Herdade Do Mouchão Tonel Nº 3-4 – A Cask Story


The explanation is probably spelled macacaúba. And mahogany. South american timber which is superior to most European trees.

Twenty years ago Herdade do Mouchão produced their first Tonel nº 3-4, a wine which had its own cask story to tell. The winemaking team had noticed that the wine in two casks, 3 & 4, repeatedly were superior to the other casks. Still it was the same juice in all of them. So, only one thing to do; analyze the wood.

The explanation was simple; the coopers had repaired the two casks made of portuguese oak with tree from brazilian macacaúba and mahogany. Hard wood, which is used for expensive furnituring for example. God knows, where they found it or what was sacrificed. But it sure had an effect on the wine aging in the 3 & 4. So much that the Reynolds family at Mouchão decided to go for a premium wine only made in exceptional years and in these two casks. First one out, the 1996.

Tonel nº 3-4 is only produced every third year, roughly speaking. And today it is made entirely on selected Alicante Bouschet grapes from the estate’s Carapetos vineyard. The fermented juice stays two years in the tonels and a further two or three years in bottle. When the producer feels the wine has ‘it’ then it’s released. And quickly sold out. It’s of course limited in production; a bit more than 8,000 liters when produced. One would think that it perhaps could be difficult to sell an Alicante Bouschet for well above hundred euros, but no. It’s the opposite.

First of all, it’s has the potential to become one of the iconic wines of portuguese table wines. A group which today have few members, some would argue one only – the Barca Velha. But that’s because few wines can show such track record as the quality table wine industry in Portugal is relatively modern.

Secondly, Tonel nº 3-4 ages tremendously well, it will probably keep and develop for decades.

And lastly, it’s just an awesome wine to drink!

2003 Mouchão Tonel 3-4
Impressions of the 2003 Mouchão Tonel nº 3-4

Short decanting, just for a quick aeration. Despite the age it’s still darkly colored. After all, we’re dealing with a teinturier. The bouquet is embracing showing signs of some maturation. Black olives, dark cherries, spices, humus and licorice root. And a gorgeous refreshing eucalyptus scent. No doubt about it; this one speaks the Alentejo language, Mouchao accent.

You might have read that Alicante Bouschet is used for color, tannins and body. That it’s a rustic grape. Then taste the 2003 Tonel 3-4. It’s a beauty. Violet notes, ripe dark berries, spicy oak, humus; all wrapped in with velvety but marked tannins and a fine back bone acidity. Actually it’s a very elegant impression on the palate. Still plenty of fruit to carry on for years, probably a lot more than a decade. The finale is long, warming and it doesn’t take many seconds before you’re longing for the next sip.

The Virtuoso Rating: 94 p

Buy it? Use wine-searcher to locate the wine on your market. There is also a 2008 released but that’s just a baby. And of course, do try other wines from the estate; the estate Mouchão is a classic, the Ponte das Canas a slightly more modernly shaped wine and the easy drinking Dom Rafael.And the liquoroso!