Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Douro Valley Tour from Porto Upstream to the Douro Superior Region, Portugal

Picture: Annette and Christian G.E. Schiller in the Upper Douro Valley

This was an amazing tour. Starting in Porto, we travelled up the Douro Valley and into Spain. We spent 2 nights in Porto, 1 night in the Vinho Verde region and 1 night in the Upper Douro Valley, close to the Spanish border. We enjoyed 4 very special winemaker dinners and 3 outstanding tastings in Portugal.

The tour was a sponsored pre-conference trip of the 2013 Digitale Wine Communications Conference in Logroño, Rioja, Spain: 
The 2013 Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC) in Logroño, Rioja, Spain

Wine Producer Portugal

Portugal is a wine producer with a long history that is well 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 number of native varietals, many of them little known in the rest of the world.

Vinho Verde, in the northwestern corner of the country, where we spent one night, is the only region of Portugal where white wine dominates. Douro is the region where port wine is produced, but increasingly also (non-fortified) table wine. Continuing south of the Duoro into north-central Portugal is the Dao region, known for big, full bodied reds.

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Celeste Pereira from Greengrape, who organized and led the tour, jointly with Ana Primitivo

In the terms of classification, wines from the top regions are labeled D.O.C. (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.

Port, Sherry and Madeira

Port, Sherry and Madeira are fortified wines produced in Portugal and Spain. Sherry, produced in southern Spain, can either be sweet or dry, unlike Port. Port wine is made sweet by adding alcohol to the fermenting must so the fermentation stops and the sugar of the grapes remains in the wine. What you get is a wine with lots of alcohol and remaining sweetness 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 also adds sterilized juice, you get a sweet Sherry. Thus, Sherry can be sweet or dry, while Port is always sweet. Madeira is a fortified Portuguese wine made in the Madeira Islands, using the port wine approach. Madeira is noted for its unique winemaking process which involves heating the wine up to temperatures as high as 60 °C (140 °F) for an extended period of time. Furthermore, Madeira is deliberately exposed to air, causing it to oxidize.

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 made their appearance on the international market from the 1970s, but it was not until the 1990s when a large number of wines made their appearance. Douro is classified as World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 2011.

Picture: Celeste Pereira fand Ana Primitivo from Greengrape at the Digital Wine Communication Conference in Rioja

Vinho Verde occupies a large zone of Northern Portugal, between Douro and the Atlantic coast. Its wines are known for its freshness.

October 19


Annette Schiller and arrived in Porto and walked around in the city. We then took the tram #1 to the beach (Foz Vehla, with its picturesque back streets, designer boutiques and impressive contemporary architecture) and had dinner there. Before going back to the hotel, we had a drink at the Majestic.

Porto was built along the hills overlooking the Douro river estuary, and its historical center was awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1996.

Pictures: In Porto

The city is quite varied architecturally, with medieval as well as modern living side by side. Porto's geography is hard on the feet, but pleasant to the eye, despite the incredible number of dilapidated buildings. Across the river from Porto proper is the City of Vila Nova de Gaia, where you could find the Port Wine Cellars, such as Cálem, Fonseca, Sandemans, and Kopke. The luxury Yeatman Hotel is also in Vila Nova de Gaia.

October 20

11h00 Food Tour of Porto

We did a 3.5 hours food tour through Porto with 6 stops. The guide Andre was an engaging and knowledgeable ambassador for Porto. His high energy tour was great fun. Each stop featured an interesting food experience - from pastries to sandwiches to coffee to wine. Mix in a little history, architecture and great views and photo opportunities and you have a tour that will remain a top highlight of your trip to Portugal.

Pictures: On the Taste Porto Tour with Andre Apolinario

Dinner at Bacalhau, Muro dos Bacalhoeiros 153 -155

Pictures: Dinner with Ryan and Gabriella Opaz (and the Baby)

October 21

12h00 Visit of and Lunch at the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP)

The Port and Douro Wines Institute is an official body belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture and is a key institution in promoting, regulating and controlling the industry.

Pictures: At the Instituto dos Vinhos do Douro e Porto (IVDP) with Manuel de Novaes Cabral, President

15h00 Visit of and Tasting at Calem Port Wine Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia

Tour of and tasting at one of the major port wine houses in Portugal.

Pictures: At Calem


Port is produced exclusively in the Douro Valley. Port’s wine style was 'invented' by the British wine merchants for the British market in the 1600-1700s. They added brandy to the still wine to help preserve it on its trip by sea from Portugal to the British market. Typically, grapes are picked with about 13.5% - 14% potential alcohol and then fermented to about 7%, when brandy is added. This brings the fermentation to a halt, while retaining between 80 to 110 g/l of natural sugar in the wine.

Port is divided into different styles, according to different categories: Made from white or from red grapes; aged or not aged; if aged, aged in wood or aged in bottle.

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.

Barrel matured Ports Wines 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.

Ruby Port is the basic red Port wine, a blend of several harvests that have been aged in wooden barrels for up to 3 years before being bottled, and ready to drink on release.

Tawny Port is a basic blended Port, like Ruby, which is given more ageing in the barrel before being bottled. The extra ageing, which can be anything from 3 to 40 years, causes the wine to take on a red-brown color and develops a dry nutty flavor with raisin overtones. The stated age - usually 10, 20 or 40 years - is always the average age of the different components. The 10 and 20 year wines provide the best value and deliver the mellow elegance and complex fragrant bouquet so prized by port lovers. The Portuguese consider the 20 year Tawny the ultimate expression of the port making art.

Vintage Port is the most famous of all Port categories. See below.

Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port is wine from a single specific harvest, the year being stated on the label, which has been aged in the barrel for between 4 and 6 years. These are high quality ports from a single year that are not quite up to 'Vintage' standards. The best are not filtered and are capable of aging.

Single Quinta Port is Port made from a specific Quinta. Single Quinta Vintage Port is Port coming from a specific Quinta and made from a single specific harvest.

Colheita is essentially a Tawny Port but made from a single specific harvest, unlike the Tawny which is a blend of several different years. The year of harvest will be stated on the label along with the year of bottling and a statement that the wine has been given extended ageing in wood. Colheitas are aged in the barrel for a minimum of seven years.

Garrafeira - These 'reserve' ports have a long tradition but are rare today. They are from a single vintage, aged a short time in cask and then aged in 5-10 liter glass demijohns for 20, 30 or 40 years from which they are decanted into 750 ml. bottles.

White Ports - Made from white grapes, mostly Malvasia. Usually served chilled as an aperitif, often with a twist of citrus fruit and/or a splash of tonic. A few see some wood aging.

17h30 Train Trip to Quinta de Covela (Baião, Vinhos Verdes Region)

Dating from the 1500s, the ruins of the Casa de Covela bear witness to the centuries-old agricultural and cultural importance of the estate. After a period of neglect, Quinta de Covela was purchased in 2011 and brought back to life by two impassioned wine lovers, one from Brazil and one from England. The latter, Tony Smith, was there and orchestrated our visit.

Mindful of the prestige the Covela wines enjoyed for years among connoisseurs, the partners decided to rebuild the estate’s old team, starting with enologist Rui Cunha, who had been involved in the original Covela project since 1992 and was head winemaker from 1998 onward.

Pixtures: Leaving Porto (at the Railway Station)

20h30 Wine tasting and dinner at Quinta de Covela

We started with a wine tasting in the cellar.

Pictures: Cellar Tasting at  Quinta de Covela with Winemaker Rui Cunha and Co-owner Tony Smith

We then had a wonderful dinner with Tony Smith and Rui Cunha, with more wine tasting.

Pictures: Dinner at Quinta de Covela

Night at Quinta de Covela

In addition to the estate's main house and winery, redesigned and extended by the director in the 1950s, Covela today also has three contemporary villas whose geometric lines are the work of José Paulo dos Santos, one of Portugal's most admired contemporary architects. With their stylish interiors, the villas offer sensational views over the vineyards and the Douro valley.

Pictures: Morning View from Quinta de Covela

October 22

10h30 Visit of the Douro Museum

12h30 Vintage Port (2011) Tasting with 4 Port Producers at Quinta da Boavista

Vintage Port: The product of a single harvest, the wine is aged in barrel for between 2 and 3 years and is bottled un-filtered, and needs to be laid down for a considerable number of years so that it can age in bottle. After ageing in bottle Vintage Port develops into a very big wine. Because they are aged in barrels for only a short time, they retain their dark ruby color and fresh fruit flavors. Vintage Port is only made when the harvest is exceptional - about 3 times a decade. While it is by far the most renowned type of port, vintage port actually makes up only a small percentage of production.

We tasted 4 vintage ports (2011).

Pictures: Vintage Port (2011) Tasting

Pocas Junior (Maria Manue Maja, winemaker)

Picture: Annette Schiller and Maria Manue Maja

Dona Matilde (Filipe Barros, owner)

Picture: Annette and Christian G.E. Schiller with Filipe Barros

Alves de Sousa (Tiago Alves de Sousa, and Domingos Alves de Sousa, both owners)

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Tiago Alves de Sousa, and Domingos Alves de Sousa

Quevedo (Oscar Quevedo, owner)

Picture: Annette and Christian G.E. Schiller with Oscar Quevedo

13h30 Lunch at Quinta da Boavista

We had a superb lunch with the 4 Port producers, in the cellar of Quinta da Boavista.

Pictures: Lunch at Quinta da Boavista

16h00 Boat Trip on the Douro River

Pictures: On the Douro River

18h00 Douro DOC Tasting at Casa Morgadio da Calcada (in Provezende) with Douro DOC Producers

In the early evening, we had a wonderful tasting of Douro DAC wines at  Casa Morgadio da Calcada

Pictures: Douro DOC Tasting at Casa Morgadio da Calcada (in Provezende) with Douro DOC Producers

20h00 Dinner at Casa Morgadio da Calcada

Following the tasting, we moved to the dining room of Casa Morgadio da Calcada and had a wonderful dinner there.

Pictures: Dinner at Casa Morgadio da Calcada

Night at a Charming Guest House, Casa de Vilarinho de S. Romao

Pictures: At Casa de Vilarinho de S. Romao

October 23

11h00 Departure towards the Upper Douro Region

11h30 Visit of Coa Rock Art Museum

13h00 Tour of Quinta da Leda

Owned by Sogrape - the biggest Portuguese producer – Quinta da Leda belongs to Casa Ferreirinha, the winery with the greatest historical weight in the Douro, as well as being one of the most dynamic.

Pictures: At Quinta da Leda

14h00 Lunch at Quinta da Leda with Star Winemaker Luis Sottomayor

We had a memorable lunch, right in the middle of the wine cellar of Quinta da Leda, with the fermentation tanks hanging over us.

Luis Sottomayor entered the Sogrape winemaker team in 1989. Today, he heads the Œnology team for Casa Ferreirinha and all Sogrape Port Wine brands, a responsibility he assumed in January 2003.

Pictures: Lunch at Quinta da Leda

16h30 Off to DWCC in Rioja (Spain)

Picture: Good-bye

Lothar Matthaeus

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller with Lothar Matthaeus at Frankfurt am Main Airport, before flying to Porto

schiller-wine: Related Posting

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

Meeting Rupert Symington from the Symington Family - One of the Oldest Families of Port Producers

The 2013 Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC) in Logroño, Rioja, Spain 

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