Visit to Dão: Quinta dos Roques

Quinta dos Roques was a little difficult to find, as the GPS took us to the middle of a forest by a track that really needed 4-wheel drive, but when we called the Quinta, Luis Lourenço said that the GPS often does that, and he came to retrieve us. The quinta is quite a bit out of the nearest village and you’d be likely to feel you’ve gone wrong even on the right track. Once you arrive there’s a tasting room that showcases the elegance of the wines.

Roques1Quinta dos Roques

Luis is a lively and enquiring fellow, who’s always experimenting with his varieties and vineyards. He started out as a maths teacher and says it took him a while to adjust to wine. “In maths, 2 plus 2 always equals 4,” he says, “but in wine it never makes 4.” A tasting here is an education as you go through many of the varieties that go into the blends: “In terms of numbers there are more varietal wines, but in terms of bottles, it is mostly blends.”

The style here is in the direction of elegance rather than power, always showing well delineated fruits. The top whites and reds show a strong sense of minerality and age beautifully. Comparing a white varietal Encruzado of the current vintage with the 2001 shows an amazing evolution, and the red Quinta dos Roques of 2001 is still lively. The Garrafeira (the top quality classification in the Dão) of 2008 still seems quite youthful. These are definitely wines of character. Some favorites from the tasting:

Encruzado, 2014

Unlike the other white varieties, which see only stainless steel, this is split between half in stainless steel and half in new or 1-2-year oak. Really pale. Faint notes of vanillin and nuts on nose. Quite crisp acidity balances the oak impressions. The fruits are rather neutral and not really yet breaking through the oak (which is used to add flavor interest). Yet slowly more flavor variety emerges in the glass: this does take time

Encruzado, 2001

Huge contrast between intense flavors of this wine and the rather neutral character of the 2015 shows that variety develops in bottle, but quite slowly. Color has picked up from transparent in 2015 to medium gold after 15 years. There’s a mix of oak, spices, and savory elements on the nose, and a touch of honey, which becomes more distinct on the palate. This vintage had 100% new oak; you can still see the oak, but it’s balanced by lots of flavor variety in the fruits, with quite a bit of spice and honey. The palate is thicker and really intensifies in the glass over time, becoming savory and herbal and very complex.

Quinta dos Roques, 2013

This is about half Touriga Nacional and half other local varieties. It spends 12 months in oak, which shows as spice on the nose together with a sense of acidity. The oak conveys a touch of bitterness to the finish. Faint animal hints retronasally bring some complexity. Still a bit young, the fruits seem to be struggling to get out from under.

Quinta dos Roques, Reserva, 2013

This is a field blend from a single 38-year old vineyard. Very faint animal impressions bring complexity to nose. Complex black fruits on palate point in a mineral direction with savory overtones. Very nice balance of fruit to structure, which is present but not obtrusive. This should turn more savory with time and I expect it to age beautifully.




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