Text João Barbosa | Translation Bruno Ferreira
Stumbling upon non-Portuguese names in Port wine labels is as common as a Portuguese’s surname being Silva or Santos. The van Zeller live in Portugal for so long that their name is now as Portuguese as mine.
Contrary to most «foreign» families the van Zeller were not traders but noble. The oldest record of the Zeller dates 1215, in Gelderland (Netherlands). The first record in Portugal is João van Zeller, consul of Prussia in Lisbon that married in Oporto in 1687.
Van Zeller’s & Co was founded in 1780 to trade Port wine and was sold in the XIX century. The history takes many turns and the brands were offered, in 2006, to Cristiano van Zeller, the boss.
The most important fact, the Quinta belonged to Joana van Zeller’s family and it was one of her great great grandfathers that made the registry in 1868 but the ownership dates way back – linked to the much ancient rural nobility, with bonds prior to Portugal’s independence (XII century).
I’m writing this because wine without history is one thing but with history is another, many generations of noble and commoners that built unique identities. Like the Rothschild’s winemakers say – What’s difficult in the wine business are the first 150 years.
From the 12 references, I choose five. The CVs (top-end), the VVVs (novelty) and Francisca. Located in Sarzedinho, the property came to the current owners’ hands with only 19 hectares ten of which with vineyards and 41 grape varieties. Nowadays there are 45 hectares with Vitis vinífera. The winemaking is in charge of Cristiano van Zeller, Joana Pinhão and Sandra Tavares da Silva.
CV white 2014 was made with grapes from one single plot, old vines located 600 meters of altitude, mainly composed by Rabigato, Códega, Donzelinho Branco, Gouveio, Samarrinho and Viosinho. It’s an interesting combination of citrus, some anise, pharmacy and earth. In the mouth is bodied and long.
CV red 2013 is a blend of 25 grape varieties of over 80 years’ old vineayrds from which stand out the Donzelinho Tinto, Rufete, Sousão, Tinta Amarela, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional. It’s very complex in terms of aromas and flavors; from flowers to forest fruits, mint, spices, holm oak wood smoke, earth… a palate full of subtleties, fresh, with «flesh», bodied, dense, elegant – even contradictory in perfumes and flavors. Majestic.
Quinta Vale D. Maria Vinha da Francisca Tinto 2013 is the heir’s wine and came from the plot that was planted when she turned 18, in 2004. This plot comprises of 4,5 hectares with Tinta Francisaca, Sousão, Touriga Franca, Rufete and Touriga Nacional. Elegant as a princess – a qualification already assigned to “heiress”.
The triple V: Vale do Rio Torto, Vale do Rio Pinhão and Vale do Rio Douro. The three Vs, the five from the Roman numeral, illustrate the 15 generations of winemakers. The V always identified the best wines of the family.
Vale D. Maria VVV Valleys white 2014, non-disclosed grape varieties, has fresh and gluttonous fruit and vanilla in the nose. In the mouth is long and deep.
Vale D. Maria VVV Valleys red 2013, non-disclosed grape varieties, gluttonous red fruit and earthy notes. It’s “thin”, elegant and deep.
V for victories!