Isabella a Proibida
The Portuguese archipelago of the Azores is home to a winemaking tradition that dates back to its colonization in the 15th century, wherein viticulture was introduced by Franciscan friars. This group of islands is home to a singular terroir and microclimate, one that draws close comparison to the island of Santorini. Like Santorini, the Azores are volcanic islands comprised entirely of black basalt. Pico, the main wine producing island where these vineyards are located, has such poor soil that the vineyard needs to be supplemented with soil from neighboring islands to support vine growth, and even with that, the yields are a fraction of what they are in the rest of the DOC. Additionally, the vineyards are grown in tiny plots (2-6 bush trained vines per square) protected on all sides by small walls called “currais” to ward off the strong winds that blow in from the north Atlantic, mere steps from the vineyards. Isabella la Proibida is the lone red bottling from Antonio Maçanita’s Azores Wine Company project. Before phylloxera hit in the late 19th century, the Azores were one of the most prolific growing areas in Europe, with the volume of production in the millions of liters. Following phylloxera, that production level was decimated to less than 25000 liters. As a stopgap, Isabella was planted. Since it is a hybrid of Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Labrusca (related to the “fox grapes” of the American South), it is resistant to phylloxera, and became a mainstay for rustic “house wine” production on the island. Antonio has rescued an old plot of this unique varietal for a passion project, to show that this grape is capable of making spectacular wine.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? This is a wine made from a hybrid of Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Labrusca. In addition to making it very resistant to phylloxera, the Labrusca element gives Isabella an intoxicating, sauvage quality on the nose. Simultaneously delicate and powerful, Isabella is an incredibly versatile wine, with food-friendly acidity, a profound mineral signature and terrific concentration.
GRAPE: 100% Isabella. Sustainably grown vines planted in volcanic basalt soils at sea level (0 m elevation). Antonio has rescued an old plot of this unique varietal for a passion project, to show that this grape is capable of making spectacular wine.
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: Isabella’s high toned acidity makes it a wonderful red for seafood, and its concentration gives it great versatility. Mushrooms, game and rich seafood dishes are all terrific pairs.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: Harvested by hand to 40 kg baskets. Manual bunch selection, 24 hr maceration in stainless steel tank. Gravity-flow racking to stainless steel in 600 and 1000 L tank, where it is aged for 12 months.
PRODUCTION: 166 cases (12 pack)
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: Pico, in the Azores, is about 1000 miles off the coast of Portugal. It is dominated by the volcano Ponto do Pico, Portgual’s highest mountain. The soil is entirely black basalt, which puts enormous stress on the vines, lowering yields. Vines are the only crop to speak of on Pico, as other plant life has a difficult time surviving. The average elevation of the vineyards is sea level (0m). Temperature from April to October is 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 C), with annual rainfall of 1200mm (47”).
TASTING NOTES: Brilliant ruby-purple. On the nose, explosive aromas of sour cherry, cranberry, sour beer, beef blood, and sea spray. On the palate, high-toned, juicy red cherry fruit, with mouth watering acidity and a pronounced salinity. Funky and sauvage through the mid-palate, finishing with umami-laden flavors of meat, seaweed and wet stone. Impressive clarity and concentration.