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Colares Wine 02 Jun '20

Colares wine is perhaps the most peculiar wine in Portugal. Colares wine is the result of the influence from the Atlantic Ocean and the Sintra Hill, which together create a unique microclimate that is present in each of the Colares wines. The Atlantic influence brings the constant humidity, the saline wind that when it blows strongly is called “Nortada” and the sea breeze that is felt when the wine is tasted.

The Sintra Hill creates a barrier to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, which guarantees an always mild climate, whether on winter mornings or on the hottest summer days. This series of factors, together with the people of Colares, created what is perhaps the most peculiar region in the world in this matter. And Colares wine is proof of that. Before revealing the secrets of this wine, it is worth traveling through history...

900 years ago, Colares wine drew the attention of our first King, Afonso Henriques, but it was not until 1230 that King Afonso III handed over the lands to noble families to keep producing this wine. However, the region's hegemony started only at the end of the sec. XIX, after the phylloxera (insect that attacks the roots of the vines and kills them) decimated the vines throughout Europe.

Fortunately for Colares wine - and because the vines are on sand land - the phylloxera did no damage in the region, which took the opportunity to 'grow' in such a way that in 1931 the Adega Regional de Colares had to be created to protect the Colares wine against the counterfeits that arose at the time, due to the fame of Colares wine.

In 2008 Casca Wines decided to create its own Colares wines.

In addition to the region being closely linked to the origin of Casca Wines, the winemakers also wanted to revive the unique traditions of making wine there, since at that time Colares was forgotten in time. Since then, the region and Colares wine have won the attention of national and international opinion leaders. And something very interesting was achieved: new vines were planted in those sands.

The way of cultivating the vine in the Colares wine region is also very unique. To be able to plant the vine, you have to dig until you find the clay soil, or hard ground as they call it there, which is under the sand. This alone is often a heroic feat, as there are areas where the sand can be up to seven meters deep.

In this region, what is planted is vitis vinífera, as it does not need grafting to combat phylloxera. After planting, it requires waiting between four to seven years for the vine to gain strength to rise to the surface of the sand and there begin to produce the precious Colares grapes.

It is curious to see when the vines' trunks on the surface extend their shoots across the sand, resembling a tangle of snakes stretched out in the sun. When bunches gain weight, they lean against the ground and receive the thermal energy from the sand heated by the sun that provides them with heat, helping them to mature.

At the time when the Colares grapes reach the point when the berrie’s skin are soft, it is time to raise the pontoons, which are small pieces of cane that are placed to support the trunks of the vines so that the bunches leave the ground and stay hung to air and dry the water from the humid summer mornings. In addition to all this, the vine grower still has to build wind barriers, which are usually made from the cane fields that exist there.

 

Colares Wine Grape Varieties

Colares wine grape varieties are like the region itself, peculiar.

The queen variety is Ramisco and it was this one that marked both the wine and the Colares region. It is a difficult variety in the vineyard, very vegetative and with delicate grape skin. It is also difficult in the cellar, with evident acidity and a high concentration of tannins.

Colares wines are the solid expression, not only of the region's Terroir, but also of the character of this grape variety, Ramisco, which although genetically linked to the Pinot Noir grape variety, Ramisco de Colares is inimitable, as it transmits to wines an austere side, while being extremely elegant.

The Colares wine, which is the expression of the Ramisco grape variety planted in those sandy soils besides the Atlantic Ocean, is medium in body and has a firm structure and is well marked by its tannins, which give Colares wines of the Ramisco grape a unique longevity, lasting well beyond 50 years in the bottle.

The Malvasia de Colares variety is, as its name indicates, a Malvasia exclusive to the Colares region. Even in the Colares region, white wines have never had the attention that Ramisco has. But today, that white wines are already more valued, those from the Colares region and from the Malvasia de Colares grape variety are the manifestation of salinity and achieve an expression of the Colares terroir that make them unavoidable.

The Malvasia de Colares grape variety is very elegant and has relatively strong skin, which allows it to withstand the morning fogs at the final stage of maturation in the vines. The Malvasia de Colares character perfectly expresses the region itself, making it the perfect match for Colares wine.

There are other grape varieties in the region, such as Molar, which was planted there in order to soften the Ramisco grape variety, bringing to the blend - where it cannot be more than 15% - some higher alcohol content and a feeling of less astringency.

In relation to the white grape varieties also present in the region, Galego Dourado stands out, which also appears in the Colares vineyards and which, like the Molar grape variety, also serves to bring some alcohol content to Malvasia de Colares and helps to balance some acidity more pronounced in colder vintages, that Malvasia de Colares may have.

 

Colares Wine Producers

Colares wine producers are very few in balance with the size of this micro-region. There is an vital producer in the Colares region, the Adega Regional de Colares. This cooperative winery played a very important role during the golden times of the Colares wine region.

It was this winery that guaranteed the protection of the Colares Apellation of Origin, since the strength of Colares wines was so pronounced at the beginning of the sec. XX that any wine producer wanted to have Colares wine to sell, which gave rise to forgeries that this winery would put an end to. Between 1931 and 1998 it was mandatory to deliver the grapes to the Adega Regional de Colares.

This cooperative alone held the Colares wine guarantee seals until that date. The remaining brands, such as Chitas and Viúva Gomes, which are still active today, continue to buy Colares wine produced at the Adega Regional de Colares, after which the wine is finished by these producers to be bottled.

In 1999, another producer joined the region, the Fundação Oriente, planting its own modernized vineyard, in a Spallier system, and not as typically produced, with the vine trunks spreading across the sand and the grapes growing in constant contact with it, taking advantage of the heat of the sand to better ripen and produce the typical Colares wine.

In 2008, Casca Wines joined.

Always focused on reviving traditions and rejuvenating the Colares wine region. We partnered with experienced grape growers in the region who have always kept the century-old culture tradition alive. Casca Wines, with the help of three grape growers, started making their own wine at Adega Viúva Gomes, which opened the doors for us to work and dignify the region and Colares wines.

Recently, Casal de Santa Maria joined the group of producers, who make their wine like Chitas and Viúva Gomes, in partnership with the cooperative Adega Regional de Colares, and also an old producer in the region, but who did not produce Colares wine, having started his own plantation in 2015 and launched his first wines, Casal do Ramilo.

 

Where to buy Colares Wine?

The simplest way to buy Colares wine is to visit the Casca Wines website and order online, receiving these magnificent and rare Colares wines in the comfort of home.

Alternatively, you can visit the producers of the region and also Casca Wines and buy Colares wines at our Cellar Door or look in specialized wine shops, such as Gourmet at El Corte Inglés.

In any way, be sure to taste Colares wine, if you like unique and unforgettable experiences.


Helder Cunha
My life is wine