The Moreto grapes are a very popular grape variety throughout Portugal. Concentrated around the Alentejoregion of Portugal, the grape is known through its several synonyms – Arruya, Castellao, Tinta de Alter and Casculo being some of them.
Moreto grapes are known for their high yields and usually neutral-flavoured wines, even somewhat bitter, similar to beer or beverages of more alcoholic content.
Moreto wines themselves are high in alcohol and very low in sugar, making them ideal with mild or strong cuisines.
A fizzy Moreto wine will taste almost like a beer. Their neutral flavour gives them a reputation for blending purposes; wines like Trincadeira, Aragonez, Tinta Caiada being some popular Portuguese wines that have a considerable blend of Moreto content.
Historically, there’s not much information as to its origins as is the case with other Portuguese wines, although researchers through DNA analysis can pinpoint where and when the variety originated.
Here we’ll discuss on Moreto’s viticulture, its origins and its complimentary foods.
Origins and history
As the full name Moreto Do Alentejo itself suggests, the Moreto grape vines trace their origins to the Alentejo region of southeastern Portugal, near the borders of Spain.
Winemaking industry of Portugal is fairly old, going back as early as 4000 years, so it’s not very clear when these grapes originated, who introduced them and how they came into existence.
However, the name Moreto is given to two different grape varieties – Moreto from Dao as well as Moreto from Alentejo, the latter being more popular.
Rgner et al. in a 1999 paper conducted some DNA analysis of the two grapes and found out distinct DNA profiles; that’s why the use of longer names Moretodo Dao and Moreto do Alentejo, the former being no longer under cultivation.
The Moreto grapes from the Alentejo region do not have specific historical records. However, certain wines like the Duoro can tell us the story.
An ancient wine, The Duoro has been in existence at least since the 3rd or 4th century AD during the time of the Western Roman Empire and when it was declining.
In the medieval times, the Cistercians had an influence over the wine industry of Portugal, encouraging wines made from Moreto.
Production of wines made from Moretos has thus been in existence since the 19th century, when it survived the Phylloxera epidemic.
Viticulture and characteristics
Moreto grapes are very productive and high yielding. Early budding than most other grapes, they ripen late, thus making way to high alcohol and acidic content.
Moreto berries have been described as being small and round; dark blue in colour and being thick skinned (that adds to the high tannin content).
It produces a thick, rigid pulp with almost neutral flavour.
The stocks are in circular section and reddish brown in colour and are easily picked by mechanical harvesters. So they are not a labour intensive vine.
Moreto grapes grow only in sunny, hot climates; the region around Alentejo with its sunny side hills and slopes offer the best alternative.
Moreto wines have a characteristic leaf structure which is of medium length, with U-shaped sinus bases with a dark green leaf blade.
The underside of the leaf is cottony and webbed. It’s convex, short to medium sized teeth that are larger in length and width.
The petiole is always shorter than the average vein.
The Moreto wines are mostly neutral with a tinge of bitterness, similar to beers. Not too many are used for manufacturing pure Moreto wines, although it is used for blending purposes to sweet wines to give structure and tanginess to the sweet flavour.
Aragonez and Trincadeira are some of the most popular Portuguese blended wines that have almost 15% of Moreto blend in them.
Being neutral-bitter, these can never be used to cook Portuguese food. Cuisine in this country frequently uses wine for cooking, sautéing as well as for making gravies, but that is the job of sweet wines.
The best one can think of is using a Moreto wine to complement dynamic dishes. Most Portuguese cuisine is very mild flavoured with some tangy nature. Use it as an alternative to beer.
Editor-in-Chief and Wine Writer
Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂
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