Monday, April 25, 2011

Meeting Up-and-coming Winemaker Rita Ferreira Marques from the Douro Area in Portugal at Screwtop Winebar in Clarendon, Virginia

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Winemaker Rita Ferreira Marques from Portugal

Screwtop Winebar in Clarendon, Virginia, has a very nice communal table for about 12 people and regularly organizes winemaker dinners at this table. One of the recent guests was up-and-coming winemaker Rita Ferreira Marques from the Conceito Estates in the Douro area in Portugal.

Wine Producer Portugal

Portugal is a wine producer with a long history that is mainly known for its Port wines and the Mateus label. With 250.000 hectares of vineyard area, it is the 7th largest wine producer in the world, compared with the US with 400.000 hectares. Portugal possesses a large array of native varietals, many of them completely unknown in the rest of the world.

Vinho Verde, in the northwestern corner of the country, is the only region of Portugal where white wine dominates. Douro is the region where Port wine is produced, but increasingly also red table wine. Continuing south of the Douro into north-central Portugal is the Dao region, known for big, full bodied reds.
In the terms of classification, wines from the top regions are labeled DOC (Denominação de Origem Controlada). Below that are the categories of Indicação de Proveniência Regulamentada (IPR, Indication of Regulated Provenance), regional wine - Vinho Regional Carries and table wines - Vinho de Mesa.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Portugal

Port is always sweet, while Sherry - produced in Spain - can either be sweet or dry. This is so, because Port wine is made by adding brandy to the fermenting must, causing the fermentation to stop and leaving the remaining grape sugar in the wine. Sherry, on the other hand, is made by letting the fermentation go its full way so that a dry wine emerges. Then, alcohol is added to boost the alcohol level. If the winemaker stops there, you get a dry Sherry. If he or she also adds sterilized juice, you get a sweet Sherry. Thus, Sherry can be sweet or dry, while Port is always sweet.

There are two main Port styles: (1) Bottle matured Ports spend a relatively short time in the barrel and mature in the bottle for many years. These are the wines that have made Port one of the greatest wines of the world. Wines that have matured in sealed glass bottles, with no exposure to air, have experienced what is known as "reductive" aging. This process leads to the wine losing its color very slowly and produces a wine which is smoother on the palate and less tannic. Vintage port is bottle matured and made entirely from the grapes of a declared vintage year. (2) Barrel matured Ports experience what is known as "oxidative" aging, as the barrels allow some exposure to oxygen. Wood matured Ports are bottled when ready for drinking and are not intended for further ageing. Aged Tawnies (10, 20, 30 and 40 years old) are a blend of Ports aged in cask, using the Solera process, exposing them to gradual oxidation and evaporation. During this time they lose their deep, youthful ruby color and become pale and eventually “tawny".

Douro DOC

While the Douro region is associated primarily with Port wine production, it produces just as much table wine as it does fortified wine. While table wine has always been produced in the region, for a long time little of it was seen outside the region itself. A few Douro wines showed up on the international market from the 1970s, but it was not until the 1990s when a large number of Douro wines made their appearance.

Today, the real action in the Douro valley is with dry table wines made from the vast array of grapes unique to the Douro valley. Portugal’s Douro valley increasingly delivers robust but classy dry wines that are perfect foils for rich food and cool nights.


The young estate of Conceito was founded by winemaker Rita Ferreira, her husband and her mother Carla Costa Ferreira just a few years ago. The Ferreira family has been grape growing for many years, but the direction of the family operation changed dramatically, when Carla Costa Ferreira and her daughter Rita took over. Before Rita came on board, the family had always grown wines, but sold in bulk to Port producers. This all changed when Rita got her degree in enology. The re-structuring of the business was completed in 2005, with the new winery, now under the aegis of oenologist Rita Ferreira Marques.

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Winemaker Rita Ferreira Marques from Portugal

The grapes are all estate-grown and come from 4 different estates, all in the Teja river valley, which has climatic conditions a little cooler than the rest of the Douro area: Quinta da Veiga (20 hectares), Quinta do Chão-do-Pereiro (20 hectares), Quinta do Cabido (23 hectares) and a 10 hectare vineyard at the top of the valley where there’s some granite, used solely for whites. The Teja is a tributary to the Douro River. The Teja valley is not only cooler than the rest of the Douro area, but the temperature swings also larger. As a result, the maturation of the grapes is slower, translating into fresher and less alcoholic wines.

Conceito is very export oriented and is increasingly catching the attention of international wine critics.

Rita Ferreira Marques

Rita initially studied engineering, but then changed course with a view of making wine from the grapes in the vineyards of her family. After her studies she traveled quite a bit around the globe and did internships in Douro, Bordeaux, California, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Back in Portugal, her first wine she released was a 2005 vintage.

She still is traveling. Last year, he spent 6 weeks in New Zealand to make a Sauvignon Blanc to be released under the name Conceito. She also has an on-going project in South Africa. In fact, when I met her at Screwtop Wine Bar, she was just coming from South Africa.

What Wendy Poured

Screwtop Owner Wendy Buckley poured 5 wines, two white wines, two red wines and a Port.

Picture: Owner Wendy Buckley, Importer Jonas Gustafsson and Winemaker/Owner Rita Ferreira from Conceito Winery in the Douro Valley in Portugal.

“As with almost all Douro properties, our wines are a mixture of different traditional grape varieties” said Rita. “Our vines are cultivated using only traditional methods and we do not use any herbicides. When fertilizer is required, we use vegetable compost. All of the work in the vineyard -pruning, de-shooting, weeding, de-leafing - is performed by hand” she added.

The current exchange rates are Euro 1 = US$ 1.46 = BP 0.88.

2009 Conceito Contraste Branco

D.O.C. Douro Region Douro/ V.N. de Foz Côa

Soil: Granite

Grape varieties: Rabigato, Códega do Larinho, Códega and Viosinho

Vinification without de-stemming; aged in French oak barrels (25%) and 75% in tanks for 6 months

Alcohol content 13% vol, Sugar less than 2 g/l, PH 3,12, Acidity 6,1 g/l

Production 10.000 bottles

Retail: $21.50

2008 Conceit Branco

D.O.C. Douro Region Douro/ V.N. de Foz Côa

Soil: Granite

Made from a very old, pre-phylloxera vineyard in a small granite plateau (500 m above seal level) in the parish of Freixo de Numão, 15 km to the west of Foz Côa.
Grape varieties: Códega (40%), Rabigato (40%) and 20% other traditional white grapes, mainly Viosinho and Gouveio.

Vinification without de-stemming. Fermented and aged in barrels (30% new) and regular batônnage.

Alcohol content 13% vol. Sugar less than 2 g/L PH 3,1 Acidity 6 g/L

Retail: $49.99

Picture: The Conceite Wines We Tasted

2008 Conceite Contraste Tinto

Classification D.O.C. Douro Region Douro/ V.N. de Foz Côa

Soil: Schist

Grape varieties: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional and Sousão
70% in French oak barrels

Alcohol content 14% vol. Sugar less than 2 g/l PH 3,5 Acidity 5,2 g/l

Production 50.000 bottles

Retail: $21.99

2007 Conceite Tinto

Classification D.O.C. Douro Region Douro/ V.N. de Foz Côa

Soil: Schistose.

Made with the grapes of old (50 years) vines from the Quinta do Cabido, in an inhospitable “hook” formed by the Teja River, in the parish of Numão. There, an unusual land mass of schist causes the water to change course before it flows down towards the Douro River, and the riverbank in that place forms a perfect natural amphitheatre facing south.

Grape varieties: Mixture of traditional grape varieties (more than 15 grape varieties)

50% new French oak barrels.

Alcohol content 14% vol. Sugar Less than 2 g/l PH 3.55 Acidity 5.8 g/l

Production 10.000 bottles

Retail: $49.99

2007 Vintage Port

D.O.C. Douro Region Douro/ V.N. de Foz Côa Soil Schistose.

Made with grapes from the Quinta do Cabido, a family property that is so-named because of its location, in an inhospitable “hook” formed by the Teja creek, plus 10% Touriga Nacional grapes from an old vineyard in the neighboring Quinta do Chão do Pereiro, the first and oldest property of the family. Both are located in the parish of Numão, in a mountainous area around 300m- 400m above sea level that descends to Vesúvio, on the southern bank of the Douro.

Grape varieties: Mixture of traditional grape varieties.

Traditional Port vinification, with no de-stemming and foot-treading in granite lagares. Two-day pre-fermentation maceration and three-day fermentation. Addition of grape spirit to the tank, followed by brief maceration and casking.

Alcohol content 19,5% vol. PH 3.6 Baumé 3.4

Production 5.000 bottles

Retail: $ 59.99

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your posting and interest
    Of great wines.

    Best regards,
    Jonas Gustafsson