Posted by: tomciocco | November 6, 2011


Often the little details or characteristics about this or that wine region are the most interesting. For example, Piedmont in Italy has only the most recent familiarity with anything but varietal wines (wines made from a single grape variety). Even with the veritable nursery of uniquely Piedmontese wine grape varieties, traditionally the only places the juice of multiple grapes met was in stomachs of the folks working the bottles at the table.

The other extreme is Portugal. But for a few rare appellations, and the occasional “fantasy” bottling, it is nigh on impossible to find a bottle of wine from Portugal – red, pink, or white – that is not a blend of at least three grape varieties. There might be some perfectly logical or natural reasons for both of these phenomena, but damned if I know what they are…But what’s pretty apparent about blending in general is that it gives winemakers the ability to use the strength of each grape in its measure, as well as the chance to account for vintage to vintage weather variations. 

Portugal is home to about 400 native grape varieties, and since Portugal is not very large, and the general regulations that are applied to grapes, appellations, and wines is fairly fluid, many of those varieties are grown all over the country, making the potential number of blends nearly endless. This wine from the ancient Dao region in north-central Portugal is a perfect example of this plasticity. The wine is blend of 50% Alfrocheiro, which though native to the Dao, can also be found in blends in neighboring Bairrada, into the Ribatejo, and all the way down into the Alentejo. The balance of the mix is 25% Touriga Nacional, which though often claimed by the Dao as its own, has become much more closely associated with Port and the dry wines of the Douro. The remaining 25% is Tinta Roriz which is one of the many aliases for Tempranillo, which was long ago brought into Portugal from neighboring Spain. 

The first course in Portugal is more often than not a soup, so I banged out a hearty classic pot from Alentejo made from pureed chickpeas, chicken broth, spinach, rice, and herbs. The main course was (and still is) one of the great dishes emanating from dishes from the Portuguese kitchen: Bacalhau a Gomes de Sa’ – a more-than-the-sum-of-its-parts casserole of potatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, flaked salt cod, baked crisp, and then cooked for a bit more with sliced hard boiled eggs and oil-cured black olives.










Ares do Dao “Flor de Viseu” Dao Tinto 2009 

Deep and dark blackish crimson color. Complex nose of black cherry, blackberry, red currants, mushroom, wood smoke, nori seaweed, and a flinty minerality. The medium- full body has a smooth and clean texture, with a nice balance and elegantly taut and fine tannins springing subtle flavors of root beer, black walnuts, plum butter, blueberry, cinnamon, and menthol. Lengthy dry finish with persistent flavors of violet and cocoa. 


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