Harry Crowther concludes his Postcard from the Douro series with tales of family focused wineries and his top picks for Douro wines...
A family Affair
Once you’re over the hill and all the grapes are in and pressed, the mood seems to relax a little around the Douro. There are still a few rackings and lots of barreling down to do, but the brunt of the work definitely feels like it's behind you.
If you have been keeping track of these updates, you will notice that I said you do everything here in the smaller, more family focused wineries… I lied. This year I also caught Pedro’s family harvest – Branco Family Wines –further up the valley in the small town of Alijó. Alijó is gorgeous. It’s a few hundred meters higher than where I have been working, and it sits just next to the town of Favaios, the home of Moscatel do Douro.
Being slightly higher altitude the harvest falls a little later in this cool sub-region giving us a chance to finish up at Foz.
The Branco Family Harvest
As a family, the Brancos only make around a few thousand bottles over a range of styles. From clean and crisp whites, to oaky, richer tipples. Naturally, they also make traditional, full-bodied reds. One parcel in particular is fermented in (500L) Portuguese oak – and I can't wait to come back and try that one out!
Super Bocks were stocked and the BBQ was going. Friends and family alike got to work processing the grapes, before the obligatory ‘stomp’.
A couple of gems
I could hardly write about my time here in the Douro Valley without mentioning one or two wines that I have had the pleasure of trying along the way. In all honesty there are far too many to write about. Here is a couple I was particularly fond of:
Quinta de Valbom, 2013, Reserva
From vineyards closer to the coast, Valbom is a project headed up by the dynamic team from Herdade dos Grous in the Alentejo. A cool and fresh expression of the Douro’s indigenous varieties. I tasted this wine at a BBQ alongside a host of others. What really stood out was its zippy acidity that oozed my palate. In a lunch tasting dominated by blockbuster big reds, this was a welcomed lift! The nose wasn’t too shabby either, candied, sweet black fruit and tobacco dominant.
Quinta da Foz, 2014, Branco
A barrel ferment from Pedro’s oldest white vines. There are around five key grapes that make up this blend, could be more, but the ones we do know are, Gouveio, Arinto, Malvasia Fina, Rebigato and Viosinho. The oldest vineyards of the estate are mostly made up of red grapes. However here and there you will find the odd white vine nestled within the sea of indigenous red varietals. These 80-year-old vines are what make up this wine.
After the barrel ferment, the wine is then racked to new French oak for a year, before a years ageing in bottle. The nose is packed with rich, buttery notes that mask classic spiced apple and white floral notes of the Douro. The palate has been kept fresh, with no malolactic. Lingering acidity from a slightly cooler year in the Douro works well with a very long, fruit driven finish. Fabulous wine.
Back to the smoke
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end as they say. Until my next trip to the Douro, its time for me to take the stunning train route, back, from Pinhão to Porto, find a room in a hostel for the night (close to a wine bar) and board a flight back to London.
Fingers crossed we can start to see a little more of these Portuguese beauties on wine lists, in wine bars and in wine shops.
I for one will be championing Douro wine beyond the realms of port – don’t get me wrong, I love port – but we all need a little bit more Douro in our lives… and Super Bock.
Follow Harry's blog Grape Times for more on his Douro journey.