Portuguese table wines never get the same attention as those from Spain or Italy, much less France. Somms aren't making pilgrimages to the Dao and there aren't any bands of hip young winemakers posing for Instagram shoots. But make no mistake: a change is underway here similar to that of Spain's Galicia or Italy's Etna. Luis Seabra leads the charge, and we're extremely lucky to be the only store outside of NYC to have received a small allocation of his rarest bottlings. If your image of Portuguese table wines is one of leaden, alcoholic monsters, Luis Seabra is here to change your mind. His soil-reflective wines are absolute game-changers for Portugal, bottles that are right at home next to the greats of Piedmont, the Rhône, or even Burgundy.
Luis Seabra is a rockstar in the Portuguese wine world. For over a decade, he was head winemaker at the legendary Niepoort winery, one of the great Port producers. He led Niepoort's transition into the table wine arena, and quickly demonstrated the Douro's potential for producing great unfortified wine. Now, with his namesake project, he aims to express the Douro's rich heritage by producing elegant, hands-off wines that express in pure liquid form the rocks they come from. These aren't fruity or flashy wines, they are simply "great," in the classic understanding of the term, the sort of exhilarating bottles that prize, above all else, the expression of terroir.
The Douro is a fascinating place, both the beneficiary and the victim of the Port houses who have for so long controlled wine trade here. The awe-inspiring, terraced vineyards of innumerable indigenous varieties are seemingly planted directly into schist mountainsides; there's a sweep and drama to this landscape that frankly puts most of the winemaking scenes to shame. But the varieties and soils of the place – not to mention the thousands of small grower families who tend to these vines – are obscured, the fruit sold off to Sandeman's or Dow's and blended into massive productions of Port. Luis Seabra's wines are some of the first to buck that trend, and hopefully a way forward for the region as fortified wine sales decrease more and more each year.
The material at hand here is an amazing array of indigenous varieties, an amalgam of varieties alien to all but the most diehard Portuguese wine lovers. In general, Luis bottles field blends to allow terroir to shine through over variety, but we've luckily gotten a few of his rare single-variety bottlings. All vineyards Luis sources from are organically farmed, everything is fermented with native yeasts, and the wines are aged exclusively in neutral oak. "Cru," often seen on Luis' labels translates to "raw" in Portuguese, and it is an apt descriptor, as these are naked, unadulterated expressions of their soil. If you are a lover of the great wines of the world, be it Burgundy or Barolo, you owe it to yourself to try Luis' wines.