Tasting No 236 – December 13, 2021 – 12 pm
Wines from Douro Valley
#236 Tasting Overview
The objective of this tasting is to expand the knowledge about typical wines from several sub regions along the transnational Douro Valley, which have different eco-climatic characteristics and use different local grapes: We will taste one white blend and three reds (two varietals – Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo – and a blend made with the same two varietals and others). In addition we will taste a Port Wine.
Presenters: Lúcia and John Redwood
Participants: M. Averbug, R. Connolly, C. Estrada, M. Fryer, J. Garcia, I. Mirkov, A. Perazza, C. Perazza, J. Redwood, L. Redwood, J. Requena, R. Santiago, G. Smart.
- Casal Garcia Vinho Verde (White), 9.5% Alcohol
- 2017 Quinta das Carvalhas – Touriga Nactional, 14% alcohol
- 2017 Meandro, Vale Meão, 14% Alcohol
- 2015 Quintana de Cue, Tempranillo, 14% Alcohol
- Quinta das Carvalhas 10 Year Tawny Port
- Caldo Verde (Portuguese green soup)
- Cod Salad (Portuguese style)
- Cheese and spinach agnolotti with tomato sauce
- Beef Medallions with mushrooms and rosemary sauce
- Casal Garcia Vinho Verde (White) – 9.5% Alcohol
From the label: Casal Garcia (literally “Garcia Couple”) was first launched in 1939 by Roberto Guedes (1899-1966), father and grandfather of the generations who presently run the winery. The Japanese postal service created a special edition of the stamp with the Casal Garcia label. The first winemaker who produced Casal Garcia was Eugene Helisse, a French winemaker who introduced innovative winemaking techniques to the Vinho Verde Region.
The winery is located in Penafiel municipality. The town with the same name is 41 km to the east Porto and has its own station on the Douro Railway line.
Grapes (Local): Trajadura, Loureiro, Arinto, and Azal (proportions unknown)
- Trajadura is a golden-green grape, commonly combined with Loureiro, Alvarinho, and Arinto. It adds body and alcohol to these wines as well as crisp citrus characters with some stonefruit and apple. It is a vigorous variety that produces compact bunches of grapes (see image below), which must be picked quite early to retain their delicate acidity.
The Atlantic coast is a challenging terroir for growers, particularly in the northwest corner of the Iberian Peninsula. The climate is cool and wet which can often result in high levels of acidity and low levels of alcohol in the grapes that grow there. Trajadura’s main attraction for growers is its fairly low acidity and high levels of alcohol, which help to provide balance to some of the region’s blended wines.
- Loureiro is a light-skinned variety grown mainly in the north of Portugal used mainly to make Vinho Verde. The name “Loureiro” means “laurel” and refers to the distinctive odor of the berries. Genetic studies suggest that this is an old grape variety and documentary references can be found dating back to the late 18th Loureiro wines also have aromas of orange and acacia blossom, have excellent acidity and are low in alcohol.
- Arinto is a white grape variety grown in the hot wine regions surrounding Lisbon and on the central coast of Portugal with high acid content which covers the citrus fruit spectrum, led primarily by lemon and grapefruit.
- Azal (Branco) is a green-skinned wine grape variety found predominantly in the Minho region in northwest Portugal, where it is the second most planted grape after Loureiro. It is a high yielding variety that produces medium-sized compact bunches of big berries. It is high in acidity and the crispness of Vinho Verde is often attributed to it.
Soils: granitic and sandy.
Present in more than 70 countries, Casal Grande is today reportedly the world’s best-selling Vinho Verde. The brand has now diversified its portfolio according to market trends and today has a range of wines, sparklings, sangrias. Its motto is “Discover Happiness, Discover Casal Garcia!”
According to James Suckling (European Bureau Chief of Wine Spectator), this wine is a “very typical vinho verde with the green-wine character of tangy and energetic acidity and lots of citrus.” It has a “light-bodied, elegant style with a citrus, lemon taste. Also described as “young and refreshing” and given 90 points by Suckling in December 2020.
- 2017 Quinta das Carvalhas – Touriga Nactional – 14% alcohol
100% Touriga Nacional; 12 months in oak barrels. Described as medium bodied and as: “a classic Portuguese varietal makes this wine both rustic and pronounced. Offering aromas of blackberry, coffee, cinnamon, and vanilla, the palate quickly follows with similar flavors, and the addition of fresh blueberry.”
Touriga Nacional is indigenous to Portugal and grows predominantly in the Douro region where it is used as a primary blending grape in Port wines. While the wine is lovely as a dessert wine, it has repeatedly impressed critics as a dry red wine. It is a full-bodied red wine from Portugal with aging potential like Cabernet Sauvignon. According to one description: “For those who love bold red wines, Touriga Nacional offers profound depth of flavor at an obscenely good value.”
It has also been described as: “a variety of red wine grape, considered by many to be Portugal‘s finest. Despite the low yields from its small grapes, it plays a big part in the blends used for ports, and is increasingly being used for table wine in the Douro and Dão. Touriga Nacional provides structure and body to wine, with high tannins and concentrated flavors of black fruit.” It is a dark-skinned grape variety (see image below) which has firm tannins and great aging potential.
When made into a dry wine, Touriga Nacional is resilient to oak aging and takes it very well, offering up aromas of toasted marshmallow, vanilla, and nutmeg. It’s not uncommon to find Touriga Nacional blended with other grapes (like Touriga Franca and Tempranillo) which can help balance the boldness of the wine with cinnamon spice and red-fruit flavors.
Quinta das Carvalhas is considered one of the most emblematic and spectacular properties in the Douro Valley. Written references to this vineyard can be traced back to 1759. It enjoys a prominent position along 3 kilometers of the left bank of the Douro, facing the village of Pinhão in the Cima-Corgo subregion (see the map of the Douro subpregions in the document bellow), the estate covers the entire hillside facing the river and occupies part of the right bank of the tributary Torto river.
Its old vines are a post-phylloxera plantation, which are more than a century old and represent one of the richest selections of ancient indigenous Douro varieties.
The Quinta dates to the beginning of the 18th century as property of the influential Castro and Sande family from São João da Pesqueira. In the following years, Carvalhas sees an exchange of proprietorship up until 1881 when it is bought by Miguel de Sousa Guedes. As one of the most important Port Bottlers of his time, Sousa Guedes began a rescue program to replant the vineyards and reinstate the Quinta’s reputation after the phylloxera ravages devastated the estate. In 1953, Manuel da Silva Reis acquired Miguel de Sousa Guedes & Irmão Ltda., becoming the owner of Quinta das Carvalhas, one of the largest estates of the Douro and Real Companhia Velha’s most important property.
Quinta das Carvalhas is characterized by very particular edaphoclimatic conditions. Its vines are located at various altitudes, extending from the riverbank to the top of the slope. The largest vine exposure faces a northern sun exposure, but another part of the vineyard on the other side of the hill faces a southern exposure. Most of the parcels are planted in areas of steep inclination at the top of the hill.
The company’s best Ports are made from the oldest and most noble vines at the Quinta. Its potential for great wine production was highly increased in the 1990s with the traceability of all parcels. Following this process, some areas of the vineyard were intended for production of top-quality Douro wines. The vineyard stands out in the landscape for its characteristics of mountain viticulture, as it is planted in terraces, or modern micro-terraces, at 40% to 70% slopes and varying from 80 to 500 meters in altitude over a total area of 134.5 hectares, of which Touriga Nacional occupies the largest single share, 25.2 ha, or 18.7% of the total.
Soils are characterized for their medium texture, a reasonable number of fine elements (limo), low/medium fertility levels, low levels of organic matter (inferior to 1%) and acidic reaction. Despite these shortages, the soil is ideal for the culture of the vine as it cohabits well under these conditions, producing high quality grapes with great oenological potential.
- 2017 Meandro Vale Meão – 14% Alcohol
According to the label, “produced and bottled at Vale Meão, a famous estate contoured by a vast meander of the Douro River from a blend composed of Touriga Nacional (45%), Touriga Franca (33%), Tinta Roriz (15%), Tinta Barroca (5%), and Alicante Bouschet (2%).
Wine Advocate — 92 points – “big flavor and expressive fruit, this also has a fresh feel, reasonable concentration, and a beautiful, long finish. It adds admirable mid-palate finesse too…It looks like a super Meandro, one of the best and a fine bargain.” Intense, Red Fruit, Black Fruit, Full-bodied.
Wine Enthusiast – 92 points – “the second wine of the great Vale Meão estate in the Douro Superior, this is impressive in itself. A Lifted violet note permeates the rich berry fruit. It is a rich, concentrated wine that should age further.”
Wine Spectator – 90 points – “this wine shows good finesse and density to the boysenberry and ripe currant notes, detailed with savory spice, licorice, and violet accents. Red plum and mocha hints chime in on the velvety finish.”
- Touriga Nacional – see above
- Touriga Franca (or Touriga Francesa) is an important dark-skinned grape (see image below) variety used in the production of Portand dry red wines from Portugal’s Douro wine region. Even though it is much more widely planted than Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca is the less prestigious of the two grapes. Touriga Franca is more aromatic and lighter bodied than Touriga Nacional, though lacking sufficient intensity and concentration to make it a blockbuster variety as a varietal. Occasionally, Touriga Franca is produced as a fortified Its origins are unclear and its name misleading, for Touriga Franca is not a French grape. It seems most likely that Touriga Franca is either a mutation, or a crossing of Touriga Nacional and an unknown parent, possibly Mourisco Tinto (Marufo). Either way, Touriga Franca’s plentiful yields have made it a favored and integral component of Douro wines.
- Tinta Roriz is the Portuguese name for Tempranillo (see below), together with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, accounts for the majority of red wine grapes grown in the Douro vineyards, as they are among the four most valued ingredients in Port wines. But the modern face of Portuguese wine is looking away from the fortified winestyle with which the nation has been so strongly associated, so these grapes are being used increasingly in dry, red table wines.
- Tinta Barroca is one of the most common red-wine varieties in the Douro Valleyof northern Portugal. It is used most often to make Port, an application to which it is particularly well suited, as the grapes’ naturally high sugar levels (and correspondingly high potential alcohol) make them extremely useful for fortified wine production. Thanks to its generous yields, Tinta Barroca is extremely popular with growers; it is the third most widely planted variety in the Douro. It holds markedly less sway with winemakers, who prefer the quality of Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), the valley’s most and second-most widely planted varieties.
- Alicante Bouschet is a teinturiergrape variety (see image below) widely planted in Spain, Portugal, and France. It has a long history in the wine world but lost ground in the late 20th Century in favor of more fashionable international varieties. However, it is enjoying a renaissance of sorts, with modern producers making some excellent examples at attractive prices. The variety is a crossing of Petit Bouschet and Grenache, and was first cultivated by viticulturalist Henri Bouschet in 1866. Originally designed as a blending grape to improve the depth of color of such popular 19th Century grapes as Aramon, Alicante Bouschet quickly became popular, not just for its intense coloring but for its generous yields. With its high-yielding, easy-to-grow vines, Alicante Bouschet was used to help rebuild devastated European wine industries following the phylloxera In a blend, Alicante Bouschet contributes soft texture and desirable color. However, its ability to ripen and produce large crops very early in the season can come at the expense of depth and alcoholic strength.
Quinta do Vale Meão was founded in 1877 by the legendary Dona Antònia Adelaide Ferreira and is owned today by her great-great-grandson Francisco “Xito” Olazabal. Vale Meão built its reputation supplying fruit to the famed 250-year-old Port house Ferreira. In 1952, its vineyards were chosen to create a revolutionary wine, which for decades would be the Douro’s only globally recognized table wine.
Vale Meão began a new life in 1998 when Xito realized his dream of making his own wine from his family’s estate. Success came quickly, and in 2011, Portugal’s leading wine publication Revista de Vinhos named Xito Winemaker of the Year. Today Xito is recognized as a leading figure in the Douro table wine revolution, which has captured the attention of the wine world.
Located at Vila Nova de Foz Côa, the estate consists of a sizeable 62 hectares of vines, with three different soil types: slate, granite, and alluvial gravel. These different terroirs are important for the final wine: for example, the Touriga from granite tastes almost like Dão, whereas from schist it is much richer and fuller. The different varieties are planted in blocks, with overall proportions being Touriga Nacional 35%, Tinta Roriz 30%, Touriga Francesa 15%, Tinta Amarela 10%, Tinta Barroca 5% and Tinto Cão 5%.
- 2015 Quintana de Cue – Ribera del Duero – aged in French oak barrels for 24 months – 14% Alcohol – 100 % Tempranillo
The backbone of some of the best Spanish wines, Tempranillo is a red grape variety grown throughout Spain and Portugal. Tempranillo produces red wines with red fruit and leather aromas, high tannins, moderate to low acidity, and moderate alcohol. In 2020, Tempranillo was the third most-planted grape variety in the world, with the majority of plantings being in the Iberian peninsula.
Tempranillo is a relatively thick-skinned red grape with a high anthocyanin count that makes for deep-colored red wines with moderate tannins. While the variety is often accused of lacking its own idiosyncratic flavor profile, Tempranillo wines can produce a wide range of aromas, ranging from strawberries, blackcurrants, and cherries to prunes, chocolate, leather and tobacco depending on vineyard age and mesoclimate. Moderate to full-bodied, Tempranillo generally shows moderate tannins with moderate to low acidity.
Temperate climates (or those with good diurnal temperature shift) such as Rioja and Ribera del Duero produce long-lived, structured, often elegant wines. In warmer climates, the variety can take on a darker fruit aspect with high alcohol, high tannins, and low acidity. Oak and Tempranillo marry well together. American oak is the traditional choice of winemakers in Rioja, and Tempranillo’s flavor profile integrates well with the vanilla and coconut notes imparted by new American oak barrels. Further west in Ribera del Duero, the fashion is to use higher proportions of French and used-oak barrels to allow Tempranillo’s fruit to shine with a focus on more spiced oak flavors. However, with time, the two styles have been gradually consolidating and the consumer can now find complex wines made with an oak regime combining all these options.
Our wine, according to Total Wine – “aromas of black, ripe fruit with hints of spice offer complexity. Black fruit and ripe tannins linger on the palate with a long finish.” Also described as “red, rich, intense.”
This wine was produced by the Bodega Valdrinal located in Aldehorno in Segovia province, where it has 25 ha of vineyards and, according to the winery “a continental Mediterranean climate characterized by soft and dry summers and cold winters with a huge thermal amplitude during the seasons” and where “rainfall normally takes place at the end of autumn and during winter and spring.” It also states that “our vineyards from Aldehorno…are located in an altitude between 910 and 1050 meters, which make them among the highest vineyards of the A.O. Ribera del Duero,” noting that “this altitude gives our wines a highest acidity produced by the thermal amplitude (difference between the highest and lowest temperature) that is used to be registered. Furthermore, the cluster ripening is slower and more progressive than in lower altitudes.”
It also observes that “we have different kinds of soils. Limestone with gravel surface: it provides a good alcoholic content, low acidity, and an excellent quality to our wines. Clay soil: it has a better nutrient and water retentive capacity. It gives more structure and elegance to our wines because the grapes’ growth cycles are longer and a higher content of polyphenols during the ripening is reached.” Lastly, it affirms that “the origin of the quality of our wines lies in the care given to our vineyards during the whole year. The best grapes are selected by crop thinning (or “premature harvest”) followed by a “fine harvest.” Once this finishes, the elaboration of the wines in made in temperature-controlled vats in which we do pre-fermentation macerations for 4/6 days. The wines are then aged in French oak barrels. The barrel room has 500 barrels that are renovated every three years.
- Quinta das Carvalhas 10 Yr Tawny Port
Over a hundred varieties of grapes are sanctioned for port production, although only five (Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Touriga Francesa, and Touriga Nacional) are widely cultivated and used. Touriga Nacional is widely considered the most desirable port grape but the difficulty in growing it and the small yields cause Touriga Francesa to be the most widely planted grape. All Ports commercially available are from a blend of different grapes.
Tawny ports are wines usually made from red grapes that are aged in wooden barrels exposing them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. As a result of this oxidation, they mellow to a golden-brown color. The exposure to oxygen imparts “nutty” flavors to the wine, which is blended to match the house style.
Wine Spectator- Porto, Douro, Portugal – “”Sports a toasty edge, with hazelnut and singed almond notes, while the core of plum cake and cinnamon holds steady through the finish…”” The winery played an integral role in the growth and history of the Port industry, helping regulate and promote trade. Also described as Medium bodied, semi-sweet with a caramel-toffee taste. “Medium in acidity with grippy, medium-plus tannin.” According to the winery, its Ports are aged in oak barrels. It also produces Ruby Ports and 20, 30, and 40 year Tawny Ports at prices around US$ 50, US$ 100, and US$ 150/bottle, respectively.
A complete presentation on the Douro Valey wine productions characteristics is available here as prepared by John and Lúcia Redwood 2021 12 06 Douro Valley
Tasting Summary Grades of the wines of this event:
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