“I remember you!” says Nuno Franco, General Manager of Terra d’Alter in the chilly air outside the Alentejo Wine Route office. It’s a chilly night in Alentejo, and even though I’ve been here only six hours I’m charmed by the city of Evora which is surrounded by ancient walls. Dry leaves are falling onto the street, and with a few historic monuments illuminated, the ambiance is quite enchanting.
Inside the tourist office the air is warm and Nuno and I reconnect – I had visited Portugal a few years back with a group of educators, and we had visited his facility.
This time, we are having our tasting in Evora, with Nuno as well as winemaker Frederico Rosa Santos (interesting, a fellow Master of Wine student!) and founders was the location for a tasting of wines from Terra d’Alter.
The company was founded in 2004 by the Sociedade Agricola das Antas when three entities came together: Professor Dr. Jose Roquette, Sociedade Agricola Monte Barrao (owned by the Borges family), and the winemaker Peter Bright, an Australian who settled in Portugal in 1981. A modern vinification center was built at the winery in 2008 with sophisticated equipment and more than 600 oak barrels.
Terras de Alter vineyards are distributed between Alter do Chao and Fronteira in the Portalegre district, and planted in 2001 close to Serra de Sao Mamede, a region that has a special climate and a very high elevation, along with granitic, clay, and limestone soils that gives good drainage.
Peter Bright directs operations, having made wine all over the world. He had worked for many big Australian names and spearheaded a movement in Argentina to transform the country from producer of bulk wines into a bottler of premium varieties.
The wines have won many awards from prestigious competitions such as Wine Enthusiasm, and the International Wine Challenge.
We tasted through the lines, and below are some of my notes:
2012 Terra D’Alter White Blend
Refreshing dry white with crisp dry finish and hints of tangy lemon
2011 Terra D’Alter Arinto
Smokey quality to the wine, still fresh yet more complex with crisp dry finish.
2011 Terra D’Alter Viognier
On the nose lemon verbena and juicy palate with beam of minerality and crisp dry finish.
2011 Terra D’Alter Verdelho
Lively acidity and beam of minerality with a crisp dry finish. Slight citrus tang.
2012 Terra D’Alter Alvarinho
Very assertive nose (mineral) and on the palate tangerine and minerals. Medium plus crisp finish
2011 Terre D’Alter Alvarinho rose
Touriga national and tempranillo. Beautiful baby rose color with assertive tannins, bright acidity, and a crisp dry finish.
2011 Riserva Viognier
Partially fermented in oak. Nose of fresh pineapple with sumptuous body and flavors of freshly cut citrus and some tropical fruit. Crisp dry acidity. Prize in 2009 best Portuguese white wine International Wine Challenge
2011 Telhas Terra D’Alter Viognier
100% fermented in oak … fabulous color … golden highlights. Skin contact before fermentation for two days. Cold skin contact. Wild yeasts Incredible luxury to smell and drink this wine … roasted pineapple on nose and palate, med finish with mellow roased pineapple. Great structure. Very elegant.
2011 Terra D’Alter 2011 red blend
Alicante Bouchet, Touriga national, Tricandeira, Argonez … Spicy, intense, a very full bodied wine with fruit and dry finish
2011Alfrocheiro Terra D’Alter (single varietal)
Color is deep penetrated red, nose is floral and palate is balanced acidity and palate with a mineral sharpness and dry crisp mineral finish.
2010 Touriga Nacional Terra D’Alter (single varietal)
Nose sweet concentrated cherry syrup, deep color extraction – won trophy for best Alentejo red wine … very smooth polite and sophisticated wine with elegant flavors and a rich, full bodied mouthfeel.
2009 Argonez Terra D’Alter (single varietal)
Deep concentrated color – rich ripe strawberry …. almost a syrup that pairs well with a charred steak
2010 Alicante Bouchet Terre D’Alter (single variety)
Intense dark garnet, nose is similar to milk chocolate, palate is very high acidity with milk chocolate and raspberry … like a chocolate covered cherry.
After the tasting, we went to dinner and enjoyed the wine as wine is meant to be enjoyed!