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May Wines of the Month: Quinta do Montalto & Casa da Passarella

Medieval methods – André Gomes Pereira of Quinta do Montalto with a wicker basket – the original lo-fi filter

Usually, I select my Wines of the Month from wines tasted during the previous month.  Inevitably, I tasted very much less wine than usual in April.  Having written up the biggest highlight (Henschke’s top tier 2015 reds) already in this comprehensive post, I’ve cast my mind back earlier, focusing on Portugal.

Handily compensating for no April Wines of the Month into the bargain, I’ve selected a stunning Portuguese maiden red from Casa da Passarella, whose Villa d’Oliveira whites have regularly graced these pages, here and here.  My white wine of the month comes from Quinta do Montalto, whom I visited last year.  This family-run organic estate has an immensely characterful range of wines, which I’ve previously written up here and here.

Uncondemned project grower and winemaker Luís de Sousa

I’d venture to say that the new white version of Não Condenado (Uncondemned) – a collaboration with their UK importer, Portuguese Story – is even more interesting than the red.

Quinta do Montalto Não Condenado (Uncondemned) Medieval White 2018 (Encostas d’Aire, Lisboa)

Quinta do Montalto Não Condenado (Uncondemned) Medieval White 2018 (Encostas d’Aire, Lisboa)

Golden yellow, with an ambrosial honeyed nose and palate, with rich, dried apricots, attractive vegetal undertones and lashings of spice (fiery ginger, sweeter cinnamon) and florals (rose petal and lavender).  If I’d tasted this blind, I’d have guessed it was a talha wine, with its spicy/textural skin contact phenolics and trace of bitterness to the lingering finish.   If I didn’t know it was Portuguese, I might have gone to Alsace – an Edelzwicker. The honey and dried apricots deftly balance the bitterness and, with cleansing acidity to the finish, I imagine it would pair well with white meats.  On day two, it not only holds up, but seems purer, suggesting it might benefit from decanting.  The grapes were sourced from Luís de Sousa’s 150 year-old “backyard” vineyard (predominantly Fernão Pires – a star variety at Montalto, from the bag-in-box white upwards) and, under de Sousa made the wine under the supervision of Montalto’s André Gomes Pereira.  Naturally fermented on skins in stainless steel without temperature control, the wine was bottled unfiltered after four months. A Lovely, interesting wine.  14.5%   £18 at Portuguese Story

Casa da Passarella Villa Oliveira Vinha das Pedras Altas 2014 (Dão)

Casa da Passarella Villa Oliveira Vinha das Pedras Altas 2014 (Dão) & Caves São João Porta dos Cavaleiros Reserva Seleccionada 1975

As I was writing up recommendations for my Decanter Dão Regional Profile, I realised how much more thrilling I’m finding the region’s red wines lately.  Conforming much more closely with my hopes and expectations of this classic region, they majored on perfume, freshness, structure and elegance.  For a stellar example, look no further than this, my top scoring red.  I particularly enjoyed its terrific structure, persistence and grape-driven (not oak-driven) spice and tannin.  Like many of my recommendations (red and white), it showcases the complexity of old field blend vineyards – in this case, 85-years-old.  Having tasted it over three days, I contacted Paulo Nunes and mentioned that it reminded me of Caves São João Porta dos Cavaleiros Reserva Seleccionada 1975, which I’d tasted shortly before.  To which the winemaker replied that there might be a link because, “Passarella sold a lot of wine to Caves São João in the past.”  I would not be surprised if it ages as well. The clue to its structure, a certain austerity even, lies partly in the name.  Sourced from Vinha das Pedras Altas, at 700m altitude on classic granite soils, it is the highest of Passarella’s seven vineyards with, said Nunes, the greatest thermal amplitude and marked exposure to northern winds. As for the winemaking, it was fermented with whole bunches and aged for a year in 600l barrels.  Opaque, with a deeper hue than other samples, yet lifted and elegant, with inky florals and spicy fragrance.  In the mouth, it reveals hints of orange peel, lavender and earth to its dark berry, cherry and plum fruit and, most especially strident (thrillingly so) spices – smoky clove and deep-seated white pepper going through, with sweeter incense spices on the finish.  Aromas I associate with traditional Dão wines.  Despite its youthful sense of austerity –  big-boned tannins and juice, rather than flesh – with tremendous depth and length, it is very balanced and complete.  On day two, the earthy, mineral dimension is more evident and I loved the crescendo of pine needle and smoky clove to the deep, resonant finish.  13.5% Casa da Passarella are imported into the UK by Enotria & Coe

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