The Dão is justly celebrated as the origin of some of Portugal’s best dry reds, though that wasn’t always the case. Since the 1990s, producers in the region have focused on making wines that are unmistakably fresh and aromatic, refined and focused, and the work of Alvaro Castro, the winemaker for Quinta de Saes, has been instrumental to changing the perceptions of how good the region’s wines can be.
The Dão, which sits in north-central Portugal, has a few natural advantages working in favor of its wines. Located among three mountain ranges, it’s shielded from the continental winds that blow from the east as well as the cool, wet, maritime climate from the west. Quinta de Saes is in the northern area of the Dão, and its vines are planted mostly in granite soils, abundant and prized in the region, at 500 meters in elevation. The higher altitude helps preserve acidity in the grapes, contributing to freshness in the wines as they age. The vines are sustainably grown and average about twenty years in age.
Quinta de Saes’s red wines are field blends, and it’s traditional in this area to interplant varieties, which is one way to maintain consistency in the wines given fluctuations in weather from year to year. The 2017 Tinto is a blend of 25% Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), 25% Touriga Naçional, 25% Alfrocheiro, and 25% Jaen (Mencía). It’s aged for 18 months in second-year barrels, a traditional approach to winemaking that, Castro believes, allows for a clearer expression of terroir. Red-fruited, distinctly floral (dried rose petal and violet pastilles came to mind), and bright and juicy yet with enough age to round its edges, this is an impressive medium-bodied wine, with moderate acidity and tannins.
Pair the Quinta de Saes Tinto with roasted mushrooms seasoned simply with salt and black pepper, or with cured meats, dark meats, or poultry—those of you who love Beaujolais with roasted chicken should try this at least once instead.
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