As if reason were needed to try another of Portugal's 600 or so indigenous grape varieties, this is utterly wonderful wine!
Made like the finest of village-level white wines, the quality is that of any Saint Aubin or equivalent wine that we've had. It has amazing balance of freshness and intensity, with breadth, concentration and clarity, mixed with complex flavours of pencil-lead, juicy white-fruit, tropical flavours and integrated oak, topped-off with floral blossom notes. It opens slowly with some restraint at first, but then delivers beautiful fruit in nuanced detail. It's really, really good wine and yet also just lovely!
Age-worthy and complex; at this price it's getting quite rare in Europe.
This wine is is picked from four different plots, which are fermented separately according to the characteristics of any given vintage. Two plots are cool and two are warmer: the cooler ones, next to an oak forest and beside a lake, offer freshness and complexity and structure; the warmer ones, in sandy soils, provide warmth and richness and some of the restrained power.
Made with fastidious care, the grapes are harvested by hand into small cartons that are taken to the grape press (no crushing at all) and are gently whole-bunch pressed before settling for 24 hours. The fermenting takes place in two parts - it starts in stainless steel to create the consistent style that they look for, before transferring the wine to a combination of variously-sized oak vats. A portion of the wine then remains in the oak barrels for up to six months with regular stirring (battonage) to extract the very best of the lees and phenolic content in the grape skins. It's a process that you see in the finest Burgundy villages and used by the best producers in one or two other wineries around the world.
This is very fine winemaking!
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!
Style: Vibrant, Structured, Smooth, Silky, Round, Mineral, Medium Bodied, Juicy, Fresh, Fleshy, Engaging, Elegant, Broad, Bright, Balanced
Best food matches: Tuna, Trout, Tapas, Sushi, Shellfish, Seafood, Scallops, Salads, Poultry, Pork, Pasta, Oysters, Lobster, Hard Cheeses, Fine Dining, Charcuterie, Asparagus, Aperitif