Is there a wine region more magnificently beautiful than the Douro? Some of the world’s best wine grapes are grown on steeply terraced hillsides on either side of the Douro River. This is Port country, of course, but increasingly the very best vineyards are used to make rich table wines. The pioneers in the movement to make world class wines in this region are the Douro Boys. We tasted their wines and had dinner with them on our last trip to Portugal, and we subsequently wrote a special report titled The Douro Boys and Barca Velha. We decided to revisit them on this trip, too.
The spectacular new winery at Quinta do Vallado was the site of our meeting. Several of Douro’s top winemakers joined to show us their wines, including Miguel Roquette (pictured here) of Quinta do Crasto, Sandra Tavares of Quinta do Vale Dona Maria, Luis Seabra of Nieport Vinhos, Francisco Spratley Ferreira of Quinta do Vallado, and Francisco Olazabal of Quinta do Vale Meão.
Their top wines—both white and red—are superb. The best wines are field blends made from old vines originally planted to produce Port. As with Port, it’s also common to blend across vineyards within the Douro. Since the quality and character of fruit varies by altitude—from the river itself up to as high as 700 meters—and by location on the river—from the Baixo Corgo closer to Porto to the Douro Superior near the Spanish border, blending can contribute to complexity and balance in the wines. The wines also gain complexity from the combination of grapes used to produce them, and there are easily forty different red and white indigenous varietals that grow in the Douro.
We’ve reviewed most of these Douro wines in our earlier reports but not the current vintage, so this was an opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the wines of the Douro. Some of our favorites are the 2007 Vinha da Ponte from Crasto and the 2008 vintages of Quinta Vale Dona Maria, Nieport’s Redoma, and Quinta Vale Meão, and Quinta do Vallado’s Reserva Field Blend. These wines won’t appear on local wine store shelves for a while, so you have time to read our upcoming report on Revisiting the Wines of Portugal.