John Stimpfig was greatly entertained by the Duoro Boys at their masterclass at the Decanter Spain and Portugal encounter. Here are his top five wines from the tasting.
The Douro Boys hit town with a midday Masterclass by its Fab Five members: Cristiano van Zeller, Francisco Ferreira, Dirk Niepoort, Francisco Olazabal and Tomas Roquette. And as always, the result was compelling, entertaining and illuminating. So much so that the allotted hour and a half flew by far too quickly.
The ‘boy band’ of wine
Cristiano van Zeller kicked it off by explaining the background to this brilliant winemaking ‘boy band.’ He said, ‘Essentially we are a group of close friends from five Douro properties and five families, with several interconnections. We all go back a long way. Some of us can trace our roots to the early 17th century.’
Dirk Niepoort also pointed out that the Douro Boys ‘don’t sell wines together. So there’s no economic or commercial link. Moreover, we are five producers that are making very different wines. That’s important because we are not trying to make a single style. We each want our own personality.’
‘And we all share a vision of how we see the future of the Douro,’ added van Zeller. ‘Back in the 90s we realised that we needed to move into dry table wines as well as sweet fortified wines.’
Of course, it’s tempting to think that dry wines are new in the Douro. But Van Zeller quickly dispelled the myth. ‘For its first 175 years, the Douro only produced dry fortified wines. It only turned sweet in the in the nineteenth century.’
He also pointed out the intense challenges of making any style of wine in the Douro. ‘We have steep hills, 100 plus varieties, very hot summers (up to 51C!) and cold winters. ‘The extreme climate has been described as nine months of winter and three months of hell. But this climate, combined with our unique topography and schist-based terroir gives us the potential to make extraordinary wines.’
Here are five of my favourites from the masterclass: