Ding Dão Bell
I must apologize for the atrocious bilingual pun in today's title, but I couldn't think of an easier way to nail down the unexpected pronunciation of "Dão," the mountainous wine region along the Douro River in Northern Portugal that's the source of the rustic red wine we feature today.
Portuguese words ending in "ão," with a tilde over the "a," are pronounced with a nasal N at the end, rendering "Dão" - to my ears at least - somewhere between "Down" and "Dong" as in, well, "ding dong bell."
You'll find the same pronunciation in "São" ("Saint," pronounced something like "Song" as in the Brazilian city São Paolo) and the word "Grão" ("Grand," pronounced "GraN") in the name of today's wine.
Red Dão may be made from as many as nine local grapes, many of which are also used to make Port. Touriga Nacional, the most highly regarded of these varieties, may make up to 20 percent of the bland.
Today's wine, another of my frequent ventures into low-priced realms in search of good value, proved to be worth about the $6 I paid for it. Made by Quinta dos Carvalhais, a large, modern winery under the umbrella of Portugal's gigantic Sogrape firm (which also makes Mateus Rosé), it's a rough and rustic country-style red, frankly a bit harsh for drinking alone; but accompany it with robust fare and its flavors round out. It reminds me of the cheap reds we used to slurp while hitch-hiking around Europe with the "$5 a Day" books in our backpacks.
Grão Vasco 2000 Dão ($5.99)
Clear ruby color; a row of tiny bubbles lines the rim. Volatile and rustic, red fruit aromas with hints of "barnyard" and, within acceptable limits, red-wine vinegar. Light and tart, simple red fruit and lemon-squirt acidity on the palate; a sour-apple tang persists in the finish. On the rough and rustic side, palatable but a bit harsh; better with food than alone. U.S. importer: Evaton, Inc., Stamford, Ct. (March 20, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: On the raw side alone, it needs food to come into balance. Leftover corned beef and thin slices of Parmigiano served it well; an excellent smoked brisket with a light, tangy sauce from my favorite local barbecue joint (Bake's, in southwestern Louisville) went even better.
VALUE: Fairly priced at the very low end.
WHEN TO DRINK: ASAP.
WEB LINK: I had no luck searching for relevant Web links.
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Friday, March 21, 2003