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Ever since a brief trip to Lisbon and the surrounding wine regions earlier this year, I've caught the bug for Portugese wines. There's a lot to learn about the entire country, and the various traditions of winemaking, so I admit I'm not an expert, but if I may, I'd like to share my enthusiasm for the wines I have discovered. Appyling the Chambers Street Wines filter (organic viticulture, indigenous yeast and low intervention wine-making are a must) allows us to narrow our focus, and the results have been dynamic and delicious!
Vale da Capucha is a small estate in the Torres Vedras DOC, within the Lisboa wine region, about 10km from the Atlantic Ocean (approximately 45 minutes northwest from Lisbon). Here the passionate Pedro Marques (pictured above with his wife and partner, Sonia) has been busy replanting indigenous grapes and converting his family's estate to organic and biodynamic farming. I had the pleasure of visiting Pedro last winter and spending time with him at his home. Walking through the vineyards and visiting his large garage-cellar was a treat, and the wines were truly unique, especially from the local grape Arinto, which transmits the minerality of the soil and the saltiness of the ocean in a remarkable way. In the cellar, winemaking is all low SO2, with occasional no sulfur bottlings. The vineyards are situated on a fault of Kimmeridgian limestone, with some clay, and they lend a linear mineral character that I found to be present in all of the wines. Pedro's work is impressive and his commitment to the Lisboa region and it's history is noteworthy. The region isn't well known even in Portugal, so his efforts will hopefully pay off and gain the area some recognition. Maybe he'll even convince some neighbors to pursue the organic/biodynamic route! (We originally learned about Pedro from Eric Texier, who has been an enthusiastic supporter of Pedro's project, and a fan of the wines!)
António Lopes Ribeiro and Sara Dionisio are the team behind the Casa de Mouraz, which is based in their native Dão region. Theirs was the first estate in the Dão to receive organic certification in 2000, and the estate converted to biodynamic agriculture in 2006. I'll be writing more about them later this year, but with summer arriving, it seems appropriate to highlight a mineral white wine they make from organic vineyards in the Vinho Verde region, north of Dão.
Folias de Baco is an estate that was started in 2007 by Douro native, Tiago Sampaio. The vineyards are located in the Alto Douro, on soils of schist and granite. He is reviving old traditions by making fascinating field blends from indigenous varieties, and at the same time exploring his love for Pinot Noir, which he developed while studying winemaking in Oregon.
Antonio Madeira is a young winemaker situated in the Dao, in the foothills of the Serra da Estrela mountain range (the highest mountain range in Portugal). He has spent a considerable amount of time hunting down old vineyards and works all of his parcels organically, with minimal additives in the cellar. His wines are all field blends, and usually cofermented, as each parcel has multiple varieties and Antonio feels that they were planted this way for a reason. It sounds progressive and new, but in fact this was how wine was made in Portugal many generations ago! From what I've tasted so far, we will be looking forward to many years of great wines from this young adventurer.
This is 100% Arinto from Kimmeridgian soils in the Torres Vedras DOC in the Lisboa wine region. Aging is over 10 months, half in tank and half in demi-muid (600 liter barrels). If you're searching for a wine with a bit of salinity and mineral lift, this is it! In a day when I tasted a multitude of white wines from many different countries, this one stood out as expressing something truly unique. Likely it's a combination of the terroir, the distinct qualities of the Arinto grape, and the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. It's something I doubt could be replicated anywhere else. Recommended for curious and adventurous wine drinker alike!
Winemaker Tiago Sampaio spent some time in Oregon, working in vineyards and studying oenology. Here, he developed a love for Pinot Noir, and upon his return to Portugal, he planted some Pinot Noir in his high altitude vineyards. This is a Pet Nat (Petillant Naturel aka Methode Ancestrale) from Tiago's Pinot Noir vines. It's a beautiful pale pink color in the glass, not overly aromatic, and delicate on the palate. A welcome addition to our sparkling wine section! P.S. Uivo Pet Nat Rose was recently featured in the New York Times 20 under 20! EL
This is a fantastic field blend from Antonio Madeira in the Serra da Estrela sub-region in the Dão. Primarily Alfrocheiro and Touriga Nacional, with several other indigenous varieties that are co-planted on rugged granitic soils. Aging is for 18 months, in old French barrels and 3 months in stainless steel before bottling. The wine is vibrant and balanced, with subtle tannin, and some real material. Though there are some white grapes in the blend, it looks and acts like a red wine, and would be perfect with anything from the grill this summer! Feel free to chill for 15-20 minutes to give it a little extra freshness on the palate.
Fossil is a white blend, comprising of mostly Fernão Pires (otherwise known as Maria Gomes), with a bit of Arinto and a small percentage of other regional white grapes. It's not as striking as the 100% Arinto from the old vines close to Pedro's home, but its also not as intensely saline, making for a more "crowd-pleasing," crisp white, with subtle texture and a bit of weight. Serve with seafood, salads, and the like.
From the lovely couple at Casa de Mouraz, Biotite is mostly Loureiro from certified organic vineyards in the Vinho Verde region, grown on granitic soils in the valley of the Lima River. This is a lovely mineral driven white, and a real eyeopener to the potential of the Vinho Verde wines. Most people just know the spritzy low alcohol whites (from early harvested usually under-ripe grapes), but this is a real wine, made from mature fruit and allowed to ferment naturally for a different kind of expression. Enjoy on its own on a sunny afternoon or with seafood, chicken, vegetables, sushi, salads, and cheeses.