In the center of Portugal, slightly more in the North, the small wine region of Dao can be found. With incredibly intense wines, they offer great value and quality. As we were driving through the region, we decided to check out the biggest producer there: the local co-operative in Penalva do Castelo.
Co-ops aren't usually the first places you might think of when you are looking for quality. But you'd be a fool not to try what these guys produce! We found great passion and incredible quality with a value we hadn't encountered so far, whether it is in Europe or elsewhere!
We decided to ask them a few questions so we can understand a little better how they did it!
MEET THE MAKER: For once, we are not talking to an independent winemaker but to a co-operative, a larger group made of around 1000 members (smaller growers) in the region. Could you please present yourself, your annual production in volume and the amount of hectares under vines you are currently controlling?
The Adega de Penalva was founded in 1960, and in 1967 it received grapes for the first time, having at that time more than 43 members.
It currently has about 950 members with about 1200 hectares of vineyard. We produce about 7,000,000 liters of wine per year, of which 80% are red and 20 % are white.
What makes the DOC Dão special and different from all other wine regions in the world are three factors: Climate, soils, and grape varieties.
The climate is temperate, where the winters are cold and rainy and the summers dry and warm and is marked by the mountain ranges that surround and protect us from the Atlantic influences.
Soils are poor and granitic with poor retention of water, and finally the grapes varieties, these three factors combine to give different wines with more tannins, more acidity and freshness.
All grape varieties work very well as a single varietal wine, but they can also combine very well in blends.
In the case of red wines, we have the Touriga Nacional grape variety that gives wines of intense red color, with violet tones when new. It has a high potential for aging, the aromas are intense, of high complexity, very mature black fruits and forest fruits. In the mouth it is full-bodied, persistent, robust, with an unmistakable velvety tannin structure, very fruity and elegant.
In the white grapes stands the Encruzado that has a citrine-like color. It presents great delicacy, elegance and aromatic complexity, with vegetable, floral and mineral notes. In the mouth the wines are fine and elegant, denoting a remarkable alcohol/acid balance. It has a high potential for aging, surprising by its freshness and persistence in the mouth. Flavours of hazelnut, pine nut and pine resin stand out. It is the most balanced varietal in Dão.
QUALITY VS QUANTITY: The size of the vineyards you are working with and the annual production of the cellars are huge, yet we’ve tried your wines and loved every single one of them for their real sense of terroir. In your opinion, is it possible to maintain authentic terroir wines within a large production and if yes, how?
To maintain the authenticity of the vineyards and wines, we have a technical team that accompanies and advises the producers throughout the year, from pruning to harvesting, so that they can produce good grapes, because only in this way can we make good wines.
In addition, within this range of producers we make a selection of the best vineyards where the grapes can reach a level of excellence, whether it is due to the soil characteristics, sun exposure or the age of the vines (old vines), and it is from this selection that we produce the greatest wines of the Winery.
THE WINES: Wines from the DOC Dao can now be found in specialised wine shops around the World, could you help our readers to pick one by telling us how they should drink it? Should they eat something or not, if yes what?
I recommend our line of varietals, from which they can taste the Touriga Nacional. This wine is the result of the vintage of an old vineyard, it was vinified in stainless steel vats with controlled temperature and it stayed in French oak barrels during a year.
It is a very expressive wine, of intense color, with very ripe fruit on the palate. It shows great structure, body, length and balance.
Matured Serra da Estrela PDO cheese, from the same region
It is the ideal wine to accompany beef dishes or old cheeses.
The best wine I've ever had is a white wine from 1974, of the Centro de Estudos Vitivinicola do Dão (CEVdão). An unforgettable wine !!