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Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Setúbal, port on the Sado estuary south of Lisbon, the capital of portugal, is also the name of a Portuguese fortified wine with its own dop region (see map under portugal). It is made predominantly from Moscatel (muscat) grapes and the region was officially demarcated in 1907 for Moscatel de Setúbal. The finest examples grow on limestone soils on the cool, north-facing slopes of the Arrábida hills. Grapes are also grown on the plain around the town of Palmela. The principal type of Moscatel is muscat of alexandria but a tiny amount (around 20 ha/49.5 acres) of pink-skinned, much earlier-ripening Moscatel Roxo is bottled separately and is generally slightly drier and more complex. Initially, Setúbal is made in much the same way as a vin doux naturel. After vinification, however, pungent Muscat grape skins are left to macerate in the wine for five or six months, which imparts a taste of fresh grapes and gives Setúbal its intense aroma and flavour. Most Setúbal is bottled after four or five years in large oak vats (though one leading producer uses old whisky barrels), by which time the wine has an amber-orange colour and a spicy, raisiny character. Small quantities, however, are bottled after 20 years or more in cask, by which time the wine is deep brown and has a rich, grapey intensity. Leading producer José Maria da Fonseca Successores occasionally bottles and sells stocks dating back to the mid 19th century. Like historic madeira, bottles labelled Moscatel Torna-Viagem crossed the equator twice by ship en route to and from the tropics and are considered the finest. For details of the unfortified wines made on the Setúbal peninsula, see península de setúbal.