Quinta do Javali, "Clos Fonte do Santo" Douro Tinto "Cherry Tree Vineyard"
Quinta do Javali, "Clos Fonte do Santo" Douro Tinto "Cherry Tree Vineyard"

Quinta do Javali, "Clos Fonte do Santo" Douro Tinto "Cherry Tree Vineyard"

Douro Valley, Portugal 2020 (750mL)
Regular price$46.00

Quinta do Javali, "Clos Fonte do Santo" Douro Tinto "Cherry Tree Vineyard"

Just when we think we know something about wine, a bottle like Quinta do Javali’s “Cherry Tree Vineyard” tinto comes along and has us questioning everything. That’s what’s great about wine, of course—there’s always more to learn—and Quinta do Javali makes for some fascinating subject matter. Perched some 700 meters above the Douro River, the “Clos Fonte do Santo” vineyard is organically and biodynamically farmed by António Mendez, who uses horses to pull the plows and allows wild pigs (javali in Portuguese) to root among the vinerows. In a region known for burly, inky dry reds, Mendez is shooting for something quite different, as we were shocked and delighted to find out upon tasting today’s 2020 from one of his most prized single parcels within the Clos Fonte do Santo, the “Cherry Tree Vineyard.” Its modest alcohol, bright hue, and lifted, almost Burgundian aromatics had us scratching our heads—this is not what we’re used to from the Douro—but there’s no arguing with the results. It’s a new-frontier wine from one of the world’s most historic terroirs, and an absolute revelation.

Stylistically, Douro reds have tended to skew rather “big,” given that the climate is, as one producer described it, “nine months of winter and three months of hell.” Named for the Douro River (a.k.a. the Duero in Spain), which winds its way across Portugal from east to west, the region is known for its steep, undulating vineyards set on terraces carved from schist. There are nearly a half million acres of vineyards planted here (about as much as the entire state of California), accounting for 22% of all Portuguese wine produced, and while Port wines are still the focus, the recent pivot to dry table wines—both red and white—has been one of the biggest and most compelling stories in wine.

Compared to the many large-scale quintas (wine estates) in the Douro, Quinta do Javali is a little jewel box, with just 25 hectares of vineyards. Located upriver from the key market town of Pinhão, in a remote village called Nagozelo do Douro, Mendez continues to make both Port and dry table wines on a resolutely artisanal scale, farming organically and biodynamically according to the phases of the moon. Most of the estate’s vineyard holdings have northeastern exposures and climb to altitudes of 500+ meters.

Today’s wine is an old-vine (90 years) field blend that contains just about every Douro Valley cultivar, including all the assorted “Tourigas” one could imagine. Vines in the “Cherry Tree Vineyard” are situated between 600 and 750 meters of elevation, enabling grapes to retain freshness and balance in the Douro Valley’s blazing heat. Fermentation of the wine begins spontaneously, and about 50% of the grape clusters are left intact for fermentation. Aging is carried out in used 500-liter French oak barrels.

In the glass, it displays a translucent garnet-red and has a more red-fruited personality than anything we’ve ever tasted from the Douro: Perfumed aromas of red and black cherry, woodland berries, damp violets, black tea, trumpet mushrooms, warm spice, and underbrush carry over to the medium-bodied palate, which bristles with energy. The wine is drinking well now but clearly has the structure for aging, so if you’re drinking it now, give it a vigorous decant 30-60 minutes before serving. It has a very regal bearing to it, but also a kind of wildness, and I can foresee it being something very special in 5 to 7 years, should anyone be wise enough to squirrel a few bottles away. Whenever you decide to pull a cork, pair it with something like a rack of lamb or suckling pig and imagine yourself in the faraway place where it is made. Dare to be different—the rewards are many!

Quinta do Javali, "Clos Fonte do Santo" Douro Tinto "Cherry Tree Vineyard"

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