The gentle renaissance of Viúva Gomes (Colares)

The Winery

The Viuva Gomes winery at Almocageme

Founded 1808

Last week we visited Viúva Gomes‘s old winery in the centre of Almocageme, a small village that overlooks the Atlantic Coast and is within DOC Colares. Although Viuva Gomes was established in 1808, the current owners – the Baeta family – bought the winery in 1988, which for many years subsequently was used only to age the wines, which were made at the Colares co-operative. More recently José and his son Diogo have gradually been building up the production with the wines being made in their winery.

The Baeta family has been involved in wine since 1898 when they founded a wine and food business in the nearby seaside resort of Cascais. However, with the rise of the supermarkets in the 1990s, the food part of the business became unsustainable but they continued with the wine side. In 2013 the brother of Diogo’s grandfather died and the family business split with José concentrating on the Viúva Gomes winery in Almocageme. They have another winery in Sintra, which is about 11 kilometres further inland. They are in the process of closing the Sintra facility and moving everything to Almocageme. Diogo expects that the move with be completed next year.

 

José Baeta

José Baeta 

Diogoa

Diogo Baeta 

Diogo Baeta
Over the past 150 years Colares has had a rather roller coaster ride. Being planted on sand the arrival of phylloxera created a boom as the phylloxera louse is unable to attack vines planted on sand. However, by the latter part of the 20th century the long aged Colares wines had fallen out of fashion with consumers looking for crisper, fresher styles. Colares, which has never been easy to make due to the high rainfall and humidity with its closenesss to the Atlantic, became difficult to sell. Portugal’s accession to the EU in 1986 provided producers with grants for grubbing up vines. Allied with the demand for housing in this beautiful area close to the coast, many producers grubbed up their vines. DOC Colares has now shrunk to some 27 hectares with only four producers with one new one to join their ranks showing that there is a modest revival underway.

Recently wine lovers have been coming around to the charms of Colares helped by the fact that old vintages were available at a cheap price, which naturally has meant that prices for these wines, especially the old vintages, has now risen. Unfortunately it is difficult to acquire new land to plant new vineyards as land by the coast costs 100,000 € a hectare. Land prices remain high even though Colares is within the Sintra Cascais Natural Park, so further house building is banned, as people gamble on restrictions changing in the future.

Red Colares comes from the Ramisco grape. Colares is apparently is the only place on earth where it grows successfully. The white is made from Malvasia of Colares.

Viúva Gomes now have 2.5 hectares of vines, which includes some 100 year old vines that they rent from an 83 year old farmer. One of their plots is on clay limestone overlooking the Atlantic the rest is on sand. They also buy grapes on allocation through the Colares Coop, which between 1934 and 1994 was the only legal producer of Colares – a measure to combat fraud.  Their 2.5 hectares are farmed organically but they have not applied for certification. Diogo is not convinced by the validity of some of the certification procedures as he thinks they lack full rigour.

Viúva Gomes produces two ranges of wines (white and red): DOC Colares and Patrâo Diogo (Vinho Regional Lisboa). Diogo is currently working on a new range using old grape varieties. It is called Pirata to signal that this is a rebel range of wines outside the DOC system to give him greater freedom.

Before joining his father in 2015 Diogo worked in Bucelas and also at the Colares Co-op. « I don’t make wine to a recipe rather I want my wines to express the year and place and not just to please the customer, » says Diogo.

Reception
The reception area
The Chai
The chai – still well below capacity
Collares VG
The sign in the winery uses the 
old spelling of Colares, as do the wines

Colares Branco 17

Colares Branco 2017 with the company’s distinctive labels

Tasting

We tasted five finished wines plus several samples from tank and barrel:

2018 Patrâo Diogo Branco 6€ 
This fresh, floral and cleanly citric wine is a blend of Fernão-Pires and Arinto.

2017 Collares Branco 20€  
100% Malvasia of Colares and aged for six months in used French oak, the 2017 has a lightly honeyed nose with weight and concentration on the palate. The wine opened up as it warmed becoming richer and more complex, so should not be served too cold.

IMG_1997 copy
Colares Tinto 2011
2017 Patrâo Diogo Tinto 6€
The red is a blend of Castelão and Aragonês (Tempranillo). Mid-weight it is attractively herbal and spicy, softly textured. 25% was aged in wood.||

2011 Collares Tinto 22€
Ramisco has small berries with thick skins and is harvested at the end of September/ beginning of October. It is difficult to get Ramisco to ripen fully as early autumn rains are a threat and birds devour the grapes as they near ripeness. Potential alcohols are low between 10.5%-11% and high levels of acidity.

« Ramisco has similarities with Baga, Nebbiolo and Pinot Noir, » Diogo explained.

The 2011 has a lovely spiciness and complexity with some balsamic notes.

2016 Pirata
The label for the Pirata is still in the design stage. This is a blend of 70% Castelão and 30% Aragonês and has black fruit and cherry aromas with some wood spice, good texture along with quite high acidity in the finish.

The yet to be bottled 2018 Pirata is pure Castelão, only has 10.5% alc and is reminiscent of Pineau d’Aunis.

***
They will be bottling the  2012 and 2013 Colares Tinto this month. It is unusual for Viuva Gomes to bottle to two vintages of Colares at the same time. However, they think the 2013 may well be ready to drink earlier then the 2012.
Geese guards
Geese guard rear entrance of the the winery
JBGlassescrps

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