Fita Preta – Showing the potential in Castelão

Have you ever tasted Jose Maria da Fonseca’s Periquita from the good old days? When the wine had little in common with today’s version, and could age gracefully for two decades? Then you know what Castelão is capable of. Miss that reference? Do not worry, Fita Preta’s 2010 Tinto de Castelão will solve that for you.

The brand of Periquita became so associated with the grape that Castelão actually was spoken of as Periquita, even if the Periquita brand contained other varieties as well. Today Castelão is used almost entirely as a blending partner and you’ll find it in several of Portugal’s wine regions, although the best examples are to be found in Alentejo. Castelão is never about huge concentration, loads of tannins and muscles. Rather think in terms of elegance and a wine that carresses the palate.

Anyone can make a big concentrated wine wine but not as many possess the skills to produce finesse. António Maçanita, the winemaker at Fita Preta in Alentejo, belongs to the skilled ones. In his Signature Series he wanted to produce an old school Castelão so he checked with those who had been around for a while….what makes a great Castelão?

Focus on giving it the prerequisites to age was the answer. Give it time. So that’s what António did with the grapes he picked from a vineyard between Vimieiro and Evoramonte. He trusted the indigenous yeast solely, fermented at 27 C and the maceration lasted for a month. Then the wine was given two years in barrel before being bottled and allowed a further 20 months resting before released during the summer of 2014. For a friend of patience this is like music to one’s ears.

I know what you think, the catch is the price. That somebody’s gonna pay for all the waiting. But no, the 2010 is less than 25 euros in Portugal! Sadly there’s only 2,600 bottles of it.

Castelão likes sandy soil, it digs hot days and cold nights. Give it that and you’ll have a grape with fine marked acidity, spiciness, red berries, especially raspberries, plums and a fine tannin structure. Add time and you have the 2010 Tinto de Castelão Reserva from Fita Preta’s Signature Series. A wine with pale transparent ruby red color, lovely to look at, a refined bouquet with scents of spicy oak, plums, raspberries, warm earth, dill and a slight floral hint. On the palate a real treat. Marked acidity yes, but with plenty of fruit to back it up. A fruitiness which feels sun-drenched but still is dry in its appearance. Gentle tannins but there, oak, red berries, sweet licorice and a long refreshing finish.

The initial thought sends me to old school Rioja country and a wine style which seem to run out of fashion. Hence it makes me happy to find out that someone thinks highly of a grape that perhaps doesn’t possess the criterias many a winemaker search for nowadays. Thanks António, for demonstrating the capability of Castelão.

The Virtuoso rating: 92 points

Locate the wine? Use wine-searcher to find out where it is available. Retailers offering it are welcome to post a reply.

N.B. The vineyard used for the 2010 is not longer in the possession of Fita Preta. The 2014 which will be released sometime in the future, patience you know, comes from a vineyard in Redondo.