Manuel Jose Colares MJC Colares Tinto (scuffed labels) 1997
Rusty garnet with orange rim. Aromas of leather, fresh and dried cherry and cranberry, dried tobacco and flowers. Bright, clear acidity on the palate informs flavors of dried red cherry, rose petal, black pepper and game. Well-structured, with plenty of acidity and tannin to portend a long life in front of it.
Pair with roast meats such as beef or game, braises and strong cheese.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In 1999, the Fundação Oriente, a cultural foundation based in Lisbon, purchased a 22-acre property once owned by Manuel José Colares, with the goal of keeping the Colares appellation alive. Once an acclaimed district for long-lived reds based on ramisco grown in the sands along the coast west of Sintra, this farthest western point on the European continent is now valued for its beachfront homes. Tucked amidst the houses, a few parcels of vines still survive. The foundation is now offering older bottles from the winery’s cellars, including this 1997, a tawny-colored red that needs a swirl in the glass to coax the tannins into the background. Their fennel-seed character slowly gives way to scents of nori, red cranberry and licorice, the wine taking on an autumnal intensity, ghosting its red flavors into the finish. Savor this on its own, or pour it with herb-roasted goat.
The Colares appellation is one of the hidden gems of Portugal. Its wines are known for enormous potential for longevity. Although today they are much more difficult to find, at one time the wines from Colares were the standard bearer for age-worthy vins de garde in Portugal. To wit – in 1930, the appellation had more than 3000 hectares planted to vine. Today, after many 150-200 year old vineyards were ripped up to make room for beachfront construction, only 18 hectares are left, producing extremely low yields from primarily pre-phylloxera vines – today, the entire DOC produces fewer than 8000 bottles a vintage. Making wine in Colares is a labor of love, as this appellation doesn’t lend itself to an easy growing season. Humid and foggy most of the season, most of the region is green and fertile. Where the vines are planted, however, are the sand dunes west of Lisbon, right on the Atlantic. The hallmark of the region are the maritime nortada winds that constantly buffet the vines, necessitating low-trained plants and a system of walls to protect the fruit from too much wind and sea spray. The humidity, too, makes maturation of the long-cycle varieties grown there extremely difficult.
In 1999, an organization named Fundaçao Oriente bought the 9 hectare property once owned by the grower Manuel Jose Colares with the aim of saving the appellation from extinction. Bolstering its altruistic mission is the fact that the property now employs dozens of workers who have had grave financial difficulties, giving them a chance to get their lives back on track. Now, Olé & Obrigado has been given access to the library vintages of these wines, enabling the sale of winery-aged, mature Colares wines that showcase the ageability of this once proud appellation.
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 Portuguese wines of various styles.
The Douro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red Portuguese 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 Portuguese 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.
Beyond the usual suspects, there are hundreds of red grape varieties grown throughout the world. Some are indigenous specialties capable of producing excellent single varietal wines, while others are better suited for use as blending grapes. Each has its own distinct viticultural characteristics, as well as aroma and flavor profiles, offering much to be discovered by the curious wine lover. In particular, Portugal and Italy are known for having a multitude of unique varieties but they can really be found in any region.