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I first came across Douro reds in the UK, around the early 2000’s. Quinta do Crasto comes to mind, and they were excellent. Full bodied and round, they wore the sun on their shoulders. Not the scorching stab of mid afternoon Australian sun, but a warm, cosy coat of juicy fruited pleasure. Delicious. So much so that I thought if you were to introduce Australian’s to European wines, this is where I would start. Italian and French were often too tannic, to acidy, to thin, for Aussies brought up on fat, fruity, oaky beasts – Douro reds offered a halfway point.

 

Angels from Ashes

And then I tasted the wines of Luis Seabra. All my understanding and knowledge of the Douro, admittedly limited as it was, had to be cast aside. In fact, it is hard to imagine that such a hot, hilly and dry wine region could produce wines of entirely translucent, ethereal, pure, delicacy. A lesson for all wine buffs who jump to conclusions and generalise a region’s wines according to numbers; vintage, rainfall, harvest dates, and so on.

 

Steeped in tradition

Perhaps I am only telling part of the story. Luis Seabra makes wines from not only the Douro, but from Vinho Verde and Moncao-Melgaco. Curiously, he was head winemaker at Niepoort for a decade and these wines are a complete departure from traditionally made Douro wines, fortified or otherwise. Winemaking is kept simple, with very little sulphur additions and nothing else. Ferments are wild and unforced, and extractions are incredibly gentle. The vineyards are almost invariably remote and very old. They are generally planted to various varieties, many of them ancient and verging on extinction. Whatever the vineyard gifts, is what you drink in the glass.

Truly historic, idiosyncratic wines are rare. Made in tiny quantities they tell a story of the choices of previous generations. Choices made to ensure an ample supply of wine, regardless of weather conditions, and to the taste of the families and communities that planted, cared for, fermented and imbibed the wine. These are truly remarkable wines, utterly unique, that can only have come from the fields and villages they were planted in.

 

Luis Seabra Xisto Ilimitado Branco 2019

Minerality drives this white – wet flinty stones mix with fresh nectarine, white peach, and Bartlett pear on the nose. A bright lifted palate follows, packed full of fresh picked orchard fruits and more stony minerals. Xisto Ilimitado Branco is graceful and powerful all at once, without ever coming across as heavy. Long and seamless across the tongue, and laced with mouth-watering wet stone that sucks you back in for more.

Luis Seabra Xisto Ilimitado Tinto 2018

Perfect introduction to Seabra’s wines – a field blend of 6 varieties planted across 3 subzones in the Douro. 30% of the grapes were fermented in traditional stone Lagar with whole cluster, foot trod with a total maceration of eight days, the remaining 70% fermented with 30% whole cluster in stainless steel tanks with a total maceration of 25 days. Aged for one year in used French oak barrels. Sweet, juicy fruit and a touch of spice.

Luis Seabra Granito Cru Alvarinho 2019

Brilliant straw. On the nose, high toned and mineral driven aromas of lemon peel, green apple, lemongrass and seashells. On the palate, impressive weight combined with laser-focused acidity. Incisive flavors of lemon, unripe peach, green apple, green mango are at the core, with focused and pervasive mineral notes.

Luis Seabra Xisto Cru Branco 2019

Brilliant straw. On the nose, high toned and mineral driven aromas of sour peach, flowers, fresh fennel bulb and savoury. On the palate, more peach, citrus zest and fennel, with white pepper and floral tones rounding out the finish.

Luis Seabra Xisto Cru Tinto 2017

Dark ruby. On the nose, mineral driven aromas of red berries, forest floor, green herbs and smoke. On the palate, lively acidity cuts through a core of fraise de bois, ripe strawberry and sour cherry, with excellent cut and precision to the wet stone and dusty mineral on the finish. Decant for an hour prior to serving.

 

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