What makes a great winemaker? Is it knowledge? Is it strategy? Or…is it commitment to your ideals?
I had then to decide a strategy for this new business and the strategy was very clear: JUST DO THE BEST, be a niche player, small vineyard, but the BEST fruit, small production, but the BEST in quality, just bottle the very BEST vintages, don’t rush and get a very firm grip in your market, improve always, invest in quality, take a very good care of the company’s image, select your commercial partners, they should understand your products. Be always very market orientated. Markets have trends, try to follow those trends, and very important, make things with PASSION. We work a lot with a very motivated team, and all devoted to make people happy. We are a very passionate team, I am happy to transmit this to my clients because they feel passion in my products and get addicted.
This is a recent quote from Thomaz de Lima Mayer, the owner of Lima Mayer and Companhia, in the Alentejo. His quote to me exemplifies a mentality that I adore. It’s a mentality that incorporates personal responsibility, a desire to deliver the absolute best product and the hope that he will infect everyone around him with this very same desire for greatness.
It wasn’t for several decades before he changed from a white collar and trimmed nails to purple teeth and dirty hands. Working in several major multinational companies, he decided to walk away from daily rag of infighting and competition to pursue another challenge, winemaking. Granted, there are several winery owners, especially in the Alentejo, who have the same story to tell, a story that boasts of sound financial resources and tight contacts that allow anyone to slip comfortably into their dream, but it’s refreshing to actually hear someone voice it so blatantly and sincerely.
Coming to the table with a 700 ha estate that had been sitting idle in his wife’s family for decades, a degree in Agriculture Engineering, years of management and sales experience, you couldn’t really pick a better lineup. But Thomaz is savvy, cognizant of his limitations in making a great Alentejo wine without guidance. What he needed was a rock solid team of knowledgeable viticulturists and experimental winemakers.
Once he assembled a team from all corners of the world to help guide him, in 2000, Thomaz got to work and planted 20 ha of vines on his family’s estate located in the upper Alentejo between Veiros and Monforte. And much like the Priorat or Rioja, the Alentejo is extremely hot with 3000 hours of sunshine and very little precipitation to lessen the intensity of the heat, making it the ideal climate for rich concentrated red wines. Composed of granite soil, Thomaz planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Syrah, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet each in their own personal block of land.
Adhering to his unrelenting goal of quality, the grapes are handpicked; hand sorted, and arrives in the winery not fifteen minutes after leaving the vine (I personally would love to see this feat incredible feat). The grapes are then crushed, placed in stainless steel vats which are rapidly cooled to 10 degrees Celsius before fermentation in order to preserve freshness and extract more flavor. Both barrel aged in French and American oak, both the Lima Mayer and Subsidio.
Interestingly, when I had first tried the 2005 Subsidio with Thomaz at Vini Portugal, I have to be honest; I wasn’t that impressed. Aged for 8 months in oak and 2 months in bottle, the wine showed an incredible bouquet of rich dark berry and raw meat aromas followed by nuances of black pepper and African spice, but the palate just died on me leaving a very hollow and empty sensation on the palate. Last night, after tasting the wine again and going through the exact same experience, I went back to it an hour later, finding myself in a completely different camp. As the night progressed, it became rounder and fuller in the mouth, the fruit came alive, and the wine began to express a little personality. It was a great lesson in how easy it is for me to judge a wine, especially a red Alentejo wine, without giving it time to express itself. We have seen this over and over again in this region, and I think we’ve finally learned our lesson. These wines need time!
The 2005 Lima Mayer on the other hand, is a good solid wine from the start. Made with Petit Verdot, a French varietal that is not commonly planted in Portugal, it spent 12 months in French oak and 2 months in bottle. Dark cherry, cocoa, violet and black licorice aromas are so potent and aromatic that even a foot away, I can smell the aromas leap out of the glass. Round, lush and silky palate conjures images of eating chocolate red rose petals on a bed of lavender and violet.
Neither the Subsidio nor the Lima Mayer are available in the US or UK as of yet, but for 3.50 Euros and 7.50 Euros respectively, I trust his wines will find a market in no time.
And for those of you interested in some serious enotourism, Thomaz absolutely wants you to visit the winery, but his future plans on developing set program have yet to be put to be discussed. As mentioned earlier, he’s one track guy who intends on creating nothing less than a solid quality wine before venturing out in other areas. I will say, however, that his estate sounds incredible with native Mediterranean Cork and Holm oak forests; a registered private hunting reserve filled with hare, partridge, duck, rabbit, deer and wild boar; a farmhouse that has vestiges of human habitation from the Bronze Age; a small chapel called St. Sabastiao; and finally, two rivers that border either side of the state providing an ideal location to sit and read a book, potentially fish, or just go for a swim!
D.O./D.O.C/D.O.Ca - Alentejo
Address: Quinta de S. Sebastião, Apartado 32 Monforte 7450-999 Portugal
Telephone: +0035 124 557 3450
Fax: +0035 124 557 8150
Date Bodega Founded: 2000
Hectares of Vines: 20 ha.
Grape Varieties Grown: Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon
Liters Produced: 100.000
Enologist: Rui Reguinga
R. Lima Mayer – Tinto
Subsídio – Tinto
Lima Mayer Rosé
Germany: Andupez Lebensmittel GmbH
Germany: Lex & Campos GbR
Switzerland: Kalinos Weine
The Netherlands: Van Eyck’s Wijnkelders
Belgium: Wijhuis Eddy Remans
Gabriella’s Tasting Notes
Red wine produced by Lima Mayer & Companhia in Alentejo, Portugal
Note: Aragonez (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon (10%), Alicante Bouchet (10%) with 13.7% Alcohol. I’ve just been thrown off my rocker. I tried this wine a month ago and it didn’t even remotely carry the same flavor profile as it does now after just few hours of being open. Still showing a fabulous bouquet of dark berry and raw meat aromas followed by nuances of black pepper and African spice, while the palate jumped to life becoming rounder and fuller in the mouth. Expressing a considerable amount cassis and dark fruits by the end of the evening.
(Tasted on August 20, 2007)
Lima Mayer 2005
Red wine produced by Lima Mayer & Companhia in Alentejo, Portugal
Note: Syrah, Aragonez, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Alicante Bouchet with 13.7% alcohol. Inky dark crimson, almost purple black, showing delicious aromas of cocao, black licorice, and exotic dark spices. Silky mouthfeel reminding me of eating chocolate and vanilla covered rose petals on a bed of lavender and violets. Good acidity and structure but may be a bit over extracted.
(Tasted on August 21, 2007)