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Sometimes I romanticize about what it would be like to just give it the old college try and start a vineyard somewhere isolated; working my plot of land all alone (or with some kids to take over when my days are drawing nigh). Then I realize the likelihood of this happening is slim-to-none. But this dream turned into reality for Tiago Teles, one of our favorite natural wine makers in Portugal.
Tiago did not come from a winemaker’s background: there was no vineyard to inherit or winemaker in the family to live up to. He was a wine writer who traveled and tasted across Portugal, building a materialist and literary understanding of viticulture and agriculture. As such, he wrote a lovely manifesto on natural wine: “Wines with Terroir,” exploring the cultural, ethical and agricultural notions of identity in wine, with the “assertive philosophy of Bertrand Russell…and the irony of Eça de Queiroz.”
When Tiago became a winegrower in 2012, he moved to Bairrada where his family is from. The region is heavily influenced by the Atlantic, giving the grapes an ever-adapting, complex and living base. Some of Tiago’s vines are located on a small 2 hectare plot composed of limestone soils about 30 kilometers from the ocean. The vines for his RAIZ cuvees sit next to the river Vez in Arcos de Valdevez, in granite soils.
In 2015, Tiago partnered with Antonio Marques-da Cruz (from Quinta da Serradinha) to form COZs, working a vineyard in Figueria da Foz, next to the ocean. The vines are just shy of 50 years in age, co-planted on clay-limestone soils and farmed organically. The grapes are packed with ripeness and acidity due to the maritime climate.
COZs' vineyards in Serra de Montejunto (from the importer's website).
We are very excited to offer you today Tiago’s RAIZ and COZs wines to showcase this brilliant style of natural winemaking!
John David Crosby
100% Vital from 35 year old vines, planted in Serra de Montejunto, about 10 miles from the Atlantic. The wine is macerated for 3 days and then pressed to ferment with native yeast in old Burgundy barrels for 11 months. Vital, a rare variety only grown in Western Portugal, is characterized by it's lower acid content and fleshy profile.This carries over to the Vital Blanco, with gorgeous notes of green apple, minerals, a slight creaminess, and fresh green herbs. A savory spice is in the palate, while the nose shows orchard fruit, white flowers and almond skin. The wine is medium body and on the richer style, similar to a lovely Rhone Valley white. This would pair well with dover sole, seafood stews, or chicken in a cream sauce. JDC
A delightful and idyllic orange wine from Tiago Teles and Antonio Marques-da Cruz. 100% Vital - a rare local grape from the Serra de Montejunto near Lisbon, with two weeks of maceration on the skins, and aging for about a year in old barrels. From my little experience with Vital, there is a LOT of character, but it's not overwhelmingly fragrant on the nose. Along with subtle overtones of stone fruit and salt, there are lovely aromas of crushed skins that are given a chance. Delicate tannins, and a finish that is a bit more refined and long, compared to the young and vivacious 2018 Vital white. We are still learning as we drink "orange" or skin-contact wines, and there are many to try. Some derived from aromatic varieties like Muscat and Gewurztraminer, can be wildly interesting but quite pronounced. Others, from long macerations, can be particularly astringent from high tannin levels. Here is a noteworthy contribution to the mix. Elegant, and food friendly. Well worth a try for fans of skin contact (or what we could just call good) wines. -EL
Tiago wasn’t born into a winemaking family. He began his career as a wine critic, travelling around his native Portugal, while yearning to be closer to the land. In 2012, Tiago and his father leased a vineyard in Bairrada, where his father is from, about 15 kilometers from the Atlantic. His project is not based on specific varieties, but a devotion towards crafting wines that reflect the influence of the ocean, and his sandy, clay-limestone terroir. The Raiz Macerado is 100% Loureiro which spends two months in concrete tanks macerating and aging, before being aged on the lees for about eleven months. The contact with the skin gives this white wine some soft tannin with zesty notes of lemon, flowers, green herbs and spice. JDC
Tiago’s RAIZ Tinto is a co-ferment of roughly 90% Alfrocheiro, 10% Bical. From vines planted on clay-limestone soil, the grapes are hand-harvested in September, destemmed and co-fermented in 1000 liter tanks, followed by a short maceration and light pressing and 10 months in contact with the lees in raw cement tanks. Light bodied and zesty, Tiago’s wines are always backed by a heavy mineral presence. The palate shows notes of green herbs, slight grapefruit, sour cherry and some spice, with bright acidity and lovely structure. The wine certainly benefits from a slight chill before drinking. JDC