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Spotlight on Portugal's Dão region
Part 7: Casa de Santar

Next stop on the Dão wine route was Casa de Santar, a beautiful historic family-owned manor house that’s also the biggest private estate in the region in terms of vineyard area: altogether Santar has 120 hectares of vines split between two locations. 80% of this vineyard area is in separate varietal plantings (this is good for quality). Wines have been made here since 1616.

French oak from Seguin Moreau, and American oak from Nadalie is used here: Santar were the first property in the region to use barriques. A typical mix of grape varieties are grown, with Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz for the reds; Arinto, Cercial and Encruzado for whites. Winemaking is in the hands of Pedro de Vasconcellos e Souza (right), who showed me around.

The winery has a capacity of some 3 million litres, of which 1 million litres are typically used in any one vintage. Some grapes are bought in, and the term Castas de Santar is used for the wines made from these (the estate wines are Casa). The wines are pretty reliable across the board – a consistent range, with the highlight unsurprisingly being the varietal Touriga Nacional.

Castas de Santar Branco 2003
Distinctive lemony, herby nose with a pronounced minty character. The palate is fresh and fruity with a herby tint. Very good 84/100

Castas de Santar Dão 2001
Fresh, herby fruity nose to this red, with some spiciness and a bit of mint. The palate shows herby juicy berry fruit. Open and savoury; simple but satisfying. Very good+ 85/100

Castas de Santar Dão Tinto Superior 2001
A blend of Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz. Very fresh bright fruity nose with a distinctive herbiness (and more of that mint character). Open, herby palate with juicy berry fruit and good acidity. Medium bodied, fresh and juicy. Not complicated but showing well. Very good+ 87/100

Casa de Santar Dão Reserva 2000
Taut nose with more of that distinctive minty herbiness: underneath this there are more serious notes of tar and spice. The palate shows a bit more depth. The bright, vivid fruit has some spiciness and concentration to it. Could evolve nicely. Very good+ 89/100

Casa de Santar Touriga Nacional Dão 2000
Really lovely floral, aromatic nose with herbs, tar, spice and some violet character. The palate shows a good concentration of elegant, herby fruit. Not big, but nicely expressive. Some spicy tannins and good acidity on the finish. Very good/excellent 91/100

Autono de Santar Vindima Tardia 2001
This is a late-harvest Encruzado, with 100% botrytis, harvested in December. Quite a complex nose showing honeyed, herby, candied fruit and apricots. The palate is herby and sweet with notes of vanilla, marmalade and a nice tang. Not too sweet, with 70 g/litre of residual sugar. Very good/excellent 90/100

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