We received the product for review and all opinions are our own.
By contributing writer Brock Estes, President of Fly Gap Winery
Why is Souzão Important?
I am a super fan of Portuguese varietals, and I have read some literature about Souzão, and have tried a few blends that contained some Souzão, but have never had the opportunity to try a monovarietal wine made from Souzão. Bending Branch Winery makes one and my good friend Jeff Cope said he was going to buy some bottles, so I asked him if he could possibly score me a bottle. In normal fashion, Jeff came through and was able to get me one.
This bottle is kind of a big deal in my opinion for a several reasons. One is the rarity of the grape itself. You could spend your whole life and never come across a Souzão by itself. Even in Portugal, it has seen a decline as it can mostly only be found in the very old mixed planting vineyards up North and in the Douro, but it seems that Souzão was phased out in most of the re-planting, and only until recently has it seen some resurgence. Secondly, it is a grape that extracts deep dark colors. It has an extremely weak skin/pulp interface. The skin can slip from the berry pretty easily, and in doing so the interface is damaged and releases lots of color. The third reason I think it’s a big deal is that Souzão is one of those rare finds that throws up some awesome total acidity numbers. It can produce twice the amount of natural acidity than other common varietals.
To me that’s super important, because it’s hard to get good acid levels in the Hill Country because of the hot ripening conditions. There is nothing worse than trying a wine that is segmented with tartaric additions that don’t integrate well with the natural acid, and in turn the tartaric acid can take over the wine. That’s my biggest pet peeve. As a guy who likes to blend, this is a grape that can bring up the natural acidity in a wine, and less tartaric additions are needed and hopefully none at all. The last reason why Souzão can be important is that it has a tough and thick skin. The skin itself is thick enough and tough enough to offer a level of natural disease protection which is also important to have a grape such as this especially if you are implementing some organic growing practices. Might I add that the grape loves the Hill Country weather also? Even though the Bending Branch Souzão came from Alta Mesa, they have planted Souzão at the winery.
Bending Branch Souzão Tasting Notes
I was so excited to try it. It started off a little slow with the curtains closed. I was mostly surprised at the blue notes it threw off. It was super blue and reminded me a lot of Touriga. It was like blueberry and blackberry muffin mix that had been sitting out just long enough for the sweet mix itself to turn blue. Initially it came off as over ripe and jammy, but when I paid closer attention, it was the tartness of the higher acid levels that had integrated so well with the fruit that made it seem sweeter. I decided to step away for 45 minutes and try again.
After the break, I tried it again and the wine got all Shakespeare on me. I have never had a Texas Wine that Took Center Stage and performed like that. It was dancing all over the place. The tannins started to come out, and they were pretty apparent, but not aggressive. The wine was slightly rustic but very clean at the same time. The blueberry would come and go and the lovely spices would jump in and out. The sweet tobacco and white pepper took turns performing. Each sip turned out to be so much fun. I never knew what character would show off next. It did stay sweet and tart, but mellowed out slightly. The tannin structure was super pleasant, and it was apparent and had some muscle, but was in the background and didn’t overpower the juiciness of the wine. It might have been a touch slidey not loose, but I think that’s what made it so much fun, and that could be the berry itself. These are just my opinions and I highly suggest you try some to form your own.
I must say that I will be buying a six pack for my cellar without question. This wine turned me on to Souzão, and hopefully I can get a little planted as well. This wine was definitely a star in its element. In a blend I think the sky is the limit. The guys at Bending Branch did a fantastic job, and I can’t wait to try their full lineup soon. If you haven’t tried the Bending Branch Winery Souzão, you need to. Go ahead and buy several, because this wine can age better than most Texas Reds, and it’s a must for your collection.