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Quinta de SantAna Portugal

There's no missing Quinta de SantAna

Indigenous grape varieties such as Fernão Pires and Touriga Nacional sit happily alongside international varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir at Quinta de SantAna.

On a recent trip to Portugal I found myself negotiating hair pin turns on a mission to seek out the hidden gem that is Quinta de SantAna. Nestled in the hills some 35km or so North of Lisbon I found myself rounding the final corner and being greeted by the unmistakably yellow estate. For James Frost and his wife Ann, this place signifies so much more than a home for themselves and their seven sons.

Ann’s side of the family, the Von Fürstenburgs, owned and lived at the predominantly arable estate until the revolution in 1974 when the family returned to Germany and the gates were closed. A family friend ensured that the estate didn’t become completely derelict and in time the farm was handed down to Ann and her husband James, an Englishman from Dorset. They then set about not only turning the estate into the most beautiful setting for weddings, parties and holiday accommodation but also painstakingly re-instating its vineyard. James’ background is that of farming and with the help of his winemaker has certainly played to his strengths developing the vineyard and ensuring that quality, not quantity, is the key. Indigenous grape varieties such as Fernão Pires and Touriga Nacional sit happily alongside international varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

The estate is heavily influenced by the Atlantic and as a result the whites are crisp and the reds fresh and full of character. The winery is small yet perfectly formed with two lagares (granite troughs) where the grapes are still trodden in the traditional way. These are surrounded by the more modern vats and stainless steel tanks. The combination of the traditional and modern can be found throughout Quinta de SantAna. Nods to the history of the Quinta being found everywhere including the name of their top wine – Baron Von Fürstenburg.

The variety and quality of Portuguese wine has come on in leaps and bounds recently and as is often the case in relatively underrated areas of the wine world there are some real bargains to be had. We think that these wines offer real value and are well worth your attention. Saúde!

Taste all of the Quinta’s wines at our tutored tasting at the end of November.

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Spanish wine | A path well trodden

Scala Dei ruins - home to some awesome Spanish wine

You would have thought that having already visited various wine regions of Spain on buying trips more than a dozen times over the last 25 years there would be very little that could surprise one. My latest jaunt, at the end of April, flew in the face of this idea whilst invigorating my love for Spanish wine.

Starting in the Ribera del Duero, located on Spain’s northern plateau, our intrepid party visited the Legaris winery. This winery grows all its grapes in small bunches and tends them by hand. This, combined with their judicious use of barrels, means that the wines have great concentration and are a brilliant match to barbecued meats. Next stop Rioja.

Rioja, in north-central Spain, is easily the most famous Spanish wine region and takes its name from the Rio (river) Oja. Bodegas Bilbaínas is one of the oldest estates in the D.O. and was one of the 10 original wineries to register as a bottler in the early 20th century. As land wasn’t as scarce at the time of its founding all of its vineyards surround the winery, so they have excellent control during each vintage.

Costers del Segre, to the north-west of Barcelona, was next on the agenda with a visit to the incredible Raimat vineyards. It’s hard to believe that 100 years ago the area was desert and it wasn’t until the Spanish government built a canal system that the area was turned over to vines. Raimat was the first winery to be established here and today produces around 85% of the D.O.’s wines in one of Europe’s largest vineyards. Their fantastically valued wines, made under the head winemaker Mark Nairn, have that typical Spanish wine depth and richness but also lovely elegance and length.

It’s been at least 25 years since I last visited Priorat and it has changed so much. Last time I visited there were four wineries; now there are in excess of 90! Going to Scala Dei was like visiting an old friend as I’d visited it on a previous trip. It’s the oldest winery in Priorat, dating back to the 12th century, and has a very limited production due to its low-yielding hand-harvested Garnatxa vines. The wines are stunning and I’ve picked out the Scala Dei Garnatxa as a brilliant example of modern Priorat winemaking. We also stock the flagship Scala Dei Cartoixa which gives a fantastic expression of the more traditional Priorat style.

Last up was Peñedes and a visit to Codorníu and their delicious Cavas. Cava, although much derided, is made in the Traditional Method (see Steph’s piece on p14) and offers great depth and structure without breaking the bank. The Ecologica is a great summer fizz and is a real crowd-pleaser.

Well, that was the trip finished; time to board the early flight home and read up on my notes. What was a sprint between five of Spain’s best regions became the perfect opportunity to rekindle a love-affair with Spanish wines. I hope you enjoy the selection – it was tricky keeping it to six.

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