Douro Reds: Sophisticated, Refined and Intense.
The Douro region has produced wine for over 2000 years, but it is perhaps most famous for the fortified wine Port. Nevertheless, Port is not all they make here. Douro has grown a reputation as a producer of other reds, whites and rosés. The sun-drenched slopes of rocky Douro are perfect for vines, and as such many different varieties of grape can thrive, including Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Tinto Amarela. While contemporary methods are becoming more common, traditional ways of pressing and aging are still used: grapes are crushed by the feet of workers in a huge granite container called a lagare and stored in wooden vats. In general, Douro reds are characterised by intense fruitiness, subtle mineral notes, concentrated tannins and impressive body.
Wines of Elegance and Character
Quinta Do Sagrado employs traditional crafts to produce vintages such as Sagrado Grande Reserva VT 2008. The grapes for this highly-regarded red are Like other wines of the region, this sophisticated wine is bursting with berry, spice and tannin flavour.
One of the most important Portuguese wines is surely Barca Velha, from Casa Ferreirinha. The grapes for this Douro legend are cultivated at Quinta da Leda and include regional varieties such as Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Tinto Cão. Only if the wine made in any given year meets the standard determined by previous vintages is it allowed to bear the name ‘Barca Velha’; wine that does not quite make the grade is named Reserva Especial. Although Barca Velha reflects the traits found in other examples of Douro reds, its balance, complexity and poise are what have made it famous.
Another Douro vineyard with a long-established pedigree is the Quinta Da Boavista. Here, wines such as the Quinta Da Boavista Vinha Do Ujo 2014 are produced. This wine is juicier than some of its other Douro counterparts. Again, it is intense with tannin undertones. Many reds from this area age well, and this is no exception. Vinha Do Ujo 2014 is expected to reach its potential a few years from now, in around about 2024.
Abandonado 2004 from Quinta Da Gaiviosa, is made from grapes from an ancient parcel of land which had been ‘abandoned’. All attempts to revive the rocky soil failed, leaving only the hardiest vines behind. From these eighty-year-old Tinta Amerela Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Sousao and over a dozen other local varietals comes a fresh, aromatic red with elegant mineral tones.
The Quinta Do Passadouro doesn’t have such an appealing history as some other vineyards, but it does have some very fine wines including the Passadouro Reserva. This impressive wine is made in a lagare before being aged in oak for a year and a half. Maintaining the Douro standard of deep, fruity flavour, this purplish red is subtly spicy and fairly acid.
The battle to establish Douro as a producer of wines other than its famous Port was long-fought. Producers here have survived natural disasters, disease, revolution and politics. The vineyards and wine-makers who have made it to the twenty-first century have much to be proud of. Like the hardy vines that cling to the schist-scattered hillsides of the area, the fruits of their labours are extraordinary.