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.
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.
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