The Association of Port Wine Companies (AEVP), in conjunction with Please the Palate, held a trade event in San Francisco on October 27. It was a walk-around tasting highlighting dry and fortified wines of Portugal’s Douro Demarcated Region.
The Douro region straddles the Douro River which enters Portugal from Spain, where it’s called the Duero, and heads west to the Atlantic Ocean. The area is 965 square miles overall, 170 of which (109,000 acres) are planted with vines. That’s 20% of Portugal’s total vineyard acreage and it accounts for 23% of all Portuguese wine. It sells and exports more wine than any other region in the country.
The wines of the Douro include dry red and white wines, sparkling wines and fortified wines. Though there are 24,000 producers in the region, most are very small. The 15 producers who make up the AEVP and were represented at the recent tasting account for 20% of the vineyard area and 30% of Douro wine sales.
I tasted virtually all of the wines offered at the tasting, but it wasn’t possible to take detailed notes nor was it the controlled environment necessary for allocating point scores. Instead, I’ve highlighted a few wines which I found particularly notable for one reason or another. Regrettably, some of these wines are tough to find in the U.S. Lobby your favorite wine shop or importer.
Whites of the Douro come in many styles and are made from many varieties, including numerous indigenous grapes which are rarely, if ever, found in non-Portuguese vineyards. Styles include dry, off-dry, fruity and savory, juicy and full-bodied, steel-fermented and oaked.
2015 Bulas White Wine Douro DOC 13.5% $
The first white wine that struck my fancy last week was the 2015 Bulas White Wine Douro DOC made from Viosinho, Códega de Larinho, Rabigato Moreno & Malvasia grapes and fermented in stainless. It’s medium-bodied and loaded with melon, tropical fruit, stone fruit and mineral. It’s delicious, easy-drinking and just 13.5% alcohol. Drink it cold on a warm day or with seafood. Finding it might be a bit of a challenge.
2015 Casa Ferreirinha Planalto White Reserva DOC Douro 13.0% $15
The 2015 Casa Ferreirinha Planalto White Reserva DOC Douro (13.0% alc.) is another winner in the festive white category. It’s dryish with enticing notes of guava and white flowers. The melange is representative of Douro’s dizzying blends: 25% Viosinho, 20% Malvasia Fina, 15% Gouveio, 15% Códega, 15% Arinto, 5% Rabigato, 5% Moscatel. K&L has the 2014.
2015 Quinta de Ventozelo Viosinho Douro DOC 13.5% $15
This varietal Viosinho—reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc and indigenous to the Douro—is also aromatic and tasty but less happy-go-lucky. Look for citrus, under-ripe stone fruit and mineral with a refreshing palate.
2013 Jorge Rosas Puro Quinta de Touriga Douro DOC $18
The Douro excels at dry red wines. This is logical, given the depth of fruit evident in Port. Yet the non-fortified wines are often tough sledding when young. Harvest decisions and barrel regimen are geared toward longevity so, in the near term, tannins can be firm and oak very prominent. The 2013 Jorge Rosas Puro Quinta de Touriga is a succulent exception.
Tourgia Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinto Roriz—the bastions of Port—and “other varieties” were fermented and aged in stainless, having been picked with that in mind. The result is an accessible but deeply plummy red of medium+ body and fine, lingering tannins. It will age, but why resist temptation?
Rozes “Colors Collection” White Reserve Port $25
White port is made from the same (red) grapes as the better-known red and tawny ports. By pressing and fermenting without skin contact, the white port gets neither the color nor tannins. The flavors differ too, being less intense and red/black fruited. Instead, there are often notes of flowers, caramel/butterscotch/marshmallow, nuts and pale, dried fruit. White port may be released with little aging or after extended time in barrel which concentrates and adds to the flavors.
The Rozes “Colors Collection” White Reserve Port spent eight years aging in oak. It comes in a distinctive bottle: squat and painted white. You should look for it. At just $25, the happiness/dollar ratio is excellent. The nearly full-bodied palate is soft and inviting. There are lovely flavors and aromas of fresh and dried flowers, spice, dried fruit and oak.
1966 Kopke Porto Colheita $200
There was a lot of tawny at this tasting. Hooray! Tawny is often overlooked, especially when it comes to it’s capacity to age in barrel at the winery. Take this 1966 Kopke Porto Colheita. Seriously, you should take it. So good… super long and complex with flavors of caramel, butterscotch, nuts, spice and more. Bottled in 2015.
1978 Kopke Porto Colheita $100
The 1978 Kopke Porto Colheita is more assertive and spicy than the 1966 with a lot of yellow raisin to go with the caramel. It’s relative youth makes it a good choice as an accompaniment for dessert, as opposed to being the sole attraction. It will be great with bread pudding.
Copyright Fred Swan 2016. All rights reserved.