Young Tinta Cão wines, even from optimally ripe grapes, are tough and acidic. Though unbalanced on its own, the extra acidity in Tinta Cão contributes longevity and elegance to the Port blend.
One of the highest quality Port varieties, the vines produce small amounts of tiny, compact bunches of diminutive berries, which has led to its decline as new plantings replace the old. A vigorous vine, Tinta Cão thrives in cooler areas and the thick skin of the berries contributes to its resistance to disease.
Tinta Cão is indigenous to Portugal and is one of the oldest Douro varieties; it has been cultivated since the 16th century and possibly earlier. The vine’s name means red dog, implying that the grape has acidic bite when not properly ripened. Tinta Cão is found in the Douro Valley, where it represents less than one percent of plantings, as well as in the Dão. It is also planted in California on an experimental basis at UC Davis and in Australia.