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Sep 25, 2018

Dry wines of the Douro Valley of Portugal are a fairly new player on the international scene. We discuss the history of the region, the wines, and why you need to drink them if you don't already!

Overview:

  • Mostly Port production with great dry table wine
  • World’s largest mountain vineyard with 85,000 growers
  • Region named after the river that rises as Duero in Spain, turns south to border with Portugal, flows west to the Atlantic
  • Demarcated in 1756 – one of the world’s oldest delimited wine regions but only a DOP for dry wine since 1979

 

Climate/Soil:

  • Climate: Continental – hot summers, wet winters
  • Steep slopes, elevations, different terroir all over the mountain -- small-scale variations between the different vineyard sites.
  • To make viticulture work here – needed to build terraces to hold up schist and plant vines

 Three sub-regions:

  1. Eastern – Baixo or Lower Corgo: 1/3 of the region. Damp, heavily planted, low quality port
  2. Cima or “Upper Corgo: 45% of the region. Top for Port production, less dry wine here
  3. Douro Superior/Upper Douro on Spanish Border: Dry, flat, least developed area. No soil! Steep slopes, hot in the summer

 

Dry Wine History:

  • 1940s, when Fernando Nicolau de Almeida, an oenologist with Ferreira, visited Bordeaux during the war and wanted to make dry wine:
  • Created Barca Velha 1952 from grapes grown at the Quinta do Vale de Meão in the Douro Superior
    • Some oenologists isolated the key grapes: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Cão and Tinta Barroca.
      • Led to the development of Ramos Pinto’s flagship wine, Duas Quintas Reserva.
  • 1990s- Table wine became popular with entrance into EU
    • Funds for research, modernization - Temperature control huge, now grapes planted specifically for table wine
    • No more port shipper monopoly on exports – estates could make and sell their own wine
    • Very good mid-price to entry level reds made by Quintas
    • Shippers both are making dry stuff well – Dirk Niepoort, especially
  • In 2001 UNESCO recognized this site as World Heritage Site, good for enotourism

 

The Wine:

  • Usually a blend of up to 30 varieties
  • Whites: field blends-- minerally, herbal, lemony, acidic
  • Reds: Improvement because of earlier picking, use of larger, used oak making better reds –fresher
    • Field blends are common but reds usually Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca, Tinto Cão

Flavors:

  • Fruit: Sweet, lush fruit (cherry) to dark fruit – blackcurrant. Spicy berry
  • Other notes: Herbs, spice, dusty, smoke, licorice, leather, earthy
  • Good tannin, good acidity

 

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

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