Have you heard of Encruzado, a white wine from Portugal’s Dao wine region? I had not until a tasting with Pedro Castra Mendonca, CEO of the Dao Wine Board. In fact, I didn’t know much about Portuguese wines at all. Now that I’ve discovered them, I’m hooked.
Encruzado is grown almost exclusively in the Dao region. It produces voluptuous, aromatic wines, with notes of ripe tropical fruit and white flowers on the nose. On the palate, Encruzado is complex, with citrus notes, ripe stone fruits, and sometimes a bit of hazelnut. If it has been aged in oak it will have hints of vanilla as well. Wine expert Jancis Robinson has referred to Encruzado as the Chablis of Portugal. Do I have your attention yet?
The Dao Region
Viticulture in the Dao focuses almost exclusively on indigenous grapes, which is one reason this region is so exciting. It’s easy to find wines you’ve never heard of before. Surrounded by mountains that regulate the winds of the Atlantic Ocean, the Dao is a region in Northern Central Portugal, south of the more well-known Duoro Valley. Vineyards are planted between 1300 and 1600 feet elevation, where vines grow best. There are 51,000 acres (20,700) acres planted with roughly thirteen indigenous varieties making up the majority of vines planted. The most planted white wine grape is Malvasia Fina and the red is Jaen known as Mencia in Spain.
Other Varieties From The Dao
Red wine grapes include the more known Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinto Roriz (tempranillo) and Baga. These are most often blended and the wines are bold. Touriga Nacional is one of the key grapes used in making port wines.
White wine grapes from the Dao include Bical and Branda, in addition to Encruzado and Malvasia Fina. As with the reds, they are most often blended.
Some wines to look for: Julia Kemper, Pedra Cancela, Quintas dos Roques, and Kelman. They may be a little hard to find but ask your local wine shop if it’s possible to order them or you may find them to order online. They are a steal and worth seeking out.
Both The Red And The White Wines Pair Well With Food
The tasting I attended was at Mike Anderson BBQ in Dallas. We had a sampler of all the meats, beef and pork ribs, smoked turkey and sausage and traditional sides like coleslaw and potato salad. Old school wine and food pairing protocol dictate pairing meats with red wines however, the white wines had enough structure to stand up well with the meats too. Did I mention that Portuguese wines are a bargain? Stock up now. Many of these wines can be stored for 5 to 10 years. If you’re not certain, ask.
But, I’m telling you, watch out for Encruzado–– it’s the next big thing in white wines.