Jet black in colour but with crunchy red-fruit, violet and rosehip flavours, this is a gorgeous, vibrant red that shows the balance that this cool, mountainous region of Portugal offers.
With a touch of oak, this has a really striking freshness to it that is balanced by a medium-full weight in the palate, moderate gripping tannins (even at five years old) and a complexity that yields an array of dark fruit, rocky minerality and floral notes. But the key to this is the ease of drinking that it offers! Really, such alert and attentive, engaging wine is thouroughly enjoyable at multiple occasions, from light lunch to wintery venison casseroles. It's delicious!
Made from a blend of Touriga Nacional (which by law must be at least 20% of Dão blends), Jaen, Tinto Roriz and Alfrocheiro, this is a wine that requires precise knowledge of vineyard, plot, varietety and vintage in order to deliver the balanced, refined wine that is the case here. It is aged for 8 months in old French barriques to allow the knitting-together of acid, tannin and flavours.
The Dão region is an area to the north of Portugal that is high in altitude, surrounded by mountains and influenced by the cool Atlantic ocean. It's no surprise that it ha a reputation for long, slow ripening periods! The balance to that lovely cool and gentle process comes from Spain in the form of the often unpredictable "Meseta", the arid, hot wind from the east (there is a regional Portuguese saying that "Neither a good wind nor a good marriage comes from Spain"). Indeed, though Quinta dos Carvalhais has a high altitude and large estate of 105 hectares, they are currently undergoing extensive replanting on account of the massive fire damage that Portugal endured in 2017, ignited largely because of the hot winds blowing on dry, rainless vineyards.
However, their commitment to hand harvesting indigenous grapes in this ungiving territory, their attention to plot-specific vinification and careful blending is massively rewarding. The quality of the wine that they make is really very much of the highest in the region. The company is owned and supported by a very large Portuguese group called SoGrape, who essentially keep the operation funded in order that their mission remains achievable. Hooray for bug corporations in this instance at least.
I met their lovely overseas support agent, Mary, when I tasted these wines. No need to sell, no desire to push me for massive volumes (no possibility of me taking them either...) - there was a natural enthusiasm and total understanding of the winery's program that she was so clear and focused about. It's a set of vines that has had real difficulties in the recent past, but there is such a sure-set quality of ethos, permeating all levels, that I'm really happy to help Mary in any way I can!
Grape(s): Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, Jaen, Alfrocheiro
Style: Vibrant, Smooth, Medium Bodied, Fresh, Engaging, Elegant, Crunchy, Bright
Best food matches: Tuna, Tapas, Salads, Red Meats, Poultry, Pork, Pasta, Hard Cheeses, Grills, Charcuterie