Taylor, Fonseca and Croft: the Nogueira winery in the Douro
Visiting the one of the leading Port companies in the beautiful Douro region of Portugal, part 5

David Guimaerens, chief winemaker

Quinta da Nogueira is the modern winery where many of the Ports are made. The Taylor group first rented space here in 1995, and then bought it from the banks in 1997. Since then they have spent a fortune fixing it up. (Previously it was a table wine project with 12 hectares of vines on a hill.)

Freshly harvested grapes

This doesn’t look like a Port lodge at all: it’s modern and shiny with lots of stainless steel, although there are a lot of large barrels, too. This is where the Taylor group developed the ‘Port toes’: a technology that aims to replicate the effect of foot treading, something they still use for their top Ports.

David Guimaerens is the chief winemaker for the group, and he’s overseen quite a bit of change in the way Port is made. He trained in Australia, returning to the Douro in 1990. In those days, the farmers used to make their own port, and back in 1985 there were some 40 traditional wineries supplying Port to the group. But in the last crisis in the industry, in 1990, many of small wineries gave up. Going back 50 years, Taylor’s owned Vargellas, but Terra Feita was just a supplier. Fonseca didn’t own any vineyards until 1973. The shift has been for the Port houses to purchase quintas of their own.

Port toes in action

‘Today, Vintage Port comes only from our own vineyards,’ explains Guimaerens. ‘When you look at Vintage Port in the 1970s, the volumes were huge compared with today. Today we buy fruit from farmers. 30 years ago we bought from winemakers. It’s very different.’

He explains that the Taylor group have bought Quintas not to improve quality (this was already very good), but to preserve the quantity in the face of change. ‘A magical 1963 or 1970 is pretty extraordinary. I’ll be a happy guy if anything we do today turns out as good as these.’

In his winemaking, Guimaerens doesn’t do single variety ferments. ‘Cofermentation is fundamental,’ he says. For example, Tinta Barroca has lots of anthocyanins but low tannins, so its colour isn’t stable if it is fermented on its own. ‘Everyone raves about the old vineyards, which have a tremendous blend of different varieties. The 1970s and 1980s saw a reduction to four or five varieties planted in large blocks. The varieties chosen were those giving colour, but those that don’t can still give extra layers of flavour and complexity. For example, we need the contribution of Tinto Căo for its acidity, and Rufete for its flavour. Nowadays we are actively planting 10 different varieties.’

‘The lagar is very simple,’ says Guimaerens. ‘Where the work has to be done is in the vineyard.’


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:

Part 2, Photographs from Quinta do Noval
Part 3, Photographs from Quinta do Noval's Nacional Vineyard
Part 4, 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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