Frei Joao Tinto 1990
To taste the aged reds of Frei João is to taste Portuguese winemaking history. Launched in the 1950s, Frei João is Caves S. João’s Bairrada project, specializing in red and white blends of indigenous Bairrada varietals. Due to their long term positive relationships with growers in Bairrada, Caves S. João has always received right of first refusal best fruit in the region. Reds are made from the noble Baga, the high acid, bright fruited indigenous varietal of the area. 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, exhibited rustic tannins and high acidity, aged gracefully when kept in perfect condition at the winery for 20-40 years. Now, they are pristine examples of mature wines with profound finesse and irreplicable complexity. Caves S. João 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? A classic, well-aged Bairrada red made from the indigenous Baga, considered Portugal’s most age-worthy red varietal. With its vibrant acidity and minerality, this wine clearly transmits its terroir and cool climatic influence from the Atlantic.
RATING HISTORY: 90 W&S Magazine "Year's Best Portugal Red"
GRAPE: 100% Baga. Vines planted in clay soil at 75m (246 ft) elevation. Caves S. João was always known to local growers as a sure-to-get-paid and trustworthy buyer. Consequently they always got the best fruit available in Bairrada.
PAIRING SUGGESTIONS: A traditional and wonderful pair is roast suckling pig; this will also do well with braises and roasted game.
VINIFICATION AND AGEING: Open top fermentation with extended macerations. 24 months aging in cement tanks before being filtered and bottled.
PRODUCTION: 833 cases (6 pack)
LOCATION, SOIL, CLIMATE: These vineyards are planted in Bairrada, literally translated from Portuguese as “place of clay.” Bairrada has a mild, maritime climate with abundant rainfall, which can make the rot-prone Baga a difficult variety to grow, but also what gives the wines the acidity to age so well.
TASTING NOTES: big, burly and powerful, this mature Baga is in fine shape, earthy and a bit weedy, but still showing good acidity that gives it a fresh and vibrant feel. It also has a bit of a tannic kick on the end. Classic and old school, this is a great food wine with a sunny feel and plenty of life ahead of it.