Have some white Dão!

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Dâo’s topography indicates what you can expect in terms of style and structure of the wines. Surrounded by protecting mountains the vineyards are planted as if it were a crater and this keeps the vines protected from both the cold winds from the west and the heat from the east. The vineyards are planted at 200 meters above the sea and up to 900 meters which actually says it all; thanks to the topography the wines has a natural high acidity in the grapes – an acidity enhanced by the granite dominated soil. 

Álvaro Castro – if the name is not familiar yet now is the time – especially if elegance in a wine is a weak spot for you! In the region of Beiras, more precisely in the sub-area of Dâo, you will find the man that has spent his last twenty years putting the district on the map. Once an area conservatively held by the co-operatives and arcaic regulations – today an explosion of smaller quintas taking over and leading the quality revolution of especially the Touriga Nacional grape.

Here, in Dâo, Álvaro Castro operates since the early 80’s when he inherited Quinta da Pellada and decided on a self educated new career as a wine maker. It took almost a decade before the first wine was launched and along the journey he also bought Quinta de Saes and Quinta do Outeiro. Numerous prizes along the journey and today Álvaro Castro is recognised not only as one of the leading in Dâo but as one of the most skilled wine makers in Portugal. 

But don’t think of Dão as a red wine area only. Then you will miss out on the mineral driven white wines on Encruzado, Cercial, Verdelho and Bical, to mention a few – or the delicious, and so food friendly, rosé’s mainly based on Alfrocheiro Preto. Castro produces a delicate rosé at Pellada and some most individual whites under the Quinta de Saes label, mainly Encruzado, complemented with the Cercial grape. The white Saes wines will hardly qualify as crowdpleasers; although there’s nothing odd to them. They simply don’t follow any already walked paths; white Dão has found its own way.

On the nose, Castro’s Quinta de Saes Branco – and Branco Reserva – resembles an odd mix of a cross between Riesling and Semillon, especially in colder years, but warmer growing seasons they can almost make you think in terms of Chablis crossing a fruit packed Alvarinho! The 2008 Quinta de Saes Branco is a delicous drink and is clearly in total contrast to the 2007 (rated at a 90 p). The terroirists go fo the ’08 version while the ’07 has a more direct charm. 

Tasting note 2008 Quinta de Saes: The grey pears, the waxiness and honey notes, the green lemon together with wet rocks actually reminds me a bit of Luís Pato’s 2008 Vinha Formal based on the Bical grape. After a while, when opening up, a slight floral scent is added Marigolds!

On the palate it’s steely acidity and minerality greets you. Green apples, wax, lemons and wet rocks in a restrained, quite light but well balanced taste.  Excellent finish. This one needs time and although in total contrast to the 2007 it’s just as good quality! Serve with some grilled white fish or octopus!

(2008 Quinta de Saes, Dão, Álvaro Castro, 90 p) 

Where do you live? Álvaro Castro wines can be found in Germany at Wein-Deko, Portugal-Weinversand, in the US Castro can be found at Morrell Wine, Zachys and Vino, in Sweden at Systembolaget and in Portugal Garrafeira Nacional retails.

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