Posts Tagged : Douro

Muxagat’s different wines

Text José Silva | Translation Bruno Ferreira

Muxagat is a well-known producer of the Douro Region and is located in Meda, in the Douro Superior.

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Muxagat Winery – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

It’s a small winery with a few years already. It has been being slightly adapted to modern times but the wine production is still done above all by traditional methods and using even some old techniques that are still very useful.

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The white and red grapes come from the Muxagata vineyards and from some others of the region with schistose land and sometimes ruthless. Extreme weather and extreme temperature ranges that the vineyard appreciates.

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Handpicked grapes – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Animal traction – Photo Provided by Muxagat | All Rights Reserved

And they are still handpicked and transported with the help of the precious animal traction. Other grapes arrive at the winery in small plastic boxes, which are placed in a refrigerator container to stabilize the temperature before being pressed.

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Vertical Presses – Photo Provided by Muxagat | All Rights Reserved

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Foot treading – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

They are then pressed in the old vertical presses providing high quality, or foot treaded in the granite lagares. Always the tradition in this cellar, which turns out to still have great functionality. After removing the musts the wines go to stainless steel tanks or oak barrels, where they then age for the necessary time before being bottled.

They also use wooden casks and concrete eggs, a modern technique that is being tested with good results. In our last visit we tasted a few wines that lived up to what was expected of them.

The Rosé 2014 showed an appealing pink color with intense strawberry and raspberry aromas aromas and a soft, elegant mouth strike but with enough structure, somewhat exotic. Very nice with and elegant finish.

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Muxagat Rosé 2014 – Photo Provided by Muxagat | All Rights Reserved

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Muxagat White 2013 – Photo Provided by Muxagat | All Rights Reserved

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Os Xistos Altos – Photo Provided by Muxagat | All Rights Reserved

Then it was the White 2013 with white pulp fruit notes, pear, peach and plum, lightly floral and very mineral. In the mouth has intense acidity, much volume, citrus and mineral notes with a long and safe finish.

The Os Xistos Altos 2012 is a very special white, has white fruit, some floral, some minerality with smoked touch. In the mouth it is mineral, almost salty, complex, very elegant and with an excellent acidity. Great ending.

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Cisne red 2011 – Photo Provided by Muxagat | All Rights Reserved

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Tinta Barroca 2014 – Photo Provided by Muxagat | All Rights Reserved

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Muxagat Red 2102 – Photo Provided by Muxagat | All Rights Reserved

The Cisne red 2011 is a concentrated wine, with floral notes and black fruit, mostly blueberries. The palate is quite elegant, with some ripe fruit, round tannins, very thin and a long finish.

Then it was time for the Tinta Barroca 2014 made with grapes from altitude vineyards, 100% Tinta Barroca. Shows aromas of raspberry, cherry and it’s very fresh in the nose. The palate is velvety, enveloping, little touches of spices, beautiful volume and very long finish.

Then we ended with the Red 2102, with a dark opaque red. Shows itself fresh, with red fruit aromas and some balsamic, slightly floral, very complex. In the mouth the highlight goes to the ripe red fruit, light notes of cocoa, great acidity and steady and well-tamed tannins, which provides a long and tasty ending. Beautiful wines that will enjoy some time in the bottle. Luís Seabra is now the enological responsible that has a good knowledge of the Douro and is expected to keep up the reference work along with good surprises …

Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas in the Douro

Text João Pedro de Carvalho | Translation Bruno Ferreira

In a market where supply is increasingly getting higher and the quality is a common ground for the wines of Portugal, it’s becoming increasingly complicated to keep up pace with all the producers, brands or projects. That’s why there’s no reason to be surprised when we see novelties at every corner, every shelf or glass served by friends. There is so much to know and to be known that it is impossible to get to everywhere or attain such a comprehensive knowledge to say with a solid ground, I know everything. In my case I write about this project whose name I had only heard of, and even though I had already read about it I still hadn’t had the opportunity to have their wines in my glass.

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Quinta do Bronze in

I look at the world of wine as one looks at the starry sky, it is impossible to know or count all the stars in the sky, with wine is the same. In this case the project has a curious name but also able to captivate attention, hits our ear when we hear Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas (Full Moon in Old Vines). The project, holding the same name, follows the passionate connection that the three founders – João Silva e Sousa, Francisco Baptista e Manuel Dias – maintain with the Douro for more than two decades now. After being surprised for so many years by this unique wine-growing region, in 2009 came the time for them to show their vision on Douro wines. They went from buying the grapes to having their own vineyard, about 10 hectares of vineyards with the purchase of Quinta do Bronze in Vale Mendiz. Although they have already expanded to other regions it’s here in the Douro that we will focus, as well as on the new vintages that have just hit the market. Interestingly, only the red Reserva Especial and the white Reserva were subjected to wood, all the other wines only met stainless steel’s cold. Something that has to be highlighted is the excellent price/quality of all wines tasted.

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The Wines in

Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas white 2015: Made from old vines, very fragrant and fresh, with notes of orchard fruits and flowers, mineral background in a very harmonious set.

Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas Rosé 2015: Good aromatic intensity showing a rosé wine centered on fresh and ripe fruit (strawberry, raspberry). It is complemented by a really discreet floral and some spices in a young and balanced set.

Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas red 2014: A red wine that breaths Douro, fresh and nicely scented with the juicy and sweet tooth fruit standing out in the foreground. A slight vegetal aroma invoking the rockrose as its usual in the reds of the region. Medium body with tannins giving a good ending dryness in a wine that like the others shows a very gastronomic profile.

Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas Reserva Especial 2014: Was entitled to 12 months in French oak barrels. Great set harmony with the fruit (blackcurrant, strawberry, raspberry) emerging, well ripen and fresh, showing good complexity with floral notes, light cocoa, very elegantly. Captivating and very tasty, it’s one of those wines that is hard not to like of.

Tel: (+351) 234 329 530
Fax: (+351) 234 329 531

Churchill’s New Image

Text José Silva | Translation Bruno Ferreira

It’s a Douro wines production company that exists only for 35 years now, it was founded in 1981 by John Graham, but has already reached the age of majority, producing table wines and high quality Ports with its own characteristics and a stiff image that leaves no one indifferent.

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John Graham – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

In 1999, Churchill’s bought Quinta da Gricha, in the Ervedosa area of the Douro, near S. João da Pesqueira. We’re speaking of vineyards with some altitude, some of them very old and with a huge range of grape varieties, and, a few dozens give rise to wines full of complexity, elegance, freshness and acidity, which are only possible with vineyards with that location. For the white table wines they buy grapes on the other bank of the river, in the region of Murça, benefiting, in addition to the altitude of some granitic soils.

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Visitors’ Centre – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

In Vila Nova de Gaia have a nice visitors’ center, resulting from the recovery of old facilities, which runs a space for events and a sales shop, but where you can also enjoy vats of large volume where steadily age some of the company’s Port wines. It was there that they recently presented a new red wine to the press, Quinta da Gricha 2013. And it was during an informal lunch prepared by Chef Victor Sobral.

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Comercial director Maria Emília Campos – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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The winemaker Ricardo Nunes – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Before that, the company’s CEOs, John Graham and Maria Emília Campos, and the winemaker Ricardo Nunes, made a presentation of the company and the wines we were tasting, one of them being the new red wine.

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Superb view – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

In the upper room of this delightful space in Gaia, with a superb view of the riverbanks and the D. Luís Bridge, we tasted seven wines, starting with the curiosity of a rosé of which only 2,000 bottles were made, with screwcap. A young wine, very fresh and with excellent acidity, with no great pretensions, but very pleasant, even to join some simple snacks. Depletes at a glance! Then it was the white, composed by Rabigato and Viosinho, very elegant, full of freshness and with a persistent acidity making it very gastronomic, a beautiful wine. The first red followed, the Churchill’s Estates 2013, an entry range consisting of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz, elegant, simple and balanced. The Churchill’s Estates Touriga Nacional showed itself full of structure, fragrant, large, very elegant, with excellent acidity, very characteristic, a beautiful red. Then it was tasted a powerful Churchill’s Grande Reserva, resulting from old vines, with many many grape varieties of the region, from various properties, giving it complexity, depth, a mouth bulky and exotic at the same time, a wine to last for many years in bottle.

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The wines – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Then came the new wine, Quinta da Gricha 2013, also originating from very old vines, but this time only from Quinta da Gricha, which shows itself as the ultimate expression of this Quinta’s terroir. Very mineral, with notes of black fruits, full-bodied, with a fantastic and lush acidity, a great red wine from the Douro.

Lastly, we tasted the Port Quinta da Gricha Vintage 2013, a classic vintage full structure with notes of clove, blackberry, fig, black plum, dark chocolate and orange peel, very complex. Bulky and with an amazing acidity, very fresh, spicy notes, blueberries, it’s still young but will be very interesting to taste it in a few years.

Then followed a lunch served by Chef Vitor Sobral, which began with a marinated sea bass with vegetables, very fresh, delicious, which held up well with a surprising Dry White Port, full of freshness and slightly spicy.

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Marinated sea bass – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Codfish – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Cuttlefish – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Then he served us a codfish piece on a greens bed and grain purée with caramelized onions, very well done, and it matched very well with the white wine.

And then, a surprise dish of the Alentejo coast, cuttlefish with ink and beans, fantastic. And held up with style with the reds Touriga Nacional 2012 and Grande Reserva 2011. To end the meal, we drank a 20-Year-Old Tawny and a 1997 Vintage, both already at a very high level. Down below, the Douro was keeping its course, phlegmatic …

Quinta do Crasto, in the heart of Douro

Text Bruno Mendes

Quinta do Crasto, located in the heart of the Douro between Régua and Pinhão, is owned by the family of Leonor and Jorge Roquette for over a century. 70 hectares of a total of 130 have vineyards planted, which rise from the riverbank up to 600m attitude.

Besides the production of DOC Douro wines and Port wines, they also produces olive oil. The passion for work of the winemakers as well as all members of the team, along with heavy investments in cutting-edge equipment allows a concept that combines respect for tradition and at the same time, lifelong learning, improvement and innovation, which projected Quinta do Crasto in domestic and international markets.

The history of Quinta do Crasto is rich and vast, starting with the first references to this Quinta dating back to 1615. The Crasto name derives from the Latin word Castrum that means Roman fort.

All this and more in the video below.

Castas e Pratos restaurant

Text José Silva | Translation Jani Dunne

An already very acclaimed fine dining establishment that has constantly evolved, year after year, providing a very consistent, rigorous, and steady history, whether in culinary services or choices of food.

It started as a smart restoration of part of an old ralway warehouse in Régua, which was close to being demolished.

Besides the creation of a huge high-ceiling room and beautiful timberwork, a lot of glass was added to let the natural light in along with the view of the neighbouring Douro river. On the other side we see a stop for the restless trains.

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The Entrance in

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Mezzanine in

A mezzanine hosts the meal room, and in the lower floor, a long, broad room with a table that stretches out almost filling the room, and big majestic lights.

The walls are completely coated in cupboards holding the hundreds of references of wine brands, which compose one of the best wine lists in Douro.

They haldle their wine properly – with a lot of care. We can enjoy a glass of wine as we read a magazine or a paper, although we may go for a meal instead.

A meeting point, perhaps for a chat, and with wine for company.

Outside, an old transport carriage has been adapted and now makes a delightful terrace when the weather is good, bringing out the view of the train station.

Upstairs, the tables are always expertly laid, impeccable; the service is clearly above-average, availing of able and insightful professionals to guide us through a consistent and very well-interpreted cuisine.

Douro deserves such a restaurant. On our last visit, we had a peaceful, high-quality meal, accompanied of several wines served by the glass and chosen by the head waiter.

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Muxagat Xistos Altos White 2012 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Codfish – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Regional bread, olive oil and olive oil with balsamic vinegar were brought to the table.

We began with a Vértice White 2010, which had been decanted; excellent, evolved, very elegant, creamy – a great wine. The years it spent in the bottle have only done it good.

After that came a partridge and penny-bun stew: extremely creamy, well connected, the refined poultry meat bonded well with the intense and dry flavours of the penny-bun mushrooms – excelent. The wine matched it perfectly.

Then followed some codfish with almond crust and prawn brandade. Au point, the brandade; very well connected and providing the softness of the shrimp; the flaked codfish and the detail of the almond crust were very successful.

We drank the Muxagat Xistos Altos White 2012, which was very mineral, elegant, intense, dry, slightly evolved, with beautiful acidity. It really did very well.

In contrast, still with the cod, we tried a red Encosta do Bocho Reserva 2009, which was a lovely surprise. The nose was full of fruit and notes of vanilla, slightly floral, and very complex. Beautiful volume, full-bodied, excellent acidity contrasting with ripe tannins that were well matched with the wood. With intense dark fruit, this is a powerful yet balanced wine. The year 2009 still manages to surprise me.

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Encosta do Bocho – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Dessert – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

For dessert, we were given a volcano of pumpkin with queijo da serra ice cream (a cheese from Serra da Estrela mountain).

A true explosion of flavours, this reinterpretation of the sophisticated version of the classic connection of queijo da serra with pumpkin jam.

It was superbly accompanied by Casa de Santa Eufémia Reserva Branco Velho (white) Port, which is over 30 years old. A crystal-clear ambar, exuberant nose, intense nuts, elegance, tangerine peal, very refreshing. Beautiful volume, intense, vibrant acidity, dry, walnuts and hazelnuts, a lot of freshness, complexity, greedy; an excellent Port wine.

On our second glass, we toasted to this Castas e Pratos, to the wine, and to Douro…

Castas & Pratos
Peso da Régua | Portugal
Tel: (+351) 254 323 290

Autumn has arrived at Quinta da Casa Amarela…

Text José Silva | Translation Jani Dunne

Gil, the father, Laura, the mother, and Gil, the son –  they are Casa Amarela and Casa Amarela is them!

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Gil, the father, Laura, the mother, and Gil, the son – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

They have been building on this project, a life devoted to the Douro, to Quinta da Casa Amarela [estate] and to their wines. Wines made with passion, great passion, which they share with clients and friends, with simplicity and without formalities, while maintaining a level of quality that they never give up.

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Quinta da Casa Amarela – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Quinta da Casa Amarela – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

And rigth they are! They take their wines all around the country as well as to other countries. This work consists of persistence: a lot of hours at the wheel or inside aeroplanes, a lot of commented tastings, but also a lot of satisfied customers. In addition, they have partnerships with colleagues who also produce wines from other regions: the first partnership was made with Paulo Laureano and his Alentejo nectars; then with Paulo rodrigues from Quinta do Regueiro and Alvarinho, from Melgaço; finally, with Sir Cliff Richard and his Algarvian wines. They did all this thanks to the help of oenologist Jean-Hughes Gros, a Frenchman who also fell in love with Douro and decided to stick around and make very good wines. Visiting this farm is always a pleasure; for years we have been treated as family.

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The new cask room – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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The beautiful house is covered in virgin vines – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

The beautiful house is covered in virgin vines, which are now slowly shifting into Autumn hues, in the new cask room, wood and stone make a perfect match, and in the old vat room, the classical music in the background conveys a touch of magic and intimacy.

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The old vat room – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

The wines are certainly grateful.

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The huge tree – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Outside, the huge tree is already blending with the walls of the monumental and authoritarian-looking house.

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The vines – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Waiting for the winter break – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Further up the hill, the vines rest as they await a well-earned winter break. But we were there to taste the wines, knowing that Laura Regueiro would not let us go without a homemade meal like only she can prepare.

Once in the comfort of the living room, we began with the white Casa Amarela Reserva 2014, full of very balanced freshness and acidity, notes of very elegant white-pulp fruits, persistent and connecting very well with cheese gratin on toast and a delicious pepper jam.

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Casa Amarela Reserva 2014 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Norte Sul 2013 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Then, Norte Sul 2013, also with freshness, exotic, youthful, very pleasant, simple yet structured; a pleasant surprise. Then, were enjoyed a few slices of bola de carne [meat cake], very typical of the region; soft and delicious.

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bola de carne – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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II Terroir XIV – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

We finished the appetisers with another partnership white, the II Terroir XIV, in which the minerality of the Alvarinho matches the elegance and freshness of the Douro white very well. Intense, very elegant, with excellent volume on the mouth; a gastronomic wine.

Already at the table, we were delighted with a Swiss chard soup with onion crunch, very flavourful and served quite hot.

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Swiss chard soup – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Casa Amarela Reserva Tinto 2013 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

In the meantime, the Casa Amarela Reserva Tinto 2013 was opened. It was full of floral aromas, red fruits, intense but very elegant, with notes of smoke, very refreshing, silky, with its tannins already well-matched, and a delicious finish.

Then, a superb oven-roast pork knee; very well seasoned, melting in our mouths, with “punched” potatoes [literally punched roast potatoes] and sautéed cabbage, a few slices of very ripe tomato and plump onion, well seasoned. Delicious!

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Oven-roast pork knee – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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PL-LR IX – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

For our glasses, the red PL-LR IX; an excellent connection made with reds of two regions that are so far apart and yet so close. Complex aromas, silky, light notes of smoke and some ripe dark fruit. On the mouth, it has excellent volume, it’s meaty, intense, powerful, with very balanced acidity and a lasting finish.

While still savouring the meat course, we enjoyed the Casa Amarela Grande Reserva red 2011, a beautiful tribute to grandpa Elísio. Of an incredible year, this is a distinct wine; very elegant, quaint, full of aromatic complexity, with very good acidity and a full mouth with a long finish. It will still last many years in the bottle… if it makes it!

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Casa Amarela Grande Reserva red 2011 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Apple crumble – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Finally, dessert: first, the apple crumble, which is compulsory in this house; then, a slice of medium matured cheese accompanied by white grapes and little toasts.

Firstly, we opened the Porto Tawny 10 Anos, with intense aromas of nuts, notes of honey, quince, excellent acidity, and a lot of freshness.

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Quinta da Casa Amarela Porto Tawny 10 Anos – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Quinta da Casa Amarela Porto Vintage 2011 – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

To go with the cheese, we had the first Vintage sold by this house, and precisely the 2011! With very ripe dark fruit, notes of chocolate, slightly balsamic, fat, full, powerful, but elegant at the same time; a beautiful representation of the current best modern Ports being produced. A beautiful meal, as always, among good people, and in the company of characterful wines.

The Douro is grateful…

Quinta da Casa Amarela
5100-421 Lamego
Tel: (+351) 254 666 200
Fax: (+351) 254 665 209
Mobile: (+351) 962 621 661

Wine from everywhere – starting with Douro

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

During the Portuguese Colonial War, the army was supplied with bottled wine. “Back then, selling wine by the glass was forbidden, because the state suspected that this was an opportunity to taint the wine.” In 1965, a scandal exploded when people started selling vinho a martelo [wine “by the hammer” or counterfeit wine]. This beverage is “made by fermenting sugar and adding water and food colouring”, according to Vasco d’Avillez.

White or red? Full! “Most people had no idea what a good wine was, and they drank what they were used to, whether it was a washed-out red or an oxidised and heavy white”, explains Vasco d’Avillez.

Oenologist Virgílio Loureiro says that “before the 60s, wine in Portugal wasn’t much better than it had been in the previous 250 years. Cult spots for consuming and buying it were taverns, where it was almost invariably sold in bulk. Customers’ demands weren’t high, because the glass was served up to the top – preventing people from appreciating the aroma – and it was generally drunk at once.”

Although taverns in Lisbon and in Porto had favourite areas of origin (but not designated origins), they sold wines from different locations. Wine mostly came from the tavern governor’s hometown.

The Douro region was first outlined in 1756. The company that established this is still around, and is known as Real Companhia Velha. For centuries, Port Wine was the real deal; unfortified wines had no special status.


Real Companhia Velha Grandjó – Photo Provided by Real Companhia Velha | All Rights Reserved


Real Companhia Velha Grandjó – Photo Provided by Real Companhia Velha | All Rights Reserved

This company owns iconic Douro brands. In 1912, Grandjó was created especially for late-harvest wines. Only in the 60s did the first wines without Botrytis Cinerea appear in response to the demand for lighter wines.

Evel was “born” in 1913 – evel is light [“leve”] written backwards. “The idea was to create an elegant, soft and light wine”, explains Pedro Silva Reis, the head of Real Companhia Velha. “The first wines corresponded to those characteristics, much like nowadays: elegant, soft and, in a way, light. Only a few brands were around in those times and only a small part of the wine was bottled and labelled. The brand became more well-known in the 30s and 40s, which is how one can explain why it took a few years before it was considered truly successful.” In the following two decades, Evel made its way to the table of the head of state; from then onwards, labels included a note that said “Supplier to the Presidency of the Republic”.


Real Companhia Velha Cellar – Photo Provided by Real Companhia Velha | All Rights Reserved

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Pedro Silva Reis – Photo Provided by Real Companhia Velha | All Rights Reserved

Real Companhia Velha also owns the opposite of the Evel brand. Porca de Murça, created in 1928, was a tribute to a pre-historic monument found in a square of Murça, a small village. “Strong, full-bodied red wines. They only started producing whites a few years later. The brand achieved high levels of fame between the 40s and 60s. It has recently enjoyed moments of glory again, as it became the best-selling Douro brand in the world”, states Pedro Silva Reis.

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Barca Velha 1952 – Photo Provided by Sogrape Vinhos | All Rights Reserved

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Casa Ferreirinha Colheita Seleccionada 1960 Reserva Especial – Photo Provided by Sogrape Vinhos | All Rights Reserved

When on the Douro subject, two wines have to be mentioned, which many consider to be two of the best in Portugal: Barca Velha (1952) and Ferreirinha Reserva Especial (1960). Sogrape has established that wines of a stronger storing potential must be called Barca Velha [“old boat”], and those whose longevity is expected to be lower must be called Ferreirinha Reserva Especial [special reserve].

The spirit and style never change. So far, 17 Barca Velha and 16 Ferreirinha Reserva Especial have been released (between 1989 and 1987, the law forbade using the adjective especial).

Toca da Raposa, a place to hide in Douro…

Text José Silva | Translation Jani Dunne

Throughout the last few years, a number of places in Douro have emerged that specialise on serving good food, with quality, and using genuine products that have earned a safe spot on the market and are now sought after by both Portuguese people and foreigners. This is also thanks to the word spreading on social media, which is nowadays an ever more valuable and easily accessible tool.

In Ervedosa do Douro, a small village on the side of the road that climbs from the river bed up to S. João da Pesqueira, one of those places opened a few years ago, called Toca da Raposa [“The Fox’s Den”]. Right on the side of the road, but with plenty of parking space in front, we are welcomed into a very cosy and welcoming place. It’s well decorated, sober, and with very good taste.

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Toca da Raposa – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

A few tables stand at the entrance; then, you see a broad counter and a few more tables, a wooden floor, some wooden walls and others in schist, many shelves filled with bottles of wine, which they also work very well with here.

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Toca da Raposa – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Toca da Raposa – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

The mother directs the kitchen like a pro, her hands making pure magic at times; the daughter runs the room with knowledge and good taste, presenting the dishes and proposing high-quality wines to go with the meal. Douro wines naturally cover most of the menu. The result is always magnificent, offering visitors well-presented intense meals with plenty of variety, from appetisers to more elaborate main courses, with balanced seasoning on perfectly-cooked food that always enhances the quality of the products used. After selecting the food, when we shift to the choice or choices of wine, we can always count on the daughter to show us the wines on the shelves and in the long list; they are not there just by any chance. You can tell she is a knowledgeable, enlightened person who knows the wines, where they come from, their characteristics, and the many harmonisations that come through with the different dishes on the menu. This is not unrelated to the fact that many producers of the Douro region – and that area especially – come by to eat. S. João da Pesqueira is the municipality of this region with the highest amount of Douro wine producers. On our last visit, after we were comfortably sat at our table, we nibbled on a few toasted almonds that came with a 10 Year Old White Port by Andresen, served at the right temperature. Very good.

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Míscaros mushrooms – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Fried octopus filets – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Immediately afterwards, a delicious regional bread was served with very well-prepared appetisers: very tasty míscaros mushrooms (man on horseback/yellow knight) grilled with olive oil, and fried octopus filets with soft batter.

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Small river fish – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Toasted alheira – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Then, delicious small river fish fried in pickling brine, a delicious toasted alheira with a slightly sharp taste and a crunchy skin, served with sautéed plump greens.

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To close the session of appetisers – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

To close the session of appetisers and “watermill flavours”, we had toasted regional bread with olive oil, presunto, and cheese in olive oil. Excellent! So far, we had drunk the white Gambozinos Reserva 2013, that was always level with the food; we moved on to a red, Beira Douro Colheita 2012, both charged by the glass.

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Míscaros rice – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Bízaro-pig steaks – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

The red made a good accompaniment for the míscaros rice – prepared to perfection, creamy and tasty, with grilled, thin Bízaro-pig steaks from the neck.

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Grilled kid – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

And we still had grilled kid with stewed potatoes and sautéed cabbage – very well cooked countryside food.

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Dessert – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

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Dessert – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Already pushing it, but with a 2008 LBV Port by Noval in our hands, we started on the almond pie, egg pudding, a mountain cheese with quince jam, and nuts, which left us exhausted… but delighted.

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The Douro – Photo by José Silva | All Rights Reserved

Then we moved down to Pinhão, to see the Douro, always his old self…

Foz Torto: In Search of Elegance

Text Sarah Ahmed

In 2000, Lisbon-based IT entrepreneur Abílio Tavares da Silva started looking for a vineyard.  He was always dead set on the Douro.  But he was fussy.  It took five years to find the right site.  Today, he has a bird’s eye view of the Douro, especially Sandeman’s top vineyard, Quinta do Seixo, which is located on the opposite bank of the river Torto from his own slice of Douro pie, Foz Torto.

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On top of the world Abilio Tavares da Silva at Foz Torto – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Foz means mouth and Foz Torto’s 14 hectares of steeply terraced vineyards tumble down towards the Douro river.  It’s not only because the vertigo-inducing view from the top (at 320m) down to the bottom (at 72m) that Tavares da Silva feels on top of the world.  More to the point, he is realising the passion which lead him to sell his businesses, re-locate his family in the Douro and study winemaking (he has a degree in Oenology from the University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro).

Why that site?  Because, says Tavares da Silva, “I was looking for elegance and balance and my vineyard on the Torto river has been known for power and elegance for 200 years.”  “Mostly for Port,” he adds and, even today, 80-85% of his grapes are sold to Taylor’s for Port.  He attributes this reputation partly to Rufete, which is very common in the Torto and “is known more for elegance than raw power.”

That said, Tavares da Silva has re-planted some 80% of the vineyard from scratch (three hectares of 85 year old vines remain).  He explains “the vineyard was in bad shape because it belonged to a family who were embroiled in a court dispute for 10 years.”  Suffice to say his new plantings include Rufete, also Tinta Francisca, which the food lover describes as “condiments” to the Touriga Nacional and Alicante Bouschet which he has also planted.

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The vegetable garden at Foz Torto – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Tavares da Silva is just as passionate about the vegetables he has planted at Foz Torto as he is about his vines.  Telling me, “I truly believe in vineyards to be enjoyed and visited like a garden, not just used to produce wine,” he showed me strawberries, onions, beans, potatoes, fruit and olive trees.  Such is his messianic zeal about the flavour intensity of the rucola which he proffered for me to taste that he (and I) forgot we were about to taste the wines.  The most peppery (hot as horseradish) rucola I’ve ever tasted proves to be my palate’s undoing.  Fortunately, Tavares da Silva obligingly sent me fresh samples to taste at home in London!

The wines, the first release from 2010, are made with Sandra Tavares da Silva (no relative) who honed her Douro winemaking skills in the Torto Valley at Quinta do Vale Dona Maria prior to establishing Wine & Soul with her husband and fellow winemaker, Jorge Serôdio Borges.  She is, says Abílio, “the teacher” to his “intern” and evidently, like me, he is a huge fan of Wine & Soul’s exquisite Douro white Guru, since he has acquired a second white wine vineyard close to its source in Porrais in Murça at 600 metres above sea level. I must say, I like the highly characterful Foz Torto white better than the reds which, though very soundly made, were not as elegant as I’d expected given both site and vintage.  But it’s early days and, where Tavares da Silva is content to study (for him “the pleasure is in the journey”), I’ll be interested to see how his range evolves.  In fact, on his “teacher’s” advice that it will help the wines taste “more elegant, more distinctive,” he has already started installing lagares for more small batch winemaking in the old winery which he is restoring in Pinhão.  As an IT guy well knows, “you have to take account of all the small details.”

Here are my notes on his latest releases:

Foz Torto Vinhas Velhas Branco 2013 (Douro) – from a small (under one hectare) 70-80 year old field blend vineyard with a predominance of Códega do Larinho and Rabigato.  Tavares da Silva tells me that the vineyard smells like gunpowder and, like Guru, this wine has a striking cordite/struck match character with, on day two, a spicy, fenugreek edge.  Though it’s leaner than Guru and not as powerful or long, I like its minerality and steely drive of grapefruit with riper lemon.  Complexing, complementary vanillin and lemon oil notes come courtesy of five months’ maturation in French oak.  Lots of old vine interest and intensity.  12.5%

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A Foz Torto trio – Photo by Sarah Ahmed | All Rights Reserved

Foz Torto Tinto 2012 (Douro) – a blend of 40% Touriga Nacional, 30% Touriga Franca, 10% Tinta Francisca, 5% Tinta Roriz, 5% Alicante Bouschet, 5% Sousão, 5% Tinta Barocca from 7-8 year old vines; it was fermented for 8 days in stainless steel tank then aged for 16 months in 2nd and 3rd year French oak barrels.  It has dark-chocolate-edged ripe, round black berry and plum to nose and palate, with prune, tobacco, leather and berber whisky (stewed mint tea) undertones (the Alicante Bouschet?) and smooth-grained tannins.  The tobacco is more marked on day two.  A touch warm (alcohol) going through; would benefit from a little more definition and freshness.  14.5%

Foz Torto Vinhas Velhas 2012 (Douro) – an old vine field blend of more than 30 varieties; it was fermented for 8 days in stainless steel tank then aged for 18 months in 30% new, 70% 2nd year French oak barrels.  As you’d expect, more concentrated, mineral and spicier than the younger vine cuvée, with rich, ripe cassis, fleshier, juicier black plum and sweet raspberry. New oak brings vanillin sucrosity and more pronounced savoury notes of toast and mocha. A little over-ripe and warm for my taste, though it benefits from svelte tannins and a useful (uplifting) hint of eucalyptus to the finish.  14.5%

Quinta de La Rosa – concentrated and elegant wines

Text João Barbosa | Translation Jani Dunne

The Bergqvist Family arrived in Portugal to produce paper pulp from pinewood. They settled in Albergaria da Serra, beside River Caima, near Constância upon Tagus River. Later on they started using Eucalyptus wood instead.

Swedish engineer, D.E. Bergqvist, soon found out where Oporto town was and eventually got married to Claire Feueheerd, who came from a family in the Port wine business since 1815. Quinta de La Rosa, near Pinhão, was offered as a present to the object of the expert’s affection.

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Quinta de La Rosa – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved

1815 is an important year, because it was when The Battle of Waterloo took place, and with it Napoleon´s Empire ended. The ancestor Feueheerd came to Oporto because he needed to start a new life, and once he had supported the French Emperor while a politician in the hanseatic free town of Bremen. Coincidently, he walked into a country that had fought against France and he settled in a town where British people had a strong influence over business.

The property was called Quinta dos Bateiros and on the other side was the Quinta das Bateiras. Of course a present must be unique, mostly as far as its name is concerned. So why La Rosa? A property in Douro Region with a Castilian name? Especially considering the different origins of the family… Sophia Bergqvist’s father, who runs the business nowadays, had the copyrights of a brand of sherry called La Rosa. I must also make clear that the article «La» was of general use in Portuguese for centuries like in the famous nau (Portuguese sailing ship) «Flor de La Mar», which sank in 1512 carrying a huge treasure with it.


Sophia and Tim Bergqvist – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved

That time is far away in the past and it would take hours to recollect. The more recent story of Quinta de La Rosa has a landmark, in 1988, when it produced its first wine. Before that, the Bergqvists used to sell their grapes to the Sandeman Family – a business agreement started in 1938. Only in 1985 did they begin preparing Port wine in the Douro region; it was no longer compulsory to make it in Gaia. However, “the first «real» Port wine dates back to 1991”, says Sophia Bergqvist.


Quinta de La Rosa steep vines – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved

Quinta de La Rosa is very steep and has different levels of exposure to the sun. The combination of the different factors – light, temperature and altitude – adds to the complexity of its wines. Jorge Moreira, the oenologist, assures that the wines there can’t be but very concentrated because it’s nature’s way.


Jorge Moreira – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved

In my opinion, although the whites prove to be of high quality, the reds have an advantage. Quinta da La Rosa white 2014 translates into minerality, notes of green lemon peels and not very ripe pear. This lot is composed of Gouveio, Rabigato, Malvasia, Viosinho and Códega de Larinho.

Quinta de La Rosa white Reserva 2014 is more powerful and food-friendly. It’s really dry and refreshing, overcoming the lemon and tangerine aromas with notes of vanilla. In this wine the mineral characteristic is less obvious. The varieties are the same as in the previous reserve.


Quinta de La Rosa white – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved


Quinta de La Rosa white Reserva – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved


Quinta de La Rosa Rosé – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved

Quinta de La Rosa Rosé 2014 let me down. The total amount of grapes – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz didn’t reflect the Douro region. Although it isn’t heavy, its 13,5% of alcohol make it unsuitable for lunch meals.

The first wines I came across in Quinta de La Rosa were the reds, and I fell in love straight away. I think they grow a few steps above the whites and another good few above the rosé. douRosa red 2013 is my favourite portrait of Douro with schist soil and dried wild herbs. It’s dry yet not austere, and made of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz.

Tinta de La Rosa red 2012 shares identifying features with the previous wine plus carob, mint and white pepper. It lasts long on the mouth. A beautiful wine.


douROSA red – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved


Quinta de La Rosa red 2012 – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved


La Rosa Reserva red – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved


Quinta de La Rosa Vintage Port – Photo Provided by Quinta de La Rosa | All Rights Reserved

A great wine – really great – is La Rosa Reserva Red 2012. It has everything you can expect from the region, from the minerality of its schist to the cherries, raspberries, strawberry jam, dark sweets and After Eight chocolates. Very pleasant tannins, it’s as soft as velvet down your throat. It’s refreshing…  and exactly 14,5% alcohol. Almost entirely Touriga Nacional with a certain percentage of Touriga Franca.

Quinta de La Rosa Port Vintage 2012 is still closed; you can already sense carob, cherry and a bouquet of floral notes, although not very clearly. It’s buttery and long lasting. Give it a few years.

Quinta de la Rosa
5085-215 Pinhão
Tel: (+351) 254 732 254
Fax: (+351) 254 732 346