There are over 250 protected grape varietals in Portugal. That astounding number meant that back in the day producers would often lose track of what exactly they were growing. After harvesting each grape at optimal ripeness, the tradition was to blend together and ferment whatever grapes they ended up with. Nowadays, growers know and can track exactly what they are producing, and the art of blending large amounts of varietals together can result in very unique wines full of complexity and balance. This week we have two wines from a producer in the Daō region of Portugal that does just that - blend native grapes together to perfection!
Elisa Freire Lobo became the first female winemaker in the Daō region after returning to her family’s vineyards and taking over the reigns in 2010. She subsequently turned the vineyards organic and makes use of sustainable methods to help vines thrive, including the use of wild sheep, which provide weed control and fertilization in the winter months. Her work is done by hand with great focus on native varietals that do well in the region. The resulting wines are unique, complex, and offer incredible value.
The vineyards of Freire Lobo in the Daõ region of Portugal. Sheep graze the vineyards when vines are dormant to promote fertilization and keep weed growth in check.
Grown at high elevation, this white field blend is made up of Bical, Cerceal, Encruzado, Fernão Pires, and Malvasia -- a wonderful mix of local varietals. Bright yet rich enough to pair with veal or pork. The wine itself is round, full, and layered with a concentrated fruit component that really starts to reveal itself with a little time in the glass. This is a versatile white that is both refreshing and complex, and will pair with so many things. Definitely a must try!
This red blends Alfrocheiro, Baga, Bastardo, Jaen, Rufete, Tinta-Roriz, and the famous Touriga Nacional. It strikes a perfect balance between ripe fruits, yet surprising freshness and character -- signs of a wonderfully harmonized blend. It reminds us of a top class Fleurie from Beaujolais. A touch of spice comes through on the palate with delightful dark fruits and slight smokey character. From high altitude vineyards, which leads to fresh acids, while the warm continental climate offers perfect conditions for vines to ripen, this is one smooth glass of wine! Try with a shrimp risotto with a tomato based sauce, or a smokey cured meat like Iberian ham.
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