Only a few years ago, you might have been considered an oeno-masochist for contemplating imbibing a Douro wine in the summer. Quality whites hardly existed, so the reaction would probably have been “you don’t mean one of those heavyweight reds?!” writes James Mayor.
Today, not only are more and more Douro wines playing in the top league, these wines are also easier to find in specialist stores outside Portugal. The reds have become lighter in alcohol and more elegant, and an increasing number of talented, often innovative, producers are making some outstanding whites and roses.
As the temperatures begin to rise, in this first week of summer, particularly in Europe, here are a selection of Douro whites and roses to taste.
First, a couple of wine properties in the remote and arid Douro Superior:
Quinta Vale d’Aldeia, near Meda.
The Grande Reserva 2014 Branco, made from Viosinho, Rabigato, Gouveio and Malvasia Fina grapes grown at an altitude of 550 metres, has intense aromas of tropical fruit and notes of wood, with a long and persistent finish.
Quinta dos Castelares
The lady in my local wine store in Porto recommended this Alto Douro producer who practices organic farming. The 2017 white proved to be excellent, with intense fruity and floral notes. Incredible value at 6 euros!
Lavradores de Feitoria
I recently tasted a range of Lavradores de Feitoria wines at Casa dos Barros, in Sabrosa. A collective of Douro wine properties which banded together to combine their viticultural assets, Lavradores de Feitoria has been going from strength to strength in recent years, under the talented guidance of winemaker Paulo Ruão, a master blender. It could indeed be said that the best Douro wines are often blends that draw on the singularity of Portugal’s incredibly wide choice of grape varieties.
The Lavradores de Feitoria Branco 2017, the brand’s entry level wine, is fresh and aromatic, with good fruit and excellent minerality. Very good value at around 6 euros.
Who would have expected a Riesling from the Douro? I can only say that the Lavradores de Feitoria Cheda Riesling is superb: delicate, complex, with subtle notes of lemon and excellent acidity. The wine is aged for 4-5 months in French oak casks before bottling.
This is a brand that deserves to be more widely known. Jose Morais makes small batches of outstanding wine at Casa dos Lagares, as well as scrumptious tawny Port!
Fragulho’s vineyards are located at Cheires, near the village of Favaios, reputed for its fortified Moscatel wines. No surprise therefore that Jose makes some delicious vinhos de Moscatel, wonderful aperitif or dessert wines. On a recent visit I tasted the Moscatel Reserva 2011, bottled in 2016 after 42 months in wood. It has delicate floral and citrus aromas, with a mere hint of honey.
The Fragulho Rose 2018, made from Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz grapes, is a lovely fruity example of a Douro rose closer to a red than a white.
Wine & Soul
This winemaker in the Pinhão Valley, in the Cima Corgo sub-region of the Douro, is now one of the stars of Douro winemaking, in the talented hands of the owners Jorge Borodio and Sandra Tavares da Silva.
The Guru 2011 Douro Branco is a blend of Gouveio, Viosinho, Rabigato and Codoga do Larinho grapes grown in fifty-year-old vineyards. The 2011 has delicate notes of grapefruit and excellent minerality. This is a finely balanced wine that leaves a long, fresh aftertaste.
Quinta da Covela
I cannot resist including in this selection, a special ‘on the way to the Douro’ winery. Covela, on the right bank of the Douro in Vinho Verde country, has in recent years been revived by the Lima & Smith partnership, and their exceptional winemaker, Rui Cunha.
At lunch at the quinta with Tony Smith in June, I tasted the Covela Escolha Branco, made from the estate’s flagship grape, Avesso, and blended with Chardonnay. This lovely wine has five to six years ageing potential.
The Covela Rose 2018 is also superb. Made from the emblematic Portuguese grape Touriga Nacional, it is a dry, gastronomic rose with notes of fresh red fruit.
The author, James Mayor, is the founder of Grape Discoveries, a wine and culture boutique travel company
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So, lots to enjoy this summer… Grape Discoveries will soon be reporting on wine stores around the world which stock these fabulous Portuguese wines.