Casa da Passarella – The story of the mirror

I have been consistently impressed with the wines from Casa da Passarella, a Dão producer that I had not heard of until a few years ago. Wine has been produced here, on and off, for some 150 years. But it was not until 2007 when the estate was bought by a Portuguese Euromillions winner in Switzerland that it was restored and the brand was reborn.

Each wine produced at Casa da Passarella has a story connected to the somewhat whacky label designs, amongst them this image of a pair of hands holding a mirror.

So the story goes, way back when there was a viticulturist working at the quinta who became renowned for his skill in grafting the vines without them being plagued by bugs. His secret was to use mirrors, reflecting the vines and hence confusing the bugs to gather on the mirrors rather than the vines themselves.

It may seem an unlikely story but the vines in question are still going after more than 60 years, yielding the Alfrocheiro grape from which this varietal red is made.

A variety that originated in the Dão region and spread south to the Alentejo, Alfrocheiro is used mostly in blends to add depth and colour but is particularly well suited to the high altitude vineyards of Casa da Passarella in the foothills of the Serra de Estrela mountain range.

Here it produces an elegant and fresh medium-to-full bodied varietal with red fruit and black pepper notes on the nose. The wine is fermented in cement vats and aged for 12 months in French oak. In the mouth it is dry with smooth tannins and a long finish. Priced at around €17.

By PATRICK STUART [email protected]