Wines: Carcavelos

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Wines: Carcavelos

Carcavelos is a traditional Portuguese wine region at the very tip of the Lisboa region. The flagship Carcavelos wine style is a robust red made from Ramisco grapes.

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Carcavelos lies just west of Lisbon and is exposed to the Atlantic coast on three sides. In some wine regions (Bordeaux and Margaret River among them), this level of maritime exposure is considered beneficial and even essential to the local climate. Here, however, brisk Atlantic breezes and mold-inducing mists are often too much for the vines to bear at harvest time. Vine health in the summer and early autumn has long been one of the key concerns for the Portuguese vigneron, and nowhere is that more prevalent than in Carcavelos. Drier, calmer climes lie just 15 miles (24km) to the northeast, in the shelter of the Serra Montejunto hills.

In a far cry from its heyday, Carcavelos now makes tiny quantities of fortified wine, little of which reaches the quality of Port. Similarly past its prime, neighboring Colares is better known for its surfing than for its rustic, dry reds, and for its phylloxera-free, sandy soils than the wines made from them. Carcavelos, like Colares, has seen its popularity dwindle in recent decades, as consumer preference and the modern Portuguese wine industry have favored vineyards further inland. Wine regions such as Bucelas (with its mineral-tinged, Arinto-based whites) and Alenquer (known for complex, plump reds) have taken the place of these coastal regions, whose rustic, often-angular styles have fallen out of fashion.

Despite this, it is important to remember that Portugal is a wine country of paradoxes: a resolutely Old World country whose explorers were responsible for discovering most of the New World, and a nation of traditionally low-key wines that was also home to the globe-dominating rosé Mateus. Portuguese innovation may yet revitalize Carcavelos wines.