Alentejo Talha Wines


Sub-region: Vidigueira

Owner/Winemaker: Alexandre Frade

Address: Praça 25 de abril 12, 7960-421 Vila de Frades, Portugal

Phone: +351 935 109 541



General Information:

50 talha, 750 to 1800 liters, oldest dated 1856

Talha are epoxy lined, not pes

Founding member of Association of Vinho de Talha Producers (APVT)

Alexandre Frade

After spending most of his life working as a professional accountant, in his later years Alexandre Frade returned to the talha wine culture he knew during his childhood. His ACV adega faces the Vila de Frades main square, with talha lining the walls inside, its hand painted signs and modest décor harking back to a time when talha were central to Vila de Frades life. Now, as then, he serves his young wine to customers direct from the talha, but also sells older wine by the bottle.

Frade is a larger than life character, loud, not shy, highly opinionated and just as highly animated. When I first met him he was on his belly in the middle of his adega, with his arm down a hole up to its pit, trying to unclog a drain. Achieving sudden success he popped back to his feet all the while declaiming and explaining and speculating on subjects ranging from how the words Portuguese talha and Spanish tinajas derived from Roman for ‘big pots’, to his irritation at people saying talha wine can’t age and his passionate aim to prove that wrong. Then back to how the Roman soldiers watered down their wine to make an easier drinking rose. And then opining on Trincadeira, a grape he considered to be very female, elegant, but so much trouble!

Thing is, I suspect anyone walking in the door of his tiny adega to taste a few wines before buying one, would probably receive a similar range of rapid fire topics tossed out to accompany their sniffing and slurping. 

Frade’s credentials are long lived having first worked as a 12 year old in his father’s talha taberna in Beja during the late 1960s. He recalls his father transferring wine from large talha every night to replenish the small talha that served his customers the following day. This, like much of the history he relates, comes first hand. 

During the mid-1970s he watched as bottling arrived and forever changed the nature of talha tabernas. The elimination of oxidation, bringing longer lasting freshness, consistency and greater uniformity irrevocably changed wine styles. Taverns increasingly abandoned talha winemaking and they themselves dwindled in size and number until almost all had disappeared. 

Although Frade wasn’t part of the wine making nucleus of the original Vitifrades group that promoted DOC certification, several are close old friends dating from when they all ran together in their 20s. He supported their cause from its earliest days and promised that someday he would return to talha winemaking. And so he did, producing his first ‘official’ Vinho de Talha DOC wine in 2015. 

Very much a staunch traditionalist, currently ACV has a 50 talha capacity, ranging in size from 750 to 1800 liters, with the oldest branded from 1856. How many are filled each year depends on the nature of the season, ranging from 3000 bottles at worst and 12,000 in the best years. In cool, wet 2021, for example, he only used 24 talha. The number used and the size and shape of each are precisely matched to Frade’s intimate knowledge of his grapes and how they’ve grown each year. 

All wines are kept on ‘mother’ until St Martin's Day, then transferred to a clean talha for further aging before bottling in May, purposefully leaving in some sediment. Wines are generally released after two years.  

One of Frade’s bugbears is overcoming the belief that talha wine doesn’t age well. He has been keen to prove otherwise, noting he currently has 5-6 year old wines in his cellar that are still evolving. Indeed, after making talha wines for six years following traditional techniques, quite late in life he returned to formally study wine making at university to better understand both practical and scientific reasons behind how talha wine could extend maturation without the use of chemicals. 

His current theory is that talha render a more complex phenolic (tannic) composition, partly due to the shape creating a natural battonage on lees which, by its nature, is an highly anti-oxidative process. He also reckons the seven week fermentation with caps (skins) punched down four times a day helps create a raft of complex, antioxidant rich tannins.

ACV draws fruit from an old five hectare vineyard of mixed whites grown near Vidigueira (Antão Vaz, Roupeiro, Manteúdo, Diagalves, Larião, Perrum and others). He noted in the past the old mixed vineyard was primarily older local grape varieties, but over time this shifted toward a dominance of Antao Vaz.  His reds also come from a mixed vineyard, near – considerably hotter – Moura (Tricadeira, Tinta Roriz, Moreto, Tinto Grossa). Some of his vines are over 100 years old. 

And finally, what goes around, comes around… the Frade family have come full circle once again. Having skipped a generation, Alexandre’s son runs a Michelin rated taberna in Lisbon, O Frade in Belem, focused on selling talha wine to accompany traditional, family style dishes. 

ACV Wines

ACV Peculiar 2017 16%!!! Vinho de Talha DOC. This blend of Aragonez and Trincadeira, from a hot year and hot climate Moura vineyard, is a whopping big wine: spirit-ridden nose, a full body laden with alcoholic glycerine and a dry, hot fire breathing finish. Unexpectedly it offered relatively fine tannins. Frades suggests this wine could age for 20 years and needs at least two hours to open up properly. I didn’t have time to wait and see. However, I did find after 30 minutes the wine did gather a bit more minerality and cooked fruit characters emerged. The wine wasn’t oxidized, but sun baked fruit gave it that impression. As air opened up the fruit it seemed less fiery. A hard one to rate. Not my style as I crave more acidity, but I can see it might do well on a cold winter night alongside a mature chunk of strong cheese. 

ACV 1856 Branco 2018 13% Vinho de Talha DOC. This blend of Antão Vaz and Arinto was grown near Vidigueira and wears a bright amber color. Full bodied and rounded, with a tight streak of firm acidity and intriguing green tea-like flavors. Bottled with minimal sulphites. It’s very grippy and very much a gastronomic style. 88