Grape of the Day: Encruzado

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-03-2013

A few weeks ago, I attended Wines of Portugal’s “Academia do Vinho,” which featured a high-spirited lecture from master sommelier Doug Frost and a tasting of 18 wines.

I have to admit, I like Portugese wines because they can provide great value at the low end. The wines at the tasting reinforced this — 15 of 18 wines retail for $25 or less, and most showed vibrant fruit, food-yearning acidity, and refreshing minerality.

At the high end, we tasted the very complex 2010 Niepoort “Batuta,” which showed strong tannin, dried vanilla, sweet spices, unctuous dark fruit, and a load of the schistous minerality for which the Douro region is known. This wine rings up at around $80, “if you can find it,” commented MS Keith Goldston.

I’d love to revisit this wine in ten years. The other wines would also be fun to watch evolve, especially because the “great value” in Portugese wines could be gone by then.

While the Batuta was delicious, my wine of the day was from the Dão region.

Located in north-central Portugal, the Dão produces about three times as much red as white from high-altitude vineyards marked by granite soils.

But where there’s great red wine, there should be great white wine. Enter Encruzado, the most plentiful white grape in the Dão. The 2010 Quinta de Cabriz Encruzado was our third wine of the day and offered savory notes of sage, basil, and dried mint. Kaffir lime, orange blossom, and meyer lemon fleshed it all out. The kicker was the the texture. All of these elements sat on a broad, waxy, paraffin-like surfboard that delivered an extraordinary mouth-feel. The wine spent six months in French oak, which really rounded it out while also adding beauty and softness.

During a break, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the Encruzado to my colleague at Bourbon Steak, Julian Mayor. He wasn’t surprised. He recently returned from Portugal and found that the grape produces “interesting and complex whites… Somewhere between Burgundy and Bordeaux yet completely unique.”

I side more with the Bordeaux comparison, and that’s why it’s no wonder I am a fan — I’ve fallen in love with Sémillon this year. And at $14, this wine is a no-brainer.

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