Douro’s Elegance masterclass
After selling Cos, Prats has ventured into the New World, with Viña Aquitania in Chile – a joint venture with Paul Pontallier, and Anwilka in South Africa. The Symington family approached Prats in 1998 to co-head Chryseia, with the aim of making a non-fortified Douro wine in the Bordeaux style from a selection of the best grapes.
Symington touched on the difficulties of making a still wine in the hot Douro, with lack of acidity and over-extraction cited as the two main problems.
Prats went on to explain that the Chryseia blend, aged in 100% new French oak, is made up of grapes from four quintas, with two main varieties used – Touriga Nacional, which, like Merlot, brings roundness and finesse, and Touriga Franca – the Cabernet Sauvignon of the Douro that gives the wine its backbone.
A number of the earlier vintages also contain a small amount of Tinta Roriz, the Douro name for Tempranillo. The wines were tasted from cradle to grave, starting with the 2007, the unanimous favourite, and ending with the 2001.
Freshness is the thread throughout; something Prats and Symington feel passionately about. Their goal is to combine the exuberance of the Douro with the elegance of Bordeaux, and with the stunning 2007 vintage, they just might have done it.
The highlight had to be the 2007 vintage (a declared vintage for Port), which was showing incredibly well. Described by Symington as ‘one of our most successful vintages of recent years’, the cool weather in 2007 helped to create a wine with rich, bright fruit, complexity, depth and fantastic ageing potential. Worth stocking up on before it sells out.
‘The oak is the frame of the painting. You should see the painting, not the frame.’ – Bruno Prats on the importance of unobtrusive oak.
Ageing potential was the question on our readers’ lips. Just how well and for how long will these wines age? Symington gave a drinking window of 10 years, with the wines showing best after at least two years ageing. The 2001 however, was still looking young and fresh, showing potential to age substantially longer than the recommended ten years. With 2000 being the first Chryseia vintage, the wines’ true ageing potential is yet to be discovered, but the future looks bright.
Medium purple with fresh, bright, red and black Rhône-like fruit and vanilla sweetness. Rich, lively and full-bodied in the mouth, with attractive white pepper and spicy notes. Smooth, rounded and voluptuous, with grippy tannins, it had wonderful weight and a luscious lingering length. The wine of the masterclass.
Made from 60% Touriga Nacional and 40% Touriga Franca, 2006 was a hot, stormy year. The wine needs a lot more time to come out of its shell. Deep ruby, on the nose, the cherries, redcurrants and raspberries were slightly jammy and cooked. The palate was fresh but rather characterless. Needs time to develop.
A blend of 70% Touriga Nacional and 30% Touriga Franca. Deep ruby, the nose was the most Bordeaux-like of the bunch with a lovely herbaceous character and mineral core. The black cherry fruit was supple and mellow, and I found hints of lavender and violet. Smooth and round on the palate, with chocolate, licorice and sweet spice wrapped around velvety tannins. Complex, long and delicious.
2004 was a strange year in the Douro, with no rain until August, when the heavens opened for most of the month. Deep ruby, I spotted quite a lot of sediment in the glass. With 64% Touriga Nacional, the typical red fruit aromas of cherry and raspberry dominated. Fruit forward and soft on the palate, it had silky tannins and hints of peppery spice and chocolate on the finish.
As we all know, 2003 was a scorcher. This year bucked the trend with Touriga Franca dominating the blend at 63%, which showed extraordinary expression in ’03. It showed a seductive raspberry and cherry nose alongside delicious smoky bacon aromas with hints of chocolate and mocha. Smooth and fruit forward on the palate, with velvety tannins and bell pepper developing into a long, sweet finish.
The weather in 2001 was textbook, so it’s unsurprising the wine showed so well. Made with a decent amount of the Tempranillo-like Tinta Roriz, I found raspberries, strawberries, cherries on the mid-palate along with violets, dried prunes, thyme and roasted bacon notes. Intense, fruit forward and floral, it has retained a wonderful freshness, with soft tannins, white pepper, spice culminating in an earthy finish. Remarkably young for its years; will go on and on.
Video: Watch the interview with Bruno Prats and Rupert Symington