Joao Portugal Ramos Alentejo Ramos Reserva 2015
João Portugal Ramos is Portugal’s most famous winemaker. Before he began making his own wines, he was a pioneering wine consultant widely considered Portugal’s Pierro Antinori or Emile Peynaud (The New York Times). His many accolades include winning 2010 Personality of the Year and 2006 Producer of the Year (Essencia do Vinho); 2010 Viticulture Team of the Year, 2000 Winemaker of the Year, and 1998 Company of the Year (Revista de Vinhos); 1999 & 2004 Winemaker of the Year and 2004 Producer of the Year (Vin & Mat, Sweden); 2004 Newcomer of the Year (Wein Gourmet, Germany); and the 2008 Prize for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture). In the decades that Ramos has consulted, he almost single-handedly opened Portuguese winemaking to the benefits of modern technologies with an emphasis on low yields, occasional oak aging, and the preservation of a grape’s natural fruit flavors. In 1990, he decided it was time to start creating his own wine and he began planting vineyards in Alentejo around his new winery, Vila Santa. J. Portugal Ramos’s 1250 acres of vineyard are located near the ancient marble-filled town of Estremoz in Alentejo. The schist and limestone-clay soil, combined with the region’s Continental climate, create ideal conditions for growing grapes. Ramos’s wines quickly met critical acclaim, and he expanded his vineyards to select locations in Tejo, Beiras and the Douro. His most recent project is a crisp, fruity Vinho Verde called Lima, in tribute to the iconic river that runs through the region. Lima is a welcome addition to Ramos’s collection, each member of which can be identified by a signature insistence on quality, balance and expression of terroir. Ramos draws from his decades of experience to carefully create a range of wines. Depending on the provenance and variety of the grape, Ramos employs temperature-controlled vinification in steel tanks or traditional foot-treading in marble lagares, followed by aging in barrique to add richness of character. For all his wines, he employs advanced quality-control systems that have set the standard in Portugal. Born to a family with a long history of wine production, internationally acclaimed oenologist João Portugal Ramos was awarded a degree in agronomy from El Instituto Superior de Agronomia (Higher Institute of Agronomy) in 1977. After receiving a work placement at the National Winegrowing Station at Dois Portos from 1977 to 1978, he embarked on a career as an oenologist. As a consultant, he has played a significant role in the development of some of Portugal’s most notable wines. These successes have won him many awards and accolades throughout his career and brought him national and international acclaim as one of the main figures responsible for the development of Portuguese wines during the last 20 years.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white wines of various styles.
The Duoro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.