Wine Review: Aplanta Red Blend 2018
Region: Alentejo, Portugal
Grape: Red Blend (70% Aragonez, 30% Alicante Bouschet)
There are very wines that I call “a funk of a wine,” but this is Portuguese Alentejo red blend is of them. These also seem to be some of my absolute favorites. Even with all the tasting and aromatic notes, you still won’t understand this bottle unless you try it. Coming from southern Portugal, Aplanta brings on an interesting and awesome combination of earth, dark fruit, and smoke. These all tie together for an all-around chaotic, enticing funk.
Alentejo can be found in southern Portugal and leans toward the southeast. The region is arguably Portugal’s most prominent wine region. The only other area that provides any real competition is Douro Valley which is known for Port and also produces some others such as red blends. They are eight smaller sub-regions of Alentejo, but these are rarely mentioned on labels in favor of the general region’s name. These are usually categorized under Vinho Regional Alentejano. Aplanta is no exception, but the wine’s grapes can be traced back to the vineyards surrounding Aldeia da Luz.
After back-and-forth conversations and negotiations between the people of Aldeia da Luz and the Portuguese government, the original city was destroyed, so a dam could be built nearby. This dam allowed for one of the biggest manmade reservoirs in Europe but also meant the town had to be rebuilt nearby. These vineyards are around 820 ft(250m) One of the only positive results of this decision was the vineyards that led to Aplanta.
Most of this wine is made from the Aragonez grape, which is essentially the same as Tempranillo. The grape can also be found by the name of Tinta Roriz in Portugal depending on the region. While the Spaniards are known for making single-varietal wines from this grape, the Portuguese typically use it for red blends. Aragonez will typically be full-bodied with high tannins and acidity. Smokey tobacco, deep and soft red fruits, and earthy funk are flavors and aromatics often found with this grape.
A smaller, but very significant portion of this wine is Alicante Bouschet. The grape originates in France and is a cross between Grenache and Petit Bouschet. The grape is not very common and seems to be most commonly used in Portuguese blends today. Like the Aragonez, this grape tends toward a full body with high tannins and acidity, giving off strong notes of smokey tobacco. Unlike its counterpart though, it provides more vibrant, tasty fruit notes and some pepper. These grapes have similarities that mesh well together and differences that complement just as well.
The wine leads off with aromatics of dark, rich fruits with hints of oak, smoke, and earth. As the wine aerates, the dark fruits become increasingly deeper and more apparent, and the oak leads off into a combination of tobacco and leather. Underneath the more apparent notes, small hints of vanilla and chocolate start to ease their way out.
The flavors and tasting notes are nearly the opposite of what is found on the nose, at least initially. There are very apparent, general earthy-oaky notes with a soft undertone of dark fruits. As the wine opens up, the earthy funk and dark fruits start to balance and leave hints of smokey tobacco.
Aplanta makes for a very full-bodied red blend with very present and welcoming tannins and acidity. The finish is seemingly never-ending and leaves an interesting aftertaste of fruits, oak, and tobacco.
If you are looking for a funky, chaotic bottle of wine, this is it. It can be hard to find good, affordable wine in this category, but this is one of them. It has enough fruit to be approachable and friendly to the less adventurous wine drinker while giving off plenty of earth, smoke, and oak to create a wild, unique combination of flavors. Aplanta can pair well with a variety of meats from chicken to lamb to steak alongside other heavier dishes. Also, I would recommend decanting this bottle for aeration purposes between 30 minutes and an hour.