wa2.gif (4241 bytes)

abut9.gif (3095 bytes)

abut12.gif (3207 bytes)
abut10.gif (3636 bytes)

abut11.gif (4039 bytes)


Spotlight on Portugal's Dão region
Part 3:
Dão Sul, Quinta de Cabriz

Second stop on the Dão wine route was Quinta de Cabriz, headquarters of one of Portugal’s most dynamic wine companies, Dão Sul. As well as small boutique producers making fine wines in limited amounts, every country needs wineries that can put out large quantities of good quality commercial wines. In fact, Dão Sul does both, and as well as making some top of the range stuff, excels with its cheaper wines, too.

I met Carlos Moura, head winemaker (right), for lunch in the impressive restaurant attached to the winery. Dão Sul is geared up for wine tourism, and as well as the restaurant, there’s also a cellar door and sales area. We tasted through a range of the wines with our lunch (impressively presented traditional Dão specialities), and then headed out to see the winery and vineyards.


Dão Sul is a partnership between four individuals which began life in 1989 producing just Dão wines. In 2000 they decided to branch out, and initiated projects in the Douro, Bairrada and Estremadura, adding the Alentejo last year. Under the Dão Sul umbrella are now Quinta de Cabriz (34 ha, supplemented with 100 ha elsewhere in the region), Bairrada Sul (25 hectares), Encostos do Douro (22 ha of vineyards in the Baixo Corgo of the Douro), Quinta das Tecedeiras (in the Cima Corgo of the Douro, with 15 ha of old vines), Quinta do Gradil (100 ha in Estremadura) and 24 hectares planted in the Alentejo in a 100 ha estate. 

Vertically trellised vines, with irrigation Spur-pruned cordon - more traditional in Dão

It’s a forward-thinking, modernist sort of operation, but the wines aren’t simply made in a heavy-handed new world style. While the focus is on wines that offer plenty of fruit, there’s a fair degree of seriousness to the more expensive offerings – best of all, they reflect a clear sense of place: the Dão wines taste like Dão wines, the Douro wines reflect the Cima and Baixo Corgo terroirs, respectively, and the Bairrada is, for better or worse, a Bairrada, although it’s a lot more fruity than most from this tricky region.

In the vineyards, there are plenty of new plantings, using cane pruning and vertical shoot positioning, which tends to yield better results than the more traditional spur-pruned low cordons that are common in this region. As you’d expect, the winery, completed in 1998, is very modern and shiny.

Carlos Moura was trained in agriculture and did a masters in oenology. He worked for a year in the Douro and in 2000 started work at Dão Sul. Initially he was just responsible for the Douro wines, but now is responsible, along with Carlos Lucas, for all of the wines. Carlos has travelled widely and he wants to make wines in a modern, accessible style. The secret of winemaking is good grapes, he claims, along with long, soft macerations.

João and I were asked back by Carlos the following evening to watch the Porto Champion’s league final, which was being shown in the restaurant for friends of Dão Sul on a big screen. The food and wines were very good, and fortunately the result went the right way, with Porto cruising to a comfortable 3-0 win. I didn’t take notes on the wines served, but they included a lovely sparkling red Bairrada and the stern but delicious Tinta Cão from Quinta das Tecedeiras in the Douro.

The wines

Quinta de Cabriz Encruzado 2003
Carlos describes this as a friendly Encruzado. Very open, ripe, fruity and aromatic, with nice freshness. The palate shows vibrant, rich ripe fruit: melony with a striking lemony edge. Brilliant modern winemaking. Very good/excellent 89/100

Quinta de Cabriz Experiência VL1 1999
A weird but wonderful experimental white wine of which just three barrels were made. No temperature control was used, it was a wild yeast fermentation and it spent 14 months in French oak. Deep yellow colour. Distinctive, smooth deep nutty, buttery nose with honeyed fruit. The palate shows lovely rich herby complexity with notes of straw and nuts. Very distinctive, rich and smooth. Great balance here: a wild wine that’s very successful. Very good/excellent 92/100

Quinta de Cabriz 2000 Dão ‘Superior’
A blend of Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz. Slightly sweet chocolatey berry fruit nose is fairly elegant and smooth. Red fruit sweetness here, modern but nice. The palate is smooth and refined with ripe, spicy fruit and smooth, fine-grained tannins. An elegant wine with a subtle herbiness. Very good/excellent 90/100

Quinta de Encontro Touriga Nacional 2000 Beiras
From Bairrada – indeed, since 2003 this could be labelled Bairrada because the requirement for a percentage of Baga in the blend has been dropped. This shows quite pure, ripe black fruits on the nose along with some fruit sweetness. The palate is ripe, fruity and dense with a spicy, chocolatey core. Firm but smooth tannins give structure with a spicy finish. A rich, full wine in a modern mould. Very good+ 89/100

Quinta Sá de Baixo 2001 Douro
Made from 60–80 year old vines, in lagares with the stems. Nice assertive nose displaying chocolatey, spicy fruit with some good acidity on the nose. There’s a touch of greenness here, but it’s nice greenness. The palate is spicy and full with assertive dark fruits and lots of structure. This is a lovely wine with a delicious slightly rustic edge. A brilliant example of a traditional Douro red hauled into the modern age. Very good/excellent 94/100

Quinta das Tecedeiras Reserva 2002 Douro
2002 was a difficult harvest in the Douro. They stopped the harvest and picked the grapes in batches while it was dry, which made it an expensive harvest. Ripe sweet nose of black fruits with a creamy edge. The palate is chewy and nicely textured: it’s quite rich with plenty of slightly sweet, accessible fruit and a nice spicy edge. A tasty modern-styled wine. Very good/excellent 90/100

The next wine was served blind – all we knew is that this was a barrel sample from 2002. Very interesting.

Dourat 2002
This is a blend of 50% Touriga Nacional from Quinta das Tecedeiras and 50% Grenache from Jose Puig’s Vinedos Ithaca in Priorat, hence ‘Dourat’. It has a slightly shy nose of lush dark fruits – quite sweet with a liquoricey edge. The palate is dense and structured with good acidity and lots of spice. Great fruit quality allied with a spicy structure. Very good/excellent 94/100

Quinta de Cabriz Vinho Liquoroso
This is a Dão Port, essentially, made from Touriga Nacional. This example is from the 2000 vintage. The wine is produced for Gordon Ramsay, who likes it, apparently. Gently herby, spicy, sweet nose. The palate is sweet with some spiciness. Rich and full. Quite structured and appealing. Very good/excellent 90/100

I’m adding here notes of the Dão Sul wines I tasted in London with Carlos a few weeks earlier, including some of the less expensive wines.

Cortello 2003 Estremadura
A great bargain, this. Lovely juicy spicy wine with vivid red fruits and a distinctive herby edge. Lots of character and good acidity. Very good+ 87/100 (Safeway £3.99)

Palestra Douro 2001
Spicy, expressive nose. Juicy, savoury, fruity palate with good Douro character. Straightforward but some interest. Very good+ 86/100 (£5.99 Laytons)

Quinta do Brasileiro 2001 Douro
Distinctive herby, spicy edge to the fruit on the nose. The palate is savoury with good concentration. Rich fruit and good acidity. Nice if a little rustic. Very good+ 85/100 (£6.99)

Quinta do Ribeiro Santo 2001 Dão
Nice savoury, spicy nose. Expressive midweight palate is very appealing. Well balanced with good acidity and tannin. Very good+ 87/100 (£5.99)

Quinta de Cabriz Touriga Nacional 2000 Dão
Forward spicy, herby nose of lifted black fruits. The palate is chewy, savoury and spicy with good acid and tannic structure. Quite elegant. Very good+ 89/100 (£14)

Quinta do Encontro Bairrada Superior 2001
50% Baga, the rest Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Merlot. Vivid, spicy nose is quite fruity for a Bairrada. The palate is nicely structured with modern fruit an nice spiciness. Quite intense but with well mannered tannins. Very good+ 89/100

Quinta das Tecedeiras 2001 Douro
Lovely forward perfumed nose with sweet, liquoricey black fruits. The palate is elegant, spicy and with good structure underlying the sweet rich fruit. Nice balance and good acidity. Very good/excellent 91/100 (£18)  

UK availability: contact agents FWW Wines (UK) Ltd (sales@lancefoyster.co.uk)

Back to top