João Tavares de Pina, Rufia Branco, 2021
João is part pioneer, part preservationist, part labourer and part historian. An irreverent man from the north of Portugal who moved with his wife Luísa to Penalva do Castelo in Dão in the early 1990s, his time managing Quinta da Boavista has been marked by great failures and great successes.
For a time, the husband and wife duo worked with vines they planted when they first arrived, producing wines with a classic profile and trying to fit into a market that was starting a hard transition into organic, biodynamic and naturally made wines. 20 years later, on the precipice of total failure, they replanted the entire 13 hectares of vineyards, uprooting every single vine. The rehabilitation of the vegetation on the 40 hectare property was a priority during this transition, a way of returning some of the land to the natural artifice of the vineyard. Today, the vines are lined with oak and eucalyptus forests with a natural biodiversity in the vineyard of chamomile, clover, lavender and wild flowers growing. Aside from a touch of sulfur when bottled, João lets the wine evolve naturally.
There's around 50 indigenous varietals planted in the vineyard today, some having been on the verge of extinction if not for the astute preservation efforts of João and Luísa. In 2012, at a crucial transitionary time for the winery and while the new vines were just establishing themselves, João decided to create a range of simpler wines, aged in stainless steel, closer to the fruits they were growing and, at the same time, more rugged and with natural edges. These wines, called Rufia, were very successful, galvanizing them to continue the project they started around 2010 and offering an entry point into the mystical land of indigenous Portuguese grapes.
The Rufia Branco encompasses Encruzado, Cerceal, Malvasia, Bical and Arinto, aged for 8 months on the skins. Slightly tannic with a surprising note of celery salt on the nose, high acidity, refreshing, lots of apples and Asian pear aromatics too. There's a little apricot and some pleasant herbaceous aromas too. Complex but very inviting, a winning combination and a cool expression of what natural wines from Portugal are capable of.
Perfect to drink with raw fish preparations, risotto with seafood, warm fish appetizers and light veggie pastas. We'd say sushi is kind of a slam dunk pairing here.