Carcavelos

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Carcavelos, tiny dop, renowned in its heyday for fortified wines. However, its vineyards have almost been obliterated by the westward expansion of the capital city Lisbon along the Tagus Estuary (see map under portugal). A cynic’s view of Carcavelos is that it was created by the Marquis of Pombal, Portugal’s autocratic 18th century prime minister, because he had to do something with the grapes from his country residence at nearby Oeiras. He even flouted his own regulations and permitted Carcavelos to be blended with port. Thanks to Pombal, Carcavelos enjoyed a brief period of popularity in Britain in the early part of the 19th century (and see auctions for evidence of its renown even earlier). The wine may be made from a blend of up to nine different red and white grapes. It is usually fermented dry and fortified with grape spirit up to an alcoholic strength of 18 to 20%. A small amount of vinho abafado (fermenting grape must preserved by the addition of alcohol) is added after fermentation to sweeten the wine. Between three and five years’ cask ageing give the wine a nutty character akin to a tawny port. Although total vineyard area fell to less than 10 ha/25 acres, a 21st century municipal initiative spearheaded by the Mayor of Oeiras has resulted in the doubling of land under vine and a new fortified brand, Conde de Oeiras.