Tag Archives: Douro Valley

Extremes (Douro, Portugal – Day Three)

Considering there are about 44,000 hectares of vineyards planted you can imagine the size of the region and the range of terroirs, so there are a myriad of opportunities for different expressions. There are so many elements of the Douro that are taken for granted in many other regions well-known for super-premium wines, such as very old vines, steep slopes and thousands of  different vineyard owners. Something that they haven’t had in the past was wine that was designated as a single estate or vineyard, something that is so common in places like Burgundy, Mosel and Alba. The Douro Boys are at the forefront of raising the Douro Valley to the same level as such iconic regions, highlighting the aspects generally regarded as of the highest quality. They are also attempting to differentiate the Douro through the very traditional elements like the great range of varieties planted often in a field blend, and the fermentation and maceration of red wines in lagares mostly made of stone. Having the abilities and technology to much better understand their terroirs, varieties and wines there is very little to stop Douro wines in the future.
Amazing vineyards at Quinta do vale Dona Maria

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Alright, still (Douro Valley, Portugal – Day Two)

The shift of focus from fortified port wines to still wines could not have waited much longer in the Douro. The entire fortified wine market has been diminishing since the 1980s as more people have been drinking dry wines all over the world. The limitations of matching port with food don’t help with the accessibility of these wines as well, as there are only so many styles and they are generally sweeter and all more alcoholic. In the past fortified wines were one of the most popular categories – particularly port and sherry wines – and they were even produced as far away as the USA and Australia. The growth of still wine production of course has been seen all over the world to the unfortunate detriment of fortified wines. Thus in an effort to stay alive it was important for the producers of the Douro to explore the opportunities of still wine production, and in a sense it couldn’t have come at a better time. The climate is one of the biggest influences on the style of wine they can produce which is big, rich and red. This style of wine has been popular for about 20 years in a number of key markets around the world, thanks in part to the influence of US wine critic Robert Parker who loves this style of wine. Thus a confluence of factors has provided them a great opportunity into the future. The producers I visited on my second day are some of the most important producers of still wine in the region.
If it weren’t empty I would be making wine angels

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Niepoort – 17/07/2012

2011 Malolactic white
Very textural, creamy yet fresh and tropical in nature. Balanced and long, well-integrated but in need of some more time in the barrel.

2010 Vertente
Broad and soft, but focused with gentle tannins, some maturity and drive, great balance and already drinking well. Slight savoury character, almost reminiscent of tonkatsu sauce in a sweet and sour kind of way.

2010 Redoma Red
More intense and brooding, slightly more dark fruit characters, more of that mulberry. Slightly more classic Douro red profile, tighter tannins, but still a hint of tonkatsu.

2010 Red
Very intense and structured, powerful focused and expressive tannins, more layers of complexity that will take time to open up. More in the soy spectrum, beautiful with a sukiyaki. A sensational wine that is looking closed and reductive for now.

Dry White Port
Fine and focused, balanced but a little sharp and volatile. Needs more time to soften and then blended to make it a rich textural wine really good with food.

2010 Moscatel
Rich round and viscous, sweet profile and so similar to muscatel sherry they would be indistinguishable.

2010 Charmes
A truly unique wine, like Cote-de-Nuits made in the Douro. Whole bunch maceration and partial fermentation, completed in barrel to give the wine a soft but very savoury funky character, unbelievable complex and long, and will age interestingly.

LBV 2007
Rosy smoky toasty depth. Quite warm initially on the palate, but very focused and bold, nice concentration, dark fruits, velvety and full, will actually age gracefully in the bottle.

Bioma 2008
Nice dusty red earth characters, showing a little toastiness. Wonderful concentration and density, very tight and focused with a great core of acidity, the elegance is lurking in the background urging you to age it for at least 10 years.

VP 2009
Amazingly intense and brooding, concentrated but not expressive. Far too young to be showing anything, need to give it time to open up. Dense powerful bold and assured on the palate, wonderful integration of fruit, sweetness and alcohol. Very long and complex on the palate, supple and slightly savoury on the back. Need to see it again in a couple more years.

10-year-old tawny
Lovely subtle yet bright fruit nose, very elegant caramel influence, not a lot of nut or oxidative elements. Full and intense, exceptional focus and precision, balance and intensity, freshness.

LBV 1987
Very fine, complex and subtle, smoky creamy milk chocolate and wonderful orange characters, some bright red fruits, fresh and lively and full of life and vibrancy. Very special wine. Still retaining some sweetness but the savoury notes showing through beautifully.
Old Niepoort bottles

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Quinta do Vale Dona Maria – 18/07/2012

2011 Vina Ameio (200m 70 yr old south facing)
Very dark on the nose, really intense deep earth and black fruits, extremely brooding toasty elements. Juicy fruit sweet, retaining some R/S? Quite supple but dense and full.

2011 Alampassa (same as before, deeper into the valley, more tinto roriz)
Brighter more ruby in colour. Again, quite fruit sweet but drier and more intense in the tannins and acids, a little warmer profile too. More masculine and granitic and intense. Deeper, and earthier.

2011 Silvas (old vine north facing)
Quite serious deep and mature in character, concentration and finesse at the same time. The most complete component I’ve ever tasted. Exactly what I mean when I talk about approachability when young but deserving of cellaring. Fresh intense vibrant, wonderful balance and intensity.

2011 Vina Nova (7 year old vineyard, malo in barrel)
Quite simple and light, ice ripe fruit, fresh and full but very youthful.

2011 Abaixo + Ameio
Showing a lot more toastiness. Big soft and fruit sweet, some R/S from the Ameio perhaps, dense and yet supple and structured. Needs some more time to open up.

Van Zellers Branco 2010
Nice fresh vibrant green fruit notes, citrus and some very slight herbal notes. Excellent ripeness, perfect balance, very fresh but great character, harmonious to a ‘T’. Good intensity and focus, but clean and pure.

VZ Branco 2011
More leesy and creamy nose, but still showing the lovely citrus elements. Completely shut down and reductive, barely expressing anything. Good structure though, just not a particularly good vintage for the whites.

Rufo do Vale D. Maria 2010 (45/45 touriga franca and nacional, 10% tinto roriz)
Bright fresh vibrant red fruit nose. Nice and pure and fresh, but well structured with some nice approachable fruit sweetness. Bright acids and friendly tannins.

Van Zellers 2010
Deeper and more intense, showing more textured barrel characters. More savoury notes, structure but still great finesse. Looking quite shy at the moment, will really benefit.

Casa de Caval de Loivos 2010
Nice density and maturity, bold dark red fruits, slightly rustic lagar notes. Showing the fruit sweet, but not residual sugar sweet, very supple and well structured, warm but balanced. Full-flavour but lovely and velvety, old oak a perfect complement.

Quinta do Vale Dona Maria 2010
Very serious nose, really intense and mature, wonderfully floral dark fruits. Quite broad and soft, very supple, I think it’s lacking in structure. Quite easy-drinking, I think it needs more oak or tannins (can’t believe I’m saying it). Starting to open up, looking quite shy for now I guess.

CV 2010
Mostly showing fruit at the moment, really young and a little shy, very dark and full on the nose. Nice texture and sharpness, an interesting tang to it, focus and freshness but will integrate and express more once it is in bottle for a while.

A barrel at Quinta do Vale Dona Maria

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Quinta do Vallado – 17/07/2012

Branco 2011
Vibrant fresh citrus and apple notes, very tight and direct. Brisk intense acids and quite lean and clean fruit, slightly unripe in a really good way, nice green fruit character.

Moscatel Galego Branco 2011
Lovely musky floral notes, clean minerality. Fresh and quite simple, not sure what’s missing in this wine, needs more character, maybe some texture, really make things crazy like skin contact fermentation…

Branco Reserva 2011
Certainly more barrel and lees notes, some creaminess adding to the citrus and lemongrass elements. Very slight green melon notes. White burgundy style, very young and only seeing the barrel elements. Has the structure and acidity to hold out but somewhat closed now.

Tinto 2010
Nice soft mellow nose of spice and red fruits, very subtle toasty elements, some earth elements as well. Bright fresh red fruits, n and good acids, a little warm on the front of the palate. Very pure and approachable, but lacking a bit of depth.

Souzao 2010
Deeper characters, slightly closed ripe black fruits, very well integrated oak but slightly rustic wild characters. Amazing texture, finesse and structure, not obvious fruit or tannins, not at all sweet or hot, all about mouth-feel. Truly unique wine, but agree that it is a polariser.

Touriga Nacional 2010
Slightly rosy and a little reductive, very classic touriga nacional on the nose. Wonderfully fresh and vibrant, not at all fruit sweet, showing some red fruits, some menthol and eucalypt notes. Wonderful consistency on the palate, but will soften quite nicely picking up some suppleness.

Reserva 2010
Expressive yet complex, bold yet subtle, fruit yet oak, young yet mature. Quite intense but also hinting at some suppleness in the future. Oak quite subtle and not interfering too much. Needs time to be sure, but easy to appreciate now. Layers and layers, more with time.

Adelaide VP 2009
Wonderfully floral, bright purple fruits, maraschino cherries, very subtle choc-mint characters. Bingo-bango-bongo expression of fruit, quite sweet at the moment, but a nice clean finish and some good extension on the back of the palate. Beautifully intense but far too young.

10 year old tawny
Smoky caramel, freshness and liveliness. Complex oxidative notes but also very fresh. Certainly exhibits a little bit of the nut characters, but is more about the freshness and the complexity of the age.

20 year old tawny
A little more aggressive on the nose, smoky and toastier, a little volatile on the nose. Sweetness and complexity comes through, but finding the texture a little too full. It almost distracts from the age and complexity.

Quinta do Vallado uses my favourite cooper, Francois Freres

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Lavradores de Feitoria – 17/07/2012

Tres Bagos Branco 2011
Open clean and pure fruit aromas, some salty leesy notes, slightly toasty and flinty. Initially brisk on the palate, but then quite broad and expressive, textural and ripe with some nice sharp green notes. Good tropical profile, some ripe pear and citrus notes. Body depth, pretty easy drinking stuff.

Meruge Branco 2010 (viuzinho, fermented in Portuguese oak)
Roasted walnut and burnt vanilla aromas, ripe creamy citrus fruit. Soft and subtle, smooth and long, round and very delicate, a lot of complexity and depth. Quite shy and reserved, the oak and ripeness is subduing the wine for now. Hopefully it will open up. A tad overworked.

Tres Bagos Tinto 2008
Nice ripe dark fruit, black olive tapenade, some soy and dark spice elements, ripe but focused fruit. Intense full, warm and ripe but fresh and approachable, good vibrant character with balance and integration. Some appealing warmth on the front fades nicely.

Quinta da Costa das Aguaneiras 2008 (south-facing under 200m)
Quite oaky and robust, sweet toasty smoky, roasted nuts and dried flowers. Really intense and full, but soft and supple on the back. Pretty much cooked wine, too modern and stylised, lacking subtlety but it does have some structure. I’m not sure it will age.

Meruge Tinto 2008 (400m altitude north-facing, tinta roriz made in lagare)
lighter more classic tempranillo colour. Soft light fruit sweet and silky focused tannins, intense bright and focused, fresh but mature ripe fruit and tannins, oak could be paired back perhaps. Good power and structure, but the oak is giving it too much sweetness.

Tres Bagos Grande Escolha 2008
Classic Douro nose, really good expressive dark fruits but the promise of something more that isn’t oak. Old vines, good maturity, low yield, healthy extraction, balance elegance, potential and structure, but drinkable now and into the future. Still quite modern, but very good modern.

Tres Bagos Grande Escolha 2009
Perfect expression of 2009, balance structure, density but ripe and full dark fruit characters. Won’t last as long as 2008, but looking pretty damn good now.

Lavradores de Feitoria Tres Bagos Grande Escolha 2008

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Quinta do Noval – 16/07/2012

Cedro do Noval (Vinho Regional Duriense (30% syrah, touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinto roriz)
Bright purple colour, intense but not heavy in colour. Bright juicy yet spicy dark fruit aromas, some interesting floral notes. Fresh full-flavoured clean, great acidity and intensity of fruit. Balanced approachable but structured and with personality.

Quinta do Noval Douro DOC 2008
More intense purple, more extraction and depth. Smoky toasty notes of dark berries, more intense and extractive on the nose. Very intense and dark on the palate, but surprisingly fresh and lifted on the palate. Crunchy toast oak adding to texture but not adding any sweetness. Intense but complex elegant and structured. Still a bit tight.

Noval Black Reserve
Soft jubey plummy cassis and blackcurrant. Intense full and spicy warm, fresh finish and balanced alcohol and sweetness, velvety and dense but clean and juicy, well structured and worth ageing a little bit.

Quinta do Noval LBV 2005
Rounder and fuller, sitting more in the mid-palate. Better balance throughout and extension on the back of the palate, slightly more savoury maturity, serious considered port wine, powerful yet haunting.

Noval ten-year old
nice sweet nutty and toasty dry red fruits and carob spice. Bold yet smooth, very casky and nutty in youth, bright and fresh, clean yet complex, balanced and pure. Excellent clarity of purpose.

Noval twenty year old
Denser fuller and more viscous, more subtle nut characters, almost an almond Magnum flavour to it, nice texture. Opulent rich and yet focused and toasty. Not quite enough difference between 10 and 20 in my opinion.

Quinta do Noval 2008 VP
Spicy mulberry clove green pepper notes. Really intense and not sweet, dry full and powerful, broad yet focused and structured, balanced and long on the palate, but obviously far too young and in need of a lot of time in bottle. A wine too early to see much expression.

Noval Ten Year Old Tawny Port

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Quinta do Vale Meao – 16/07/2012

Meandro 2010
Wonderfully intense purple colour, very deep. Very aromatic spicy black fruit, concentrated and intense on the nose, complex and somewhat closed at the moment. Very soft supple very focused and nice firm tannins, subtle fruit slightly disagreeing with the nose, balanced and well integrated, supporting oak not influencing at all.

Vale Meao 2009
More rustic earthy stalky and brown on the nose, slightly dusty dark red fruits. More intense and fruit sweet, dark and certainly a big influence of new French oak, persistent and concentrated but elegant and full without weight or heat. Will benefit with some time in bottle.

Vintage Port 2002
Less obviously porty on the nose, nice bright dark red fruit aromas with some very subtle toasty smoky notes. Beautifully tight and concentrated, elegant and balanced with finesse and structure, focus and drive. Not heavy or alcoholic until the very back of the palate, well integrated tannins.

Oak fermentation vats at Quinta do Vale Meao

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Déjà vu (Douro Valley, Portugal – Day One)

After six months visiting wine regions in Europe I feel like I am beginning to come full circle. Every major wine-producing country has been covered, and with the exception of Bordeaux (next week) and Burgundy (the end of the year), every important wine region has been visited. The experience and knowledge I have acquired since the beginning of the year scares me slightly, and I hate the idea that I am becoming jaded with my knowledge of wine. I think the time I have planned in the UK and Ireland through August will do me some good, as it will refresh me for working vintage in Germany from mid-September. Probably the main reason that I am feeling a sense of déjà vu is the similarities that the Douro Valley has with the Mosel Valley, which I visited all the way back at the end of January. The way the calm and wide river makes its slow progress to the Atlantic Ocean is hauntingly similar to the Mosel, as well as the deep valley with steep slopes planted with terraced vineyards. They even have some slate/schist here, but a lot more granite and even limestone. There is obviously one glaring difference which is the climate. It is very hot here, often reaching well over 40 degrees in summer, whereas the Mosel is not. When I was in the Mosel it wasn’t getting over zero degrees; on my first day in the Douro it got up to 39 degrees. So a little bit different. I came here to not only actually see the vineyards where the port wine comes from, but to also explore a rapidly growing part of the Douro for dry table wines, getting quite a following.
High above the vineyards of the Douro

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