The Douro has produced red table wines since Roman times. It was customary to add grape spirit to these somewhat rough wines to improve quality and stability. Port as we know it was first produced in the Douro in the 18th century. The first modern red wine of the Douro, Barca Welha was produced in 1952 by Nicolau de Almeida with fruit from Quinta do Vale Meao. The customary mixed varietal planting of vineyards suited the production of fortified wines but varietal definition and identity is important in the making of quality table wines. The identification and study of the handful of indigenous Portuguese grape varieties most suited for the production of quality red wine in the 1970s resulted in the planting of new mono-varietal vineyards. The new era of red table wine production in the Douro started in the 1990s.
Members of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society met at the town’s Masonic Hall last week to taste a selection of red table wines of the excellent 2011 vintage from the Douro.
The evening started with a glass of Contacto, the 2013 Vinho Verde from Anselmo Mendes. This is a 100% Alvarinho mainly from the Melgaço sub-region. The grapes under went total de-stemming, a short skin maceration, cold clarification and were fermented at a temperature of 14º – 22ºC. The wine was aged for 4 months on fine lees. 60,000 bottles were made. It was crisp, elegant with fine fruit flavours and had only a hint of the bitterness characteristic of Alvarinho. It was a lovely wine to sip.
There were seven wines in the tasting.
Vertente is made with grapes from 25 year old vineyards of Quinta de Nápoles and old vines planted on the banks of the Pinhão river, where Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz are predominant. It is bright with soft tannins and is pleasantly approachable now.
LAVADORES DE FEITORIA MERUGE
Lavadores de Feitoria is a collective of 18 Quintas from all three subregions of the Douro formed in 1999. Meruge is made with Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca in a light style similar to Pinot Noir but oak handling here is not perfect.
QUINTA DO CRASTO RESERVA
This dark, extracted and immensely pleasing wine is made with 25 – 30 grape varieties from 70 yr old vines. It was fermented in stainless steel and aged 18 months in oak – 85% French and 15% American. Delightful drinking now.
QUINTA NOVA RESERVA
Made from old vines with an average age of 70 years, with as many as 30 different grape varieties from an old 85 ha vineyard owned by Amorim Cork in the Cima Corgo. It is dark, rich and concentrated, needing time to improve.
Jorge Moreira who makes this wine from his 2.5 ha vineyard says: “Poeira aims to be a balanced and elegant wine. Douro wines generally rely on their tannins, but Poeira relies on its acidity. A wine that is extremely drinkable and appealing when young but which at the same time has the capacity to develop. I want every wine to mirror the vines from which it is made, maintaining its character but reflecting the variations that occur in the vineyard from year to year. The Poeiras tell the story of my quinta.”
QUINTA DO VALE MEAO
The Quinta do Vale Meão estate was the ‘last great achievement’ of Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, the legendary Great Lady of the Douro, and the only property which was totally planted by her, on 300 hectares of barren common land purchased at auction from the town council of Vila Nova de Foz Côa in 1877. The project took eight years to complete and Antónia just saw it come to fruition, dying the following year in 1896. Originally the estate supplied grapes that went into perhaps Portugal’s most famous red table to date, Barca Velha.
It is now owned by her great-great grandson Francisco Javier de Olazabal. He left the Port and Douro Wine Company A.A. Ferreira in 1998 to develop his own winemaking project with his son, Francisco de Olazabal y Nicolau de Almeida. The century-old winery has subsequently been totally refurbished, adding modern winemaking equipment but retaining the tradition of old granite lagares. 67 hectares of vines are block planted on a variety of soil types, with a particular commitment to the touriga nacional variety. The first wines, of the 1999 vintage, were released in 2001. As well as organic olive oil they make a range of wines from traditional Douro grape varieties, with their reds foot trodden in granite lagares.
The wine is fragrant and opulent with fine tannins and a persistent seam of acidity to carry the palate. 55% touriga nacional, 34% touriga franca and a little of tinta barroca and roriz. It is debatable whether the £58 price tag is justified.
Post Scriptum was introduced by Prats & Symington in 2002 as a partner wine to Chryseia. The wine is made from a second selection of the lots made for Chryseia, and from 2007 has been made predominantly from fruit from the QUINTA DA PERDIZ estate in the Rio Torto.
It has Touriga Nacional 41%, Touriga Franca 36%, Tinta Roriz 14% and Tinta Barroca 9%. The grapes were de-stemmed, gently crushed and fermented at 26 – 27ºC. Maceration wass very gentle and aimed at producing a wine intended for early drinking. It was aged for 10 months in French oak barrels of 400 L producing a wine that is soft, fruity and pleasing to drink now.
Van Zeller Rufo do Vale D Maria was drunk with duck breast with bordelaise sauce after the tasting. The wine is the little brother to Cristiano Van Zeller’s Quinta do Vale D. Maria. It is a fragrant, fresh-tasting Douro red from the excellent 2011 vintage.
Average price per bottle was £22.83.
30 HMWS members and a guest attended the event.
- “A very interesting and informative introduction to wines of the Douro, an area we knew little about and would have loved to visit with you ,but perhaps another time .The meal as usual was excellent as were the wines and the company”
- “A very enjoyable evening”
- “A stimulating evening and great prelude to our forthcoming trip”