Colares: Precious, Peerless, and Downright Delicious

Colares is one of the most unique, incredible, and tragically small wine regions in the world. The vineyards of Colares snake up the beaches of the coastal Portuguese town of Sintra, about an hour north of Lisbon. It is the only wine region in the world where vines are grown in deep sand, and as a consequence the vines are totally immune to phylloxera, so everything is grown on its own natural rootstock. Historically this actually made the region extremely important, as it was one of the only places in all of Europe that could continuously make world class wine through the phylloxera crisis of the 19th century. 

 

The red wines, made of Ramisco, are some of the most delicious and age-worthy made in all of Europe, with flavors that relate to both Burgundy and Piedmont, while regularly thriving in bottles for 100 years. I recently had a bottle of 1929 Viuva Gomes Colares that was bursting full of life. The white wines are made of Malvasia de Colares, a variety grown exclusively in Colares that is saline, textured, and immediately evocative of it’s coastal home.

Now, however, Colares has almost entirely disappeared, as the land it sits on (prime beachfront property only about an hour away from Lisbon) has become extremely desirable for luxury property development. Colares thrived under Phylloxera, but is now being eaten up by hotel chains and pied-a-terres. As a result the region has almost entirely disappeared, with just a handful of producers still making these incredible wines.

The 2020 releases of Colares have just arrived in the US! This year, however, it is all the sweeter. Whereas normally we would be eagerly awaiting our drop of Viuva Gomes, the great legacy producer of the region, this year they arrive alongside the wines of young maverick Nunu Ramilo, who in recent years made the largest commercial planting in the region in over a generation (at just over two hectares). His 2017 Malvasia de Colares was one of my favorite wines of 2019, and I have been eagerly anticipating its next release. 

As always Le Du’s has secured as much of the US allocation of these wines as possible, but the productions are incredibly small, so quantities are still extremely limited. See below! 

Viuva Gomes 2020 release

Viuva Gomes has been making wine in Colares for well over 100 years, and is the last of the legacy producers still making their wine outside of the co-op, bolstered by a modest holding of very old vines. The Malvasia is seductive and fresh, while the Ramisco is regal and incredibly ageworthy. These are magical wines that deserve to be considered among the best classic producers of Barolo and Burgundy. 

Viuva Gomes Ramisco de Colares 2012 (500ml bottle)- $42.99, 24 bottles available 

2012 was a difficult yet classic vintage for the region. A particularly rainy spring disrupted flowering, which lowered yields (something particularly bad for a producer that in a good year only makes about 1000L of this incredible nectar), but a calm and moderate summer lead into a healthy October harvest with historically classic levels of ripeness, the alcohol returning to the standard 11.5% after a few years of it reaching 12.5%. Expect a nose that opens up with gorgeous strawberry, tomato, and yellow plum, as well as an earthy pine and seabreeze minerality. The tannins are mouth filling but relatively soft, setting the wine up for a long life but not aggressively astringent. A great, classic Rasmisco. 

 

Viuva Gomes Malvasia de Colares 2018 (500ml bottle)- $42.99, 12 bottles available 

2018 was a relatively warm year in Portugal, but the proximity of Colares to the Atlantic (most plots of vines no more than 2km from the ocean) greatly tempered the heat and the harvest still largely took place in October. Viuva Gomes’ Malvasia vines are a jewel of the estate, being well over 100 years old. The vine age lends a concentration and intensity to a wine otherwise made in a very fresh style. The wine opens up with a beautiful lime citrus and tart passion fruit character, with an intense saline minerality that evokes Riesling with a coastal flair. The texture however is a touch softer in texture that evokes the waxy splash of great Chenin Blanc. Only about 500 bottles produced. 

 

Casal do Ramilo 2020 release

Casal do Ramilo has actually been making wine in the Colares region for a few generations, but up on the limestone hills where the wines are classified as wines of Lisboa. In 2014, however, Nuno Ramilo undertook the largest planting on the beaches of Colares in a generation, planting several hectares of Ramisco and Malvasia on their own rootstock just 1km from the ocean. The project immediately garnered several accolades. The 2017 Malvasia de Colares was named the second best white wine released in all of Portugal in 2019 by Revista de Vinhos, the country’s leading wine trade magazine. It was also one of my personal favorite wines I tasted in 2019, which I’m sure means just as much to Ramilo (hah!) None of the Ramisco wines are ready yet, but the 2018 Malvasia de Colares is one of my most anticipated wines of the year and I couldn’t be more excited to present it here. 

Casal do Ramilo Malvasia de Colares 2018 (750ml bottle)- $59.99, 24 bottles available. 

Just like the 2017, the 2018 Malvasia de Colares was partially fermented with the skins in an old traditional stone lagar, and again just like the 2017, the effect is not so much to create an orange wine but rather to give the wine a golden glow and elevated level of dry extract that evokes great Burgundy. The evocation does nothing to obfuscate the wine’s amazing sense of place, however, with notes of lime, nectarine, and apricot accompanied by wafts of sea breeze and fresh pine air. There is just a touch of matchstick and toasted rye that accents the beautiful fruit and minerality. The palate is chiseled yet not overly angular or sharp, the wine’s generous acidity tempered by the slightly waxy nature of the grape as well as the delicate tannin lent by the short time that the wine spends on the skins during fermentation. Another knockout, and just 600 bottles produced.

Ramilo Malvasia de Colares 2017 & 2018 2 pack- $100, 6 available

Haven't had the joy of experiencing Ramilo's Malvasia de Colares yet? We still have a tiny drop of the award winning 2017 left. Save over $20 by buying the 2017 and 2018 together in this two pack, and experience the magic from the beginning!