Thu. Jan 17th, 2019

Portugal’s Dão Region: Entry Level vs. High End at Paço dos Cunhas de Santar

Paco's Top LIne Red
Contador Labelled wine at 60 Euros: Mighty good!: Photo Robert K. Stephen

We are here at Paço dos Cunhas de Santar in the Dão in Portugal facing a bevy of entry level vs. high end wines! We are told that
Paço produced wines are sold in five continents and 40 countries by Global Wines and Spirits of Portugal. We are told that in the 1970’s Dão wines had a reputation of being over-oaked. But in the 1980’s the shift began to move towards fruit forward and easy drinking wines. For Global Wines the Cabriz label is a “flagship brand”.

At the Paco Vineyards: Photo Robert K. Stephen

Global owns several brands in Portugal. Paço dos Cunhas de Santar is a Quinta that produces wines under the Contador label but the Quinta is one of the two wine tourism facilities that Global owns in the Dão region. The other facility is the Quinta de Cabriz wine and restaurant shop located in Carregal do Sal which is Global’s headquarters and a 20-minute drive from Paço. So since Global owns Quinta de Cabriz and Paço it is no surprise we are tasting Cabriz and Contador wines at Paço!

The Cabriz Colheita Nacional 2017 White retails for 4 €in Portugal and is a blend of Encruzado, Malvasia Fina and Bical. It has a pale gold colour with a nose of lime, lemon and apple with apple, pear, lime and lemon on the palate. Drinkable with a short finish. Drinkable without distinction.

The Cabriz Touriga Nacional White 2017 retails in Portugal for 8 €and has a bit of minerality, cabbage and bacon on the nose. On the palate cabbage, pear, apple with a meandering acidity. At this price I would expect more.

Rare Beef with Sauteed Mushrooms at Paco a momentus match with the Cantador Grand Juri Red?: Photo Robert K. Stephen

The Cabriz 2017 Reserve White retails for 7€ in Portugal. It is oaked hence has a darker gold colour and has that winner raspy back palate effect that oaked Encruzados can deliver in the Dão. It is a complex and seductive wine. 50% of the wine was aged in French oak. A good sipper and with chicken cooked in herbs and 50 pieces of garlic a stunner.

The Cabriz Touriga Nacional Red 2014 is unoaked with a deep red cherry colour with an intriguing nose of blackberry, black cherry and raspberry jam. On the palate juicy with blackberry notes interlaced with spice and pepper. Tannic. Ideal match for wild boar or venison. A bit expensive at14.20€ but worth the premium.

A stunner Moscatel:  Photo Robert K. Stephen

The Cabriz Colheita Nacional 2016 Red has a light red cherry colour with a slightly woody nose with black cherry and raspberry. On the palate a bit harsh but making it suitable for grilled beef. As it retails for 4€ don’t expect the world from this wine. A blend of the usual Dão red suspects namely Touriga Nacional, Tinta-Roriz and Alfrochiero. Aged 6 months in French oak barrels.

The Cabriz Reserva Red 2014 is blend of Touriga Nacional(40%), Tinta-Roriz (40%) and Alfrochiero (20%). Aged 9 months in a combination of old and new French oak. Wonderful fruity nose of blackberry and strawberry jam. The taste is a bit thin but smooth and fruity. Red plum in colour. It retails for 8 €.

Moving to the high-end Contador label we sample a 2014 Encruzado with a complex and beguiling structure with definite oak induced vanilla notes. Loads of tropical notes on the palate. This wine was aged 12 months in the best French oak and only 3,000 bottles were produced. Atop-quality wine at 30€.

The stunner of the tasting was a Contador 2011 Grand Juri Red retailing at 60€.On the nose rich and intense black cherry, blackberry,vanilla and coconut with a concentrated and intense finish. A blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta-Roriz and Alfrochiero. Although an excellent wine at this price it would be a hard sell in Canada due to its high price. The wine paired supremely well with the rare beef and sautéed mushrooms served over mashed potatoes. The crème brulé served with a Cabriz Moscatel was exceptional to the degree I purchased two bottles to have Canadians sample its brilliance upon my return to Canada.

There are no Contador wines in either the SAQ or LCBO network. However both the SAQ and LCBO carry the Cabriz Colheita Selecionada 2015 for $13.10 at the SAQ and 13.95 at the LCBO. The SAQ has the 2014 for $27.95 The LCBO has a Cabriz Rosé 2017 for $13.95

I will not continue with a detailed description the restaurant at Paço other than to say the food was exceptional. Apparently on our way to the next winery I was the only one on the bus not happily sleeping away. I suppose this means the wine was very good. Wine writers are not supposed to sleep after a devastatingly wicked lunch served with wine. I’ll blame it on the altitude.


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