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Tasting notes from The Peninsula de Setubal

by Tom Cannavan, 11/10

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Setubal and Palmela.



Saramago 2007, Vinho Regional
Most of Saramago's grapes come from 20-year-old plus vineyards and are vinified in lagars before being aged in mostly French oak, with a touch of American oak. The blend is predominately Castelño (85%) with some Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet. Strong, animal and game aromas, quite reductive and charry too, but not entirely inviting. Massive fruit here on the palate, but those slightly resinous, still animal notes are difficult. Big, firm fruit on the palate, lots of bold, spicy, but always edgy red and black fruits. Great concentration and persistence, with lots of fresh, grippy, high acid in the finish. 88/100 for an intriguing more than totally convincing wine.

Saramago 2005, Vinho Regional
All Castelño in this vintage, with an extremely spicy nose, plenty of exotic, incense-like aromas, again that charry, slightly animal note detracts a little, though there's a huge density of black fruit. The palate has very big, chewy tannins, with a certain sweet elegance to the fruit that persists, the crunchy, bold acidity, but does have a lovely fleshy power and deep-set, resonating depth. Massive and needs time. 90/100.

Saramago Dúvida 2005, Vinho Regional
2000 bottles of this wine are produced, a blend of Aragonez, Trincadeira and Grande Noir. Fermented in lagar with a long pre- and post-fermentation maceration, the fruit comes from high, schisty vineyards at 400 metres in the Alentejo and the wine is aged in 100% new oak for one year, then racked back into tank, then back into other 100% new oak again, so 200% new oak in total. A further 18 months in bottle before release. Massive balsamic nose with, with lots of high, almost gamy aromas, lots of intense floral glimpses, but those schisty notes and charcoal persist. Quite a noseful. Very powerful palate too, with huge grip and thick, sweet balsamic grip, but liquoricy depth and amazing length and focus. Layered complexity and the grippy finish buttressed by fine acidity and a raciness to the tannins. This is not a perfect wine, yet there is something intriguing about it. 93/100.

Saramago JMS Moscatel de Setubal Superior 1993
Only 1000 bottles if this were produced, when it was bottled in January 2010. Lots of firm, resinous, shellac-like aromas that are oxidised and quite high and spirity at first, but there is orange peel tang and inviting nuttiness. Caramel and sweet balsamic strawberry fruit, with an absolutely fabulous palate, with exquisite balance, the pear and apple-like acidity against the sweet caramel and walnut depth, and all the time that orange and marmalade richness and depth. The finish is crystal clear, and goes on for minutes. Fantastically intense experience like an essencia or Seppeltsfield Para or other great fortified wines, but with massive acidity. 94/100.

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