The picturesque Dâo region of north-central Portugal has emerged from a gloomy past to become known as one of Portugal’s - if not Iberia’s - most promising areas for quality wines. Despite being recognized for its potential as early as the 1900s, the shackles of bureaucracy kept the quality of Dâo reds and whites in the doldrums. However, once the country joined the EU in the late 1980s, the pioneering work of Sogrape revitalized the region - with the newly-constructed Quinta dos Carvalhais at the fore. Sogrape not only had the vision to invest in the winery, making Carvalhais one of Europe’s most advanced, but also in the rolling vineyards immediately surrounding the property. This dynamic and experimental approach has made Carvalhais the source of some incredibly diverse wines. To taste the entire range alongside winemaker Manuel Vieira (the man also at the helm of the multi award-winning Quinta de Azevedo in the Vinho Verde) is an experience in the greatest sense of the word. For this single winery is responsible for a vast array of styles: crisp and squeaky clean Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling rosé; appealing, fruit-driven blends; oak aged whites; savoury, age-worthy reds - and even tiny quantities of a botrytized liqueur wine, Colheita Tardia. At some stage in his illustrious career Manuel must surely have adorned the pages of a stout-titled book of records for the greatest number of balls in the air at any one time. The most remarkable thing is that he achieves all this with such precision and consistency whilst maintaining a reassuringly genial temperament.
Nature also plays its part in Senhor Vieiras’ good fortune. This is an environment that nurtures wines of elegance, finesse and longevity owing to its cool winters, long, dry summers and granite-rich soils - ideal conditions expertly exploited by the planting of indigenous varietals. The mainstays of the region include Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo across the border in Spain) and Alfrocheiro Preto for the fragrant, charming reds, and Encruzado, Bical and Verdelho for the mineral-focused whites. As anyone who has tasted in the Carvalhais barrel room will testify, the true secret behind these wines is not only Manuel’s astute use of a wall planner but also his ability to blend with expertise & consistency. Different grapes, and different sites and vineyards, deliver a combination of different attributes all of which come together seamlessly to create a perfect balance in the wines. This work is epitomized by the Duque de Viseu and Callabriga Dâo wines which showcase the hallmarks of everything so exciting about the region - freshness, vibrancy, finesse and, above all, great value. Unsurprisingly for Carvalhais, but unusually for Portugal, Manuel and his team have also developed a range of flagship single varietal wines including an age-worthy Touriga Nacional and an elegant, barrel fermented Encruzado.