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There’s a vinicultural revival going on across the sprawling Douro Valley. Younger winemakers are taking charge of their families’ estates or bringing their own independent projects to fruition. A new generation is making wine unlike the Portuguese table wine we’ve come to know, particularly in the Douro Valley, the oldest demarcated appellation in Western Europe. Eponymous with Port wine, the Douro Valley has steadily been moving on from its reputation as a fortified wine appellation. The Salazar dictatorship had a heavy influence on the country’s wine industry, by monopolizing legislation that benefited co-ops over individual producers. This led to a drop in quality, until the 1980s, when Portugal joined the E.U. and small producers received subsidies and grants to improve their vineyards and winemaking facilities. Today, Portuguese winemaking is in its prime. The Douro Valley is ascending to new heights as an appellation, with subtle, savory and mineral-driven wines of pristine quality.
We are delighted to showcase three wines from an outstanding member of the new generation of Portuguese vignerons, Luis Seabra. Having spent a decade leading the wine program at Dirk Niepoort’s eminent estate in the Douro Valley, Luis brings a terroir-driven approach to his winemaking, with focus going to soil type (yellow schist – or, “xisto” – a high-acid, crystalline soil) and climate. Nestled in the hills of the subregion Cima Corgo, almost 2,000 feet above sea-level, Luis farms his vineyards with minimal intervention, respecting the mineral-filled soil above all else. His vines, co-planted red and white varieties (naturally) see a drastic temperature change from day to night, leading to an extended maturation on the vine.
These wines are spectacular examples of this new generation in Portugal. Luis Seabra is truly doing extraordinary viniculture in the Douro Valley, and is being recognized as a master of this new movement. It is delightful to see a winemaker with such devotion to this ancient land, producing wines of remarkable quality and transparency. Luis is a wonderful addition to the shelves at Chambers Street.
-John David Crosby
Having spent nearly a decade shaping the wine program at Dirk Niepoort’s eminent Douro estate, Seabra’s wines are a sublime example of the terroir of his native Douro Valley. His wines are always terroir-driven, and his dedication to expressions of schist-soil is the most important factor in his wine-making. Xisto Illimatado Branco (a Portuguese analogue to the idea of a “village” level Burgundy) is a field-blend of Rabigato, Codega, Gouveiu and Viosinho from 30-45 year-old vines, planted at high elevation in Cima Corgo, a subregion in the Douro Valley that experiences extreme variances in temperature (allowing an extended hanging period for the fruit). The wine offers the closest expression to Chablis outside of Burgundy: bright acidity, ultra-expressive minerality, with notes of ripe citrus, green apple, slate minerals. Seabra’s wines can be aged for another decade, but can be enjoyed today with oysters, scallops, and rock shrimp tempura. JDC
The Xisto Ilimitado is a delightful entry into the wines of Luis Seabra's latest project. This is a red blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz, Rufete, Tinta Barroca, Malvasia Preta and Deonzelinho Tinto. It shows soft tannins, notes of pepper, spice, smoked meat, and bright dark fruit. Backed by a strong mineral presence and great acidity, this wine shows a velvety depth in the finish. Almost Saint-Joseph in profile, this wine will age incredibly well, but can be drunk now with any roasted meat or game. JDC
This is a single-vineyard bottling from Seabra, built around 30% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), 30% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Amarela, 5% Tinta Barroca, 5% Rufete, 5% Touriga Brasileira, 5% Donzelinho Tinto, 5% Malvasia Preta, 5% Touriga Feme. Aged in old French oak barrels, the wine has a unbelievable depth and purity based around bright fruit, minerality and soft tannins. Notes of cassis, currant, cherry, and tobacco leaf remind me of young Burgundy. A stellar single-vineyard wine that can showcase the very best of Portuguese terroir. The minerality and weight within this bottle is astounding, and I can only imagine what this wine will look like in 10 years. A masterful bottling from Luis. JDC