Quinta dos Carvalhais

Dão, dao Portugal

This 105 hectare property, which today has 50 hectares under vine, was purchased by the Guedes family in 1988. The vineyards were planted on poor granite soils with indigenous Dão varieties (Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro, Jaen and Tinta Pinheira for reds and Encruzado, Assario, Verdelho, Bical and Cercial for whites) and the modern winery was built soon afterwards. Today, winemaker Beatriz Cabral de Almeida makes an increasingly impressive range of wines from estate vineyards, which are situated at an altitude of 465 to 500 metres above sea level.

 

Dão, situated south-east of Vinho Verde on the raised Beirão plateau, is ringed by mountains which protect it from the influence of the Atlantic. Warm days and cool nights result in wines with lovely depth yet vibrant fruit.

 

The Encruzado and Touriga Nacional are fine examples of this. The Touriga Nacional, one of the rising stars of the world of wine, is native to Dão. The grapes are picked plot by plot, with rigorous selection taking place in the vineyard, and each plot is vinified separately. Gentle treatment in the winery, including the grapes being gravity-fed directly from the destemmer-crusher into small, stainless-steel tanks, helps to ensure supple tannins. The wine was aged for 12 months in new and used fine-grained French oak barrels, sourced from eight different coopers. The wine has lovely colour, spicy and plummy fruit on the nose, and a good depth of supple, cedary fruit on the palate.

 

The Encruzado is similarly impressive. This variety is attractive because it reaches full physiological ripeness at relatively low levels of potential alcohol (12.5%), so retains good acidity and has a low pH at harvest. This results in wines that combine weight with vibrancy and vitality. About 72% of the blend was fermented and aged in French oak. The smoky character of the oak melds nicely with the honeysuckle and white fruit characters of the grape to give a wine of real interest and character.

 

The Colheita red is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz, aged in oak for a year, while the white, 20% of which was fermented in oak, is a blend of Encruzado and Verdelho. It is fresh and zippy, with the oak lending a lovely texture to the wine. The varietal Alfrocheiro wine is a revelation. With bright raspberry aromas, a relatively light body and fresh acidity, it makes a vibrant, drinkable wine.

 

New to the range this year are the ‘Atípico’ Branco Especial, the ‘Feito a Mão’ Alfrocheiro and the ‘Único’. The ‘Atípico’ Branco Especial is a non-vintage wine which follows the Dão tradition of oak ageing and blending superior white wines from a range of vintages. It is a blend of 13 different lots, with an average age of 10 years. The wine has a rich nose of orchard fruit, dried fruit and honeyed notes, alongside a palate of lively acidity and textured body. ‘Feito à Mão’ translates as ‘handmade’, and this Alfrocheiro is made using manual processes: hand harvesting, rigorous sorting of grapes and even de-stemming by hand. This careful handling helps to preserve the Alfrocheiro’s delicate floral aromas and balanced structure. The wine has an expressive nose with notes of raspberries and black fruit alongside floral notes, while the palate has bright acidity and undercurrents of forest floor and mushrooms.

 

The ‘Único’ is a limited release, only made in years of exceptional quality. After fermentation and maceration, the Touriga Nacional dominant blend is aged in used and new French oak barrels for 18 months. An intense example of the very best the Dão can offer, the wine shows complex aromas of wild berries, sous-bois and menthol notes, while the palate displays well-defined tannins, fresh acidity and great flavour concentration, with a long, persistent finish.

 

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