Alvaro Castro DAC Tinto 2014
Since 1980, Alvaro Castro has been the winemaker for his family’s properties at Quinta da Pellada and Quinta de Saes. In that time, he has established himself as the region’s pre-eminent winemaking mind, crafting elegant wines of place that showcase the explosive aromatics and cool-climate freshness that are intrinsic to this special terroir. He is a fierce traditionalist, and the “old-school” nature of his wines showcase the brilliance that comes from an honest expression of place and time without intervention or mitigation. His wines embody the idea that “wine is made in the vineyard,” and he is unapologetically critical of winemakers who mess with their raw product too much. He speaks most passionately about making wines that “reflect the soil.” He doesn’t put much stock in winemaking as an exact science – the wine is what it is, and it’s made that way because that’s what the land and the fruit are telling him to do. The results are undeniable – these wines are unmistakably Dão, and represent the apotheosis of this beautiful appellation. Rui Abecassis, founder of Obrigado: “Alvaro Castro inherited Quinta da Pellada, his family estate, in 1980, replanted, and released his first vintage in 1989. Since then, oblivious to trends and fads, he has been making wines that please him and are true to his memories of old guard 1970/80’s Dão wines. Quinta da Pellada is arguably the best producer in the Dão. History shows that vines have been grown at Quinta da Pellada since at least the XVI century, when in 1527 the crown’s treasury taxed the property ‘80 barrels to the king.’ Although impossible to verify now what the king thought, let alone if the barrels ever got to him, it is clear that the taxes are an irrefutable certification of the wine’s existence!”
Quinta de Saes’ reds are field blends, drawing on the tradition of interplanting varietals in a place to give a more cohesive and complete picture of the terroir, as well as the ability to adapt to vintages and maintain a thread of continuity from one vintage to the next.
What makes Alvaro Castro’s wines unique? He has the oldest vines, yielding profound concentration paired with ethereal elegance. Castro’s wines have extraordinary value and are marked by an intuitive, ‘less is more’ approach winemaking and sustainable agriculture. Alvaro Castro has established himself as the region’s pre-eminent winemaking mind, crafting elegant wines of place that showcase the explosive aromatics and cool-climate freshness that are intrinsic to this special terroir.
Best known for intense, impressive and age-worthy fortified wines, Portugal relies almost exclusively on its many indigenous grape varieties. Bordering Spain to its north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean on its west and south coasts, this is a land where tradition reigns supreme, due to its relative geographical and, for much of the 20th century, political isolation. A long and narrow but small country, Portugal claims considerable diversity in climate and wine styles, with milder weather in the north and significantly more rainfall near the coast.
While Port (named after its city of Oporto on the Atlantic Coast at the end of the Douro Valley), made Portugal famous, Portugal is also an excellent source of dry red and white wines of various styles.
The Douro Valley produces full-bodied and concentrated dry red wines made from the same set of grape varieties used for Port, which include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo), Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cão, among a long list of others in minor proportions.
Other dry wines include the tart, slightly effervescent Vinho Verde white wine, made in the north, and the bright, elegant reds and whites of the Dão as well as the bold, and fruit-driven reds and whites of the southern, Alentejo.
The nation’s other important fortified wine, Madeira, is produced on the eponymous island off the North African coast.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.