Croft and Quinta da Roda
Visiting the one of the leading Port companies in the beautiful Douro region of Portugal, part 4

The Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman group purchased Croft and Delaforce together in 2001. Croft owns the spectacular Quinta da Roda, located in the Cima Corgo a short distance from Pinho. Its a sizeable 80 hectare property in a prime location, but a lot of work has taken place in the last decade to renovate the rather run-down vineyards.

We visited this impressive vineyard, just up river from Pinho, with viticulturalist Antonio Maghaeles (above), who is responsible for all the farms and dealing with all the growers (72 of them). Antonio works closely with David Guimaerens, who is the head winemaker. In all, there are five winemakers in the Taylor group.

The old part of the vineyard at Roda has 70 year old vines. Antonio explained that 40% of all the Douro is planted with Touriga Francesa (aka Touriga Franca), but this isnt an old variety. Before phylloxera, the two most important varieties in the Douro were Touriga (just plain Touriga, not T. Nacional) and Mourisco. These two were crossed to get T. Francesa.

The vines with big yellowish leaves are Tinto Co. This is less than 5% of all vineyards in the Douro, but its important in blends, with its high acidity. Just a small amount is needed, but its vital in a hot harvest. This variety will become more important with climate change because it resists heat well and doesnt stress with direct sun.

Tinta Barocca is 58% of the blend. It ripens early and is well adapted to heat stress and dry conditions.

Tinta Roriz has very low tolerance to disease, so it is planted in more windy spots. Apart from this, its easy to work with.

Theres very little Touriga Nacional in the old vineyards (theres actually relatively little of it in the Douro overall, you may be surprised to learn). Its very hard to work with. Winemakers love it but viticulturalists hate it.

As well as the old vineyards, Roda has new vineyards, and Antonio explained that there are two methods for planting new vineyards: vertical planting, and narrow terraces. In mountain conditions it is very important to protect against erosion, so they seed with a grass cover crop. Vertical planting is used when the slope is less than 35.

Where the slope is steeper, the terraces are used. These are carved out by bulldozers using a laser guidance system so that the slope is exactly 3. This allows natural run-off of rain and protects against erosion. These terraces are less than 2.5 m wide, and are planted with just a single row of vines. This allows mechanical weed control, something that is not possible with the patamares that have two rows in each terrace.

THE WINES

Croft Pink NV
Vivid pink colour. Some spiciness on the sweet fruity nose. The palate is rich and full, sweet and spicy with nice strawberry fruit. Delicious but odd. 86/100

Croft Distinction NV
Soft, sweet and spicy with vibrant fruit. Quite rich and satisfying. 86/100

Croft 10 Year Old Tawny
Attractive warmly spiced nose. Nice cedary, spicy complexity. Really satisfying and quite complex. 88/100

Croft Quinta do Roda 1997
Very warm cedary, spicy nose is quite evolved. The palate is soft, herby and spicy. Nice. 89/100

Croft Quinta do Roda 2005
Vibrant colour. Very fruity, floral nose with a spicy edge. Deliciously vibrant fruit here. Aromatic, floral and focused. 91/100

Croft Vintage Port 2003
Concentrated. Lovely bright fruit here with a cedary edge. Lush, smooth fruit with a herby, spicy, evolved undercurrent and good structure. Starting to show some more tertiary notes. 91/100

Croft Vintage Port 2007
Lovely floral aromatics to the fruit. Vibrant and intense. Quite forward. The palate is brightly fruited and focused with some earthy, spicy structure. Quite attractive. 92/100

VISITING TAYLOR, CROFT and FONSECA

Introduction: visiting Taylor, Croft and Fonseca in Portugal's Douro
Taylor's Port, and Quinta de Vargellas
Fonseca's Port, and Quinta da Panascal
Croft Port and Quinta da Roeda
The Nogueira Winery: making Port
The Yeatman, a new luxury hotel in Porto
Photos from the Douro Valley, Part 5, Taylor's Vargellas and Fonseca's Panascal
Photos from the Douro Valley, part 4
Photos from the CDouro Valley, part 3, Croft's Quinta da Roeda, Douro

See also:

Photographs from Quinta do Noval
Photographs from Quinta do Noval's Nacional Vineyard
Tasting Noval Nacional and Vintage Port back to 1962
An older report on Noval's table wines
The new Douro (series)
Vintage Ports from 2007 assessed
Vintage Ports from 2003 assessed

Wines tasted as 09/09  
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