Aguardente Vínica Lourinhã X.O.
For lovers of fine spirits, few things can rival the comfort of a snifter of top-quality brandy by the fire once the air turns nippy.
The grape-based distillate can be made practically anywhere wine is made. However, there are a few – very few – regions that have been granted DOC (geographical designation) recognition for the production of stellar brandy. Two of these are in France: Cognac and Armagnac – pretty much household names for spirit aficionados. The third region may come as something of a surprise.
Just northwest of the city of Lisbon lies the municipality, and town, of Lourinhã. Besides its 12 kilometres of coastline (which houses many popular beaches), and equally popular dinosaur remains, Lourinhã’s claim to fame is its excellent brandy that, while recognized as superb, is generally unknown outside Portugal (or Portuguese communities in other countries).
Technically known as Aguardente da Lourinhã, there are 13 parishes within the area that are recognized as spirits-producing entities. The dedication and commitment of the region’s producers resulted in establishing the Wine Branded Demarcated Region with Controlled Designation of Origin “Lourinhã” in 1922; making it the first and only demarcated region of the country for the production of spirits only.
“Our spirits are controlled by compliance and application of the regulation that establishes the conditions of the soil, the characteristics of cultivation and the technologies of vinification, conservation, distillation, aging, and bottling that must be followed so that the production obtained can use the DOC name “Lourinhã,” which was awarded by the Lisbon Regional Wine Commission created by Ordinance 739/2008,” explains João Pedro Catela of The Adega Cooperativa de Lourinhã.
This distilling cooperative has the facilities and technology for the aging and bottling of DOC Lourinhã spirits, and ensures that all aspects of production – from the sourcing and inspection of the fruit delivered by member growers, right through the distilling, aging, and bottling – are carefully monitored and controlled. The spirit matures in oak barrels for an extended period of time to marry and mellow its components. Unlike other brandies, those of Adega Cooperativa de Lourinhã are never younger than X.O. (Extra Old). To put this in perspective, the bandies of the Cognac region typically have two younger expressions (VS and VSOP) before X.O. status is achieved.
Aguardente Vínica Lourinhã X.O., like all quality brandy, is best served neat in a glass that is large enough to allow the fragrant, intense aromas of toasted nuts, caramel, baking spice, and antique wood to develop. In the mouth, savour its smooth, balanced flavours of dried fruits and spice cake, and then let its round, polished finish warm you like rays of Portuguese sunshine.