Another day in the life with Enoforum Wines as my host, while enjoying The Wines of Portugal.

Winemaker Óscar Gato of Adega Coop de Borba is based in the town of Borba, a municipality of the Évora District, in Portugal. As I’ve written earlier this week, to understand the people and their culture helps to understand the wines. This small village has many points of historical interest, including the ruins of a medieval castle, and many churches, built from the 15th to the 18th centuries:

  • Church of Nossa Senhora das Neves (15th century)
  • Church of the Convent of Servas de Deus (17th and 18th centuries)
  • a large stone Cross and Church of S. Bartolomeu (17th century)
  • Church of Santo António (17th century), their Town Hall was built in the 17th century
  • Church of Misericórdia (16th-18th century)
  • Via-Crucis (18th century), Fountain of Bicas (18th century)
  • Convent of Nossa Senhora da Consolação do Bosque (16 to 18th century)
  • Quinta (Estate) do General (16th-18th century)

Just as yesterday’s blog story about Carmim’s winery was in the small, rural village of Reguengos de Monsaraz, Borba is also to be appreciated as such, also in Portugal’s Alentejo Region. You can see on the map above, that for this day trip from Évora, we headed northeast to arrive in what I think of as the City of Marble.

When a quarry sits just outside of a community, once it’s been discovered that this asset is in the area, it makes perfect sense that that resource is then used to help construct the town. This image of a wall was taken in one of Borba’s plazas; it is completely constructed of marble, with the walkway also being constructed of marble pieces. It’s used profusely throughout the town, as if it were a simple product of nature, rather than a precious commodity. The lower portion of a house’s border, by perhaps a couple of feet, is made of marble. These are everyday houses. The marble is not reserved for churches, public buildings, or impressive retail outlets. It’s just part of the neighborhood… gorgeous marble.

Upon arrival we were met by Winemaker Óscar Gato, and I was again struck by the enormity of this adega’s size. [Adega refers to a Portuguese wine cellar, and is used in Portugal the way we use “winery” in the US.] This cooperative has been operating since 1955. Notice the word “coop” is being used in their name of Adega Coop de Borba. All of the wine companies that I visited were cooperatives. Many of the Portuguese brands of the Alentejo are the products of a cooperative. As a collective society, this is how they think… for the good of the region versus for the good of individual brands. The coop dictates the quality, and growers deliver the products. These regional grapes go into wine production and bottles as a specific regional brand… In this case, it’s Borba. I’m going to blog at a later date about this concept, because it’s fascinating how this system works, and works to the benefit of many, including the end users… consumers.

The soil from this region is different than that of Reguengos de Monsaraz. There, the land had a sandy quality to it. In Borba, considering all of the marble that’s there, that’s an initial tip-off that their soil holds a good amount of clay and schist. In the last 20 years there has been a 50 percent increase in vineyards in the Alentejo. Also, many older vines have been pulled out and been replanted with better clonal selections that are virus free.

Bottling has also been streamlined at this winery. More than 15,000 bottles/hour are filled with wine, with three separate lines (3,000, 6,000, and 6,000 are filled), has Adega Coop de Borba becoming a very efficient facility for this region. I’ve never seen the front end of a bottling line, where a palate of bottles are picked up and brought to the conveyor belt’s start. Thought you might also enjoy seeing how this happens.

Pictured above with Oscar Gato is José Fonseca, winemaker for Enoforum Wines ~ Évora. In this next image, the winemakers are reading labels on older bottles. This is another great photo to share, because this is how Adega Coop de Borba keeps track of wines that have been produced at this winery. An example of each and every bottle ever crafted is in this library. While this may be done by some in the US, I’ve yet to see anything this detail oriented. It’s very impressive.

Before we began to taste wines formally, we all tasted a barrel sample. In this photo, there are new faces. From left to right: Luís Ribeiro (product manager for Enoforum), José Fonseca, Gwendolyn Alley (who won the trip being offered by Enoforum Wines), Delfim Costa (Enoforum), and Óscar Gato.

The wines we tasted with Óscar Gato.

Adega de Borba 2008, D.O.C. Alentejo ~ Grape varieties: Roupeiro, Tamarez, Antão Vaz. The soil where this wine was grown is Argilo-calcários e xistosos. A real treat, this wine was only 13 percent alcohol. It has a slight, green-tinged color, and intense aroma of tropical and citrus fruits with a bit of mineral flavors from the soil. A perfect acid balance (Total Acidity: 5,90 g/l + PH: 3.20) made this wine very crisp and clean. I also tasted white grapefruit, especially on the finish. This wine was refreshingly smooth, and a delight to taste. There were 150,000 cases of this wine produced. (Bottom left label)

Adega Coop de Borba 2006, D.O.C. Alentejo ~ Tinta Caiada & Pinot Noir: Grape Varieties: 50 percent Tinta Caiada, 50 percent Pinot Noir. The soil where this wine is grown was chalky clay and schist. This wine had a very fruity nose and palate. I picked up lots of caramel and toasted butterscotch on the nose, hazel nuts and pine nuts on the palate, and the Pinot really rounded it out with a completely smooth finish. The alcohol content for this wine is 14 percent by volume. Total Acidity is 5.33 g/l, and pH is 3.43. It had a great balance, and the fruit really shone through. There are only 1,167 cases available of this wine. (Top left label) $20.00 retail US

2005 Alentejo ~ The label of this one, bottom right, tells you that this one is all about fun. Region: Borba – Alentejo – Portugal, Denomination, A.O.C. Alentejo Wine. Grape varieties for this wine are Trincadeira, Alicante Bouschet, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The soils consist of chalky clay and schist. Alcohol is 14 percent, TA is 5.40 g/l, and pH is 3.55. Only 2,500 cases of this wine was produced for the 2,500 vintage. The wine itself had a really deep garnet color. Like ruby red slippers. The intense aromas of beautifully mature red fruit and a sweet black pepper dominated, along with a hint of mint from the Alicante. This wine was beautifully elegant, with a finish that tasted of forest fruit, something new to my palate, but now very much appreciated, and hints of coffee and chocolate that produced an elegantly long finish. $12.00 retail for US.

Adega de Borba Reserva Montes Claros ~ To craft this special reserve wine Reserva, which is one of the oldest trademarks from the region of Alentejo, Adage de Borba carefully pre-selected all the grapes from their oldest vine, in order to rigorously follow the evolution of their maturity. The best of the best were harvested, and all done manually. In the winery, they were crushed, fermented and left in prolonged contact with the skins for 10-12 days, in order to extract all the fruit complexity and aromas. The malolactic fermentation occurred partially in stainless steel vats and the remainder in wooden barrels. Then a final selected blend matured for 12 months in new French and American oak, to gain more structure and complexity, with 6 months more months in bottles in their cellar. This was a complex treatment for a complex wine. Grape varieties include the following: Trincadeira, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tinta Caiada. Only 8,333 cases of this wine exists. Again, alcohol is 14 percent, TA is 5.90 grams per liter, and the pH: 3.50. This was a hugely structured wine, with a nose of cinnamon toast , toasted almonds, and a sweet lemon on the nose that spoke of its bring acidity. This is a beautiful wine that deserves more cellar aging, but certainly is enjoyable today for those of us who love tannins. $20.00 retail for US.

I’m leaving you with one last image below of this lovely area. As we headed out of town, we approached the marble quarry. This spoke volumes to their history and why their village used marble, which for them is so easily accessible. Also know that the Italians have seen the benefits of this marble, which you may have purchased as an Italian product. I once read – quite a while ago – that many of the olive oils that say “Packed in Italy” haven’t been grown there, but are imported from Portugal. I just purchased my first “Packed in Italy” olive oil, because in my supermarket I couldn’t find “Product of Portugal.” I’ve been spoiled for these Portuguese products, because they are so superior. This image was taken as we whizzed by the pilings… It’s was just unbelievable for me to fathom that much marble.

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