Cellar door closed for annual summer holidays 18-27 July 2024.

 

Senhor Rita Mar 2021

Senhor Rita Mar 2021 is the most difficult and also the most intriguing wine we have made so far at Adega Belém. It is made of Castelão grapes planted in a monastery vineyard on the coast of Estoril, within the DOP of (fortified) Carcavelos wine. Located in the north west of Lisbon, the vineyard is located on a peninsula less than a kilometer away from the ocean to the south, and shielded from the direct cool winds from the north-west by the Sintra mountain range. We are definitely in a cool climate here, often wearing winter jackets at our summer barbecues to shield us from the gusty Atlantic winds. It’s a priori no great place to make great table wine.

2021, and even more so 2022 and 2023 were special. It was actually really hot during those summers in Lisbon. While most vineyards further inland suffered severe heat stress, the grapes in the Estoril vineyards happily kept ripening slowly throughout the summer, cooled down during the night, enjoying hot afternoons. We left them ripen further yet another week, and another week, and eventually hand-picked them, bunch by bunch, in perfectly healthy conditions, in September 2021. A short 20 minute drive later, they reached the winery in Belém where we immediately destemmed and crushed them, a left them in a steel tank to start to ferment.

The indigenous yeasts that came on the skin of the grapes and those that had long colonized our winery took over the fermentation, creating a happily bubbling red ferment after a couple of days. Curiously, the dominant aroma was fresh raspberry, which we found curious but also intriguing in a red wine. After racking and pressing, the wine went into refurbished French oak barrels where it would stay for quite a long time.

Senhor Rita is how David calls the girls when they do not respond to anything else. It is a jogo de palavras whereby the “R” in “Rita” is to be pronounced with a German accent, so it becomes “SenhoRita”. The visual design is based on a drawing by the winery’s eldest junior winemaker, Ana Lula, to which David added a moustache. Senhor Rita thus becomes a contemporary reinterpretation of the Dionysian figure of liber-libera, god and goddess of wine, wanderer between the worlds, emblem of human liberty, festive transgression, excess and coloured vitality.

By Easter 2022, the wine was totally closed, the raspberry aroma had disappeared and something more like a wet leafy forest floor became dominant.  We were not impressed, and actually quite anxious. The analytical data was fine, no excessive volatile acidity (indicating the very low presence of acetic bacteria making wine into vinegar). And so we waited, and waited, and waited eventually for 20 months, periodically tasting all barrels. Then suddenly, during late spring 2023, almost two years later, the wine opened to fruit once again. The raspberry was back, together with plum and cherry aromas.

We knew from our oenology degree, that aroma does not work in a linear way. Say you double concentrate something delicious (raspberry aroma for example), disappointingly, it does not produce a result double delicious. To the contrary, the concentration of an aroma – which is a molecule at the end of the day – determines quite different sensorial profiles. A triple concentrated raspberry could well smell wet forest floor. With increasing wine aging, these concentrations change when molecules are integrated in other, larger molecules. In any case, the wine started smelling extremely delicious once again and was on its way to become something really great and wonderful.

We decided to take up our brand name Senhor Rita, used for a Castelão wine made of grapes from the more inland Alenquer region in 2020, but this time adding the word “Mar”. Senhor Rita taking in the fresh air from the sea. A Senhor Rita on holiday. The same spirit of a complex, character-strong and open-colored red wine, but as its cooler climate Atlantic  variation. Like a summer holiday in Denmark, with a rain jacket, rubber boots, sunglasses, a blanket, a glass of red and a good book read in a deckchair!