January Wines of the Month: a Dão/Vinho Verde blend & mature Baga
My white Wine of the Month strikes a positive, upbeat note, banging Portugal’s drum hard (and mighty harmoniously, I might add). It is one of three groundbreaking maiden releases from Dirk Niepoort’s former right hand man, Carlos Raposo. All were excellent (my full report here), but I chose Raposo’s innovative Vinhos Imperfeitos Dão/Vinho Verde blend. An improbable one, I thought. But it works, so chapeau for innovation and chutzpah! The red – Quinta das Bageiras Garrafeira 2009 – was one of two wines from a vintage ending in 9 which wowed me over Christmas. The other was a wonderful, resonatingly spicy, earthy Chãteau Beaucastel Chãteauneuf-du-Pape 1999. It was so very much more vibrant than the 2001, opened the same week. But for having drunk it (!), I’m super sure the Bágeiras would have gone two decades (plus) too.
Vinhos Imperfeitos D&V Code White 2018 (Dão & Vinho Verde)
I cannot say that I would put Dão and Vinho Verde together. For Raposo, whilst sharing a high ageing potential, freshness and elegance, they are completely different, so this blend offers the best of both worlds. The Vinho Verde is “much crisper, ready to drink,” he said, whilst he finds the Dão component “more complex and deep.” The Dão component, harvested 15 September, comprised over 7 white grape varieties (Esgana Cão, Rabo de ovelha, Encruzado, Malvasia fina, Douradinha, Barcelo, Branda, amongs others) from centuries-old vineyards in the Terras de Senhorim sub-region. The harvest was on 15th of September and, after a careful selection, the grapes were very slowly pressed with the stems and the must naturally fermented in stainless steel, before ageing in used Puligny Montrachet oak barrels. The unoaked Vinho Verde component – a blend of Avesso and Alvarinho harvested on different days – comes from an old vineyard in the sub-region of Sousa. Following selection at the winery, the grapes were gently pressed, then slowly naturally fermented on fine lees in a stainless steel vat. I found D & V really expressive, with plenty of complexity and interest, starting with the savoury nose, with its flinty/curry powder nuances – qualities I associate with silex soils and/or reductive winemaking. There is pronounced minerality and a trace of bitterness, ‘agrume,’ to its steely, focused grapefruit and fleshier but still firm yellow plum. Texturally, very exciting, with a delicate but dynamic sense of dry extract, with sencha green tea and chalk. Long, dry, arrow-straight, but deep too. Terrific. 12%, 2,961 bottles and 20 magnums produced. RRP £150.
Quinta das Bágeiras Garrafeira Tinto 2009 (DOC Bairrada)
It’s a great source of joy when a wine you’ve selected, indeed paired with dinner, produces appreciative gasps and sighs. I’d first tasted this vintage in 2014 (my report here) and found it captivating. Only made in top years and sourced from very old vines (over 90-years-old), it is always concentrated and quite the keeper. Having been fermented for 5 to 8 days in lagar without de-stemming and punched down several times a day, the garrafeira is aged in old wooden toneis for around 18 months, then bottled without fining or filtration. Dark, a touch rustic, with earth, spice and an edge of clove, it proved the perfect choice for a New Year’s Eve dinner featuring beetroot tarte tatin. Though full-bodied, it shouted out its Bairrada origins, with thrilling freshness and tip to toe chalk and smoke sluiced minerality. Fine tannins and persistent acidity carried a long, complex finish. Pronounced “spectacular” by my fellow diners, who had never tasted Baga or a Bairrada wine before, I am sure they will start the year as they mean to go on and vive la difference! 14.5%
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