Over dinner at Sever, Marvão, Rui provides three mature red wines from the 1989 vintage. The first from the Portalegre co-operative is still deep in colour, fresh on the nose, slightly dusty and leathery but with full, savoury-sweet berry fruit still evident although drying out mid-palate. Made from old vineyards in the serra, near Quinta do Centro, it shows what the co-operative used to be capable of producing. The second with is from old vines in the Serra de Lousã near Coimbra, Quinta Foz de Arouce. With a deep, youthful colour, it has a wonderful traditional bouquet combining eucalyptus, pine and esteva (gum cistus). On the palate it has the fresh wild berry character typical of the enigmatic Baga grape, firm sinewy tannins and a touch of resin and spice. The final wine is the best and perhaps the most surprising. It comes from Tapada do Chaves just outside Portalegre, a property with a national reputation in the 1970s and 1980s. Still deep and opaque in colour (reflecting the use of Alicante Bouschet and Grand Noir grapes in the blend), the aromas are wild, heady and powerful with wonderful concentration in the mouth; tar, pepper yet still amazingly fresh, good balance, if just verging on rustic. We drink it accompanied by arroz de lebre, a deliciously dark, liquid hare risotto which is a perfect match for the wine. Sadly Tapada de Chaves has produced nothing of note in recent years. It is now in the hands of one of Portugal’s failing banks, the BPP, and I am told it is up for sale. How are the mighty fallen.
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty