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Born in Angola to a family of coffee farmers, it was not until the 1970’s that Luis Seabra returned with his family to Portugal. Although winemaking was not part of their family history, Luis decided to pursue a degree in viticulture. He attended the UTAD in Vila Real, in the Alto Douro region, near the intersection of the Douro (where Luis’ father is from), Vinho Verde, and Tras-os-Montes. Afterwards,  he went for a Master’s degree in winemaking at the Universidade Catolica in Porto. Beginning in 1997, Luis spent some time as an enology instructor, then as a soil researcher for a cooperative in Vinho Verde. In 2000, he worked as a winemaking and vineyard consultant. This began his time working in the Douro Valley. His first flirtations with wine rock stardom occurred in 2004 when he became the winemaker at the famed Port house of Niepoort. The world of Port is nothing if pillared on tradition. Niepoort had purchased Quinta de Napoles and their 30 hectares of aged vines in 1987. It was there that Luis Seabra parted with convention, and launched a line of non-fortified wines, or “still” as they refer to them in Portugal (Elsewhere, “still” is the opposite of “sparkling”). 

 

In addition to notoriety, and respect, Luis gained valuable experience in the Duoro while at Niepoort. In 2012, Luis set out on his own, creating Luis Seabra Vinhos. This was serendipitous timing, as Portugal was in the midst of a revolution in winemaking, and whether he knew it or not, Luis Seabra was simply taking his place at the table. The precarious and terraced vineyards, remoteness, and stifling heat make the Douro Valley a very challenging place to make wine. Over time, this had led the region to be dominated by cooperatives and corporations, rather than small independent producers. However, drawing from his time at Niepoort, he was able to easily identify the best sites for making non-fortified wines (fortuitously the “worst” sites for Port production, and therefore the cheapest fruit), and often had relationship with the owners. His goal was to make low-intervention, balanced wines, terroir driven, with lower-extraction, elegant not opulent, complex and lively, and able to age. Vinho Luis Seabra largely practices organically, proscribing the use of chemical treatments and herbicides. In addition to being overall healthier for the environment as a whole, he has found avoiding herbicdes also improves the Ph balance in the wines.

 

In the cellar, he continues to employ a hands-off approach. The current winery, which is under construction, will largely use concrete tanks for maceration and fermentation. These “oxygen-friendly” vessels will then enable the maturation of wines in larger format barrels, whilst attaining the desired flavor profile. For the production of white wines, Luis’ process is brilliant, and somewhat risky. Rather than harvest and vinify each variety separately at its optimum point, he harvests them all at once. Philosophically he believes this “spectrum” of ripeness, flavours and acid levels, will balance itself out with gestalt as the result. The fermentation of this process is spontaneous, and very timely. He does not regulate the temperatures as with a few exceptions, this is done in barrels. All of the whites undergo full malolactic fermentation, which effectively stabilizes the wines. The resulting wines exhibit muted fruit, but stellar minerality, and almost impossible vibrancy and complexity. Additionally, these can be well-aged.

 

His system with red wine is equally unique. Almost all of them are whole-cluster fermented and fermented in wood, followed by slow, gentle, extraction. The goal is for softer hews of red to blue, rather than the monster reds that the Douro is capable of producing. His decision of the type of oak aging is dependent upon the tannic structure of the individual wines. More tannic wines are aged in smaller barrels to maximise the exposure to oxygen, resulting in the softening of tannins. Regardless, new wine is never used. With all of his wines, he conducts malolactic fermentation in barrels as it results in more stable wines. Indeed, the steps in his process result in naturally more stable wines, which enables him to age his wines without any additions.

 

Today, Luis Seabra is well-established at being of the Vanguard in Portuguese wine. He works in only 8 hectares of leased vineyards across Douro, Vinho Verde, and Dao. Part of his operations is continuing to study the soils of these regions, with the hope of furthering the overall understanding of their capabilities. Along with his winemaker wife, Natalia, they live in a rural part of the Douro. In addition to making some of the most compelling wines in Portugal, they love to mentor the next generation of winemakers and wine professionals.

 

Xisto Ilimitado Branco

 

This is a blend of Rabigato, Gouveio, Codega, and Viosinho, with Rabiagto typically making up well over 50% of the blend, and the rest fairly evenly distributed amongst the remainders. The vines all average around 40 years of age, and are planted to schist (as the name implies “unlimited schist”) planted at altitudes averaging 550 meters above sea level. The vineyards are located in Clima Corgo. This region experiences a profound diurnal shift; ideal for the production of naturally balanced white wines. Xisto is fermented 90% in used barrels and 10% in stainless steel. The wine is fermented using indigenous yeasts and aged in 90% used barrel, 10% stainless steel. Visually, Xisto Ilimitado branco, is bright straw yellow, like many other wines, in no way predicting what is to come. The aromas pop nicely, showing wet river rocks, minerals, with white peppers, and muted dried stone fruit, apple skins, pear skins, and something pleasantly, earthy. The palate is a subtle explosion of everything on the nose, delivered in layers, with the addition of lemon zest, white flowers, and soft spices. This white offers unparalleled precision, intricacy, and grace. Pair this with equally delicate, complex dishes. A quiche of wild mushrooms and Cypress Grove Midnight Moon Goat Gouda, with shaved white truffles, and fresh parsley and thyme would be magical with this amazing white.

 

Xisto Ilimitado Tinto

 

This is usually a blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Roriz, Rufete, Tinta Barroca, Malvasia Petra, and Donzelinho. The vineyards are all farmed sustainably and average about 50 years of age, and are planted at an altitude around 500 feet above sea level. The soils are mostly schist (as the name suggests, “unlimited schist”). The wine is fermented 30% in stone lagar after foot stomping, 70% in vat. The wine is 100% whole cluster fermented, using indigenous yeasts. The wine is macerated for 8 days, vat for 25 days. The wines are racked to neutral barrels and aged for 1 year, followed by 5 months in tank. Minerals and earth are co pilots with high-toned red and blue fruit in this medium-bodied wine. This has black cherries, red currants, cherry cola, along with herbs, dark stones, dark cocoa powder. This red has epic complexity, while still maintaining a subtle body. Pairings should align with all of this; long roasted purple carrots, roasted tomato marinated portabella mushrooms, cheesy garlic mashed potatoes, and a thin quick-seared filet with a parsley shallot compound butter. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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