The Jewel of Portugal’s Península de Setúbal

Valley in Setúbal Peninsula, Portugal
Valley in Setúbal Peninsula, Portugal

Located south of Lisbon, on the other side of the Tagus estuary, the Setu?bal district’s abundance of sunshine, sea and sand make it not only a popular holiday destination but a region where Castela?o, a native Portuguese red grape variety thrives. It has famously done so since the middle of the 19th century, when Jose? Maria da Fonseca produced Periquita, Portugal’s first bottled table wine brand. Made predominantly from the eponymous grape, the wine brought newfound recognition to both the variety and the region.

Palmela, the pinnacle

Still called Periquita by locals, Castela?o is the Setu?bal district’s most planted grape. Hardy and adaptable, it has long been popular with growers. For wine lovers, Castela?o’s charm resides in an abundance of sweet-scented, soft, fleshy fruit, which reaches its apogee in Palmela DOC, on the Setu?bal peninsula itself. Here, in the variety’s heartland, Palmela’s heat-retentive sandy soils intensify Castela?o’s perfumed, emphatically red berried, plummy fruit, with black and blue berry fruit in riper, fuller-bodied examples.

Setu?bal’s treasure

Low in tannins, young Castela?o is typically supple and approachable. Nonetheless, wines are well-balanced thanks to the grape’s natural acidity, encouraged by the pervasive Atlantic influence which tempers Peni?nsula de Setu?bal’s warm, dry Mediterranean climate. Deliciously mellow with bottle-age, Castela?o develops tertiary notes of liquorice spice, dried plums, chocolate and soft leather. The best examples of each vintage can age comfortably for decades.

Palmela DOC’s red wines often comprise 100% Castela?o, or thereabouts – however, blends must always include at least 67% of Castela?o. Red wines from Peni?nsula de Setu?bal VR can be made from many varieties, and in any proportion, however Castela?o remains a firm favourite in this much larger area. It covers the Setu?bal peninsula and extends well south, encompassing a long corridor of land, between the Atlantic coastline and Alentejo.

Map of Portugal's wine regions

Ample potential

With over forty producers, varied soils and micro-climates (notably the calcareous slopes of the Serra da Arra?bida, and continental influence for areas further inland), Peni?nsula de Setu?bal is the place to explore the Castela?o’s full range of expression. Expect powerful, top tier examples to hail from older vineyards, planted to traditional clones, with a smattering of other local grapes, notably Tintinha at Pegos Claros. At the other end of the spectrum, Castela?o’s smooth, fruity charm makes for excellent entry-point wines.

More recent developments include blending Castela?o with leading grapes from elsewhere in Portugal or France, such as Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon or Tannat. Earlier-picked, lighter single-varietal Castela?os and Castela?o blends with crunchy acidity and lower alcohol are emerging as the region’s young guns reflect current drinking trends. Meanwhile, elegant, perfumed examples are winning Castela?o a new moniker, ‘warm climate Pinot Noir,’ highlighting producers’ renewed ambition and regard for Peni?nsula de Setu?bal’s signature red grape variety.


Castela?o – eight wines to try:

Herdade Pegos Claros, Grande Escolha , Palmela, Portugal 2017 
Century-old bush vines deep-rooted in sand, produce intense waves of fleshy plum and strawberry, with lingering black tea, saline, coffee and mushroom notes. Ripe tannins and harmonious acidity make for a seamless flow. Foot-trodden with 40% whole bunches in lagares, it is aged in 50% new French oak 500l barrels.
Drink 2023-2037 Alc 13.8%
95 points

José Maria da Fonseca, Periquita Superyor, Peninsula de Setúbal, Portugal 2017

Jose? Maria da Fonseca, Periquita Superyor, Peninsula de Setu?bal, Portugal 2017
Imported by M Imports (USA)
Well-defined, with concentrated, supple blackcurrant, red and black cherry, berry fruit and smoky chalk/iodine, catering chocolate and black tea nuances. Fine-grained, ripe tannins support the lithe, long…


Source : https://www.decanter.com/sponsored/the-jewel-of-portugals-peninsula-de-setubal-517935/

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