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Quinta dos Roques/Quinta das Maias: Dão heavyweights

Editor's note: see a more recent review of this producer, based on a visit in May 2004

One of the most dynamic producers in Portugal, the wines of Quinta dos Roques are immediately identifiable by the striking yellow capsules and label design, and the fact that they come in what must be the world's heaviest wine bottles. The estate is run by Manuel Lopes de Oliveira and his son-in-law Luis Lourenço, and winemaking is in the hands of Jorge Brites and Professor Virgilio Loureiro. There are 12 blocks of vines with a total vineyard area of 40 hectares.

Rather confusingly, Quinta das Maias—a separate property whose wines are made in the dos Roques winery by the same team—has now adopted the same bottle design. Their 12 ha of old vine vineyards (dominated by the Jaen variety) are at a higher altitude than the vineyards of dos Roques. The two properties make wines different in character but of a similar high standard. Here, I'm assessing their wines together.

Quinta das Maias Malvasia Fina
The first vintage of this barrel-fermented Malvasia. The nose shows subtle, toasty barrel-ferment character, leading to a palate displaying lean fruit and classy oak. It's bone dry and quite fresh, with some nutty notes. Very good (retails at £7.75)

Quinta dos Roques Encruzado 2000
From yields of 30 hl/ha, this doesn't undergo malolactic fermentation. It's fresh and lean, with lemon and herby notes on the nose. The palate has fresh acidity and some attractive nutty notes. Quite lean and savoury, with well integrated oak. Very good (c. £10)

Quinta dos Roques Dão 1998
The regular Tinto, this is 50% Touriga Nacional, and spends 6 months in new French oak. It has a stunning ripe, herby nose with some exotic caramel and menthol notes from the new oak. The palate is rich and tannic with spicy oak and a dry finish. Attractive, but a touch firm at the moment. Very good+ (c. £8.50)

Quinta dos Roques Alfrocheiro Preto 1999
A rich, ripe exotic nose shows prominent spice and menthol character. Great concentration on the palate with good complexity and a fair amount of oak present. Needs time, this one. Very good/excellent (c. £15)

Quinta das Maias Jaen 1999
5000 bottles produced. The bright fruity nose shows some cherry and raspberry fruit. Serious, fairly tannic palate firm acidity. This is a savoury, well-structured wine that's best with food. Very good+ (c. £15)

Quinta dos Roques Touriga Nacional 1999
Rich, sweet nose of herbs and caramel. Chewy, herby, tannic palate with good concentration and high acidity. However, it all needs a fair bit of time to resolve; don't drink now or I suspect you'll be wasting your money. Very good+ (c. £17)

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