Having clambered on top of a rock – a giants marble of granite – the gorse, the tumble of rocks, the quietness, towering conifers, broken only by a clatter of startled birds – this wildness was very immediate. Interspersing the rocks, the scrabble of leafless bushes and the sharp, hard, dry undergrowth are pockets of vineyards, hewn one imagines with herculean strength and brute determination from the enveloping forest. You wonder why?
Wouldn’t there be easier pursuits to engage in, in more accessible, more populated areas? But then this isn’t my land and I’m not Portuguese.
What I do have though, having stood on that boulder, is a greater understanding of the wine and the people that forged it. You can appreciate why they are so passionate and determined to bring the fruits of their toil to our glasses. What is even more remarkable is that this particular estate – Casa de Mouraz, manages to produce a large range of wines using organic and biodynamic principles and was the first to introduce such practises in the area. They have 13 scattered vineyards some as small as ½ hectare. The largest is 5 hectares. Those in this corner of the Dao have differing aspects and access to the river. New plantings vie with older vineyards harbouring mixed vines approaching 50 years old.
At the tasting prior to our wilderness scramble (it wasn’t that easy getting off that boulder with much dignity!) we sampled wines from across Portugal – from the Vinho Verde, from the Alentejo (the AIR range) and from their new holdings in the Douro. But it was those from the Dao that most impressed.
Just looking at the photos [more on SpittoonExtra], especially the panorama, gives a feel of the landscape. Sipping a glass of one of the estates wines while typing this report brings it all into focus.
The tasting included a stunning tank sample, ie not yet bottled,of the Casa de Mouraz 2010 Encruzado, [Adegga / Snooth] the white grape that the “world has yet to discover”. Very precise and pure with a crisp minerality and a lime tart finish. Seafood was mentioned. The local delicacy of squid for example.
The Casa de Mouraz Private Selection 2007 [Adegga / Snooth] wowed all. The blend of Touriga Nacional, Jaen and Alfrocheiro comes in with 14% alcohol and a lovely ripe palate, pepper and herb edged fruit and wildness replicating the terrain.
The final wine, Flor de Mouraz 2006 [Adegga / Snooth], is the estates premium blend with just 1000 bottles produced. The blend is similar to the Private Selection but with the addition of TInta Roriz. Touriga Nacional dominates with 80%. This is rich, mineral and spicy with a ripe fruit whole.
After sliding off that boulder I managed an interesting chat with António – basic things such as where is north, the decisions made when aligning the vines, through which we walked, in relation to the sun when planting, discovering snippets such as that they plant the rootstock’s first and add the grafts after and what plans for the future…
…lunch was the answer! And as it transpired a marvellous lunch it was too showcasing the Casa de Mouraz wines at their finest. The food, a mixture of ‘rustic’ local foods, tapas bites and salads was substantial and, being simple and unfussy, delightful. The Encruzado was indeed a delight with squid; the Private Selection Red superb with chunks of roasted kid goat. Sadly the photos of the meal are of poor quality; unlike the wines.