NERVIR’s project Soul Wines invited six importers from Canada, Belgium and the Netherlands for a four-day trip across the Douro valley during the last week of June. With sunny days, lush green vineyards and temperatures above 30℃, the group enjoyed a fantastic opportunity to visit and taste the wines from nine producers: Coimbra de Mattos, Ceyra Wines, Bulas Wines, Quinta dos Lagares, Quinta dos Avidagos, Adega de Favaios, Quinta da Rede, Quinta do Mourão and Aneto Wines.
The wineries showed the full breadth of their production with styles ranging from still dry whites, rosés and reds, to sparklings, dessert wines and Ports, highlighting not only the quality of Douro’s wines, but also the diversity found in the region.
Key factors contribute to the diverse and high profile of Douro’s wines, namely the region’s mountainous landscape and the wealth of traditional grape varieties. The dramatic topography allows for vines to be planted at different altitudes and with different exposures, thus influencing the sugar level and aromatic profile of the fruit and resulting wine. It is common to find the white grape varieties planted at higher altitudes (above 500 metres), where they best retain freshness, acidity and minerality, and the red varieties at lower altitudes (below 500 metres) where they best develop deep fruit and smooth tannins.
Hidden jewel – Douro’s table wines
While single-varietal still dry wines are also made in the Douro, most are interesting blends of the region’s numerous indigenous varieties. Among the reds, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca feature as the main varieties in full-bodied, robust wines with intense red and back fruit aromas and outstanding ageing potential. The whites, meanwhile, tend to be poised and medium to full-bodied, with elegant floral and citrus notes and a good mineral backbone. Among the prominent varieties are Viosinho, Rabigato, Gouveio, Malvasia Fina and Moscatel Galego, in blends whose complexity is often underscored by the use of oak.
Crown jewel – Port wine
Portugal’s most famous wine export, Port wine is produced by interrupting alcoholic fermentation through fortification to between 19% and 22% ABV with ‘aguardente’ (grape spirit). Different styles are determined by distinct sweetness levels and ageing processes, shaping a fascinating array that goes from deep purple to light golden nectars.
The Ruby style, aged for a short period and bottled young, is made to retain the deep red colour and freshness of fruit. Tawnies, on the other hand, made by partially blending wines aged in cask, have a lovely complexity of tertiary aromas and a fascinating tawny colour, to which the style owes its name.
White Ports are also gaining popularity, among sommeliers and bartenders alike, who see their potential either drunk on its own or in cocktails. From fresh, lightly-fruited examples to honeyed, nutty examples, White Ports are definitely one of the styles to seek out.
On the final day of their trip, guests praised the value of the experience:
‘I still cannot believe how many amazing visits we’ve had and all the lovely people we’ve met.’
Carlijn Kleine (Wijnpand, Netherlands)
‘I learned a lot, experienced the versatility of the wines from the Douro region and enjoyed it immensely!’
Jonna Cupido (Okhuysen, Netherlands)
‘Such an interesting week with high quality wine producers and fun, lovely people!’
Christel Bruynseels (Landolium, Belgium)
‘A great trip. I am now excited to assist the producers in entering the Canadian market.’
Charles Steven Trenholme (CS Trenholme & Associates, Canada)