Isabella a Proibida
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Led by the award-winning winemaker and terroir expert António Maçanita, Azores Wine Company (founded in 2014) has brought new life to UNESCO World Heritage site and Portugal’s highest peak, Pico Island. Through his exploration of history via the region’s indigenous varietals—and a forward-looking plan that incorporates gastronomy, hospitality, and rigorous study of the DO’s microclimates—Maçanita (with partners Filipe Rocha and Paulo Machado) is reestablishing this isolated region into one of Portugal’s most fascinating wine areas. Azores Wine Company owns 100 hectares of extremely low-yield vines, with an additional 30 ha rented from local growers. The Azorean archipelago is home to a winemaking tradition that dates to the 15th century, when viticulture was introduced by Franciscan friars to these nine uninhabited islands. The Azores later became Portugal’s largest winemaking area until it was devastated by phylloxera in the 19th century, causing a mass exodus to places like North and South America. Today, even with Maçanita’s growing influence, wine production here remains less than 5% of its former output, and Azores Wine Company has been the only producer here to make its way into the broader US market.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE?
This is a wine made from a hybrid of Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Labrusca. In addition to making it very resistant to phylloxera, the Labrusca element gives Isabella an intoxicating, sauvage quality on the nose. Simultaneously delicate and powerful, Isabella is an incredibly versatile wine, with food-friendly acidity, a profound mineral signature and terrific concentration.
2017 94 "Excellent Value" Forbes; 2015 90WA
100% Isabella. Sustainably grown vines planted in volcanic basalt soils at sea level (0 m elevation). Antonio has rescued an old plot of this unique varietal for a passion project, to show that this grape is capable of making spectacular wine.
Isabella’s high toned acidity makes it a wonderful red for seafood, and its concentration gives it great versatility. Mushrooms, game and rich seafood dishes are all terrific pairs.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING:
Harvested by hand to 40 kg baskets. Manual bunch selection, 24 hr maceration in stainless steel tank. Gravity-flow racking to stainless steel in 600 and 1000 L tank, where it is aged for 12 months.
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE:
Pico, in the Azores, is about 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal. It is dominated by the volcano Ponta do Pico, Portugal’s highest mountain. The soil is entirely black basalt, which puts enormous stress on the vines, lowering yields. Vines are the only crop to speak of on Pico, as other plant life has a difficult time surviving. The average elevation of the vineyards is sea level (0m). Temperature from April to October is 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 C), with annual rainfall of 1200mm (47”).
Brilliant ruby-purple. On the nose, explosive aromas of sour cherry, cranberry, sour beer, beef blood, and sea spray. On the palate, high-toned, juicy red cherry fruit, with mouth watering acidity and a pronounced salinity. Funky and sauvage through the mid-palate, finishing with umami-laden flavors of meat, seaweed and wet stone. Impressive clarity and concentration.
2015: 12.5% / 2016: 12%