ex-libris of the left bank of river Guadiana
The superior quality of Moreto wines on the left bank of the river Guadiana and, particularly, in the Amareleja, Granja and Póvoa de São Miguel triangle, is due to the summer heat that ensures perfect maturation of the grapes, to the subsoil of the region, with the “solão”, which guarantees the availability of water so that the vines do not suffer from water stress, and the characteristics of the Moreto grape variety, whose long cycle guarantees a perfect adaptation of the grape to the region and makes it ideal to respond, in the future, to the worrying climate changes. It is not surprising, therefore, that Moreto is the great red grape in the region, that it is expanding, and that (almost) all producers recognize the varietal as the best in the region.
Moreto is a very old grape variety, whose progenitors are two grape varieties that are almost considered to be the founders of Iberian viticulture: Cayetana Blanca and Bruñal. Moreto is therefore descendant of the oldest grape varieties of the Iberian Peninsula.
The variety occurs essentially on the left bank of the Guadiana, as it is here that it feels good, with the intense heat of the region. It is an excellent example where tradition has adapted it to the right place. Among the regional red varieties, Moreto is preferred by most winegrowers, as all are unanimous in recognizing that it is what better resists heat and drought.
At the same time, it is considered the most aromatic Portuguese grape variety and the privileged partner of amphora wines.
Main ampelographic attributes
Very old variety, direct descendant of two founding varieties of Iberian viticulture [Spain border]: Cayetana Blanca (Sarigo) and Bruñal (Alfrocheiro);
Varietal involved in some problems of homonymy and synonymy;
Some genetic variability, which will allow to improve it through clonal selection;
Variety with a very long (late) cycle, suitable for regions with a very hot climate.
Perfect adaptation to the ecological conditions of Granja-Amareleja sub-region;
Great resistance to thermal and water stress;
Great productive capacity;
Regularity in production;
Little sensitivity to mildew and powdery mildew;
Great sensitivity to rot;
Little sensitivity to attack by parasites;
Enormous potential for adapting to climate change, with a growing role in future plantations in Alentejo
Main winegrowing attributes
Main winemaking attributes
Intense aromatic (terpenic) profile;
Low colour intensity;
Little acidity when overripe;
Originates quality wines ready to drink very early;
With capacity to produce varietal wines in the sub-region of Granja-Amareleja;
Recommended for blending with other varieties
Medium ageing potential;
Good evolution in the bottle.
Main socio-economic attributes
An ex libris of the sub-region Granja-Amareleja, with much greater representation than in the other sub-regions;
The most recognized red grape for the production of quality amphora wines;
The only red variety that competes with whites for the preferences of the local population, who for centuries preferred whites to reds for amphora wines;
It gives a distinctive character to red wines from the Granja-Amareleja sub-region, as it is perfectly adapted to the region and almost residual in the other sub-regions;
It may come to constitute a “strong brand” of the sub-region and, therefore, an influential factor of commercial competitiveness.
Molecular Ampelography has made it possible to discover the kinship relationships of many Iberian varietals, particularly the oldest ones, such as Moreto. The Figure below illustrates Moreto's progenitors and genetic affinity with other grape varieties.
The phenological data are very enlightening regarding the geographical (climatic) adaptability of the various homonymous varieties, as both Moreto and Camarate (Moreto de Soure) are grape varieties that adapt better to the hot climate of the south and Douro region, where the risk of late frost and incomplete ripening is much lower than in the cooler regions of Dão and Beira Interior. On the other hand, Malvasia Preta (Moreto do Dão), more frequent in Dão, Beira Interior and some areas of the Douro, is adapted to cooler climates, being the last to bud and the first to mature.
Representativeness in the Region
If we take into account the certified vineyard area of all the sub-regions, it appears that the highest percentage of Moreto is found in Granja-Amareleja, where it represents around 13.9% of the total vines. Therefore, it is legitimate to state that Moreto is one of the most emblematic red varieties of the Granja-Amareleja sub-region, where it deserves the recognition of almost all winegrowers. In addition, the respective vineyard area has grown appreciably in recent years, as a result of the attention that the variety is beginning to deserve again. The approximately 10 hectares of Moreto planted in recent years took place in the parishes of Amareleja and Póvoa de São Miguel, where there are winegrowers producing monovarietal Moreto wines with commercial success.
More than a decade creating Moreto wines
With more than a decade of experience in winemaking of Moreto wines, with a significant weight in the reception of Moreto grapes produced in the region, many from old vines, it is important to recognize the knowledge acquired by the oenology team in Granja-Amareleja Cooperative.
Since the 2009 harvest there was a concern to start valuing the Moreto grape variety, vinifying part of the grapes separately, not only to study the oenological behavior of the varietal, but also with the aim of producing varietal wines, both in clay pots and in stainless steel vats with subsequent aging of the wines in oak barrels.
The winery receives grapes from more than 50% of Moreto's vineyard area in the Granja-Amareleja region. The data also allow us to conclude that the vineyards have a planting density much lower than the current vineyards, so a high percentage will be of old vines, planted in squares of 2.80 x 2.80 or 3.0 x 3.0 m, with many planting faults and cultivated according to an ancient winegrowing. The winegrowing structure shows that most of the plots are very small and, therefore, characteristic of smallholdings typical of the surroundings of some villages, namely Amareleja, Granja and Póvoa de São Miguel.
The vinification technique followed the rules generally used in the Cooperative winery for other wines, with fermentation temperatures between 28 and 30ºC, a tanning period of 5 to 7 days and using the minimum possible number of oenological additives.
Moreto Wines from the
Moreto grapes often reach very high values of probable alcohol, with musts with 13 or more degrees, as opposed to what is usually recorded in other sub-regions of Alentejo. With regard to total acidity, its value is quite low, although it varies significantly from year to year. The most frequent values oscillate between 3 and 5 g/L, expressed in tartaric acid.
In general, every year the wines that most impressed tasters were the single varietals from Moreto, not only for their aromatic richness and intensity, but also for their smoothness and balance on the palate, despite their color being more open than that of most other wines. Maybe that's why the variety is so appreciated to make amphora wines, which start to be consumed from the 11th of November onwards.
It was thanks to these tests at the winery that it was decided to start producing Moreto varietal wines in 2009, after the wine had aged in oak barrels. This aging made the wine more commercial and more complex, but stripped the Moreto variety of some identity, especially in terms of its aromatic profile. Therefore, at the same time, the company Amareleza, Vinhos began to make, at the same time, Moreto amphora wines, without aging in oak barrels. It was possible, in this way, to compare the oenological behavior of the variety with two completely different winemaking processes. The results exceeded expectations, as it was possible to demonstrate that the Moreto variety responds excellently in both cases, even though it originates wines of very different styles. Monitoring the evolution of the wines in the bottle also confirmed their good aging potential, both for those aged in barrels and those produced in clay pots.
It should also be noted that the wines have received the most appreciative reviews from national and international specialists, who especially highlighted the identity character of the grape variety in the wines.
At the Granja-Amareleja Cooperative, where the grapes of most of the old dry farming vineyards on the left bank of the river Guadiana converge, efforts continue to be made to preserve traditions, to encourage the winegrowing of old varieties, namely Moreto and Pendura, to promote the production of amphora wines , alongside attracting visitors to show them, with pride, the culture and traditions of its members and of the region. The same is being done, for some years now and with great success, at the other end of the Mediterranean Basin, in Georgia and Armenia, where the devotion to wine is the same as in the Alentejo.
The commercial launch of Moreto's first varietal wine was “GA”, from the 2009 harvest, which was a remarkable success in the market and was a pioneer in the recognition of the grape variety. Since then, other commercial brands from different producers have appeared on the market, increasingly asserting the quality of Moreto wines. The production of Moreto bottled wines, both at the Cooperative and Amareleza Vinhos has been increasing , as a result of the good acceptance of the wines at national and international level. It is therefore predictable that the effort to recover and to value the grape variety - which is already an ex libris of the left bank of river Guadiana - will bring more and more dividends to the Granja-Amareleja sub-region.