Dão: A visit to Quinta da Turquide, home of Druida
Druida is the suitably eye-catching name of one of my favourite Dão Encruzados. It’s made by Nuno Mira do Ó from grapes grown by Nuno Matos at 500m at Quinta da Turquide, in S. João de Lourosa, Silgueiros. I visited both Nunos at Turquide in November, enjoying a memorable vertical of Druida Encruzado and the latest vintages of the reds – Druida and Vidente.
The wines are also made at Quinta da Turquide, which was acquired by Matos’ grandfather in 1939. Matos planted Encruzado (and Syrah!) in 1992 and started his own Quinta da Turquide wine label. But it was not successful, so he gave up and focused on cultivating the farm’s apple orchards instead.
Fortunately for Mira do Ó (and us!), he didn’t grub up the vineyards. I first met the winemaker a decade or so ago, at leading Bucelas estate Quinta da Romeira (he then worked at Companhia das Quintas). He told me it was the late João Corrêa, his older colleague at Companhia das Quintas, who had proposed making an Encruzado together. Referring to the first wine they made, Miro do Ó recalled, “I fell in love….” That wine was Druida Encruzado 2012, which was in fine fettle. The smitten winemaker left Companhia das Quintas the following year, striking out on his own.
For Mira do Ó, Encruzado “has many sides” and, as my week in the Dão confirmed, the region’s number one white grape lends itself to a number of different styles, (very often playing the lead in blends too). Mira do Ó observed, “it is extremely resistant to oxidisation,” adding, “I don’t know any other variety that can handle oak so well.” Reinforcing the comparison made by many a sommelier, he admitted, “more than once, I’ve mistaken one of own wines for Burgundy, which is embarrassing, but also made me happy!”
As for the region, Mira do Ó reckons “balance and freshness are in the DNA.” In fact, with Encruzado, he pointed out, “if you go less than 13/13.5%, you can have a big problem with excessive acidity; my Encruzados never do the malo.” That said, for many modern reds it has been another story – the winemaker agreed with me that “the Dão is still finding its path.” (It is starting to change thanks to producers like Mira do Ó, Antonio Madeira, M.O.B. and Niepoort, but too many reds still suffer from over-extraction/over-oaking in pursuit of a style which my panel and I at Decanter World Wine Awards have dubbed ‘Douro-look-alikes’).
Druida white and Vidente are imported into the UK by The Knotted Vine; they also import Mira do Ó’s Bairrada range (V puro), which he makes with João Soares of Messias. The wines will be shown at Simplesmente Vinho 2018 in Oporto next month – my favourite Portuguese tasting – details here.
Mira do Ó Druida Encruzado Reserva 2016 (DOC Dão)
The grapes are de-stemmed, pressed and the juice settled for 2 days, before being naturally fermented in barrels, where the wine is aged for nine months. The 2016 was a very low yielding vintage on account of being very hot and wind during flowering (poor fruit set). Mira do Ó reckons yields were down 50% across the region. Whilst he said you can taste the heat in some ’16s, Turquide was protected from its excesses and he is happy with the wine. I certainly felt no heat in this super-restrained, markedly mineral, fine framed Encruzado. When we subsequently toured the vineyard, Matos observed it may look messy, but a ‘lazy ballerina’ canopy in hot years makes for dappled light, so bunches (“always very green, even when ripe”) are not exposed to direct sunlight. Very promising, pale with green glints, taut, fresh and mineral; needs time to unwind. 13%
Mira do Ó Druida Encruzado Reserva 2015 (DOC Dão)
I adore this vintage and snapped up three magnums when I came back home. Pale with green glints, it’s really intense, flinty and mineral with incisive flashes – colour pops – of lemon and line zest, complexing savoury, leesy notes (a creamy nuttiness to the finish), but great clarity at its core. Great length and resonance. Terrific. 13%
Mira do Ó Druida Encruzado Reserva 2014 (DOC Dão)
This was a very challenging vintage, with rain and a hailstorm the day before harvest. Whilst the other wines looked youthfully pale with green glints, the 2014 is more yellow which, said Mira do Ó, was the case from the outset. In the mouth, it doesn’t have the completeness and balance of the other vintages and I missed the lively ‘ping pong’ interplay between fruit and minerals of the ’16 & ’15. Though the ’14 has a pronounced minerality – here more stony than flinty, the acidity seems more angular, terse even. I detected a buttery note which seemed a little at odds with this. For Mira do Ó, my comments reflect the fact that he had to pick earlier because of the botrytis, hence the higher acidity and lesser flavour accumulation. Still, having started out with “lots of sharp edges,” the winemaker reckoned it’s starting to come together and added “they tend to grow in depth in the years as they lose more that nervous character and build in body, roundness and depth.” One to review.
Mira do Ó Druida Encruzado Reserva 2013 (DOC Dão)
Speaking of which, Mira do Ó said ideally this wine would be launched now. He would love to release the wines with more bottle age. Rating the ’13 vintage here highly, he says everything was picked before the rains came on 20 September. It very much puts me in mind of the ’15, with its appetising flinty nose and palate. With a couple more year’s bottle age, it is long in the mouth – really lovely mouthfeel – with hints of tertiary complexity coming through on the long, mineral/granite sluiced finish. Terrific complexity with zingy lime zest ricochet and resonance, hints of orange peel and pine needles.
Mira do Ó Druida Encruzado Reserva 2012 (DOC Dão)
I first tasted this in 2013, then again in 2014 and this debut release struck a chord with me. The winemaker rates this year very highly indeed for balance and elegance. As he suggested, it has put on weight with age, but the minerality remains pronounced, here a little salty too, while the grape’s/region’s naturally high acidity teases out a long finish. It reveals silky white peach, flint and nutty, creamy lees on a textural, beautifully balanced palate. 13.5%
Mira do Ó Vidente 2015 (DOC Dão)
Vidente is a co-fermented blend of many varieties which is aged in used barrels. “The goal is to have elegance, not too much extraction and freshness – a Dão blend not really branded by Touriga Nacional,” explained the winemaker. Music, sweet music, to my ears. Rather, Jaen is the lead player, then Alfrocheiro and small amounts of Tinta Pinheira, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. It’s a very unpushed red, with some resin, pretty, just picked al dente red and black fruits of the forest, a hint of greenness (it has a bit of whole bunch ferment) and gentle minerality. Unshowy, very drinkable. In Portugal this sells for under 10€ 13%
Mira do Ó Druida Red 2015 (DOC Dão)
I’ve been searching for an expression of Jaen a.k.a. Spain’s Mencia which shows the grape’s ethereal, aromatic side and here it is. Which is saying something when this wine is a 50:50 blend of Jaen and (oft domineering) Touriga Nacional, albeit 30-35 year old vines with a smattering of other grapes. It is made in lagares with a bit of foot treading initially then punch downs. I was amazed to learn that it was aged for 20 months in French oak, 50% of which was new. It wears it lightly, which Mira do Ó attributes to Burgundy coopers “who really respect the fruit.” It has greater fruity intensity than Vidente, more flesh too, but this does not detract in the least from its clarity and granitic (wet sand and stone) minerality. Gently tactile tannins (fresh fruit tannins?) anchor and extend the flavours going through. Lovely length and freshness, with cathedral spice lift on the mineral-sluiced finish. A gorgeous wine. Aromatic, elegant and mineral, it’s very much my kind of red. 13%