September Dirt 2017 – New Places, New Faces

For September’s Club Dirt, we decided it was time to take a little field trip. This month we have two wines from areas that are a little off the beaten path. We are excited to explore them with you. The first is a nicely aged white wine from the Beira province in northern Portugal, the second is a red from Galicia, an autonomous region found in Spain’s northwestern corner.

Within Beira, is a wine region called Bairrada. In Bairrada, the cooling winds from the nearby Atlantic ocean moderate the warm temperatures in the vineyards. The soils here, are made up of clay, limestone and sand. Bairrada has a long history of wine production as there is evidence of viticulture dating back to the 10th century.  Port wine producers would come down from the North in Oporto to supplement their exports to the British. Traditionally the region features red wine made with indigenous varietals Baga and Touriga Nacional, and whites made with Maria Gomes, Bical, and the grape for this month’s selection, Arinto.

Just to the North of Bairrada lies Galicia, Spain and the wine region known as Valdeorras. There is a rich history here as well, Valdeorras means “Valley of Gold,” and was named by the ancient Romans who, after mining for gold here, planted vines for wine production. Most of the vineyards grow on the banks of the river Sil, and soils consist of slate, granite and clay. Typical grapes from the region include Godello and Dona Branco for the whites, and Mencia, Merenzao, Tempranillo and Sauson for the reds.


Caves Sao Joao Poco do Lobo Arinto 1995 – $37.99

Caves Sao Joao, the winery behind our selection from Bairrada, Portugal, has been producing stellar wines as far back as the early 20s, but for a while, not everyone thought so. There was a period in the early to mid 90s when their style of wine, fresh with much finesse, was overlooked for something bigger, jammier and more extracted. It was the style of the times, but Caves Sao Joao did not capitulate. Instead they stayed true to their style, held onto their bottles, and aged them in pristine conditions. Recently, sommeliers and wine drinkers in search of something unique and fresh, have been clamoring for the style of wine Caves Sao Joao has made since the beginning. In response, around 2013 the owners of the estate decided to open up the vaults and make available back-vintages of their wines going back to the 1950s.

Fortunately for our Dirt Club members, we were able to get our hands on the 1995 release of their Poco do Lobo Arinto. If you have not had a white of this caliber with 20 plus years of age on it, you are in for a treat. Arinto is a grape indigenous to Portugal, and as evidenced by this bottling, can age very well. As with most aged whites, the color of this wine has taken on a golden, amber hue. The nose has a wonderful array of burnt caramel, toasted almond and roasted apricot. The palate is surprisingly fresh and still packed with a robust amount of acidity. Notes of caramel, lemon/lime citrus and a tinge of oxidative nuttiness shining through to balance out the finish.  This is an amazingly complex, delicious wine that would pair well with many things, but as they say “what grows together goes together.” Fortunately we have a bountiful selection of Portugeuse tinned fish from Jose Gourmet in our Dedalus market. Our spicy, small sardines, spiced calamari in ragout sauce or mackerel pate would all make excellent partners to this aged beauty of a wine. If you are looking for some inspiration on what to do with our tinned sardines you can find some great ideas right here.


Escalada do Sil 2015 – $35.99

Our Spanish selection this month does not have the long bottle age, but the quality and complexity is all there. Nestled in the hills of the Valdeorras wine region, on the banks of the Sil river are the vineyards of the aptly named Escalada do Sil. Much like our Portuguese selection, this estate is known for reviving a style of wine that, for a time, fell out of favor. Valdeorras is well known for it’s production of white wines made from the Godello grape, but back in the 1800s, the popular style at the time was light to medium bodied red wines, much like a Cru Beaujolais. The elevation is the key here, cooling the grapes at night to produce lively, vibrant wines with beautiful acidity and tone.

Escalada do Sil plant grapes which utilize these geographic features. Specific to this wine are Merenzao (60%), Mencía (30%) and Garnacha Tintorera (10%). You may recognize a couple of these grapes under a different name as Merenzao is also known as Trousseau, popular in Jura, France and Garnacha Tintorera is also called Alicante Bouschet, which can be found in France’s Languedoc region. Smokey baking spice and incense fill the nose, as well as black cherry and rose petal. On the palate you’ll find juicy notes of blackberry, sage, and smoked meat all on a backbone of stoney minerality. A roasted duck with sauteed mushrooms would be an excellent pairing, as well as those grass fed steaks you’ve been saving for Labor day weekend.