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the wines of Ribafreixo, Alentejo, Portugal

by Tom Cannavan, 05/12

bottles Ribafreixo is a new name in the booming Alentejo region of Portugal, east and south of Lisbon. Started in 2007, the company purchased a large, 92-hectare estate with several abandoned agricultural plots and buildings from the region's fading farming past. A new state of the art winery is nearing completion, and 83 hectares of vines have been planted, with around 75% of production being for white wine varieties. The company believes this is the strength of this region, protected as it is by the Serra de Mendro mountain range which moderates summer heat.

The estate's main variety is Antão Vaz, followed by Roupeiro. Other varieties include Perrum, Rabo de Ovelha, Alicante Branco, Arinto and Alvarinho. Red varieties are mainly Touriga Nacional with Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet and Tempranillo. As well as this new planting, twenty hectares of old white vineyards, all more than 35 years old, were saved on the estate based on their good condition and suitability of the varieties planted.

the wines

Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Antão Vaz 2010, Portugal
Made in stainless steel without any oak influence, this is 100% Antão Vaz. It pours a vivid, green-tinged colour, and aromas are quite powerful with lemon and melon skins, something cool and herbal, and a very distant echo of talcum or floral character. On the palate it has real grip and structure: there's a pithy lemon and grapefruit bite, and a sense of tight chalky minerality, but it is full and rich too, and despite a moderate 13% alcohol it feels powerful and quite heady. 86/100.

Ribafreixo, Barrancôa 2009, Portugal
This Vinho Regional Alentejano is composed of Aragonês, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet, and is partly aged in oak barrels and weighs in with 14% alcohol. The nose has a very appealing hint of wild strawberry and cherry, fragrant, cedary notes and a sinewy touch of liquorice. On the palate it delivers a big, bold mouthful of dark, ripe fruit smoothed by plenty of vanilla and spice from the oak. It's a mouth-filling wine, with a really nice ripeness and density to the fruit, though perhaps the oak could be reined back slightly. 87/100.

These wines are not currently for sale in the UK, but this is another Portuguese estate with series ambitions and is clearly one to watch.