Posts Tagged : Dão

Grão Vasco Prova Mestra 2013

Text João Barbosa | Translation Bruno Ferreira

The Dão wine region was for many years a quality benchmark and the birthplace of brands that guaranteed quality at a time when the country mainly drank undifferentiated wine in bulk in the taverns, which came from the village when the internal migrants went there homesick.

The Dão was no exception, but thinking a bit I can recall some names: Aliança, Caves Velhas, Constantino, Dão Pipas, Grão Vasco, Porta de Cavaleiros, São Domingos, Terras Altas, UDACA…

In Nelas lies the Centro de Estudos Vitivinícolas do Dão (Winemaking Studies Center of the Dao), in Quinta da Cale. The designation by itself may seem empty of meaning, but it is an important house, established in 1946. It’s an organism dependent on the Ministry of Agriculture, created during the Estado Novo dictatorship which greatly promoted the consumption of wine. This advertising phrase became famous: Drinking wine is to give the bread to a million Portuguese people.

The dictator António Oliveira Salazar was a man of rural origins and visited his village from Vimieiro, in the municipality of Santa Comba Dão. He liked the wine of his land and there are images in which he serves it to the peasants – in spite of all I think that in this he was genuine and did not pose for propaganda photos.

The country was poor – in fact, it was poor until the end of the dictatorship in 1974 – and the wine was an easy and affordable source of calories. Agriculture was a huge burden on public accounts and, within it, wheat and wine.

As for poverty, sometimes relativized or diminished, I’ll tell you that, in 1979, the Fonte da Telha – a land shared by Almada and Sesimbra, in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon – many children were fed with tired horse soup (a soup of wine and bread). It is not myth, it’s documented, and filmed. Much earlier, perhaps even before the end of World War II, the number of barefoot children was huge. And even adults.

So you can see the importance that this sector had in the Dão in this public organism. The ones who had the opportunity to taste and/or drink wine in the Centro de Estudo de Nelas (Nelas Study Center) experienced the excellence of these nectars, with a remarkable aging ability, both the reds and whites.

Moving forward, the Dão region went downhill in the consumer’s preferences. The resurgence has been progressive and, for years, powered by Dão Sul (Global Wines). Nowadays, no one denies the quality of the wines of this demarcation and new wine growers and winemakers have been appearing.

The brand Grão Vasco is iconic and Sogrape has been promoting it. I think with good results. The Grão Vasco Prova Mestra 2013 was recently presented, a red wine made with grapes from the Quinta dos Carvalhais (50%), with 105 hectares, of which 50 are vineyard, the other 50% are bought.

Grão Vasco Prova Mestra 2013 is a blend of Touriga Nacional (36%), Tinta Roriz (31%) and Alfrocheiro (33%). The fruit was pressed in stainless steel vats where the alcoholic fermentation took place. The malolactic fermentation was made in French oak barrels, and aged for 12 months. It also aged three months in bottle before being commercialized. It was approved as «Reserva», but such indication is not part of the brand, though it comes stated in a separated label.

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Grão Vasco Prova Mestra 2013 – Photo Provided by Sogrape SA | All Rights Reserved

It’s an easy wine, where the violets – typical of Touriga Nacional, here in the cradle of this grape variety – and the blackberries and raspberries «merge» together. Less obvious are the menthol and pine needles hints. The palate is smooth with tamed tannins and a not very long ending.

Since I’m writing about the Dão I cannot forget two important facts. One of them and more known to the public is the Queijo da Serra – the most famous Portuguese cheese. The other reference is the work of the painter Grão Vasco.

The arts arrived late to Portugal, because of its remoteness. When Europe was building Gothic cathedrals, around here we were still building churches in Romanesque or in a hybrid genre. However, the case of Vasco Fernandes, known as Grão Vasco and that often signed as Velasco, is different.

He was probably born in 1475, perhaps in Viseu, and died in 1542. He was a disciple of Francisco Henriques, a Flemish painter coming from Bruges. At that time the names were translated and that’s the record that remains.

Vasco Fernandes’ painting style can still be considered as gothic but at a very late period, when the technical advances and the taste for the Renaissance style was already a thing.

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Altarpiece of São Pedro in wikipédia

If you’re strolling through Dão do not miss the Grão Vasco National Museum, in Viseu, where there is a magnificent altarpiece of São Pedro (Saint Peter), originally placed in the Cathedral. In Coimbra there is a work about the Pentecost, in the Monastery of Santa Cruz – where it’s also the tomb of the first King of Portugal, Afonso I. In Lisbon, there is stuff to see at the National Museum of Ancient Art.

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Work about the Pentecost, in the Monastery of Santa Cruz in wikipédia

As for the wine, primary cause of the text, is a safe bet for those who appreciate the Dão. It is not stratospheric, but neither is it merely average. The average tires me, but this one gave me a pleasure above that level.

Quinta da Alameda, an Old Vineyard in Santar

Text José Silva | Translation Jani Dunne

Carlos Lucas and Luís Abrantes chose “Antiqvvm”, a restaurant in Porto, to present the first Quinta da Alameda wine, made on their property in Santar. These two entrepreneurs are old friends and, although they have ventures in different industries, they decided some time ago to buy Quinta da Alameda together, a well-known property in Santar, which is in the heart of Dão, with great tradition and a few very old vines. Alongside planting new vines, these old vines were cherished and worked on so that they would produce very good grapes, which in turn would make high-end wines. It seems as though this final goal was achieved on their first year, although in a very small amount, given the age of the vines. Later on, the entrepreneurs will recover some of the architectural heritage in the farm and build a cellar where grapes will be processed and turned into wine and where the wines will be stored for ageing and bottling. One of their goals is to evolve into organic production while also protecting the environment.

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Carlos Lucas joined the restaurant’s chefs, Vítor Matos and Ricardo Cardoso – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

In this presentation, oenologist Carlos Lucas joined the restaurant’s chefs, Vítor Matos and Ricardo Cardoso, and together they engineered the harmonisations they felt were the most appropriate, always including an element of surprise, as we always have received from Vítor Matos’s teams.

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Rosa Teixeira – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Ribeiro Santo Blanc de Noir – Photo Provided by Quinta da Alameda | All Rights Reserved

In a beautiful, elegant, refined venue, where Rosa Teixeira ensured everything was perfect; we were welcomed with the Ribeiro Santo Blanc de Noir sparkling wine, which had already been tasted. It was yellow, with some evolution, very elegant, with very fine bubbles and a soft bead. Dry, with aromas of straw, toast, and some nuts, it has volume on the mouth, very balanced acidity, it’s very engaging, and it paid the Antiqvvm snacks excellent company.

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Ribeiro Santo Encruzado 2014 – Photo Provided by Quinta da Alameda | All Rights Reserved

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Marinated salmon – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

At the table, we moved on to white wine, Ribeiro Santo Encruzado 2014, an amazing grape variety, a citrus-colour wine, crystal-clear. Very elegant and silky, some intense white fruits, slightly dry, refreshing. Complex, intense, but velvety, balanced freshness and acidity, some white-fruit pulp with a silky lasting finish.

It went down with some a marinated salmon, coconut, strawberries, avocado pear, coriander, nasturtium and trout roe; on the side, a surprising scallop tartar with chilli pepper and citrus fruits, a pearl of the Encruzado and glasswort.

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A surprising scallop tartar – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

A lot of freshness, intense yet balanced flavours, Vítor Matos’s expertise on our table. Yet, before the star of the evening came out, there was time for a surprise: a wine that was still in the cask, presented in a bottle with a temporary lable, Jaen 2013. Made from a difficult year, it is already a very interesting wine that surprised even its author – something Carlos Lucas made a point of expressing. A soft garnet, very clean, beautiful red-fruit aromas, notes of smoke, silky. Good volume on the mouth, very, but really very elegant, velvety, notes of dark chocolate, excellent acidity, a lasting finish, a great Jaen.

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Vítor Matos – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Grouper with ox tail and Tuscan truffle sauce – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

To keep the grouper with ox tail and Tuscan truffle sauce company, a cuttlefish-ink and giant prawn ravioli, morel [mushroom] emulsion, and squid and fennel tagliatelle.

And now, the star of the evening, Quinta da Alameda Reserva Especial Red 2012. In a very well-designed bottle, a sober and elegant label, it has an intense shade of ruby, very clean. Floral, with notes of red fruits, rockrose, pine tree. Great acidity, refreshing, intense, a lot of fruit, balsamic notes, eucalyptus, silky, very ripe and bold tannins, a very long finish; an extraordinary wine to drink right away or to store for many years. That was, after all, the second surprise of the evening!!

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Quinta da Alameda Reserva Especial Red 2012 – Photo Provided by Quinta da Alameda | All Rights Reserved

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Veal loin – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

It did a great job when accompanying the veal loin, which was slightly smoked with trumpets of death [mushrooms] and boletus-mushroom vinegar, old balsamic, a parsnip and spinach cream, pistachio bread and spice sauce.

This very complex dish made a good match for such a fantastic wine.

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Dessert – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Watering – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

We ended the evening with a reserve Tawny Port by Quinta das Tecedeiras, which accompanied a disconcerting dessert: pumpkin with cottage cheese and pudding served in a pot, which Vítor Matos later watered; on the plate, a black carrot tart, toasted almonds, tangerine sorbet, beetroot cream and foam, vegetables with elder syrup. Speechless…

Dão is still a buzzword!

Casa da Passarella, a day at the harvests

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Jani Dunne

During our visit to the historic Casa da Passarella in Dão – with Serra da Estrela in the background – we literally rolled our sleeves back to work on this producer’s oldest vines. Right in the middle of the harvest season, we accepted the invitation to go see the amazing old vineyards that give birth to this company’s best wines. The field work was very insightful, and we had a very relaxing lunch, which enhanced two brilliant new releases. In the end, we did a vertical tasting of the Vinhas Velhas including two new products that will soon hit the market.

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Casa da Passarella – Photo Provided by Casa da Passarella | All Rights Reserved

All we had to do was arrive, grab a pair of scissors, and walk down the roads of this picturesque Passarela village to get to the vineyards. An amazing scenery composed of three small plots of vineyards now over one-hundred years old, spread out through three little banks set upon mostly granite-rich soil, where white-grape vines cohabitate with red-grape vines. Varieties with names so unorthodox, they risk being forgotten; no matter how hard you try, you can only understand all the magic and specificity of such a vine once you’re in front of it and see the huge range of varieties that also live there. It’s a shame that Dão vines were in decay for a long time, and consequently, so was their quality. It was necessary for producers to heavily invest in planting new vines, which in a way helped separate or even withdraw the older vineyards.

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Grapes from the cecntenary vineyards – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

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Enxertia Jaén 2012 – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

The resulting blend of these old vines bares the soul of the region; the biggest Dão asset lies in its oldest vines, and we must thank all of those who put an effort and a lot of dedication into fighting to preserve them and to obtain wines that, if well-educated in the cellar, can reach very high quality standards. Therefore, I wasn’t surprised at how passionately oenologist Paulo Nunes speaks of his “babies”, who – according to himself – have taught him a whole lot. Based on what he learns from them, in his expert-creator hat, he has been able to interpret their teachings so well that the results speak for themselves. Trends apart, he knows how to create and educate great wines; you can tell that, with every harvest, his Dão da Serra [mountain Dão] style is tuned to a mix of tradition and modernity with elegantly exuberant wines of very defined fruit that combines determination, character, body, and a natural velvety feel that insists on showing from the early stages.

Already at the table, enjoying a traditional dish of Rancho, I had the company of the latest product: Enxertia Jaén 2012. A dangerously appetising wine that disappeared from the glass in two shakes – the combination of structure/freshness/juicy fruit results in a perfect combo at the table. This wine, this Jaén, completely owned a very enjoyable chat; it tasted marvellous and marked another beautiful social moment.

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Paulo Nunes, vertical of Vinhas Velhas – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

However, we still had the old vines in our heads when we performed the vertical tasting starting with the first sample of Vinhas Velhas 2008 and ending with the most recent, the 2012. The evolution of the profile was evident as the 2008 showed more presence of vanilla and toast as well as very plump and juicy fruit. The poorest performer, and entirely different from the rest of the tasted wines, was the 2010, whose sweeter notes completely clashed against the others. The most quiet at the moment is the 2011, which is still in a tidy-up phase, and is still shy, although in perspective, it’s already a gorgeous wine. They were the winners of this tasting, if I may call them so. The 2009 might well be the best to date, now with the 2012. Compact and seductive medium-bodied wines of good balance, and a little more rounding conveyed by the cask. Despite all this, it maintains the usual acidity/freshness found in wines of this region.

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The new “O Fugitivo” – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

Lastly, the official presentation of the new wines. They had already been brought out and were still a little shy at the time, but they are now in their official attire. Included in the O Fugitivo range, Garrafeira white 2013, and the red Vinhas Centenárias 2012 thus emerge. Neither produce any more than 2000 bottles. These are two great wines that mirror the land that raised them. The red, as previously mentioned, collects determination, character, and body along with acidity and a taste of vegetal that conveys beautiful energy in the palate. It’s complex, deep, and at the same time still very young with a very similar profile to Vinhas Velhas 2012, although it has a bit more of everything. Now, the Garrafeira white is a flabbergasting wine; not easy and fashionable, its scent reminds you of older Dãos. Very driven, with strong tannins in the very dry finish, the wine desperately needs to rest more in the bottle. Electric, nervous, and most of all still very young on the nose and on the mouth, it was the best that this region has offered me in the last few years.

Contacts
Rua Santo Amaro, 3, Passarela
6290-093 Lagarinhos
Telefone: (+351) 238 486 312
Fax: (+351) 238 486 218
E-mail: info@casadapassarella.pt
Website: www.casadapassarella.pt

António Madeira Branco as good as ever

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Jani Dunne

Sometimes, going back in time becomes essential to prolonging something long forgotten; in this case, resorting to the past for methods and ideas left behind due to what was thought to be innovative. Nowadays, suffocated by all the commotion generated by modern society, we risk stating that innovation is nothing more than a visit to the past. A sign of modern times, and of those who eventually took the right turnings, and proved everyone it is indeed possible, and it is indeed worth it.

Besides family roots, producer António Madeira, of Portuguese descent, also finds a passion in Dão. In Dão region, he devoted his body and soul to the creation of his wines, which as I said are exactly a trip back to the old days; they make you want to rescue Dão from a glorious past, which has little or nothing to do with the current situation. Therefore, António had to roll up his sleeves and work on the vines; he learned the vineyard’s variations, and the grounds they live on. He mostly learned from the region itself. As he learned, he also taught and demonstrated – granted the healthy stubbornness found in someone who believes in what they do and what they want – to successfully rescue from oblivion that, which others don’t care for any more. The hundred-year-old vines he salvaged are now his greatest asset; furthermore, they are, in essence, the greatest asset Dão has to offer.

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António Madeira Branco 2013 – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

Those vines he taught how to relive harbour the essence of the lot, from which varieties of odd names once swallowed by time shine through. In shape and content, these are the vines that gave birth to the wines we now call the classics, and which built a region’s image. Given the fact that these achievements are only accomplished rather by skill than by will, António is unsurprisingly a virtuoso, seeing he suddenly became famous after releasing only three wines. His wines speak for themselves, but they speak for the Dão region above all, and also for that special little spot he chose, right next to Serra da Estrela.

In total, he controls 5 old vines, aged 50 to 120; they live in granite grounds, 500 or 600 metres (1640 or 1970 ft) high. That field blend grows more than 20 indigenous varieties. Sometimes, the white varieties mix with the red, some of which face extinction; in this case, the mix is basically 75% Syria, Fernão Pires and Bical. Interestingly, Encruzado, currently the ruling variety, is only part of the blend, as it always was; however, in the past, it was used on its own as part of a trial. This is thus his first white, made from the 2013 vintage, which resulted in little more than 600 bottles, a product of his precise work and of the ancient vines which produce very little. António calls it a terroir wine. I couldn’t possibly agree more, seeing as the wine reveals such a distinct character, that it could only be generated in that place. António Madeira white 2013 is as delicate as it is deep, dense, and has a beautiful mineral austerity ruling the background. The fruit appears clean, pure, pretty and perky, scented and with a few bouquets of flowers from nearby brooms. It’s the kind of wine that seeks attention, or even prior decanting in order to experience its full potential: a strong austere palate marked by the granite, very good acidity cushioned by the fruit. You feel the soul and the vigour; you can feel that this wine has many years ahead of it; altogether, a great Dão wine. Perfect to accompany noble fish of delicate flesh, or to simply enjoy with a side of good friends. Thank you, António Madeira.

Contacts
António Madeira
Tel: (+33) 680633420
Email: ajbmadeira@gmail.com
blog “A palheira do Ti Zé Bicadas

I promise this is the end of my walk around Dão!

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

I had planned to write about only three Dão wines, but pulled by the current, I made an addition, because the region started off well, then weakened, and is currently (still) being reborn. I end where I wish I had begun.

Quality has improved, and it does justice to Nature and to human skills, because Dão is one of the best wine regions in Portugal. By listing the region’s virtues and ugliness, I will provide three examples that illustrate my thoughts exactly. Dão Sul, Sogrape and Casa de Mouraz. Any of the above knows that success and victories never happen by chance. One I describe in black and white, the other two in colour.

In colour: when, in 2004, I started working on the TV show “Da Terra Ao Mar” (From Earth to Sea) – on Sundays at 11am, RTP 2 – one of the first reports was about Casa de Mouraz. A young couple had recently moved from Lisbon to plow a vineyard biologically; these days, it’s biodynamic. They had 10 acres; today, Sara Dionísio and António Lopes Ribeiro operate in more areas of the country, their heart still set on Dão.

In black and white: Dão Sul (Global Wines) was founded in 1989 and the region’s rebirth owes much to that company after it replaced the region on the map. Their strategy consists in ensuring extraordinary quality and a pocket-friendly price.

Quinta de Cabriz gained popularity among the masses. Its overwhelming success marked the arrival of grapes from other lands of that area, and the brand became simply Cabriz. Quinta dos Grilos – gossip says another producer was running it, although it belonged to someone else – was used to create a competitive dynamic. Another popular case, although not as visible. Now, it’s simply called “Grilos” for the above reason.

Unfortunately, the quality in Cabriz and in Grilos decayed. To make a big amount, and do it well, is almost like making the cycle square – extremely hard. Casa de Santar, which was once a lot more popular, met the same fate. However, hiring oenologist Osvaldo Amado has yielded better results. On a side note: Cabriz vinegar is excellent!

Global Wines doesn’t make only low-end wines. Paço dos Cunhas de Santar and Pedro & Inês – the latter evokes the tragic love story involving Prince Dom Pedro, later Pedro I of Portugal, and Dona Inês de Castro – are some of the best in the region.

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Quinta dos Carvalhais – Photo Provided by Sogrape Vinhos, SA | All Rights Reserved

The original purpose was to tell the story of three wines by Quinta dos Carvalhais, property of Sogrape. It’s the biggest Portuguese company in the sector – a multinational family business – and it doesn’t sleep on the job. It makes world-class wines in Dão, and has created three “individuals”. Personality and, in a local term, terroir.

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Quinta de Carvalhais – Photo Provided by Sogrape Vinhos, SA | All Rights Reserved

Touriga Nacional comes from Dão, and that regional variation offers a scent of violets. Lacking the aromatic caricature – a growing exaggeration in the region lately – its character proves quite polite. Quinta dos Carvalhais Touriga Nacional 2012 is educational; it truly expresses the variety and elegance that made its birthplace famous.

The yellowish nectar doesn’t fall far from the above; it results from the flashiest variety of that area – very refreshing and mineral. Quinta dos Carvalhais Encruzado 2013 will also educate on what a variety is and on what best Dão has to offer.

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Quinta dos Carvalhais Encruzado 2013 – Photo Provided by Sogrape Vinhos, SA | All Rights Reserved

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Quinta dos Carvalhais Touriga Nacional 2012 – Photo Provided by Sogrape Vinhos, SA | All Rights Reserved

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Quinta dos Carvalhais Reserva Red 2010 – Photo Provided by Sogrape Vinhos, SA | All Rights Reserved

Portugal has a rule that wines must result from a blend of several varieties; however, the company website doesn’t reveal which varieties colour the wine. Quinta dos Carvalhais Reserva Red 2010 gathers the true character of the Dão region.

They feature something hard to find nowadays: longevity. They were made to last, but can be drunk immediately. Given the years ahead of them… buy a few bottles, drink some and save the rest. Make notes to compare and remember.

My legs aren’t tired from walking round Dão yet

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

I started walking along the Dão, but because the roads are so long, I didn’t make it to my destination without taking a weeklong break. As I mentioned earlier, my second revelation was a party with many high-ranking officials.

That took place in 2010, when João Tavares de Pina threw an event attended by many producers of great quality wines. This farmer called it “Dão – The Next Big Thing”.

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Dão Expressions in cvrdao.pt

I have nothing to teach the managers of Comissão Vitivinícola Regional do Dão (Dão Regional Viticulture Commission), but I think this moment should be repeated in order to create a wave of acknowledgement… perhaps with a contest, debates and international critics.

It was some rendezvous. A true gathering. A proper gathering, due to the variety and quality presented. If I did take notes, I can’t remember where I placed the list of all the producer’s details, but there were many. As with everything else, I have memorised some of them because I liked them.

One example was the wine by the host and organiser. The wines of Terra de Tavares; very vibrant, authentic, with a “terroir” character – this word is bound to become common due to constant usurping, which is not the case here.

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Terras de Tavares, João Tavares de Pina – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

Another great find were the wines by Casa de Darei, more elegant than the former, but also very special and true to their roots. But the greater spectacle happened in the quaint Clube de Viseu, in its ball room.

The best moment was when wines from Centro de Estudos Vitivinícolas do Dão (Centre for Dão Wine Growing Studies) were served. This centre is found in Quinta da Cal, in county Nelas. The old whites, namely those of 1980 and 1981, were fit as fiddles. Reds from the 70s felt even younger.

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Solar do Vinho Dão (CVR Dão) cvrdao.pt

A good friend told me he drank a few “century-old” nectars by UDACA (“União Das Adegas Cooperativas da Região Demarcada do Dão”, Union of the Wine Growing Co-operatives of the Dão Demarcated Region), which made him rethink his earlier assertion that only liked young wines. Unfortunately, those make it down my throat.

My memory of Dão was formed almost of thin air, as I revealed in the first part of this trip down memory lane. Until very late, I only knew about old brands of Dão wines, such as Porta de Cavaleiros, Dão Pipas, Grão Vasco, Meia Encosta, São Domingos, Messias and Borges… I think that’s all.

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Dão Expressions in cvrdao.pt

Once in the 90s decade, I was introduced to excellent nectars, boasting farm names where they grew, a natural process due to the decline of the region’s cooperatives. Since then, the list has expanded. Knowing I will be unfair by involuntary omission, I must cite – besides the already mentioned – red and white pearls: Quinta dos Roques, Quinta da Vegia, Quinta da Passarela, Paço dos Cunhas de Santar, Quinta de Carvalhais, Casa de Mouraz, Quinta da Falorca, Duque de Viseu, Pedra Cancela, Pedro & Inês, Quinta da Fata, Quinta de Saes, Quinta da Pellada, Quinta do Perdigão, Quinta de Carvalhais and… “Inexplicably” sorted by memory, not hierarchy.

As with everything else, there aren’t only wonders. Still, the darkness of it isn’t absolute either – fortunately. One day, embraced by the Dão charm, I stumbled upon a wine by Adega Cooperativa de Penalva do Castelo. It was a terrible experience. Emphasys on “was”. Currently, what that cooperative cellar has been producing makes up for its past.

I had a mentor in journalism who never tired of complimenting my ability to summarise. In these articles, though I don’t need to keep the news short… I’m not able to say everything I would like to say about Dão.

Please be patient, there’s more to come next week.

An incomplete walk around Dão

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

There’s a topic my family keeps going back to, which is memory. It’s a stubborn term, a byzantine discussion… it’s become a mere trigger for smiles, because everybody has said and explained their thoughts. In my view, photos aren’t necessary to build memories.

Someone once strategically placed a book so that I would stumble upon it because the author says in it that books or images are necessary for making memories. Well, in thousands of years of evolution, mankind has always had memories, and photography only came about in the 19th century, around the 20s. Even painted portraits are only “a few” centuries old, but are secondary to Homo Sapiens Sapiens’ lifetime. Besides, neither photography nor painting – especially the latter – were available to most people. Furthermore, memory can also be falsified and reinvented, even made up.

What I’m getting to is Dão, three of its wines, to be specific. My memory of the Dão region consists of a photograph in which I am seen building a train out of the chairs in my house with the children from Campo de Besteiros. However, my most clear memory is a centipede drowned in the sink – isn’t that odd?

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Arco dos Cavaleiros (old) in visoeu.blogspot.pt

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Arco dos Cavaleiros Nowadays in Panoramio.com – Photo by filipe_ | All Rights Reserved

To me, Dão – from Viseu – brings back a bad memory of a disagreement I had in a so called “restaurant”, where my stake was served with a string of hair. I am still not a fan of Viseu, with all due respect for its inhabitants, whether born or latecomers.

Dão” doesn’t say much to me. And yet the wine is standing there, on a shelf in front of me. My dad often bought wine from that region. I’m 45 years old, but while I was a child, Douro “didn’t exist”, Alentejo “didn’t exist”… I have no recollection of Bairrada… there was Vinho Verde and a few wine brands, mostly from super productive vineyards, probably Estremadura and Ribatejo.

Because my dad almost always had red wine, to me Dão is red. And still today! Doctor Freud could explain that. However, it’s much more than just red. It’s a region of wonderful nectars, and a good number of diligent producers. The problem with Dão is the size of the land with a very typically Portuguese characteristic – and probably enhanced in that area –, discord.

There are two special moments of when I first discovered Dão. One is a bottle, the other an event. In the first episode, I remember being surprised to discover a ballroom Chuck Norris and, in the other, I met a group of senior officials in ball wear.

Blend-All-About-Wine-A-Walk-Around-Dao-Porta-dos-Cavaleiros-Colheita-1983 An incomplete walk around Dão An incomplete walk around Dão Blend All About Wine A Walk Around Dao Porta dos Cavaleiros Colheita 1983

Porta dos Cavaleiros Colheita de 1983 in garrafeiranacional.com

I call it Chuck Norris because it’s strong and resistant, but elegant… you might think that “James Bond” would have been a better suit, except 007 is a man of the city. Here’s the story: in my parent’s house, there was a bottle of Cavaleiros Colheita de 1983. I don’t know how exactly it was still there down, but, because it survived, my father gave it to me in February 1994, when I moved out and started my life as a single man. However, the bottle still lived another decade. One day, in 2007, I thought it had to be opened. Incredible! Amazing! So young, so elegant… What does it have to do with Chuck Norris, you ask? Well, the bottle (or wine) was in the sun, spent its life in the daytime, it wasn’t stored horizontally and it moved a few times. Colossal in every sense!

Stay tuned for the next episode.

The 2014 whites by Caves do Solar de São Domingos

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Jani Dunne

Since 1937, the company named Caves do Solar de São Domingos has been producing bubbly wines, aguardente velha, bagaçeira (wine spirits), and Bairrada and Dão wines. Their arcades were carved into rock. It is definitely worth it to visit this wonderful hub where more than two million bottles of bubbly, many thousands of bottled wines and hundreds of small barrels are stored in French oak – for it’s infamous wine spirit.

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Solar de São Domingos – Photo Provided by Caves do Solar São de Domingos | All Rights Reserved

A few of their bubbly wines are in my list of national favourites. However, I will be focusing on the new white wines in this article, the 2014 editions that have just been launched. The 2014 harvest was tricky given the heavy rain. Those who harvested wines before the rains were lucky and got great quality white grapes. These words were repeated throughout the country, although the potential white casts of later ageing was mourned, but fortunately the early-ageing whites gave birth to high-quality wines.

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São Domingos white 2014 – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

In this case, this means two whites of 2014. They are quite distinct from each other. While São Domingos is faithful to the Bairradino profile – its plot of land is mostly composed of Maria Gomes (80%) and Bical (20%) –, the grapes from S. Lourenço do Bairro, Vilarinho do Bairro and Ventosa do Bairro, grown in grounds rich in sand and clay, resulted in a white wine that is briefly passed through the cold stainless steel. Its aroma is very clean, mostly fruity, citrus, white pulp, flowers for a scented profile, creating a good environment, in the nose as well as in the mouth. A good presence in the palate, evident clean fruit; it shows some grasp with some mineral dryness in the background. A good white to have with a meal, for instance swordfish in a coal-oven or even fish soup.

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Volúpia white 2014 – Photo by João Pedro de Carvalho | All Rights Reserved

The other white is the most innovative side to this producer. Volúpia 2014 is wrapped in a poem by Florbela Espanca, from Vila Viçosa. Invoking voluptuousness and seduction, desire and flavour, the search for harmony and the pleasure of drinking a white grape. A desire to love deeply, to love for the sake of love itself, to love near or love far. That would be how Florbela Espanca would have defined this deeply poetic white wine – very sensual and bold, deeply personal and feminine. It comprises Sauvignong Blanc (50%), Chardonnay (35%) and Maria Gomes (15%) that come from Carregosa and are briefly run through stainless steel. It produces a different result, of a complex aroma but very fresh and perfumed, and with notes of very mature fruit; clean and mouth-watering. It is, most of all, a captivating wine of a delicate scent; its tasting reveals a mouth that gracefully combines volume with freshness. It has acidity and structure, it is well-able to entertain more oriental-flavoured meals, or to enhance a wide-range of tapas in a late-afternoon on a rooftop terrace.

Contacts
Caves do Solar de São Domingos, S.A.
Ferreiros – Anadia
Apartado 16
3781-909 Anadia – Portugal
Tel: (+351) 231 519 680
Fax: (+351) 231 511 269
E-mail: info@cavesaodomingos.com
Website: www.cavesaodomingos.com

Short moments with Casa da Passarella

Text Ilkka Sirén

I like wine. I like food. I like hanging out with good people. I especially like all those things together. Whenever possible I try to surround myself with people I enjoy spending time with, most of whom share my enthusiasm towards all things tasty. I have never had a problem of enjoying a glass or two just by myself but wine, like food, is a thing that really is best when shared. I guess that’s one of the many reasons I love Portugal. It doesn’t take much to convince a Portuguese person to enjoy a glass of wine with you, to share some food, to share a short moment in this erratic life of ours. As corny as it may sound, life is a compilation of those short moments. So, in the spirit of all this I invited some friends over to taste a couple of wines from the Dão region.

Casa da Passarella is an estate that has one of those “neglegted winery saved by a millionaire” – kind of a story. The estate dates back to 1892 and it was a very ambitious project by a guy called Amand d’Oliveira. They planted 200 hectares of vineyards which I imagine was quite a task back in the day. Some of those vineyards still exist. But like with so many other estates, it all ended in ruins. That was until 2007 when the estate was acquired by Ricardo Cabral. A few years and a few million euros after, bada-bing-bada-boom, Casa da Passarella is now starting to make waves again.

Short moments with CASA DA PASSARELLA1 casa da passarella Short moments with Casa da Passarella Short moments with CASA DA PASSARELLA1

Wine Glass – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Anyways, my friends came over and I popped open a bottle of Casa da Passarella O Oenólogo Encruzado 2012. The wine was timid at first but after a while it started to open up. Most of the ecruzados I see here in Finland are very easy going and usually quite ripe showing tons of tropical fruits. They can be quite nice but it’s not usually the style I go for. This wine on the other hand was less fruit-forward and more restrained showing nice citrus and green herb aromas with a long mouthwatering finish. I made a bit of challenge for the wine pairing it with some spicy chistorra sausage. It was downright sinful, and by sinful I mean sinfully delicious. The slight viscosity of the encruzado worked well with the spiciness and the acidity cut the fatness of the sausage making it a very tasty combination.

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Chistorra Sausage & Casa da Passarella O Oenólogo Encruzado 2012 – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

Then it was time for some red. We tried the O Oenólogo Vinhas Velhas 2010 tinto, a wine made from old vineyards with a mix of local grape varieties like Baga, Alvarelhão, Tinta Pinheira, Jaen, Tinta Carvalha etc. The nose was spicy with nice red fruit. The thing I like about these Dão wines that come closer to the Serra da Estrela mountain is that they tend to be quite fresh. It’s definitely a cooler wine region which you can taste in the wines. This wine had a nice structure, full bodied and balanced. I was expecting something more “rustic” but instead it turned out to be quite polished. Full-bodied, smooth tannins, persistant aftertaste. Very drinkable already but in 5 to 10 years it could develop into a real panty dropper.

Short moments with CASA DA PASSARELLA3 casa da passarella Short moments with Casa da Passarella Short moments with CASA DA PASSARELLA3

Casa da Passarella O Oenólogo Vinhas Velhas 2010 Tinto – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

So, there we were. Drinking, eating, laughing while watching the sun go down in Helsinki. It only took some wine, a bit of food and a couple of friends to make me, for that short moment, truly happy.

Contacts
Casa da Passarella
Rua Santo Amaro, 3, Passarela
6290-093 Lagarinhos
Phone: 00 351 238 486 312
Email: info@casadapassarella.pt
Site: www.casadapassarella.pt

António Madeira, The Rising Star of Dão Serrano

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.

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Glass of Wine – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

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.

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Cheese – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

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.

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António Madeira Dão Vinhas Velhas 2011 – Photo by Ilkka Sirén | All Rights Reserved

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.

Contacts
António Madeira
Tel: + 33 680633420
Email: ajbmadeira@gmail.com
blog “A palheira do Ti Zé Bicadas