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Acidity in Wine by José Mota Capitão (owner and producer of Herdade do Portocarro wines)

Posted on 5th October 2018 by JN Wine

Acidity in Wine by José Mota Capitão (owner and producer of Herdade do Portocarro wines)

When it comes to wine, acidity is nearly everything to me. It is acidity that enables us to enjoy a glass of wine and not become bored when drinking the second one. It confers freshness, elegance and vitality to wine. However, and this is of utmost importance: acidity needs to be perfectly (and beautifully) balanced. Fruits needs to be ripe enough to be compatible with the acidity. Yet, wines that are too ripe with a very high acidity do not work. Very mature but with no acidity are fatally boring. Very green and too much acidity make wines impossible to drink.


All this brings us to two key issues: environment and vinification strategy.

Environment: soil, climate, drainage, wind, sun exposure, an in-depth knowledge of the varietals with which we work and their adaptation to the place where we want to plant them or to see them grow; all these factors must be exhaustively known by the producer and the oenologist.

When I started my activity (Portocarro is a project of mine, it started with me), the idea of terroir did not interest me much. As any recently graduated student, still very attached to theoretical knowledge, I thought that technology was enough to create a great wine, ie, science and books were more than adequate.

Nowadays I have no doubt that it is the terroir that commands. For me, terroir is soil, weather, plants, work and scientific knowledge but, above all else, our empirical and daily grasp of the subject.


Vinification Strategy: to fully understand physical factors is of paramount importance. And to know the varietals with which we are working/are going to work is vital. In other words, what each varietal gives us; and how the various vinification stages will affect it.

In Portocarro we decided to pick the grapes before the maturation process speeds up, so that, when harvest takes place, the grapes’ natural acidity will be just right and with no need for further acidification. As I see it, very ripe grapes needing acidification result in an unbalanced wine.

Maturation tests on unpicked grapes are very important, but one should never forsake the walks along the vines tasting the fruits, so as to acknowledge, through the senses, grapes’ maturation stage. In all my years as wine producer, I have always had to postpone harvests whenever the taste in my mouth dictated it!

In the winery I decided to use very, very soft pressings, not fearing oxidation. Grapes have to comply with health safety requirements. Fermentation happens in French oak vats, at a temperature between 12º-13º C, from 5 to 6 weeks. Always avoid malolactic fermentation. Wine is then kept in stainless steel deposits for 6 months, during which, around every 2 weeks, the thin lees are subject to a smooth batonnage with a long wooden stick.


We do everything by hand, we never decant wine. This helps the wine to create volume when in the mouth, a beautiful complexity and, at the same time, a lovely freshness.  To view the range from Herdade do Portocarro click here.

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