Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Dão Wines: The Hidden Gem of Portugal

This title was the byline for a brilliant tasting sponsored by Vinhos Dão Wines and Wines of Portugal and featuring numerous wines from this "hidden gem". The tasting started with Wines of Portugal US Ambassador Eugenio Jardim discussing Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula before transitioning to the Dão. Most pertinent is that Portugal has the largest number of microclimates per square kilometers in the world and hosts over 250 indigenous grape varieties. In fact, these grapes are from the species Vitis Silvestris which developed isolated from the world as the Iberian Peninsula remained glacier free during the Quaternary glaciations which froze North and Central Europe over the last 2.58 million years.

That being said, the modern indigenous grape varieties grown in Portugal are Vitis Vinifera and includes grapes such as Malvasia Fina, Encruzado, Jaen (Mencia), and Baga, as well as Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo). These grapes excel in the Dão viticultural region's granite soils and are favored with the microclimates within this northern Portuguese region. It is enclosed by four mountain ranges which act as natural barriers from the coastal rains that originate from the Atlantic and the strong continental winds emanating from Spain. Vineyards are generally planted between 1300 to 1600 feet with higher elevations reaching 2600 feet. According to, "This elevation raises the vines out of the valley's shadows and towards all-important sunshine, allowing them to maximize their photosynthesis time during the day. It also increases diurnal temperature variation, helping the grapes cool down at night, which they must do to retain the acids so desirable in wine".

Courtesy of Vinhos Dão Wine
In 1908, the Dão became the second (following Porto) formal Portuguese wine region which defined the general conditions for the production and trade of Dão Wine. And more recently the C.V.R. Dão was established in 1987 right after Portugal formally joined the EU. This organization is responsible for "ensuring authenticity and quality by strictly controlling the production and marketing of the wines" and certifies and authenticates wines with Seals of Guarantee. The CVR also created four quality designations listed in the box.
Selected Harvest: With harvest year, with outstanding organoleptic characteristics and with more than 1% of the volume of the legal limit.
Reserve: With harvest year, with outstanding organoleptic characteristics and with more than 0.5% of the volume of the legal limit.
Garrafeira: With harvest year, with outstanding organoleptic characteristics;
> Red wines: 36 months, 12 months in bottle
> White wines: 12 months, 6 months in bottle
Dão Nobre: With the year of harvest, with very outstanding organoleptic characteristics. Only two to date (one white and one red) – Must score 90 points plus
Our tasting started with a flight of white wines dominated by the Encruzado grape. According to Wines of Portugal, Encruzado generally creates complex wines with aromatic mineral notes and tropical fruit and depth and vanilla when fermented in barrel. The Quinto do Mondego Mondeo Branco 2018 (60% Encruzado & 40% Gouveio) contains these mineral notes as well as a smokey, flinty profile. The grape's versatility was shown in the saline driven high acid Juliana Kelman Encruzado 2018 to the beeswax and spice in the Pedra Cancela Vinha da Fidalga Encruzado 2018 the cream and depth of the Quinta dos Roques Encruzado 2018.

For reds, our hosts provided one flight consisting of various blends and the second flight of 100% Touriga Nacional. Like most European regions, blends are the backbone of the Dão with most combinations not as complex as the Casa da Passarella "O Oenologo - Vinhas Velhas" Tinto 2015 - composed of Baga, Touriga Nacional, Alvarelhão, Tinta Pinheira, Jaen, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Carvalha, and more. And the Pedra Cancela Selecao do Enologo Tinto 2016 (Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz) was the bargain of the tasting, priced under $10, with gripping tannins and solid fruit structure and just a little less leather and barnyard funk as the winery's more expensive Reserva.

The 100% Touriga Nacional wines, in general, provided more fruit than the blends particularly the Borges Touriga Nacional 2017. But expect a balanced profile with texture and solid tannins. The Julia Kemper Touriga Nacional 2012 was more tender due to the advanced aging and provided more approachable tannins. My favorite was the dustier Jaime de Almeida Barros "Quinta das Camelias" Touriga Nacional 2016 which seemed a perfect match with the Martin Farms Beef Short Rib -- the main entree during our lunch at Metier.

The final wine was the Qunita das Maias Tinto Jaen 2017, my first single varietal from this grape. It offers a rustic charm with dusty cherries and firm tannins.  This wine and the others will entice a more in-depth examination of the Dão region and Portuguese wines.

Felicidades to Vinhos Dão Wines, Wines of Portugal, and Metier for a fantastic tasting.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Gran Reserva Tempranillo

In Spain, Gran Reserva wines are prized for their dense fruit, structure, and integrated tannins - all the result of appellation regulations where the wine is aged for at least five years, of which 18 months (24 in Navarra, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero) are spent in oak casks.  Markus and Liz Bokisch (plus winemaker  Elyse Perry) honored this heritage by following the same regulations when producing the Bokisch Vineyards 2014 Gran Reserva Tempranillo ($60).   The grapes were grown in the silty sandy loam of the Las Cerezas Vineyard and the volcanic clay loam of the Liberty Oaks Vineyard. After fermentation, the wine was then aged 36 months in new American and new French oak followed by an additional 20 months in bottle.

The result is a beautiful wine, both chewy and luscious with dark cherries surrounded by chocolate, subtle leather, and baking spices. Expect a long, lingering finish.  Cheers to this Gran Reserva.

Disclosure: We received samples from Bokisch Vineyards in order to share our opinion about their products, but this isn’t a sponsored post.