The Story of Ramisco 

There was a time when vineyards penetrated deep into Lisbon’s tightly drawn city boundaries and wines were made where washing now hangs in tall streets” Richard Mayson, ‘Portugal’s Wines & Wine Makers’

Lisbon has had a pretty hard time of it as a wine region. In the last half century, it fell victim to the relentless development of the land surrounding Portugal’s capital city, and became unfairly associated with the huge amount of, often inferior quality wine the region’s large cooperatives and sprawling private wineries produce. In recent years, many projects, like Quinta de Sant’Ana and our partners at Lisbon Family Vineyards have been clawing their way into the limelight, striving to work as ambassadors for the forgotten potential of quality wine production evident to anyone willing to listen, look, smell and taste.

Few are aware that prior to the rampant expansion of the city, Lisbon was once a great wine region, famed for three exceptional, and now minuscule designated DOPs; Bucelas, Carcavelos and Colares. As early as the 1500’s, Shakespeare mentions Bucelas wine in his play Henry VI, and by the late 1700’s’s Britain imported thousands of tuns of ‘Red Lisbon’ to its shores.
The first challenge came in the late 1800’s when the phylloxera louse arrived to Europe hidden in cuttings that botanists working at London’s Kew Gardens had brought back from America. The louse, for which there still is no cure today, ravaged almost every European vineyard, except those of Colares. These clifftop vineyards planted in sand, remained untouched by the louse which cannot survive in sandy soils. After the catastrophe, European producers brought across American rootstocks tolerant to the louse and began to graft their European ‘vitis vinifera’ vines and gradually vines were cultivated once more.Ramisco is therefore probably the only Vitis Vinifera never to have been grafted onto American rootstock.
With the first hurdle overcome, Ramisco had then to compete with the rocketing land prices and snowballing development of the twentieth century. The vines were forced to retreat and were cornered on all sides, from Cascais and Sintra in the North and East, and from the mouth of the Tejo river and the Atlantic from the South and West. These vines literally now hang on the edge of the coast, with nowhere else to go, near their home town of Colares at the most westerly point of Europe. A monopoly on production, only abolished by the EU as recently as 1990, also helped to squeeze the wines to the point of extinction.

Our Ramisco

At Quinta de Sant’Ana we do not have sandy soils, so technically our Ramisco is classified as coming from ‘chão rijo’, hard soil, rather than sandy ‘chão de areia’. The benefit of our calcareaous clay soils, means the harsh tannic and acidic austerity usually found in the Colares Ramisco if not left to age for many years, is softened much faster in our Ramisco and we are therefore able to release the wine after fewer years of ageing (a Colares Ramisco can easily be left for 20 years before even you would even consider drinking it). However the lack of sand means we do not have the Colares protection against phylloxera, and so our Ramisco is indeed grafted as normal, just like all our other varietals. Our half hectare of vines, planted in 2012, lies at the most westerly point of the farm, on a south-facing slope to help ripen the phenolics (tannins and colour) of these stubborn little grapes. We have about 2000 plants on this slope, and another 300 on another south-facing vineyard, more recently planted and which will start to produce grapes from this 2020 vintage .Like our Arinto and Alvarinho, the Ramisco vines are trained to the double guyot system – using replacement cane pruning then VSP (Vertical Shoot Positioning) to train the shoots each year. The soil on the slope consists of more clay than the rest of our calcareous clay topsoils and ensures a little moisture throughout the summer heat, guaranteeing freshness. There is no uniformity to the production – some plants will give 2 bunches, some 6, but they are all loose bunches and lightweight, with tiny berries and larger pips. The price of Ramisco, ours included – at 50€ per 500ml bottle reflects this – both the crippling low yields, the huge amount of manual work and the rarity of this intriguingly gastronomic variety.

In your glass…

Tink of a Pinot Noir, but a wild, savage, untamed version. Ramisco is exactly this.

If Pinot Noir were George Clooney, Ramisco would be Johnny Depp, or better, Pirate Jack Sparrow. Our Ramisco boasts complex red fruit and an earthy elegant perfume that jostles for space with a hint of herbal, almost resinous aromas. Naturally high acidity and commanding tannins all woven together by an underlying salinity, make this wine impressively ageworthy and creatively gastronomic