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The Castelão Grape

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About Castelão

(Synonyms: Castelão Frances, Castellam, João Santarém, Mortagua, Santarem, Teixeira Gyrão, Trincadeira Preta)


Map showing Portugal

Castelão is a red-wine grape originating in Portugal, where it is actually the most widely grown red variety (possibly most widely grown, period).

There is an undue amount of confusion about the relation between Castelão and Periquita: a great many sources (including, as we write, Wikipedia) seem to think that Periquita is simply a synonym for Castelão, but that is quite wrong. "Periquita" is a proprietary (or "brand") name, owned by the Jose Maria da Fonseca winery; Periquita blends will always contain Castelão, but most also contain varying amounts of other wines as well (apparently, only the da Fonseca "Periquita Classico" is 100% Castelão). Castelão was also once widely known as Castelão Frances, but when Portugal tightened up its wine laws, the official name became simply "Castelão".

What sort of wine one gets from the Castelão grape depends (as always) a good deal on how it is grown and vinified: some are described as "drink young", others as eminently age-worthy. The chief variable seems to be the tannin content (tannin-rich wines typically age much better, while low-tannin wines are for early consumption); that content, in turn, sems to depend strongly on vineyard qualities, from vine age to soil to temperatures—curiously, the vine thrives in harshly hot climes and poor, sandy soils.

What seem to be the common characteristics are fairly high acids and a medium body, with distinct raspberry qualities overlain by general red-wine spiciness. The better specimens are described variously as "dense" and "muscular" (sometimes even as "harsh when young"), with the complexity and subtlety of some much-more-famed red varietals.

Factoid: The name of the popular Castelão-based blend "Periquita" means "parakeet", but does not derive directly from the bird name, but rather from the name of the vineyard (Cova de Periquita) in which the founding da Fonseca first planted Castelão. Other grapes sometimes found in Periquita include Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, and Aragonez aka Tempranillo.

Some Descriptions of Castelão Wines

Some Castelãos to Try

(About this list.)

In these lists, we very much prefer monovarietals, not because they are somehow superior but because we try to give you specimens that best exhibit the grape's typicity. But, as is so often the case with Old World wines, it is easy to find blends with a given variety in them, but not so easy to find monovarietal bottlings, especially of at least decent quality for an at least reasonable price. In fact, we found only one. (The old standby, Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita "Classico", is now become both rare and pricey in the U.S.) Moreover, there is little material on line about this wine (though more about the winery and its other bottlings).

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Quinta de Chocapalha Castelão
(Don't confuse this with any of their various red blends; thjis one is 100% Castelão.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

A rich interpretation of the Castelão grape, the wine is opulent and generous. It has juicy black fruits that are lifted by acidity. The slight tannins are far in the background of this wine that will be ready to drink by the end of 2016 [2013 vintage]. 89 points, Best Buy

Quinta de Chocapalha Castelão is a radiant purple in color with an alluring nose of fresh raspberries, ripe cherries and subtle nuances of cocoa. The silky tannins and supple body attribute great balance and elegance. 16.5 points [Revista de Vinhos]

[T]his was lighter, with spicy, savory, red-fruit character, yet pure and persistent. Clearly this is a winery worth getting to know.

The flavous starts and finishes with ripe blackberry fruit, but in between there's an explosion of nostril-teasing South Indian black peppercorn, dried herbs like lemon thyme, redcurrant jelly, ripe acidity and grainy tannin that slightly furs your tongue in a refreshing way. [Oz Clark, My Top Wines for 2013

For a Splurge

Hobson' Choice: the wine above is it for decent monovarietal Castelão in the U.S..





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This page was last modified on Friday, 6 December 2019, at 9:32 pm Pacific Time.