Alfrochiero is a significant varietal in the making of red wines. Originating from the Dão province of Portugal, Alfrocheiro is an intriguing grape variety of misty origins.
Once thought to be related to Pinot Noir, currently the birthplace of Alfrocheiro is assumed to be Portugal, but the jury is still out.
Known by the name Tinta Bastardinha and Tinta Francesa, wines prepared from Alfrochiero are noted for their velvety texture, strong spice and early ripening.
They exhibit inky depths of colour and the flavours of mint, flowers, black currants and fresh strawberries.
No genetic variability suggests that Alfrochiero is of a recent variety. It has not been yet determined whether the variety is native to Portugal or has it originated somewhere abroad.
If anything can be made sure about Alfrochiero, it is about its history. It is said that it used to bear the name Tinta Francesa de Viseu; in French, Viseu stands for red.
It undoubtedly belongs to the région called Dao, while Alfrocheiro has increased in popularity chart in the southern region, as well as in the Alentejo region.
The wines first appeared in the Portugal literature in the 20th century. Until then, it was known solely as a red variety. It is assumed that it could be a new, or – in the opinion of others – an imported variety.
Truel refused to believe that it could be from the Pinot family, as there is a visual similarity between the leaves. It was his belief that it was probably erroneous to accord it synonymity with the Tinta Francisca de Viseu.
The Alfrocheiro appeared in the Dão region after the Phylloxera outbreak, and afterwards in the Alentejo, for being used as a compensation for the frail color of the Moreto.
Alfrochiero then appeared in the Ribatejo and the Bairrada region. A new fact has come to light that this variety already exists in Spain under another alias name.
The Alfrocheiro grows fine in the Mediterranean climate of Dão in north-central Portugal. After Portugal’s inclusion into the EU in 1986, Alfrochiero has been profited a lot.
Instead of grapes being sent to the large co-operatives for processing, they are now sold to the private companies which make wines with more distinction and sense of place.
Alfrocheiro vines are one of the most fertile ones and fecund in nature and produce wines richly coloured with the right mixture of alcohol, tannins as well as acidity.
It is due to its great capacity to hold high acidity together with its wealth in sugar, which makes it lucrative for the south. The intense concentration of colour pigmentation has given it the nickname of Alfrocheiro Preto or Black Alfrocheiro.
Alfrochiero is disease prone, mostly due to oidium, botrytis rot and escoriosis, which clearly explain its partial popularity in Dão.
It has aromatic flavours blackberries and ripe wild strawberries. Alfrocheiro brings the body to wines with firm yet delicate, structuring tannins. Also, Alfrocheiro is the fundamental and crucial variety in blended wines.
1,850 ha area in Portugal is currently under cultivation. The vine is developed within a program of integrated protection.
Infestation control is ensured through soil movement. Grapes are hand-picked, caste by cast. At around the second fortnight of September, the ideal ripening point is reached. The harvest is collected in small boxes.
Alfrocheiro vines flourish in dry and warm regions where they are protected from the humid and disease-borne air.
Inland country Portugal has this kind of climate, which explains its prevalence in Dao, Douro and Alentejo region.
Alfrochiero has high susceptibility to fungal diseases such as grey rot and powdery mildew . These grapes are most often cultivated in winery-owned vineyards when compared with the contract growers as it is principally risky for contract growers.
Their livelihoods depend on the delivery of a healthy crop each vintage. Therefore, it is risky for them to commit to such a disease-prone variety that too mainly in the humid and coastal regions of western Portugal.
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