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The new Douro: part 3

Jorge Borges drawing a barrel sample of Pintas 2003

After a hectic series of visits, I had the best part of two hours free in my schedule. The sun was shining, and the pool at the Vintage House hotel was looking very inviting. Then Sandra Tavares phoned: would I like to visit Pintas? It was an easy choice actually: I was lucky to be the first journalist to write up herís and Jorgeís wine back in May 2002, when I visited the Douro for the first time, and I was keen to see how things were progressing. It would take Sandra 15 minutes to drive over, so I still got a chance to dip in the pool.
The vineyard: 1.7 hectares of low-yielding old vines on a South-facing plot

Jorge Borges and Sandra Tavares (below) are the husband and wife team behind Pintas. Sandra has what she describes as Ďa crazy lifeí during harvest. Sheís making wines in both Estremadura and the Douro, which necessitates travelling between the two regions three times a week. But you get the impression that she thrives on the challenge. Born in the Azores (in 1972) but growing up in Lisbon, she studied oenology at Lisbon University and went on to take a masters in the same subject in Italy, finishing in 1999. Since then her day job has been as winemaker for Christiano Van Zeller at Quinta do Vale D. Maria in the Douro, where she has helped to fashion some impressive, elegant wines from old vine Rio Torto fruit: both the 2001 and 2002 were among the stars of the vintage. One job isnít enough though: in 2000 she began making wines from her parentsí Estremadura estate, Quinta de Chocapalha. With their depth of fruit and fine structure these have rapidly established a reputation as being among the best of the appellation. Then, in 2001 when she married Jorge Borges, they decided to make wine together and so Pintas, a new Douro classic, was born.

31 year old Jorge studied oenology at Vila Real University, and after his graduation he worked at his family property, Quinta do Fojo. Then, in 1999 he began working with Dirk Niepoort, an association that was, for a while, a great success for both parties. With Jorgeís influence, the Niepoort table wines shifted style subtly Ė some of the wildness was tamed and the wines became a little more focused without surrendering their tight-wound structure. The 2001 Redoma and Batuta, in particular, were in this commentatorís view, the best yet from Niepoort.  Working with Dirk, it would be tough not to be on a steep but productive learning curve, and so when Jorge decided to establish Pintas with his wife Sandra, they were well placed both in terms of winemaking expertise and also physically Ė their wine is made in an old Port lodge in Vale de Mendiz that they purchased from Niepoort. Pintas is a fantastic wine, and although it shared its first vintage in 2001 with Jorge Moreiraís Poeira, itís in a rather different styleólusher, richer and more immediately seductive. The 2001 and 2002 are impressive, but the 2003 is even better, and in this vintage is joined for the first time by a superb vintage Port. In 2003 Jorge and Sandra bought the vineyard that Pintas is made from. Jorge continued working for Niepoort until March 2004, and has now begun working on other projects, including the wines from Quinta do Passadouro which were formerly made by Niepoort.

Pintas is imported into the UK by Corney & Barrow. The bad news? C&B lost the debut vintage 2001 that was allocated to the UK market. It would have been around £25 per bottle. Youíll have to wait for the 2002.

Pintas 2002
50% new oak, 4000 bottles made. Itís a lovely, ripe supple wine with intense, spicy dark fruits and a chocolatey edge. A rich, ripe style, but still showing nice, spicy savouriness. A real success. Very good/excellent 94/100

2003 cask samples

(1) Taransaud barrel. Dark, rich, spicy and chocolatey. Very rich and concentrated with a lovely core of sweet fruit.
(2) Francois Freres barrel. More toasty and perfumed on the nose. Rich, spicy and intense on the palate. A very bold style, yet with good acid definition.
(3) Seguin Moreau barrel. Dark fruits, spice and some fruit sweetness. Very accessible sweet
palate with good tannic structure. Lovely.

Itís hard to be precise about wine components at this stage, but the 2003 is looking very good indeed.

From the 2003 vintage, Sandra and Jorge have been making vintage Port. The 2003 is fantastic.

Pintas Port 2003
Dark colour. Ripe and rich with a savoury intensity and great depth. Complex and spicy; sweet but taut. Black fruits and pepper emerge. On the palate, itís rich, ripe, concentrated and structured. Wonderful stuff. Excellent 97/100

see also: earlier report (June 2002) of Pintas

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