The Marques family and their estate, Vale da Capucha, represent the viticultural renaissance that the Lisboa DO has experienced over the last decade. Having grown fruit for bulk wine production for a few generations, they realised that their heritage and terroir was something worth expressing.
Winemaker Pedro Marques has taken the reins of the estate from his family, replanted it entirely with indigenous varieties, and has set about expressing a singular message of terroir. The precept is simple: maximum human work in the vineyard and minimum intervention in the winery. The resulting terroir-driven wines come from a medley of Portuguese varieties: Arinto; Fernão Pires; Alvarinho: Antão Vaz; Gouveio; Castelao; Viosinho; Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz.
Pedro follows the ethos that “great wine is made in the vineyard.” Only 10km from the Atlantic Ocean just outside of Lisbon, Vale da Capucha is a property whose wines speak of the presence and proximity of the ocean. The Capucha refers to the ancient Roman military road that led from Lisbon to Santarai, and both fossilized seashells and ancient Roman artifacts are consistently unearthed on the property, situated on a 400-million-year-old thread of Kimmeridgian limestone. With minimal interventionist winemaking, Marques manages to clearly express the minerality and salinity of these ocean-inflected vineyards.
Pedro promotes life in the soil and biodiversity in the soil by using natural products to treat the vines. No insecticides are used, pruning is done by hand, plant infusions are sprayed and quantities of sulphur and copper are limited. Everything is done to ensure a green environment for the plants.
His pure varietal Arinto, the quintessential Atlantic Portuguese variety, shows the oceanic influence with a vengeance! As with most Arintos, this wine is extremely age-worthy, as a result of the variety’s intrinsic acidity and minerality.
“Pedro promotes life in the soil and biodiversity in the soil by using natural products to treat the vines. No insecticides are used, pruning is done by hand, plant infusions are sprayed and quantities of sulphur and copper are limited. Everything is done to ensure a green environment for the plants.”
After pressing, the juice rests for day, whereupon it is racked off the heavy lees, and ferments naturally (whole bunches) and slowly for 60 days at around 20c. The wine remains on the fine lees for another 6-7 months and is bottled without cold stabilisation, fining or filtration. This wine sees the smallest addition of sulphur and in Pedro is pushing even further to try to make wines with zero-added sulphur. As with all Pedro’s whites, the length of time on the lees adds a textural component to the wine, preserving the balance between acidity and spicy fruit. That said, that the acidity here is galvanic and stiletto-ish and cooling to the nth degree, detonating tiny citrus explosions all over the tongue.
Arinto is a versatile grape, grown in most of Portugal’s wine regions. In Vinho Verde country, it goes by the name of Pedernã and makes vibrant wines with lively, refreshing acidity along with gentle flavours reminiscent of green apple, lime and lemon. Arinto-based wines can keep well but are also delicious young. Because it retains its acidity, even in hot climates, Arinto is often added to other lower-acid white grapes to improve blends – especially in the hot Alentejo and Ribatejo.
The citric lines of the Arinto are a perfect foil for escabeche of fish (oily mackerel or sardines). Pedro’s version will also stand up to richer foods as well, such as suckling pig.
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