The Encruzado grape is to Dão what Alvarinho is to the Minho or Baga is to Bairrada.
It is a grape that any Portuguese wine lover immediately associates to the Dão region and the variety behind all of the great white wines produced there.
I was shopping in my local Intermarché last week and this wine caught my eye in the Algarve section, being made from the Encruzado grape. I am pretty certain that this is the first and the only Algarve wine being made from this variety and, even though I had no knowledge of the producer, I could not resist picking up a bottle to try (€7.96).
Information on the label is very scant but, after some googling and a call to a phone number I found online, there was finally a little light shone on what promises to be a very interesting new wine project here in the Algarve.
The vineyard is located in the east Algarve, specifically between Luz de Tavira and the Ria Formosa lagoon, hence the name Monte da Ria.
It turns out that the producer is well established in the Dão region and decided to start producing wine in the Algarve as well. The project is the brainchild of Vicente Marcos, who told me that he is also expanding into other parts of Portugal and that, here in the Algarve, they are in the planning stages of their own adega at the vineyard. But for now, rather than outsourcing production, they have taken the respectable step of setting up temporary wine-making facilities of their own using an industrial unit near Tavira.
He also told me that amongst other varieties he has planted at the quinta is my own personal favourite Portuguese red grape Baga and that the wine from last year’s vintage is currently ageing in French oak barrels.
Back to the wine in question, Encruzado varietals up in Dão are very often oaked, as it is a grape that produces fully flavoured wines that do well in oak and lend themselves to ageing. But this is an unoaked, quite light and very fresh wine with lots of lovely white fruit notes on the nose, good acidity and a nice clean finish. This appears to be yet another up-and-coming Algarve winery worth keeping an eye on.