The new Douro 2004
Yesterday’s New Douro tasting at the Tate Modern (held on the seventh floor, with a fantastic view of St Pauls and the Hungerford footbridge) was a revelation. Lots of fuss was made of the 2003 vintage in the Douro, but 2004 was acknowledged by almost every winegrower I spoke to, to be even better. ‘It’s the best vintage I’ve seen’, say Jorge Moreira (of Poiera and Quinta de la Rosa, and who has been making wines in the Douro since 1996). The reason? There’s ripeness and richness, but countering this in most of the wines is a lovely freshness.
The Douro table wine scene is still young, and producers are still finding their feet. As yet, there is no single defining Douro style, and perhaps this will never emerge. Stylistic differences among winegrowers are quite pronounced. There’s a difference in philosophy between producers who aim at super-ripeness, and those who are trying to make wines with a bit more of an edge. Thus we have some wines that are very lush and sweetly fruited, and others which are more savoury and tight, with higher acidity.
Dirk Niepoort and Jorge Moreira reckon that the best table wines are going to come from vineyards that are different from those that make the best Ports. They look for north-facing vineyards, for example, which are cooler. In contrast, I spoke to Bruno Prats of Cos d’Estournel, who makes Chryseia in partnership with the Symingtons. ‘The best vineyards for Port are also the best for table wines’, claims Prats. ‘We are taking grapes for Chryseia from blocks that make vintage Port: this limits the production we can achieve.’ Paul Reynolds’ Macedos is another wine that comes from a top Port vineyard. Personally, while I admire Macedos and Chryseia, I prefer the more elegant, tight savoury style of Niepoort and Moreira. But that’s a taste thing.
Overall, I was excited by the quality of the wines I tasted. The Douro is beginning to come of age. I was also happy that some producers, who had been making wines in a new world-like oaky mould, seem to have changed direction a bit and concentrated more on fruit expression and restraint. After the difficulties of 2002, a run of good to great vintages (2003, 2004 and likely 2005, which seems promising) has sent the new Douro movement on a bit of a roll.
As an aside, I couldn’t help but notice how smartly turned out everyone was. Dirk, who usually sports jeans, untucked shirt and jumper, was in an expensive looking suit and tailored pink shirt (co-ordinating with Dorli’s pink shirt). Christian van Zeller looked like an English country gent (pictured). The two Jorges were dressed up like politicians (indeed, no man lacked a jacket, and most had ties). Sophia Berquist resembled the queen, c. 1960, and Olga Martins looked like she was off to a nightclub. Was this centrally coordinated?
Full notes of the wines will follow.