Back in 1997 José Ruivo bought a 140 hectare farm on the shores of the Dão river at 400 m altitude. His family had a small farm in Vinho Verde where they made wine for home consumption, and José fell in love with wine. His retirement plan was to buy a farm where he could be self sufficient in food and wine. Initially he planted just 1 hectare for family drinking. They began buying grapes from neighbours to get the hang of the local varieties and made their first wine in 1999.
Until 2003 they carried on like this, not commercialising the wines. The wines were well received so José planted another 5 and a bit hectares. When they started, no one was talking about organic wines, but the whole goal of this mixed farm was to work organically and farm naturally, so this approach was applied to the new vineyard. They became certified organic but stopped for a few years in 2006, because it’s hard to establish a new vineyard solely with organics. They weren’t keen on using copper, and the new vines needed quite a bit of protection, so they shifted to integrated production. Now the vines are better established they’ve returned to organics and are in the final stages of this new conversion. Now they have 80 hectares of forest, 7 hectares of vines, 7 hectares of olive trees, and lots of grazing for cows.
Vinification is quite traditional with stone lagars for fermentation and concrete tanks. I tasted with José’s son Carlos Ruivo, who is running the project with his father.
Lagar de Darei Branco 2020 Dão, Portugal
They buy some grapes for this entry level white. Lively and fruity with a hint of mint, and a core of sweet pear and citrus fruit. This appealing wine is juicy and fruity with a nice chalky undertow. Pure. 91/100
Lagar de Darei Private Selection Branco 2018 Dão, Portugal
The grapes are macerated for 18-22 h. This has a nutty, detailed character with a waxy edge to the citrus and pear fruit, and it finishes juicy. Quite sophisticated. 92/100
Lagar de Darei Late Release Branco 2012 Dão, Portugal
Lovely orange peel and spice on the nose with appealing lime notes leading to a citrus-driven palate showing some marmalade. This has developed nicely – it’s juicy and mineral, with some sweetness to the fruit. 92/100
Lagar de Darei Tinto 2019 Dão, Portugal
This is made from purchased grapes, mainly Touriga Nacional and Jaen. It’s floral, juicy and fine with raspberry and sour cherry fruit to the fore. Fresh and joyful with nice texture. Has a bit of bite, too: a really lovely wine. 93/100
Lagar de Darei Reserva Tinto Sem Abrigo 2016 Dão, Portugal
Sem Abrigo means with no home – this was made from lots of wine that had no obvious destination, but which work really well together. No oak here. Lovely structure with grainy minty berry and cherry fruit with freshness and grainy grippy tannins. So interesting. 93/100
Lagar de Darei Reserva Tinto 2015 Dão, Portugal
This is juicy but structured with nice grip under the fruit. It’s a dense, structured wine showing some sternness and hints of tar, mint and gravel. 92/100
Lagar de Darei Late Release Tinto 2012 Dão, Portugal
Mellow, dark, quite rich, and showing some ashy notes. Has a bit of freshness but also some warmth. Mellow and developing nicely. 92/100
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