Dão, which is pronounced, I think, something like “down” is a historic region in the north of Portugal, pretty much centrally situated between the coast and Spanish border. I remember drinking red wines from here back in the 1980’s. They were okay but a bit dusty, rustic and lean. Portugal however is undergoing a wine renaissance and I’ve been over there twice recently and have been really impressed by the wines that are now on offer. The Portuguese are fiercely proud of all their local grape varieties – there are over two hundred that you’ll probably never see outside of the country. Julia Kemper’s white Dão is made mostly from a grape variety called Encruzado. If you’ve never heard of it before, don’t worry, neither had I and I’ve been buying wine commercially for ages.
The Kemper wine is a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I reckon in a blind tasting it will beat plenty of whites at twice its price. It is full bodied and dry. It has generous fruit on its palate and nice acidity. There’s also a hint of smoke – a bit like when you dunk a Lapsang Souchong tea bag in your cuppa for just a few seconds. I have tried this wine over two vintages both in the U.K. and in Portugal. (it is on the wine list at the Clube de Journalistas in Lisbon) With linguine with fresh clams in garlic butter and each mouthful it is easily able to match the food. It’s a big wine but not cumbersome.
The vineyard is quite high – 450 metres – and the vines are grown on granite. The grapes are picked by hand. The wine is part fermented in stainless steel and part in oak barrels. It’s not a big vineyard, there’s only around 6,000 bottles made. All this perhaps contributes to the wines elegance. I found the wine developed more flavour and aromas in the glass after it had warmed a tiny bit and had a chance to breathe.
Dão Branco. 2012. Julia Kemper is available from the following stockists: The Oxford Wine Company, Planet of the Grapes (London, WC1), The Vineking (Horley), Corking Wines of Yorkshire and KWM Wines and Spirits (County Down, Northern Ireland). Expect to pay around £18 a bottle.