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Most expensive Portuguese red wine goes on sale

The groundbreaking release of a €1,000 talha wine, named Jupiter Code 01, from Alentejo producer Herdade do Rocim, has made waves on the Portuguese wine scene. Sarah Ahmed assesses the ambitious launch.

Following its June debut, Herdade do Rocim Jupiter Code 01 2015 became Portugal’s most expensive (unfortified) wine. To shatter a glass ceiling is one thing, but it takes chutzpah to launch a wine at €1,000. This is almost double the price of Casa Ferreirinha Barca Velha, Portugal’s longstanding icon from the Douro, the country’s most prestigious region.

From Alentejo’s Vidigueira sub-region deep in the south, Jupiter could not be more different. One might expect a fuller-bodied, opulent red. However, Jupiter was fermented and aged for 48 months in talha (Portuguese amphora). Hardly a classical élevage, talhas have made rustic wines for centuries. Released in the year of production, talha wines were traditionally made for early consumption direct from the talha.

Remarkably fresh, despite its long journey in talha, Jupiter is vivid in hue and fruit. Pure and slinky, exceptionally sophisticated, it is the first of nine releases from the ‘Wines From Another World’ collection. Named after different planets and sourced from different regions worldwide, a portion of each wine will be held back for future release at every launch, including the final box-set of all nine.

Portuguese co-founder, Cláudio Martins, explained the aim of the project. ‘It is going back to the roots of wine, using foundational methods to bring ancient flavours back into a modern world – creating something completely unique and extraordinary that the industry has never seen before,’ he said.

Martins has form, having consulted for Loïc Pasquet of Liber Pater, whose out-of-the-box Bordeaux became the world’s most expensive wine.  ‘Unique’ is not hyperbole in this case.

Vineyard and winemaking

A wine cellar with five large clay amphorae for ageing wines

Talhas in the cellar at Herdade do Rocim

Contrasting Jupiter with Herdade do Rocim’s clay-aged red, which has been made since 2015, the 800-bottle release is a one off.

Winemaker and general manager Pedro Ribeiro confirmed: ‘Clay-aged was a conceptual wine – created thinking about every detail. Jupiter was humbling, because I didn’t intervene much and it’s the best wine I ever made.’

The grapes came from Vinha de Micaela, a 70-year-old 0.36ha field blend parcel acquired by Rocim in 2015, when the elderly owner sold up. Being neighbours, Portuguese law required him first to offer it to Rocim. Happenstance.

The tiny crop was batch-fermented in three centenarian 600-litre talhas. Two were swiftly blended into Rocim’s entry-level amphora wine.

The other, from rows Ribeiro now regrets not recording, had purity, elegance and fine tannins – ‘intriguing, it became finer, better, every time I tasted it, so I kept it in talha’, he enthused, warming at the memory.

Grand ambitions

Invited to taste it in 2019, Martins was ‘amazed’. Keen ‘to get Portugal into the best wine lists and cellars around the world’, he decided it would become Jupiter, leading the Wines From Another World collection.

It’s a bold move given that both the producer (Rocim was founded in 2000) and the region fly below the radar of most wine connoisseurs. Let alone Jupiter’s 20 mostly obscure grapes – predominantly Trincadeira, Moreto, Tinta Grossa and Alicante Bouschet.

Jupiter also subverts luxury and fine wine norms about oak-ageing for structure, ageworthiness and finesse. Drinking beautifully now, will it develop? Without track record, who knows (does it matter?). Ribeiro reports Rocim’s 2012 entry-level talha wines still show well now.

Given 2015 produced perfectly balanced acidity and fine grape stem- and- skin tannins, Ribeiro reckons Jupiter will keep for 20-30 years.

Designed by Wines From Another World co-founder Pedro Antunes, the well-insulated bespoke cork box conforms to this aspiration.

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