Castel?o is a dark-skinned grape variety that is among the most planted in Portugal. It is produced both varietally and in blended wines with other native grape varieties, and in a range of styles from still red and rosé wines to fortified and sparkling examples. The finest Castel?o wines come from the Setubal Peninsula just south of Lisbon, where the terroir is conducive to the production of rich, concentrated wines.
Castel?o's popularity with producers comes from its hardiness: it thrives in arid climates but can also produce good wines from cooler, more humid parts of the country. It is mostly planted in the southern parts of Portugal, but can also be found in the center of the country and in small quantities along the banks of the Douro, where it is permitted in the Port Blend.
The sandy soils along the southern coast are best suited to Caste?o, where low-yielding older vines help to produce a full-bodied, tannic wine that has a rustic, wild fruit character. The finest examples of Castel?o – the most famous of which is José Maria da Fonseca's Periquita wine – are often aged in oak and can be cellared for many years. On more calcareous soils in central Portugal, the variety produces lighter, more fruit-driven wines that are intended for early consumption.
Castel?o is also suited to the Portuguese predilection for blended wines, and is most often seen in bottles with some of Portugal's most glamorous grape varieties like Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (see Castel?o – Touriga). In these blends, Castel?o lends its deep pigment and structure, while the other varieties help to soften its sharper edges.
As is the case with many other widespread varieties, Castel?o has a multitude of synonyms. The most important of these is Periquita, meaning parakeet in Portuguese, which comes from the Cova de Periquita vineyard planted by José Maria da Fonseca. It is known in other parts of the country as Trincadeira or Bastardo Castico – although it bears no relation to either Tinta Amarela or Trousseau, both of which share these (respective) synonyms.
Synonyms include: Castel?o Frances, Periquita, Joao de Santarem, Trincadeira Preta, Bastardo Castico, Santarem, Mortagua.
Food pairings for Castel?o include:
- Pork and bean soup
- Grilled chicken thighs
- Mushroom risotto