Just Dâo it


Álvaro Castro
– if the name is not familiar I promptly urge you to remember it – especially if you’re a fan of elegance prior to power.

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.

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. The topography gives a natural high acidity in the grapes – an acidity enhanced by the granite dominated soil.

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.

Álvaro knows his Touriga Nacional and that the grape doesn’t do the job on its own in Dâo. Just like in Bordeaux the Dâo district is mainly about blending with other grapes, for structure and complexity. On its own Touriga Nacional tends to loose in nuances and that is why the grape often is backed up by Tinta Roriz, Jaen and Alfrocheiro. Never concentrated or filled with abundant amounts of alcohol the blended red wines of Castro are what many would consider to be food friendly wines.

A good example is the 2007 Reserva Estágio Prolongado from Quinta de Saes consisting of mainly Touriga Nacional and backed up by Tinta Roriz and a portion grapes from extremely old vines which Vinifera identity may, in some content, be unknown. One year in used French barriques it shows a lovely red brilliant colour. Wonderful scents of dark sweet plums, fresh tobacco, wet earth, spices and an fascinating flowery bouquet. It’s written elegance all over it and even if it is not Burgundy I do understand why Dâo sometimes is called the Burgundy of Portugal.

Already in the bouquet you know that 2007 is a very good year in Dâo. But should you not be convinced yet then the taste confirms with lovely mineral structure, mature and sweet plums, freshly squeezed raspberries, tobacco, spices and nicely integrated oak. All backed up by an underlying acidity and good tannin structure.

Decanted some hours ahead it is a great glass already but patience will be rewarded – at least two or three years in the cellar will do good. A modern wine made with respect to local grape varieties. Castro doesn’t fall for the trick with extreme sweetness in his wines but still manages to satisfy both modern day wine drinkers and those rejecting to give up on the statement ‘it was better before’….

(2007 Quinta de Saes Reserva Estágio Prolongado, Dâo, 91 points)