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The Douro wine revolution
Part 12: Grand Douro tasting and dinner

Casa Visconde de Chanceleiros
5th June 2002 


Sitting down to eat. Tomas Roquette, Joana Lemos, Sandra Tavares and 
Christiano van Zeller (far row); David Baverstock is the only face visible
 on the near row. 

My series of reports from the Douro ends with full notes from the Douro tasting and dinner held at the Casa Visconde de Chanceleiros. Organized by Dirk Niepoort, it was a chance for most of the key table wine producers to get together, taste each others' wines and the round things off with a dinner. And of course, it was a brilliant opportunity for American journalist Ray Isle and myself to get a feel for the direction things are heading in, in this dynamic region. I'd visited several of the producers represented here already in the preceding days; I restricted my tasting of their wines to filling in the gaps on this occasion. Even so, I was pressed for time. After a couple of hours Dirk came over and told me I had 20 minutes left before dinner, but I wasn't anything like finished. I ended up tasting half a dozen wines outside while the room was being prepared for dinner. I'm too keen.

From this tasting, it's easy to see why the Douro has quickly become the most dynamic wine region in Portugal. There’s a buzz to the wine scene here, with a recent infusion of young winemakers all keen to push back the boundaries and make the very best wines that their terroirs will permit. Dirk has been a pivotal figure in this revolution, and he has acted like a catalyst by getting people together on occasions like this to taste wine, discuss and spur each other on. Indeed, one of the most remarkable aspects of the new movement here is how well everyone seems to get on. The fact that there’s so much cooperation and cross-fertilization between people who are technically competitors is extremely encouraging, and bodes well for the future. 

In fact, Dirk's wines are notable absentees from this list: for my notes on these you will have to look elsewhere. He didn't include them in the tasting, but some of them were served with dinner, including the Branco Reserva 2000, Charme 2000 and a memorable 1977 Niepoort Garrafeira port. Dinner was a relaxed event, and I'm ashamed to admit that for the first time on my trip I didn't get my notebook out. 

Quinta do Crasto back to top

See also: report of my visit

Quinta do Crasto 2000
Vivid red/purple colour. Spicy herby nose is quite brightly fruited. Juicy berry fruit on the palate with some attractive savouriness. Some interest here. Very good+

Quinta do Crasto Tinta Roriz 1999
A varietal Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) aged in American oak. Vivid nose shows tarry dark fruits with a sweet spicy edge. Very forward spicy American oak on the palate, which is sweet and concentrated. Very modern tasting and works well in quite a Spanish style. Very good+

Quinta do Crasto Reserva 1999
100% old vines. Very rich, sweet fruit on the nose with a tarry edge. Attractive chunky palate with lots of dark fruits, herbs and some spicy, dusty tannins. Good density and lots of interest. Very good+

Quinta do Crasto Reserva 2000 (cask sample: this is the final blend, now in tank)
Rich tarry nose displays spicy berry fruit character. Lovely juicy palate has a great concentration of spicy fruit with good acidity. Really intense, and super potential. Very good/excellent

Quinta do Crasto D. Maria Teresa 1998
A single-vineyard old vine wine. Vivid nose shows complex herby notes with a sweet, spicy, tarry lift. The palate is expressive, rich and spicy with lots of character. Quite tight with good acidity. Tasty stuff. Very good/excellent

Quinta do Crasto Vinha da Ponte 2000 (cask sample; final blend in tank)
Another single-vineyard wine. Knockout sweet spicy exotic nose with tar and smoke notes with lush sweet fruit. Really full, forward palate with good spicy firm structure. This is wonderful stuff: big and rich with lots of character, but the tannins and acidity contribute some balancing structure. Very good/excellent

Quinta do Vale Meão (F. Olazabal & Filhos) back to top
Vale Meão is a 270 ha estate in the hot upper Douro that has enjoyed a pivotal historical role in the development of Douro wines. As a property of Ferriera, this was until recently the primary source of the grapes for Barca Velha. It is now owned by the former president of Ferriera, Francisco Olazabal and he runs the estate with his three sons, one of whom, Francisco Jr., is the winemaker. First vintage was 1999, and this quickly attained cult status, with bottles changing hands in Portugal for barmy prices. Francisco reckons that the 2000 vintage is ‘more complete, and more balanced’ than the 1999. It’s a brooding, intense wine with lots of tight-knit, complex fruit. Second wine, Meandro, is also impressive.

Meandro 2000
Aged in third year casks; 34 000 bottles made this year. Lively bright fruit on the nose which is very forward. Lovely bright juicy fruit on the palate. Easy to drink and quite lovely; brilliant for a second wine. Very good+

Quinta do Vale Meão 2000
Aged in new, first and second year barrels. Very deep red/purple colour. Brooding intense nose with spicy, liquoricey fruit. Quite stern and savoury, with lots of complexity. Lovely rich fruit on the palate: ripe and full but with lovely structure and presence. Chunky and savoury, but with lots of tight knit complex fruit. Big but balanced. Excellent  

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Francisco with his wines. He doesn't look too happy in this rather unflattering picture, but he was quite charming in person

Bago de Touriga back to top
A joint venture between João Roseira of Quinta do Infantado and young winemaker Luís Soares Duarte. The first vintage was 1997.
Some impressive wines here, in a range of rather contrasting styles, from savoury, earthy and austere to bright, modern and fruity.

Gouvyas Reserva Branco 2000
I was really impressed by this savoury, minerally white wine. Lovely intense herbal nose with a lifted lemony/mineral edge. Bright mineral-edged ripe fruit on the palate: really rich and interesting. Very good/excellent

Montevalle Reserva Tinto 1999
Lovely leathery mineral-edged fruit with a savoury dusty edge. Attractive savoury, herby spicy palate is dry, dusty, leathery and earthy. Soft spicy tannins. Unusual and quite individual, but I like it. Very good/excellent

Touriga Franca 2001 (cask sample)
Opaque vivid purple colour. Intense liquorice and herb-tinged nose is bright and fruity. Full, concentrated palate displays vivid, intense fruit with a savoury edge and some firm tannins. Brilliant winemaking: big but balanced. Very good/excellent

Touriga Nacional 2001 (cask sample)
Opaque red/black colour. Vivid spicy lift to the nose which shows lifted, spicy fruit. Dense brambly fruit on the vivid, spicy palate. Lots of concentration to this remarkable wine: it will be interesting to see how this develops. Very good+

Touriga Franca/ Tinta Roriz 2000 (cask sample)
85% Touriga Franca, 15% Tinta Roriz from the Baixa Corgo and Cima Corgo. Rich, lush chocolatey blackcurrant fruit on the nose. Intense, chewy, spicy palate with firm tannins. A rich style with a savoury undercurrent. Concentrated. Very good/excellent

CARM   back to top
CARM stands for Casa Agricola Rui Madeira, a relatively new project whose first vintage was 1999. It’s a family owned operation and winemaker Rui Madeira sources grapes from several Quintas.

CARM Premium 1999
80% Touriga Nacional with Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and others, aged in French oak. Really interesting forward spicy nose is herby with some liqouricey notes. Lovely savoury cherry fruit palate with good tannins and acid. Medium bodied and savoury; perhaps a little savoury and austere, but quite interesting. Real typicity. Very good+

CARM Reserva 2000
Aged in fine grain American oak. Tight spicy berry fruit on the nose, which is a little muted. Quite rich palate showing chunky, savoury fruit with tarry richness. Very good+

CARM Grande Reserva 2000
This comes in a huge bottle with an elegant label. It’s mostly Touriga Nacional and spends 12 months in French oak. Lovely expressive forward spicy nose: very vivid with lifted spice and herbs. Brilliantly herbal, savoury palate is quite striking with good acidity. A vivid forward wine with lots of spicy Touriga Nacional character and some underlying acidity. Striking. Very good/excellent

Quinta das Verdelhas 1999
A varietal Touriga Franca. Nice chunky fruity wine is nicely savoury and quite rich. There’s a herbal character to the fruit. Interesting stuff. Very good+

Poeira back to top
Jorge Moreira, talented young winemaker with six years’ experience at Real Companhia Velha, has his own project in the Pinhão valley at Quinta de Terra Feita de Cima. He purchased the estate in March 2001 and now has 3 ha of old vines, plus another hectare planted this year, predominantly on north-facing slopes. He says that his goal is to learn to manage the natural power of Douro wines and produce something elegant: ‘I want to make something that will age gracefully and gain a bouquet instead of just keeping fruit’. The first vintage was 2001 seems to be on the right tracks. Note added later: Jorge is now working for Sophia Berqvist at Quinta de la Rosa.

Poeira 2001
Trodden in lagares without the stems. Lovely elegant nose is spicy and slightly smoky with tight berry fruit: bright and focused with an acid lift. The palate has great concentration and power with savoury, spicy tannins and good acidity. Quite elegant although at the moment the wood is showing quite a bit. Good potential. Very good/excellent

Kolheita de Ideias back to top
A high-quality, small-scale negociant operation established in 2001, this is a collaboration between Luís Soares Duarte, Francisco Ferreira and Rui Moreira.  

Esboço 2001
The second wine, this is mainly Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca, 40% of which is aged in French oak. Bright, herby forward nose with vivid cherry and berry fruit, together with some tarry richness. The palate shows juicy fruit and high acidity. Really approachable: a lovely expressive wine. Very good+

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The Kolheita crew: Luis, Rui (eyes closed) and Francisco. Not my best ever picture...

Kolheita 2001 (cask sample)
6000 bottles made. Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca aged in Allier oak. Vivid purple colour. Wonderful nose is rich and striking with a deep tarry complexity and a toasty edge. Dense concentrated palate is massive and ripe with lots of spicy, brooding dark fruits. Lush texture: a modern, striking wine. Very good/excellent  

Quinta do Vale D. Maria (Lemos & Van Zeller) back to top

See also: report of my visit

Quinta do Vale D. Maria 2000
Wonderful forward nose, with some spicy toasty notes from the oak together with rich, forward black fruits. Ripe, sweet and herby. Lovely, juicy elegant palate with concentrated herb-tinged fruit. Quite a rich wine but great acid structure and tannins back up the elegant fruit well. Impressive already, and will be even better if the oak integrates more. Very good/excellent

Manuel Viseu (Quinta de Baldias) back to top
Manuel Viseu is the winemaker; the Quinta, located near Pinhão in the Cima Corgo, is owned by his father. This is an old vine blend of Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional, 5000 litres made. The first vintage was 1998, but the first commercial release will be this 2001.

Quinta de Baldias 2001
Brooding herbal-edged nose is quite high-toned with a slightly leafy edge to it. Nice density of chewy, spicy fruit on the palate, with some savoury tarry richness and a bit of elegance too. Good balance and potential for development. Very good+

Quinta do Vallado (Maria Antonia Ferreira) back to top

See also: report of my visit

Vallado 1997
The first vintage. Made just from the old vineyards (the new plantings hadn’t come on line) and unoaked, this is a really open herby wine. Rich, juicy and leafy edged this is quite savoury, although there’s a trace of sweetness to the fruit. Medium bodied and approachable.  Very good

Vallado 1999
30% of the grapes for this wine came from the new vineyards. Ripe, sweet chocolatey edge to the fruit on the nose. The palate shows a good density of herbal fruit. Very good

Vallado 2000
Savoury, tarry edge to the vivid, intense nose. Wonderful rich palate is very intense with lots of ripe fruit. Very full. Very good/excellent

Quinta da Casa Amarela back to top
A 12 ha Quinta in the Baixa Corgo owned by Laura Regueiro. Susana Esteban, previously winemaker at Quinta do Côtto and now at Crasto, makes the wines here.

Casa Amarela 2000
The first vintage, made in lagares. Vivid red/purple colour. Lots of lively fruit on the nose (this is unoaked). The palate is juicy and rich with good acidity and lovely herby complexity. Midweight. A pretty authentic style of wine in a fruity style. Very good

Casa Amarela Reserva 2000
This spends 9 months in new French oak. Dense herby, spicy nose with brooding dark berry fruits. Lovely intensity on the palate, which shows great concentration, herby/tarry notes and firm tannins. The oak is very well integrated. Very good/excellent

Lavradores de Feitoria  

See also: report of my visit

Quinta da Estrada 2001 (cask sample)
Vivid purple/black colour. Quite intense spicy nose with ripe fruit and tight herby character. Rich palate with lots of spicy fruit and some oak, together with ripe tarry elements. A ripe, full attractive wine but noticeably Douro in style. Supple tannins. Very good/excellent

Quinta de la Rosa back to top
David Baverstock helps with the winemaking at this well sited Quinta in the Cima Corgo.

Quinta de la Rosa Branco 2001
This fresh white wine is modern and fruity. Good/very good

Quinta de la Rosa 2000
Herbal-edged nose leads to a lovely savoury chewy palate, with good acidity. Good commercial style. Very good

Quinta de la Rosa Reserva 2000
Lovely forward nose with spicy herby fruit: quite sweet and seductive – the oak is quite prominent. Chewy, herby spicy palate with some tarry richness to the fruit. Great concentration but the oak is a bit prominent at the moment. Very good+

Real Companhia Velha back to top
Real Companhia Velha are the biggest property owners in the Douro with almost 600 ha of vines. Well known already for their Evel Grande Eschola, they’ve recently resurrected their Grantom brand, which used to be a blend from the Dão and the Douro. The 1999 Grantom Reserva isn’t yet released, but is a big, concentrated ripe wine with some tarry richness: lots of character here, in a semi-modern mould. Unusually for the Douro, there’s some Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend.

Grantom Reserva 1999
A premium Douro wine that blends Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Cabernet Sauvignon. This 1999 spent 18 months in a mix of Portuguese and French oak, and hasn’t been released yet. Lovely forward nose is rich, ripe and lush with sweet blackcurrant fruit. The palate displays fine texture and savoury, herby berry and blackcurrant fruit. A concentrated, ripe wine with some tarry richness. Lots of character here in a semi-modern mould. Very good/excellent

Evel Grande Eschola 2001 (a component; from cask)
Very fruity woody nose with a raspberry edge. Palate has a nice texture and is quite elegant with good acidity.

Pintas (Sandra Tavares Serôdio Borges) back to top

See also: report of my visit

Pintas 2001 (cask sample)
Vivid red/purple colour. Ripe, intense fruit on the nose with good acidity and a liquoricey streak. The palate is dense and tight, with a huge concentration of rich, herby, complex fruit. Good structure from the acidity and tannins. A big, concentrated wine with lots of potential. Let’s hope Jorge and Sandra don’t set the release price too high! Very good/excellent, and potentially excellent

Domini (Soares Franco & Van Zeller)
Domini is a joint venture between Christiano Van Zeller and JM da Fonseca. Unfortunately both the bottles of top wine Domini Plus were suffering from mild cork taint.

Domini 2000
A tank-fermented blend from Rio Torto and Pinhão fruit, this spends 6 months in a mix of used French and American oak. Sweet spicy lift to the herby fruit on the nose. The palate is savoury and juicy – the fruit dominates. Herby and medium bodied. Very good+

Soc. Agr. Com. Vinhos Vale da Corça  back to top

Encostas do Tua Branco Reserva 2000
This spends 8 months in French oak with some battonage (lees stirring). Rich toasty nose with lemony, nutty fruit. Nutty palate is quite rich and full: an attractive oaky style. Very good+

Brunheda Branco 2001
Modern, crisp fruity white wine with an attractive approachable herby palate. Good/very good

Encostas do Tua 2000
Slightly volatile herby nose shows lifted berry fruit. Nicely structured chewy palate with bright fruit and an old fashioned lifted character. Good/very good

Encostas do Tua Reserva 2000
Similar nose to the regular Encostas. Palate shows dense herb-tinged fruit. It’s quite chewy and structured but it is a little bit old fashioned. Good/very good

Brunheda Reserva 2000
Dense, lifted berry and blackcurrant fruit on the nose. Nice chewy palate with cherryish herby fruit and good acidity, but still a slightly old fashioned streak I’m not too keen on. Good/very good

Brunheda Vinhas Velhas 2000
Attractive sweet herby, caramelly edge to the slightly porty nose. The chunky, tarry palate shows good concentration and interesting ripe herby notes. Good acidity. Very good

Gloria (Vicente Leite Faria) back to top
Vicente’s family own 100 ha of vines, and since 2000 he’s been making wine from some of the grapes.

Gloria 2001
This spends 12 months in French oak. There’s something odd on the nose, which shows a bit of volatility and some Port-like character. The palate is cherryish and herby with some caramel notes. Fruity but quite unusual. Good

Gloria Branco 2001
This is better. Lots of modern fruity character with a bright, spicy edge. Quite an interesting modern-styled white wine. Very good

Casa Agricola das Mimosas (Chocapalha) back to top
Not a Douro wine, but one from Estremadura. This was sneaked into the tasting as it’s made by Sandra Tavares from a property owned by her parents. A completely different style, but very attractive.

Chocapalha Touriga Nacional 2000 Estremadura
Very forward vivid spicy nose with a big blast of herby fruit and meaty, almost animal undertones. The palate shows juicy, herby meaty character with a pepper spice edge. Drinking well now, this is a full-on, enjoyable wine. Very good/excellent