Friday, March 17, 2023

Grape Spotlight: IGP Peninsula de Setúbal Castelão from Casa Ermelinda Freitas

I'm not sure how I came to obtain this 2021 Vinho Regional Peninsula de Setúbal Vinha Da Fonte Reserva from Casa Ermelinda Freitas but seeing it in the cellar reminded me of our past trip to Portugal and exploring the areas surrounding Lisbon. This is a large, one-hundred-year-old family winery, currently led by Leanor Freitas, where 60% of their vineyards are dedicated to the Castelão variety. This is a dark-skinned grape that is especially suited for the sandy soils along Portugal's southern coast which includes the Setúbal Peninsula across the Tejo estuary.  The climate in Setúbal is distinctly Mediterranean with hot, dry summers and a majority of rainfall concentrated into the mild, winter months.  This sandy soil is rich in moisture which, along with the surrounding river and ocean breezes, refreshes and rejuvenates the vines during the dry summers. 

Leanor Freitas is the 4th generation female to oversee the company. "The winery was established in 1920 by Leonilde Freitas, continued by his granddaughter, Germana Freitas, and later by his great-granddaughter, Ermelinda Freitas, to whom Casa Ermelinda Freitas owes its name. With the premature death of her husband, Manuel João de Freitas, Ermelinda Freitas continued to manage the company with her only daughter, Leonor Freitas".

The vineyards of Casa Ermelinda Freitas are located in Fernando Pó of ​​the Palmela* region and began as 60 ha of only two varieties: Castelão and Fernão Pires.  Leonor Freitas introduced a range of new varieties, such as Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, Aragonês, Syrah, and Alicante Bouschet, so that today, the winery farms 550 hectares of vineyards of 30 different grape varieties. 

The 2021 Vinho Regional Peninsula de Setúbal Vinha Da Fonte Reserva is a blend of five grape varieties with Castelão and Cabernet Sauvignon as the dominant players. The percentages are followed by Touriga Nacional, Syrah, and Alicante Bouschet.  It carries the Vinho Regional Peninsula de Setúbal designation which is the former name for the new Peninsula de Setúbal IGP. The grapes are fermented in stainless steel vats and aged for 9 months in French oak separately before blending.  This is a very intriguing wine, ripe fruit and yet rustic, with hints of wood and approachable tannins.  Give me a plate of sausages at an outdoor Lisbon street fair. 

*Palmela has its own DOC which primarily covers red wines made from Castelão.

No comments: