8 Buyers, 1 Store, 8000 Wines

Sunday, July 8, 2012

On 3:32 PM by The Bloggers @ 67 Wine in , , , , ,    No comments

by Sadie Flateman | Wine Buyer

I went to Portugal on a mission to learn about the country’s native grapes and to experience the wines in context. While Portugal has the world’s first DOC (1756 marked the first legal vineyard delimitation in the Douro Valley), its non-fortified wines have long lived in the shadows. In contrast with darker times, the present is optimistic for Portuguese winemakers who are embracing their strong wine heritage, with upward of 100 indigenous varieties, and EU funding to modernize their wineries.

Singular Portugal
Seeking wines of defining, local characteristics and flavor, it was essential to meet the man known as a rebel winemaker, famous for redefining the wines of the Bairrada region, and focusing on a single, and nearly extinct variety. That man is Luis Pato and the grape is Baga.*  

Luis Lourenço outside
Quinta dos Roques
Dão Detour
Setting out to Bairrada to meet Pato, we were (unexpectedly) tipped off about another winemaker producing single varietal wines (and also named Luis), so we detoured in the Dão. As we set off, one thing seemed certain that morning – finding an adega (winery) in this part of the Dão was like looking for a needle in a haystack. It was rural and every backyard appeared to be a small vineyard. With the sometimes helpful, sometimes not GPS, we finally arrived in Cunha Baixa to visit Luis Lourenço of Quinta dos Roques.

A family business
Lourenço has been running operations at the winery since the 80s when his father-in-law lured him from a career as a math teacher. Prior output at the winery was for little more than personal, family consumption. Lourenço’s tasks was not minor – he began updating operations, aiming to produce a superior quality Dao wine for the public. They now own two vineyards, Quinta dos Roques and Quinta das Maias, totaling 60 hectares. 

Wine starts in the vineyard
In the vineyard, Lourenço talked about the Dão’s granite and schist soil, how it is so rich in minerals that only neutral oak is needed to soften the flavor, but never to mask it. With diurnal temperature variation from 62°-95°F, grapes maintain a remarkable acidic structure. He chooses to grow native grapes, in contrast to the more popular, international ones, and does not irrigate.  All grapes are hand-harvested. His pride and passion result in higher quality and lower output. 

Tasting Quinta dos Roques Whites

Tasting the wines
We tasted Quinta Das Maias Vinho Branco 2011, a blend of Malvasia Fina and Encruzado, a grape that brings structure to the blend. It was light, dry, and zingy, with a slightly hard texture. This previewed the Encruzado 2011, a characterful wine with flavors of lemon citrus, pineapple, and a honeyed nose. The Malvasia Fina 2011 may have been my favorite of the whites, with its bouquet of white flowers, white fruits, acacia, and honeyed palate with petrol notes that, I’m told, increase dramatically with five to six years of aging. It was indeed the most flavorful, with 10% oak fermented that provided a bridge in the mid palate, with anise present on the finish. 

Tasting Quinta dos Roques Reds
When Lourenço described himself as the “Sir Lancelot of Jaen” my heart skipped a beat. Jaen, also known as Mencia in Spain, makes the Beaujolais of Portugal, light in body with wonderful, lively acidity. Quinta do Correio Dão 2009, his introductory red, a blend of 50% Jaen with Touriga Nacional, Alfrochero, and Tinta Roriz, had a rustic appeal, offering flavors of strawberry and pepper. It’s light and inviting. 

From there we tasted the Touriga Nacional 2010, a versatile, thick-skinned grape, that is fruity and reminiscent to Syrah. This Touriga tasted as clear as a bell – dark fruit, violets and pine needles, displaying beautifully balanced tannins and acidity. All the wines were so delicious, and overall balanced that I couldn’t help but swallow and imagine the wines getting even better with age. I left with the desire to bring Lourenço’s  wines to a table, and to return in September just before harvest. 

We're thrilled to stock four wines from the Quinta dos Roques estate which you can find here.

*Note: I ultimately met  Luis Pato, the subject of my next blog article. Stay tuned!


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