2009 Mouchao “Dom Rafael” Vinho Tinto Alentejo

Hello friends. Portugal has the Oregon problem: it is known for one thing. Port. Tawny, ruby, vintage, LBV; everyone knows Port, lots of people love Port, and when you move away from Port into dry wines, confusion abounds, as Portugal is littered with lovely, inscrutable indigenous varietals.

Dusting off the old wine Rosetta Stone, “confusion abounds” translates to “value favors the bold.” Wine pricing is some combination of a) the quality of the juice inside; and b) the ease of selling that juice. Our best values come when a) is high and b) is low.

Dry Portuguese reds fit the bill. Everyone who visits Portugal raves about the dry reds they taste there. I visited Portugal. I raved. But then we get back home, and we’re standing in the store, and we’re saying “wait a minute; did I like the one with lots of Tinta Cao, or the one with Alicante Bouschet?” And we consider that question for about five seconds before reaching for the easier-to-understand Cabernet Sauvignon. But not today. Today we revel in confusion.

We have a terrific tariff (as you can see, this is normally a $13-$18 wine) on a wine from a reference-point producer in the Alentejo:

Mouchao is among the oldest and most prominent estates in Alentejo (region #20 on this map in warm, sunny southern Portugal). The Reynolds family moved there in the 1800s to get into the cork business, and it wasn’t until a few generations later, in 1901, that John Reynolds purchased the site for the vineyard and winery. Since then, the winery has been owned by the same family, with one decade-long interruption following the winery’s expropriation during the 1974 revolution.

Dom Rafael is the destination for declassified fruit that doesn’t make it into the top-tier bottling at the estate (just called “Mouchao,” that one earns big scores – 94s and 95s on occasion, from Wine Enthusiast and Wine Advocate – and commands big prices: $45-$50). As a second bottle for the estate, it represents incredible value, and is also made to be perfectly accessible in its youth.

The blend is 60% Aragonez (the name for Tempranillo in the Alentejo), 20% Alicante Bouschet, and 20% Trincadeira, all from estate fruit. The nose begins with a lovely pairing of strawberry fruit and leafy Tempranillo notes, all very fresh and clean. But then with time and air, a series of sultry, earthen-mushroom notes begin to turn up. Compelling stuff. The balance is impeccable, especially at this tariff, and the palate is fresh, intense, vibrant.

Also, consider that most wines at this tariff are babies, typically bottled months after harvest. This instead spent three years in barrel (mostly neutral) and now almost another year in bottle. A killer wine for winter parties and weddings, so let’s open it up: first come first served up to 60 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.

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