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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; 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, 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 mostly or wholly Castelãos bottlings available in the U.S., in or out of our price range. For a sample, the bottling below is about it.

Quinta de Chocapalha Castelão
(Don’t confuse this with any of their various red blends; this one is 100% Castelão.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” 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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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 Tuesday, 22 December 2020, at 8:44 pm Pacific Time.