Monday, September 4, 2023

Reds from the DÃO and the Douro. Concluding the Portugal mini-series

Concluding the Portugal mini-series (with two from Liberty Wines)

Reds from the DÃO and the Douro

Part V of the Portugal mini-series

The Douro is perhaps the best-known of the Portuguese wine regions, mainly because of its historic connections with Port. While the British were enjoying the fortified sweet wines, the locals were enjoying their own simple table wine, even the infants were drinking wine rather than water, according to the chapter on the Douro in Foot Trodden.

The Douro Valley is a spectacular place and draws all kinds of tourists including of course wine lovers. As you know, much the same grapes are used for Port as for still red wine. 

The Dão is one of the oldest established wine regions of Portugal, located just south of the famous Douro Valley. The mountainous region is home to Touriga Nacional, and only became a DOC in 1990.

The region’s wine industry, for so long shackled by the dictator Salazar’s imposed cooperative system that rewarded quantity over quality, certainly needed the improvement in quality that has taken place in the last 30 years or so.

More on these two regions here in Part II of our mini-series on Portuguese wine.

Quinta Dos Carvalhais Touriga Nacional Dão (DOC) 2019, 13.5% ABV.

RRP €32.95. Stockists: Baggot Street Wines;; The Corkscrew; Martins Off Licence

An outstanding expression of Touriga Nacional

This intense, complex, and elegant Touriga Nacional from the heart of the Dão is a dark ruby colour with slightly lighter tones at the rim. Aromas of black fruit and well-integrated spice from its 12-month oak ageing are followed by vibrant dark fruit and spice on the palate. The wine has great depth, acidity, and smoothness, and the finish is long and persistent.

The Touriga Nacional is a much-loved indigenous variety, but it is rare, in Ireland at least, to see it bottled on its own. Quinta dos Carvalhais is located in the Terras de Azurara sub-region of the Dão, to the southeast of Viseu.

The 105-hectare estate, with 50 hectares under vine, was purchased by Sogrape in 1988. They invested a huge amount into improvements in both the vineyards and the winery – and are credited with spearheading the quality renaissance of wines from the Dão in the early ‘90s.

Following decades of state control and a cooperative monopoly in the region that favoured quantity over quality, they replanted the region’s indigenous grape varieties, such as Touriga Nacional and Encruzado, and saved them from near extinction.

Our wine here may be a single varietal but the art of blending has been utilised. Even the single-varietal wines here are complex blends of different plots on the estate, vinified separately before blending. The Touriga Nacional showcases the signature black fruit and violet characters of this prized indigenous grape alongside a well-integrated spiciness from 12 months in French oak.

The final blend was made to fully express the high quality of the Touriga Nacional, as well as the distinctive character of the Dão region. 

Overall, this is an outstanding expression of Touriga Nacional. It is complex and elegant, with great depth and length, a welcome “guest” at any wine lover's table. It is advisable to serve at a temperature of 16-18 degrees Celsius. It is a "very gastronomic" wine that pairs well with dishes such as octopus à lagareiro, oven-roasted pork, and mushroom risotto.

Very Highly Recommended.


Check my growing list of top wines for 2023


Check out my Good Value Wine List here


Casa Ferreirinha Papa Figos Douro Tinto (DOC) 2021, 13% ABV.

RRP €20.95 Bradleys, McHugh’s Off Licence - Malahide Road/Kilbarrack Road,, Baggot Street Wines, Pinto Wines, Drink Store, The Vintry Rathgar.

A feast for the senses.

The label sums this Douro red pretty succinctly: mid complexity, medium tannins, mid-body, full fruit. It advises serving it at 16 degrees with fish and shellfish, poultry and beef. Pasta with a tomato-based sauce should also be considered. Also quite delicious on its own.

This ruby red wine is a feast for the senses. The nose is bursting with aromas of juicy strawberries, blackberries, and cherries, with hints of violets. On the palate, Papa Figos is smooth and balanced, with velvety tannins and lively acidity. The ripe fruit flavours linger, making it an easy-drinking treat.

It is, like most of the country’s wines, a blend and in this case consists of 30% Tinta Roriz, 30% Tinta Barroca, 25% Touriga Franca, and 15% Touriga Nacional. It may well be from the land of cork but it does come with a screwcap closure. 

By the way, Tinta Roriz is also known as Tempranillo, and it is the most widely planted grape in Portugal. It gives the wine its red fruit flavours, such as cherries and strawberries.

There was no use of oak in the winemaking process and the wine remained in a mixture of stainless steel and concrete vats until bottling and this helped it towards a fresh and fruity profile.

The wine is called 'Papa figos' or 'fig muncher' which is the nickname for the golden oriole (featured on the front label), a migratory bird that passes through the Douro. 

Highly Recommended. Talking about the wine here, not the bird (though it looks beautiful)

The grapes for this blend are sourced from high-altitude vineyards in the Douro Superior region, with around 25% coming from Quinta da Leda (the flagship estate) in the far eastern reaches of the region, close to the border with Spain. Soils are predominantly schist (right)

The Duoro Valley, in brief:

  • The Douro Valley is located in northeastern Portugal, along the Douro River.
  • It is known for its steep slopes and rocky soils, which are well-suited to growing grapes.
  • The region is home to a wide variety of grape varieties.
  • Both red and white wines are produced, as well as Port (for which it is justly famous).
  • The wines of the Douro Valley are known for their complexity, intensity, and longevity.

The valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal. A number of wineries in the region offer tours and tastings. It is also a popular destination for hiking, biking, and river rafting.

Portugal mini-series

Part V (Dão, Douro)

Part IV (Vinho Verde, Lisboa and Alentejano).

Part III (Alentejo) 

Part 11 (Douro, Dão, Alentejo and Setubal.)  

Part 1 (Minho) 

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