tinto is the flagship wine from historic Alentejo wine estate of Herdade do Mouchao. The estate can trace its beginnings back to the early part of the 19th century when Thomas Reynolds moved to the Alentejo from Oporto to begin working in the cork industry. His grandson John Reynolds eventually purchased the 900 hectare Herdade do Mouchao estate and farmed, not only cork, but grapes for making wine. However, the first estate wine sold as coming from Mouchao was not eventually sold for the first time until 1954. Eventually the Richardson family came into partnership with the Reynolds family and the estate was run by the two families until April 1974 when it was seized by the Portuguese military dictatorship and the Reynolds and Richardsons were evicted.
Following the 1974 revolution any wine made at Herdade do Mouchao was basically put into the local co-operative. Mouchao was returned to the Richardson and Reynolds families in 1986 but, due to neglect and mismanagement, the vineyards were not left in a great state and a programme of replanting was immediately begun. The Herdade de Mouchao winery is much as it was when it was built in the 1901, having survived the revolution relatively untouched and, in fact,only had electricity installed in 1991! At the winery can find a range of vats for wine storage and wine-making, the barrel hall and a distillery, completed in 1929, with both a pot and a column still.
Vineyards at Mouchao
Some 38 hectares of vineyards are under vine planted with predominantly Alicante Bouschet (from their own cuttings) and small quantities of Aragonés, Trincadeira, Moreto, Touriga Nacional and Syrah. There are some white grapes grown including Antao Vaz, Arinto and Perrum. The vines are trained in a modern style double trellising system and modern techniques such as spray inrrigation to prevent frost damage are used.
Alicante Bouschet is the result of a cross between Petit Bouschet and Grenache and is one of only a few red grapes that also have red flesh too. Such grapes are known as teinturier. Alicante Bouschet is most common in the south of France but can also be found in Spain, where it is known as Garnacha Tintorera, Italy, the USA and, of course, Portugal. Alicante Bouschet was most commonly used in red wine blends, where it was used to add colour, but today it is increasingly bottled as a single varietal wine and some say that the Alentejo region is where 100% Alicante Bouschet wines find their true expression. Since its introduction to Herdade de Mouchao in the early 19th century the grape has thrived on the clay soils on the flat, low ground near the winery.
Whilst the vineyard trellising and techniques are modern, wine-making is more traditional. Grapes are hand harvested into 20kg boxes and are received at the winery, lightly crushed without de-stalking and delivered down chutes to be foot trodden in one of 9 stone lagares with capacities of 6 to 8 thousand kilos. Foot-treading is done twice a day for period of 5 to 8 days, this encourages fermentation and optimum colour extraction. The wine is then racked off into wooden vats and barrels for secondary fermentation.
Mouchao Tinto, the estate’s main wine, is predominantly Alicante Bouschet, 80% or more, the rest being Trincadeira (perhaps more famously known as Tinta Amarela in the Douro, where it is used in Port production). It is aged for 24 months in large oak vats (known as foudres) and then aged for a further 24 to 36 months in the bottle prior to release for sale.
As well as Mouchao Tinto, the winery also produced red and white wines under the Dom Rafael and a red blend called Ponte das Canas. There is also a wine made in exceptional vintages from the best parcels of Alicante de Bouschet called Herdade do Mouchão Tonel nº 3-4 and some red wine set aside for maturation for 10 years prior to release called Mouchao Colheitas Antigas. There are also a couple of Port-like fortified wines, brandies, estate honey and olive oils produced!
Mouchao Tinto 2007
Mouchao Tinto 2007 is a full, deep coloured red / garnet colour. On the nose there are aromas of blackcurrant, cassis, confit dark fruit and herbaceous, garrigue type notes. There are also some eucalyptus and black pepper characteristics. The palate is dominated by black fruit, spiciness and full, plump ripe red fruits too. The palate is a great combination of the concentration of the Alicante Bouschet and a certain elegance from the Tincadeira. A big powerful, intense red wine, well-structured with good tannin structure and the potential to age gracefully for many years.
As Richard Mayson writes in his encyclopedia, The Wines and Vineyards of Portugal, “Mouchao is undoubtedly one of Portugal’s most impressive red wines”.