Text Ilkka Sirén
I recently attended a meeting of a group of Finnish wine bloggers. Every now and then this bunch of thirsty wine geeks get together to taste some wines, usually blind, and eat some nice food. And you know me, I don’t need much convincing to eat and drink.
Originally we were supposed to have a picnic outside but the weather was not on our side, so we took refuge in a wine cellar located in downtown Helsinki. Everybody brought some bottles and we served them blind to each other. The evening got a dramatic start when one of the bloggers dropped a bottle of Pommery NV champagne from the 70’s on the floor, it broke together with a bottle of blanc de noir still white wine from I-don’t-remember-where. After 15 minutes of cursing and silent contempt we continued with the tasting. Actually the guys managed to save some of the old champagne and pour it into a couple of wine glasses through a coffee filter. It was heavily oxidized and way past its prime but still quite interesting for those of us who like to indulge in occasional wine necrophilia.
There was all kinds of wines being poured from Kiwi grüner veltliner to Catalan pinot noir. One of the wines I brought was António Madeira Dão Vinhas Velhas 2011. Very likely the first time it was tasted in Finland and I was curious to hear what people thought of the wine.
António Madeira is a French dude but he has his roots in Portugal. He started looking for a vineyard in the Dão wine region in 2010 and found a 50-year-old vineyard in the foothills of Serra da Estrela that had been neglected. António took it upon himself to recuperate it and in 2011 he produced the first wine from this vineyard. I have seen some pictures of this place and it looks like a mini version of Mendoza with the snowy Serra in the background. Not as big and dramatic as the Andes but still very beautiful.
When I served it to my fellow wine geeks in the blind tasting they had a hard time pin-pointing where it’s from. Not because it didn’t have a distinctive character but just because the wines from Dão are almost completely unknown in Finland. A situation that I hope will change in the future. The closest guess was Galicia. After sniffing and tasting, well drinking to be exact, the consensus seemed very positive. People recognized that it was still quite young but definitely has potential to age well.
So, what did I think of the wine? I had tasted it once before at Simplesmente Vinho event in Porto. I remember tasting many wines that day and in these wine events sometimes even a good wine can get past your radar. I’m glad I had the opportunity to taste this again. What surprised me with this wine is that António, who is a young guy, did not overdo it. You might think why is that so surprising but in my experience many times when these young guns do their first wines they tend to do wines to impress people or prove a point. Too much extraction, too much oak, too “natural” or some other mumbo jumbo. You should keep your ego out of the equation and let the vines speak for themselves, and in this case it seems António has done just that. Something tells me that we will hear much more about Dão Serrano wines in the future.
António Madeira Dão Vinhas Velhas 2011
This old vineyard has a mix of traditional Portuguese grape varieties like Tinta Pinheira and Negro Mouro. The wine has a very classic feel to it. Bright red fruit with this green pine aroma that I often find in the wines of Dão. Good structure and freshness that offers some nice drinkability already at this age. Which might explain why the bottle got empty at a record speed. Nicely balanced wine that makes you wonder why isn’t Dão wines known worldwide. Well, let it be heard! These wines can win the hearts and minds of any wine enthusiast from Tokyo to friggin’ Rancho Cucamonga.