Frei Joao Branco 1988
Caves S. Joao, established in 1920, became a dominant force in Portuguese winemaking in the early 20th century with their houses Porta dos Cavaleiros in Dão and Frei Joao in Bairrada. Given the shifting trends in consumer preferences, Bairrada and Dão fell to obscurity in the 1990s when critical influence drove the demand for bigger, extracted, warmer climate wines. As in all things, however, what comes around goes around! Sure enough, 20 years later savvy consumers and food-conscious sommeliers are looking for finesse and freshness and heading back to Bairrada and Dão. In 2013, the Costa family, owners of the estate, decided to open their cellars and offer the old vintages in stock, ranging from 1959 to 2000. Wines that when young had a vegetal character, pronounced tannins and high acidity aged gracefully when kept in perfect condition at the winery for 20-40 years, and are now pristine examples of mature wines with profound finesse and irreplicable complexity. Caves S. Joao is the only winery in Portugal offering library releases of still wines commercially, with vintages going back to the 1950s.
WHAT MAKES THIS WINE UNIQUE? This is an opportunity to taste a perfectly aged, mature Bairrada white, showcasing the capacity for longevity that this region is known for. A library release from the winery itself, with the bottles kept in pristine condition for decades, these wines show a complexity that cannot be derived in any other way.
RATING HISTORY: 1980 90W&S Magazine
GRAPE: 40% Maria Gomes, 40% Bical, 15% Cerceal, 5% Rabo de Ovelha. Vines planted in the 1950. Tended in clay and limetsone soil at 50-100 m (164-328 ft) elevation
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: Pair this with delicate seafood dishes, simply prepared chicken and pork, or softer ripe cheese.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: Open tank, fermentation with extended skin contact. 24 months in cement, filtered and bottled. These bottles come to us straight from the winery.
PRODUCTION: 460 cases (3 pack)
TASTING NOTES: This is a wine that wants air after being sealed for 30 years – decant prior to serving for a couple hours. Ranges deep gold to orange in the glass. On the nose: pine, beeswax, mushrooms, dried orchard fruit, acacia, dried flowers. On the palate, surprisingly fresh and bright. Finesse and richness play complementary roles. The mature fruit continues on the palate with umami-laden flavors of mushroom, sappy candied orange zest, pear and mineral. 30 second-plus finish.