Casa da Passarella
I loved this place from my first visit (plus five now) many years ago. It has a very positive vibe where one feels that many good and proper things have been happening there for a very long time. A place full of change and rock solid links to the past.
Dating from the 1890s, Casa da Passarella has special history within the region, as the local village grew up alongside the quinta and has provided an important source of employment over time. During WWII the great house played an important part in the resistance movement and was used as a safe house for French Jews on their flight through Portugal to freedom. All this came together when a local won the lottery and poured his winnings into rennovating the old house and restoring the winery and vineyards to past gloriess. All this has brought new work opportunities to the community.
Passarella is very much about its terroir and tradition. Winemaker Paulo Nunes (also winemaker for Quinta da Bica) likes the old vines and traditional varieties on the property. Currently he is in the process of replanting the estate’s old field blend varieties, vine for vine, in new vineyards. He believes the estate’s clones are perfectly adapted to its terroir, so is reusing cuttings from existing vineyards to repopulate the new. It's clear he isn’t interested in making ‘globalized’ wine style, feeling it is 'best to make a statement with only what Dao can do.' Paulo is not a fan of Tinta Roriz, which he considers 'boring.' As it was never part of the original vineyard, there are no plans to expand in that direction.
The total size of the quinta is around 100 hectares, of which 40 are in vineyards. Eleven of those are in older vines (60-100 years), mostly field blends with vines mixed in amongst one another. It is notable that about 50% of these old vines were in Touriga Nacional which was separated out on its own. This suggests that Touriga was singled out in the 20th century for special treatment as a core part of the blend. Historically, Baga was the most planted variety in old field blends, followed by about 20% Jaen (Mencia), another 20% in Rufet (Tinta Pinheiro) and Alfrocheiro. About 5% was planted in Tinta Amarela (Trincadera), Alvarallao (for fruit and acidity, and Negro Mole from Madeira (for volume and texture).
Although the quinta stopped producing whites about 40 years ago, a recent return to relatively young vine Encruzado suggests great potential. It is notable that the previous vineyards contained a traditional local blend of Viusino, Gouveio, and Malvasina Fina. The success of Encruzado has encouraged a return to the original local grapes as well.
In the past, I found the Rose to be very pure. The Colheita of great value, but Sellecitonada for one more euro was often twice the wine, and the Reserva often doubled the quality again. A few years ago Passarella rebranded its wines renaming them after historical events and people associated with Passarella’s colorful past. About that time they mysteriously added an extra 'L' to their name. All Passarella wines are very accessible, but retain the integrity of local blends and terroir. The old vine bottlings are an uncompromising statement of place, time and tradition--for my taste the best wines Passarella make.
All of Paulo Nunes’s wines show ultra-clean, brightly lit fruit and have a high level of elegance, while at the same time managing concentration without undue thickness. There's a gift to using clean technology without imitating the sterility common to so much internationally styled wine. Passarella have found their own way through this and are very much the style of wine I like drinking from Portugal.
View Casa da Passarella wine notes here
Wine is matured in traditional concrete tanks
Modern tank system