The wines of Álvaro Castro: Quinta da Pellada and Quinta de Saes
A review of one of Portugal's top winegrowers, from the exciting Dão region

Alvaro Castro in his vineyard

Álvaro Castro is widely acknowledged to be the leading producer in Portugal’s Dão region; in my book he's one of the top winegrowers in all of Portugal. But it can be a bit of a challenge keeping up with his work: he makes a large array of wines from his two Quintas, some of which are collaborations with other producers, and others of which are special projects.

Quinta da Pellada

I've visited him a few times now. The first time was back in 2004, and this report is probably a good introduction to his work. Most recently I visited in March 2011, and it's clear that his wines, which he makes in collaboration with his daughter Maria, have never been better. A few years back, to augment the production of his neighbouring Quintas of Pellada and Saes, he purchased a large block of what used to be Quinta de Passarela from Manuel Santos Lima. This Quinta provided the ‘PA’ in Alvaro’s PAPE wine, so Castro knew what it could achieve.

Maria Castro

36 year old Maria began working with her father in 2000, when she finished her degree in biotechnology engineering. Alongside this, she has also worked vintage in Bordeaux, and in Portugal with Dirk Niepoort and José Neiva Correia, but cites her father, Ataíde Semedo and the late enologist Magalhães Coelho as her greatest influences. ‘I participate in every step of our business’, says Maria, ‘mainly working as an enologist, but also working on the commercial side with certain markets.’  

The Passarela vineyard

Álvaro cites his great inspiration as being Cardoso de Vilhena, who was for many years the head enologist at the Centro de Estudos Vitivinícolas de Nelas (CEN) in the Dão region. 'If I know something about wines, I learned it from him,' he says. A white wine made by Vilhena from 1964 led Alvaro to try to copy this style, which has led to his new Primus white wine.

Alvaro shares much in common with, and is good friends with, that other great Portuguese winemaker, Dirk Niepoort. Both aim at elegance and finesse, and expressing their terroirs to the full. ‘I hate alcoholic wines’, says Alvaro. ‘When they are fruity enough I don’t feel the alcohol, but as they get older I do. Alcohol is like salt in your food: you don’t want too much’. His wines end up at 13–13.5% alcohol. 

‘For grapevines,' says Alvaro, ‘the longer the period of maturation from veraison the better.' He’s experimenting with higher yields and harvesting later so that the final stages of maturation occur when it is not so hot. ‘In the old days we used to harvest in October,' he says. ‘The problem is if it starts raining and then doesn’t stop.'  

For the full background on Alvaro and his wines see this report on a visit to him in the Dão.  


See a vertical tasting of Dado/Doda from March 2011, the wine that Alvaro makes with Dirk Niepoort. 

Tasting notes from February 2010:

Quinta de Saes Reserva Branco 2008
Taut, complex, pithy and citrussy with notes of grapefruit and lemon. Nicely focused with good acidity, freshness and complexity. 92/100

Quinta da Pellada Reserva 2006
Wonderful dark fruit, black cherry and plum aromatics with a hint of meatiness. The palate is concentrated and fresh with dense yet elegant black cherry fruit with some herbal notes. Lovely wine. 95/100

Tasting notes from July 2008:

Quinta de Saes Reserva Branco 2007 
Fresh, bright and floral with lovely aromatics and no wood. Crisp palate with nice presence and rounded texture. There's some weight here but it's very fresh and fruity. Stylish, textured and a bit minera. 88/100

Quinta da Pellada Primus Reserva Branco 2006
Tight, reductive nose with some matchstick notes and lovely minerality. Complex and expressive. The palate is crisp and minerally with lovely depth and intensity. Will age well. 91/100 

Quinta da Pellada Primus Reserva Branco 2007
Fruity, melony nose with a subtle reductive edge. The palate is broad and fruity with a savoury, mineral streak. Tight but with real promise. 89/100

Quinta de Saes 2006
Beautifully rich and ripe with pure blackcurrant and blackberry fruit nose. The palate is fresh and pure with lovely sweet vivid dark fruits and a nice bitter tang on the finish. Deliciously full and pure, and a bargain. 90/100

Quinta de Saes Reserva 2006
Sweet pure red and black fruits nose. Quite elegant and very fruity with some complex spicy notes. The palate is dense with nice sweet fruit and some earthy, spicy structure. Good acidity. 92/100

Quinta da Pellada Reserva 2006
Smooth, elegant, pure lush red and black fruits. Really smooth and sweet with some plum and raspberry notes. The palate is vivid with good acidity and some fresh, brambly fruit, finishing tart. Great potential for development. 93/100

Quinta da Pellada Reserva 2005
Beautifully complex nose showing dense, multilayered blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Vivid with a lush creamy dimension as well as pure fruit. The palate is dense, structured and bold with lots of fruit and good acid. 94/100

PAPE 2006
Sweet, pure, chocolatey, vivid nose with vibrant red and black fruits. Elegant but forward at the same time. The palate is rich with smooth sweet fruit and good acidity. Nicely structured. 92/100

PAPE 2005
Lovely vibrant, aromatic, elegant dark fruits with some subtle, beguiling green herbal notes. The palate shows nice definition: this is an elegant, Pinot-like wine with lovely freshness and purity, as well as some spicy structure. 94/100

Quinta da Pellada Carrocel 2003
Wonderfully dense, vivid nose with some subtle roasted notes as well as spicy dark fruits. The palate is fresh and mineral with high acid and lovely intensity. Grippy yet refined tannic structure. Great future ahead of it. 93/100

Quinta da Pallada Carrocel 2006
Sweet aromatic red and black fruits nose with some chocolatey richness. Pure and focused with nice definition. The palate has some oak evident but is also beautifully structured with bright acidity. Real potential. 93/100

Quinta da Pellada Baga 2000
Beautifully elegant nose is almost Bordeaux-like with smooth, slightly green-herby fresh red fruits. The palate has a lovely fresh, subtly green red fruits character with hints of earth. Pure and smooth with refined tannins. 92/100

Quinta da Pellada Baga 2005
Tight and fresh with pure red fruits nose. The palate is firm with some spiciness and tight tannic structure under the smooth, minerally, subtly green red fruits. Real elegance here. 93/100 

Tasting notes from March 2007:

PAPE 2003 Dão
A blend of Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. The sweet spicy nose leads to a supple palate with attractive spiciness and smooth, ripe fruit. Finishes sweet: a nice, accessible style. 89/100

PAPE 2004 Dão
Lovely elegance on the nose, which is spicy, full and lifted, with pure red and black fruits. The palate is concentrated with a lovely purity of fruit. Spicy, dense and structured. Delightful fruit quality. 93/100

PAPE 2005 Dão
A blend of Baga and Touriga Nacional. Very deep coloured. Dark, full spicy nose shows vivid black fruits and nice freshness. The palate is dense and full with real intensity and tannic structure. Powerful, rich, bold, yet still fresh and intense. Lovely stuff. 94/100

Quinta de Saes 2005 Dão
This inexpensive wine shows lovely bright fruit. It’s spicy, rich and vivid. The palate is bold and full with intense spicy fruit and a nice savoury minerally edge. Lively and appealing. 90/100

Quinta de Saes Reserva 2005 Dão
Smooth, intense, sweet spicy fruit on the nose, which is pure and chocolatey. The palate is supple and pure with nice acidity and lovely structure. Quite rich, but with a lovely minerally, spicy presence. 92/100

Alvaro Castro 2005 Dão
Matured in old wood, this is a blend of Alfrocheiro and Touriga Nacional. Lovely focused bright red and black fruits nose, which is quite elegant and pure with a chocolatey edge. The palate is vivid and pure with dense, spicy fruit, good structure and fresh acidity. A pure wine of real class. 91/100

Dado 2004
A Douro/Dão blend, made in conjunction with Dirk Niepoort. Smooth, pure, elegant bright red and black fruits on the nose with some good structure. Attractive stuff with nice focus. 93/100

Dado 2003
Ripe and smooth, with some chocolatey notes. Richly fruited with some softness to the elegant fruit. Quite stylish in a ripe, fruity sort of way. 91/100

Quinta da Pellada 2003 Dão
Sweet, smooth focused nose with pure fruit and a bit of meatiness. The palate is smooth, supple and quite elegant with good acid and some structure. An elegant style. 91/100

Quinta da Pellada 2003 Dão (Special Label)
Smooth, dark, chocolatey nose. The palate is bold and structured with elegant smooth fruit dominating. Quite tight and still developing, with some oak evident. A lovely wine. 92/100

Quinta da Pellada Touriga Nacional 2004 Dão
Lovely perfumed nose showing intense spicy dark fruits. Really perfumed. The palate is bold and intense with lots of structure and spice. Fantastic. 94/100

Carrocel 2006 (Cask sample)
This is quite unusual in that it is aged in two lots of new oak: first the wine started off in Vicard and then it went into Francois Freres. Very deep in colour. Vivid, intense, spicy and bold with lots of structure and real intensity. It’s dark, spicy and woody. Fantastic, and should age brilliantly. 92–95

Wines tasted 03/07  

A short film of a visit with Alvaro Castro:

See also:

Visiting Alvaro Castro in the Dao in 2004

Find these wines with

Back to top