Palace Hotel Bussaco - rare gems

Palace Hotel Bussaco - rare gems
Every now and again something crosses our radar that is so completely different that it almost demands an offer. Particularly when the wines in question have never previously been exported anywhere outside of Portugal.

The Palace Hotel Bussaco began life in 1917, nestled between Bairrada and Dao, an hour south of Oporto right in the middle of what was then a bustling holiday retreat for Portugal's wealthy elite. Its gothic grandeur, maintained all but unchanged by the de Almeida family over the past near century serves as a visual clue to the highly traditional, classical and timeless wines the hotel winery produces.

Hugh Johnson, who describes the winery as "legendary" and "worth the journey", goes on in his World Atlas of Wine to say "The potential of the region for truly remarkable table wines has one eccentric and wonderful witness. Right on its southeast boundary, on the slopes of the hill of Bucaco....the Bucaco Palace Hotel makes and matures red and white wines in a wholly tradicional way....The whites seem to be at their best at 20 years, the reds, velvety but intense, at about 30".

Whether or not you have to wait that long is open to debate, but they certainly favour highly traditional methods of winemaking. Foot treading in stone lagars, open fermentation, hand harvesting and labelling, the various varieties are vinified separately at low subterranean temperatures before blending and ageing in a mixture of large and small Bussaco oak, mahogany and chestnut barrels.

Such is the longevity of these wines the hotel's own wine list goes right back to 1945.

Stylistically, the two great portuguese grapes of the red, Baga and Touriga Nacional produce a wine of great depth of flavour but also bright and uplifting acidity. Moreover, they are wines that continue to evolve in the glass offering layer upon layer of complexity Lovers of Nebbiolo, Northern Rhone Syrah, and of course Baga, will undoubtedly find these fascinating and individual wines highly appealing.

The whites, blended from Encruzado, Maria Gomes and Bical, are also highly complex wines. With bright natural acidities, crushed rock aromas and essential citrus notes, they have at times been compared to some of the more gunflinty, serious and mineral end of white burgundies, while still remaining highly individual.