This wine derives its name from a small palace located in Azeitão, Palácio da Bacalhôa, and the company that owns and produces the Bacalhôa pioneered the planting of the Cabernet Sauvigon variety in Portugal in 1974.
By João Barbosa
The Quinta da Bacalhôa red comes from a quinta (estate) with one of the most beautiful and iconic manor houses of Portuguese Renaissance. This wine derives its name from a small palace located in Azeitão, only a few kilometres’ distance from Lisbon, which was once the property of Brás de Albuquerque, the eldest son of the second Viceroy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque.
Brás de Albuquerque, to whom King Manuel I added the name Afonso in honour of the military genius who had asked him to look after his son, was also the owner of another illustrious 16th century building, the so-called Casa dos Bicos, in Lisbon. Legend has it that each of the pointy, diamond-shaped stones (which the local people called bicos – facets) that line the façade of this house located in Campo das Cebolas, in the district of Alfama, actually stood for one of the precious stones from its owner’s fortune. Partially destroyed by the great earthquake that razed most of Lisbon in 1755, the Casa dos Bicos was restored in the early 1980s to house one of the sections of an important exhibition on Portuguese art and culture from the Age of Discoveries. It recently opened as the headquarters of the José Saramago Foundation, which manages the estate of the late Portuguese writer and Nobel laureate.
Going back to Azeitão, the building of the Palácio da Bacalhôa, which until a few years ago had been mostly neglected and abandoned, is the calling card of Bacalhôa Vinhos, one of Portugal’s most important wine producers, which receive guests there. Its ground floor is open to the public, and displays some significant pieces, namely those connected with Catherine of Braganza who, as wife of King Charles II, was Queen Consort of England in the 17th century.
While the company itself is large, the estate surrounding the Bacalhôa Palace is rather modest in size, covering only some four hectares. The vineyard from which the wine referred to here is produced, however, is even smaller, comprising a total of 0.3 hectares.
The company that owns and produces the Bacalhôa pioneered the planting of the Cabernet Sauvigon variety in Portugal, in 1974. Its ownership changed hands in the meantime, but kept the investment in this variety from Bordeaux. Nearly 40 years later, the Bacalhôa’s Cabernet Sauvigon is still one of the most prestigious in the country.
The Palácio da Bacalhôa 2007 edition wasn’t made with the Cabernet Sauvignon variety alone, as this is a blend wine which also includes Merlot (25%) and Petit Verdot (5%) varieties. With regard to both this edition in particular and its other editions, the Palácio da Bacalhôa is a wine that stands to gain from maturing in bottle. The 2008 vintage, for instance, is still a bit raw.
Due to the acidity of the soil where the vineyard is located, the Palácio da Bacalhôa should be decanted, or at least opened sometime in advance, to allow it to reveal its rich and complex aromas. Its bouquet has notes of red fruits, coffee, mint and nuts. In the mouth it also reveals being complex, with good structure, elegance and a very good ending.
For those who enjoy the variety and wish to find out more about the abilities and characteristics of the producer’s Cabernet Sauvignons, you can try out the Quinta da Bacalhôa, which is also a highly recommended, top-quality wine, and more cost-friendly.