Had any Jaen lately? Or should I say Mencia?



Dão wines make me happy. They have the same effect on me as Pinot Noir but adding Touriga Nacional’s power to the elegance. Although Douro is hard not to name as the number one table wine region in Portugal, Dão is a serious contender offering us, the consumers, some of Europe’s most underrated wines. Or should I say forgotten? Or neglected? 

I know my own preference speak now but sometimes I don’t get it. Why are consumers willing to pay double the money for wines that definetely aren’t better, only originating from regions where it is easy to hide behind a world famous brand? At some point the consumer must start questioning what’s in the bottle – or not? Perhaps I should just keep my mouth and continue enjoying great Dão wines at most reasonable prices. But there’s a catch; the producers needs to pay their bills as well and if they shall be able to continue more promoting of Dão is needed.
Recently Jamie Goode had a post on the 2008 Quinta das Maias from Dão. It awoked a fond memory of an oddity the Quinta produces – a Dão made on the  Jaen grape. Hardly a rarity in the region; just not a grape that will rival Touriga Nacional’s unquestioned place on the throne. Quinta das Maias, which is owned by the more well-known Quinta dos Roques, offers a Jaen (perhaps more recognized as Mencia, the grape synonymous with hip Bierzo). But how do a Dão Jaen age?
Do you like acidity driven red wines? Then the 2000 Jaen from Quinta das Maias is the wine for you. Some would call this a food friendly wine; I settle with pure pleasure! Knowing most Dão’s really need the aeration I decant one hour ahead. While preparing our home made burgers with minced bay leafs  and garlic for the Portuguese touch, I’m having a glass.
10 years old but still quite dark with little age to the color. Lovely nose with dark cherries, schisty minerality, licorice, some leather, smoke and prunes. On the palate it’s more of red berries to it. Got to love that acidity which is in fine balance with the fruit. Prune skin, licorice, wet rocks, tobacco, figs and a slight floral note. Quite rich in its taste. Good length and still a keeper. Continues evolving during the whole evening but this is just too darn good to sit with for hours!
Treat Jaen like Touriga Nacional and it has all the potential to find an audience. It worked for Bierzo so why not Dão?
The 2000 Jaen can still be found. I bought it through Gourmondo in Germany.  EUR 16,90 – a steal!
(2000 Jaen, Quinta das Maias, Dão, 90-91 points)

P.S. A weekend of great Portuguese wines, especially two memorable Madeira’s which will take a lot of senility to forget. Read more about one of them here.