Australian winemaker Peter Bright might be a long way from home in Alentejo, Southern Portugal, but when it comes to region's sunny weather- he's well and truly in his element. Winemakers, and drinkers alike are embracing the ripe and rich 'modern style' wines that are being made in this warm climate. . Instead of the intensely savoury and age-worthy style that is traditional to the area, these new modern wines are immediately expressive and show off bold fruit flavours. Not only are they ready to drink young, but they are often affordable alternatives to new-world wines.
Peter has been making wine, under the Terra D'Alter label, since he moved to Portugal in the 1980s. He's seen the transformation of the Alentejo, which stretches across Portugal from Lisbon to the Spanish border, from a region known for abundant cork trees and agriculture into an exciting wine-producing area.
Alentejo is not steeped in the traditions of the Dao or Douro, and winemakers champion the popular native grapes like red Tempranillo (known here as Aragonez), Touriga Nacional, Alfrochiero and Trincadeira. Amongst the native grapes, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier are becoming more popular here.
To do justice to these grape varieties, and make flavourful wines that are not 'flabby' and over-ripe Peter has planted his vines in 'Alto Alentejo' on the foothills of the Serra de São Mamede Mountains. With a little altitude and the right exposure, these mountains allow the grapes to grow with plenty of sunlight but not excessive heat.
This is what I find so charming about the wines of Terra D'Alter- they have sunny sophistication, without an off-putting rusticity. The 'Alf' (Alfrochiero) is full of shiny red fruits which fill the palate without overcomplicating tannins. Pure juicy delight. A Trincadeira, Aragonez and Syrah blend speaks more to purple plummy fruits. Yet it's not all red wines here, a blend of natives Síria (known as Malvasia elsewhere) and Arinto with a touch of Viogner is delightfully dry, it's tropical fruits nicely curtailed with a herbal edge. Peter also makes sweet late-harvest Viognier, which is fermented and aged in oak barrels. In addition to these wines, Peter also vinifies a range of more 'serious' single varietal wines, which may benefit from aging. Notably the extremely structured 'Morde' Tinta Cão, with finely grained tannins, and the weighty, layered 'Telhas' Viognier. Joshua Castle