A couple of days ago I had the pleasure of tasting wine with the Douro Boys. What’s that, you don’t know who the Douro Boys are? In short they’re five Winery principals from the Douro Region of Portugal. For the last seven or eight years they’ve joined forces to market their wines and their region together. While I said I tasted wine with them, it was really so much more than that. These folks present a Masterclass in their wines that’s an excellent introduction, or at the very least enhancement, of the knowledge one has of the Douro. Each of the Douro Boys (one of them is a female btw) exudes passion about the region and its ability to offer unique world class wines. They are of course very different individuals and they approach wine making with divergent thoughts and ideologies. One thing they seem to agree on is this. For the Douro to have a major impact on the global wine market they need to focus on indigenous varietals. The Douro is loaded with old vines, many of them field blends with dozens of varietals planted. It’s in these old vines and Portuguese varieties that they have something to offer no one else does. To plant Cabernet Sauvignon or some other international variety wouldn’t serve them, nor would it offer anything new to wine drinkers.
Of the 23 wines we tasted through four were white, six were ports and the remainder red. I’ll mention some specifics about my favorites below but first a few generalities. The wines we tasted had retail prices starting at under $15 all the way up to over $100. In general the quality was very high and the wines were clearly crafted with care and passion for the art. While I had my favorites, by and large each of them was unique and interesting in its own way. I found the reds to generally have particularly expressive bouquets, often with prominent spice components.
Here are a handful of the wines that stood out most to me:
Amongst the whites, the 2007 Redoma Branco Reserva from Niepoort was my favorite. This wine is composed of about 30 varietals. I found it to be and impeccably balanced white with an excellent finish. Touches of caramel, nutmeg, and toast stood out.
Several of the wines poured are still in barrel back in Portugal. One of these was likely my overall favorite of the day. The 2007 Reserva from Quinta do Vallado is a field blend. The vines it was sourced from are about 80 years of age. I found this wine to have some sour cherry notes, a touch of bacon fat on the finish with a nice bite. Excellent acidity and good balance also stood out here. I found myself crazing roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic when tasting this wine. The suggested retail price for this offering once it’s bottled, will be about $50.
I mentioned the excellent aromatics most of these wines contained, a shining example of that was the Quinta do Crasto 2006 Reserva. 24,000 cases of this beauty were produced from vines with an average age of 65 years. The nose was simply loaded with spice. Clove and nutmeg stood out in particular. For $35 I recall this being an impressive wine that seemed like it would pair with diverse foods.
The Quinta Vale D. Maria Van Zellers 2007 was a wine I found particularly interesting. Approximately 2,500 cases of this offering were produced from purchased fruit. This red was aged in stainless steel. I found it to be a straightforward wine with some Beaujolais like qualities. This is a red wine I’d serve with a hint of a chill on it. An excellent choice for Paella
One of the ports that really stood out was the Quinta do Vale Meão Vintage 2007. This is an incredibly aromatic wine. It offered plenty of dried red fruit characteristics as well as excellent spice. This was a superbly balanced port that I imagine will age nicely. Decanting it and drinking over a long evening would be an interesting study.
The last wine tasted was a Niepoort 1991 Port. This one wasn’t on our tasting sheet and Dirk van der Niepoort pulled it out after someone commented on his 2005. The 1991 was a real stand out for me. Nuts, caramel and fig notes were the story of a gentle but complex palate. This wine was sweet but restrained. Graceful and elegant are the two words I feel best summed up this lovely finish to an afternoon of tasting and learning.
Anyone tasting these wines, especially with the Douro Boys, would know a lot more about Portugal and the Douro afterwards. The best way to learn about wines is of course to taste them. You can read about them all day, but one sip tells you more than days of research. This Masterclass from the Douro Boys was a case in point. While I’ve had quite a few Portuguese wines in the past, tasting these current and upcoming releases from the Douro was nothing short of a revelation. Going forward I know I’ll have a stronger need to taste the wines of Portugal.