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The Castelão Grape

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About Castelão

(Synonyms: Bastardo Castico, Bastardo Espanhol, Castelão Frances, Castelão Portugues, Castico, João Santarém, João de Santarém, Periquita, Piriquita, Piriquito)


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; The various Periquita bottlings will always contain Castelão, but most also contain varying amounts of other wines as well. Here is a table from the winery’s web page (as of autumn 2021):

Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita “Superyor”: Castelão (90%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), Tinta Francisca (3%)
Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita “Classico”: Castelão (100%)
Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita “Reserva”: Castelão (52%) | Touriga Nacional (26%) | Touriga Francesa (22%)
Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita “Original” : Castelão (58%) | Trincadeira (39%) | Aragonez (3%)
Jose Maria da Fonseca Periquita “Branco”: shown for sale but not shown on their site

(Only the “Superyor” and possibly the “Classico” are worth serious consideration; and we could find neither available anywhere on-line in the U.S. But there are other Jose Maria da Fonseca Castelão-based reds of interest—see the list farther below.)

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, seems 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).

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Some Descriptions of Castelão Wines

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Some Castelãos to Try

(About this list.)

There are very few wholly (or even largely) Castelão bottlings available in the U.S., in or out of our price range; and those that do exist are almost all low-priced plonk. The closest to a decent yet available Castelão is shown below.

Jose Maria da Fonseca “Waterdog” Red
(DonSt confuse this with their Reserve bottling below.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Reviews” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks.

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Jose Maria da Fonseca “Waterdog” Red Reserva
(DonSt confuse this with their non-Reserve bottling above.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Reviews” page.
• This wine has no CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks.

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For a Splurge

The Castelão wines available are so few that there really isn’t anything sufficiently better as to justify a “splurge” price.

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This page was last modified on Saturday, 30 October 2021, at 11:26 pm Pacific Time.