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Alentejo, Dão and Bairrada MW trip

Alentejo, Dão and Bairrada MW trip

Our band of 14 intrepid MWs truly enjoyed and learned much from this week long trip under benign skies to these three important and historic regions of Portugal; ones most of us had not been to prior. Two days of tastings and visits in the Alentejo revealed significant differences in temperature, altitudes, geology and approach between the several different production zones. One constant, however, was the continued belief in the excellence of Alicante Bouschet for the Denominacion, and how much the variety is woven into the vinous history of Alentejo, from the origins of its use at Mouchao, to the continued use of old vines at Quinta do Carmo of Julio Bastos. As we learned from David Baverstock at Herdades de Esporaõ, perhaps the most startling revelation we received from our visits was how intensively Portuguese producers have been pursuing grape research. We didn’t know that Arinto has 530 clones, for example!A highlight for many of us was a final visit to the Symington’s new outpost of Quinta da Fonte Souto in Portalegre, guided by Charles and Dominic Symington.

Arriving in Daõ brought us into the continental climate, granitic hills and fairly high vineyards of this compelling area surrounded by mountains up to 2000 meters elevation. Producers like Casa Passarella, and Quintas do Cabriz, dos Carvalhais and dos Roques enabled us to taste the glories of the local Encruzado white wines for youthful and aged consumption, along with the fine interplay and complexity of blends composed of the native Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alfrocheiro. Daõ wines deserve to be better known and appreciated, we all agreed.

Our visits in Bairrada, included the spectacular‘baroque’ Palace Hotel do Buçaco and its historic cellars, which contain many fine old bottles(and excellent new ones as well). Visits with Luis Pato and Caves Alianca also showcased the warm, intense and rustic character of the local Baga grape. The maritime climate and lower altitudes open to the Atlantic’s influence was completely different from Daõ just over the mountains! And, it turns out, Bairrada is a pretty good place for sparkling wine production! All in all, this trip was memorable in so many ways.

Joel Butler MW