Ready to go on a road trip? Come on, pile into the magical canary-yellow Fiat 500 convertible and let’s go!
Okay, remember how I told you about Etna two years ago? Well today its the hottest Wine location in the world, being recommended by both sommeliers and wine critics alike. I’m now going to take you to the next hot spot, Dao DOC, Portugal.
Griffy, where in the world are we now? We’re in Central Portugal, far to the south of Douro’s famous for Port wines. Dao is a huge plateau that is sheltered on three sides by the granite mountain ranges of the Serra da Estrela, Serra do Caramulo, and Serra Da Nave. Protected from the ravages of the nearby Atlantic, this ideal climate features plenty of rain (mostly in the winter) and enjoys long, warm, dry summers right up to harvest time. The granite-rich land is just perfect for growing grapes.
As you survey the landscape here in Dao, you may notice the distinct lack of vineyards! In fact, only about 5% of the land is under grape. Griffy, if this is such a hot spot why no vineyards? Government Regulation; two of the most despicable words in any language. The area has been a DOC since 1908, but in the 1940’s the Government established the mandatory use of co-op producers in the region. Effectively, it means if you wanted to grow your own grapes and make your own wine, you couldn’t. As a result, producers had a wine with less flavor than wall paper paste. In 1979, when Portugal entered the EU, they abolished this monopoly (well for another monopoly called the EU) but the result at least for now is for a remarkable increase in quality and quantity of good-tasting table wine.
Dao is often referred as Portugal’s Burgundy. Not because of any physical similarity between the regions, but because of its style. Wines of Doa are not power wines, they rely more on subtlety and finesse; very European. The taste will be peppery and spicy, with the newer, younger winemakers pushing more full-bodied, fruit-forward wines. But you’ll still get a full helping of Portuguese character, which is just great in a wine world becoming increasingly standardized, homogenized, and uniform. And there’s a reason to drink them in itself!
The reason for this individuality is the grapes. No standard receipt Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, blah, blah, blah here; we’re drinking Touriga Nacional, Portugal’s most important red grape and the grape most often used in Port, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo is Spain), and Jaen and Alfrocheiro Preto.
Our wine, Giesta, is a blend of 32% Touriga Nacional, 45% Tinta Roriz, and 23% Jaen. The color is a dark reddish purple with an aroma of raspberry and cherry and spice (oh my!). The taste features red fruit, a little oak, and great body. Long finish. Let’s enjoy a glass while the Fiat gets refueled.
Guys this wine region should be on your radar for the excellent quality-to-price ratio, we are talking great wines for $10 to $35 a bottle. Here are some suggestions: Casa De Santa 2010 Dao, Sogrape Dao Quinta doc Carvalhais Dugue de Viseu Red 2009, (don’t you wish they just called it Dead Bolt?) and Caves Aliance Dao Reserva 2010.
If I was a young winemaker and if I could stand the socialistic feel of the EU I’d be beating a path to the Dao. Low land cost, great terrior, that’s a hard combo to beat in today’s wine world.