Between Lisbon and the Algarve, Portugal’s Alentejo region is dominated by cork forests and olive groves. Thomas Reynolds moved here from Oporto in the early 19th century to enter the cork business. His grandson, John Reynolds, purchased a 900-hectare property and named it Herdade do Mouchão. Vineyards were planted, and in 1901 he built an adobe winery (“adega”). A distillery was added in 1929 for brandy. Cork, olives, bulk wine, brandy, grains, pigs, sheep, and honey were mainstays until the 1950s when the wine business began to expand. More vines were planted, the winemaking improved, and bottled sales began. Expropriated after the 1974 revolution, the estate was returned to the family in 1985 and continues to be run by Reynolds’ descendants. The grape varieties are local, picked by hand, and foot-trodden (a rarity today).
The 38 hectares of vines consist of several vineyards in different areas of the estate. The earliest planting was on the flat, low-lying clay soil near the winery that is particularly suited to the Alicante Bouschet grape. Never much prized in its native France, the grape thrives here and withstands the intense summer heat, the erratic winter rainfall, and the occasional frost. Other vineyards, on higher and well-drained ground, are planted with a few white varieties, but mostly reds such as Trincadeira, Aragonês, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Syrah.
Named after one of the founders, Dom Rafael is the least expensive of the estate’s three reds. This blend of Alicante Bouschet, Trincadeira, and Aragonez, is vinified in lagares, the concrete vessels used for foot treading, and aged mostly in large wooden vats with a portion in small barrels for 12 months. It has plenty of fruit, a pleasing texture, complexity, and a solid finish.