Terras de Tavares
I know João Tavares de Pina’s to be a passionate champion of the Dao region, its wines and food. Perhaps its best I declare now to having a slight conflict of interest when talking about João. He has been one of my most important sources for understanding what makes Dao tick and over time I have come to consider him a good friend. But then I’ve made friends with many producers in Dao over time, so perhaps I’m overstating any potential conflict.
I met Joao on my first visit to Dao back in 2008. I had been judging wine in Porto and expressed an interest in learning more about Dao’s wine based on previous experience with older wines from the 1980s. Dao’s wine governing body, CVR, was distracted with other things at the time and couldn’t offer guidance. Joao stepped into the breach and, at his own expense and time, shuttled me around the region to taste at dozens of producers, then took me into his home and fed me typical Dao cuisine with his family. Over the course of that week I fell in love with Dao, its wines and its people.
After initial studying viticulture and winemaking at Bordeaux University, Joao followed this with further study at Villa Real, where he finished a 3 year research project on yeast: selecting yeast from Vinho Verde that is eventually commercialized as QA23 and sold throughout the world.
Tavares is a strong proponent of the cooler climate wine styles around Penelva do Castello and, in particular, the Jaen grape (Spain’s Mencia). His wines are true to the cooler, more elevated climates surrounding Penelva do Castello where Touriga Nacional can ripen 2 weeks later than in the hotter, middle part of Dao around Nelas. Joao believes the extended ripening time around Penalva and Gouveia deliver ripe tannins without losing delicate aromas, all at lower alcohol levels around 12%, resulting in ‘freshness, not high acidity.”
Whereas Jaen is looked down upon by many in Dao, it is clearly better suited to Penelva’s longer growing season where aromatics are teased out and tannins can reach full physiological ripeness. Alongside Quinta dos Roques, Tavares’s Jaens are among the best made in Portugal so far.
The 7ha vineyards at Quinta da Boavista contain red clay interspersed with mica, quartz and granite on the lower slopes which is where Touriga is mainly planted. From an aesthetic perspective, I’ve always enjoyed the way Dao’s terroir sparkles back at you. On a more practical level this soil is advantageously infertile, making vines struggle. Cropping is naturally at or under 2 ton/ha and Tavares believing that vines should find their own harmony and carry their own natural weight in grapes with low producers having more ripeness and others less, thus creating a greater complexity.
No-till, grass cover cropping is practiced and although the vineyards are not certified organic, they are farmed under organic and sustainable practices. Given the winery is covered in photovoltaic cells, making Quinta da Boavista a net exporter of electricity, Tavares could promote his wines as carbon neutral.
Quinta da Boavista’s branding is a little confusing because someone else snapped up copyright on Boavista, so Joao’s wines are marketed as either Torre de Tavares, which draws fruit from non-family owned vineyards or declassified estate wine, or Terras de Tavares, which is the top wine from the estate plantings. Boavista’s grapes are Jaen and Touriga Nacional with mixed varietals in field blended, older vineyards.
Joao's wine styles tend to be tightly constructed and highly reductive intent on stressing minerality. Given Joao’s background as a chef, his wines are highly gastronomic, aiming for “concentration without density.” They can be difficult to drink in youth but reward careful cellaring.
João Tavares de Pina is an intense character with strong opinions, which like me, he is often willing to defend passionately. Unsurprisingly, his wines tend to be intense, strongly charactered and uncompromising in their intent. They are clearly not for everyone, but I love them, and anyone who is willing to take them on their own terms should come to as well.
Wine-maker Joao Tavares
Terras de Tavares
Courtyard at Quinta da Boavista