Category: Red Wine

#HOTGV: On Château Angélus with Stephanie de Bouard

About a year and half ago, I went to Bordeaux for the first time. On a sunny afternoon in June we cycled through Saint Emillion and stopped at this really grand, palatial building to catch our breath.
That was Château Angélus.

Chateau Angelus, photo by Deepix

I can’t remember what time it was but the bells rang, reverberating through the air and over the lush green vines. With the sun just so over its sandy coloured walls, it was sort of magical.

Anyway, long story short, I tasted a small selection of their wines for the first time last month over lunch at Hélène Darroze at The Connaught – the Carillon d’Angelus 2012, Château Angelus 2008 and Château Angelus 2006.

Chateau Angelus wines

Basically, they were stunning. But then you wouldn’t expect anything less for more than £100 a bottle (well except for the Carillon, which is currently retailing at about £50).

My favourite was the 2008 – soft tannins, fruity and a bit of development already. Essentially, because it’s ready to drink right now and it’s stunning.

As well as enjoying some of their wines, the estate also launched their new book. Written by Jane Anson, the photo-heavy book traces the history and the family behind the estate.

Later, I sat down with Stephanie de Bouard for the eleventh episode of Heard on the Grape Vine.

Stephanie de Bouard, photo by Deepix

Stephanie is the eighth generation of the family to run the Premier Cru Classé estate and hasn’t been shy about making changes.

Join us now as we explore a little of what Château Angélus is all about.

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Amateur Wine » HOTGV Podcast

Additional photos and videos c/o Château Angélus and Deepix.

Four of the best Loire Stars at D&D Wine

Last month I attended a tasting at D&D London’s New Street Wine Shop, the theme of which was Loire Stars – the hidden gems and unsung heroes from the Loire Valley.

My previous encounter with the Loire was centred around Chenin Blanc, which was showcased in dry white and sweet wines. I liked it, a lot. But the Loire also produces fascinating wines from a number of other well-known grape varieties like Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Melon de Bourgogne; all of which I am comparatively less familiar with.

I tasted 13 wines altogether, ranging from sparkling to sweet (I skipped the rosé). The diversity between the wines is immense. But then for a region so widespread, you wouldn’t expect anything else. And just as equally, you wouldn’t expect to like everything.

Out of those 13, there were in fact only four that I really enjoyed. They’re all available at New Street Wine Shop but I will also bracket other places where you can buy them.

Philippe Foreau Clos Naudin Vouvray NV Although there were alternative in the sparkling line up, with a younger, fresher feel, the sparkling Philippe Foreau Clos Naudin Vouvray NV was the first to catch my eye. It was rich in flavour with a blended flavour of toast and apple that was bolstered with incredible acidity. It also had smooth bubbles and was nicely balanced. I felt it was very comparable to Champagne, which is made in the same method. £19.65 Also available from Gauntleys.
Domaine des Roches Neuves Terre Chaudes Saumur Champigny 2013 The whites flew by and the first red to get my attention was Domaine des Roches Neuves Terre Chaudes Saumur Champigny 2013. Having been to the estate before, I felt like I had a vested interest in liking the wine. But I didn’t. At least not at first. As I tasted the wine though, I got more and more notes out of it and, well, I had to say it was pretty good. It starts with a sort of concrete hardness that melts into gentle tanning and a dark, brooding herbaceousness. It had great food potential as it is but then the long finish of residual fruit, red currant and black pepper really brought it together. £19.80 Also available at Excel Wines.
Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon 2013 In startling contrast to the Saumur Champigny, Domaine de la Noblaie Chinon 2013 was extremely open and friendly. It was rich and fruit-forward as well as being rounded and vibrant. It was simple and easy drinking – and you can’t fault it for that. £11.50 Also available at Haynes Hanson & Clark.
Philippe Delesvaux Selection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon 2011 As a lover of sweet wines, I was of course pleased to find a good one in the Philippe Delesvaux Selection de Grains Nobles Coteaux du Layon 2011. It’s perhaps on the young side but its lush, fragrant nose is very appealing right now. The rich and complex blend of apricots finds a nice back bone in the balance of the sugar and acidity. Not too intense but thoroughly enjoyable. £18.60 (half-bottle) Also available at Fine + Rare Wines

Incidentally there’s still a few more days of the D&D Loire Stars Festival, which concludes later this month. There’s a few expert led tastings, some matched with food. You’ll be able to find more details here: www.danddwine.com/campaigns-and-partnerships/loirestars/


Amateur Wine was a guest of Loire Valley Wines and D&D London. For more information on what that means, see our Editorial Policy.

A taste from New Zealand’s Marisco Vineyards

My first taste of the 2015 vintage came from Marlborough, New Zealand, from the Marisco Vineyards. I tasted through part of the Marisco portfolio at The Merchant’s Tavern with owner and winemaker Brent Marris.

Wines at the Marisco tasting at The Merchant's Tavern

Wines at the Marisco tasting at The Merchant’s Tavern

Having tasted through a whole bunch of mostly okay, occasionally mediocre, 2014 vintages from other parts of the world this year, the 2015 from Marisco made a refreshing change. It should come as no surprise really – Marris has been in wine all his life.

Brent’s father, John Marris, had been one of the first contract grape growers for Montana (now Brancott Estate) in Marlborough. Following in his father’s footsteps, Brent went on to study oenology and made wines at Oyster Bay before creating Wither Hills. In 2003, on the 300 or so hectares of land on the banks of the Waihopai River, Marris established Marisco vineyards. Wine must run in the blood as his eldest daughter is also studying oenology with a view of joining the family business in the future.

But back to the wines. We tasted through 14 dry wines before dinner and three sweet wines with dessert from The Ned, The King’s Series and the Craft Series. There was also a Hartley’s Block Sauvignon Blanc. For ease, I’ve divided the tasting notes into their respective brands, followed by the sweet wines, rather than in the order tasted. There are a lot of notes and some stories too so brace yourself and read on.

Marisco brands

Marisco brands – yes, I’ve started scribbling on the page before taking this photo

The Ned

The Ned, named after the mountain which overlooks the Marlborough region, was the first wine brand created at Marisco vineyards. Marris wanted to make the stripped-back style of Sauvignon Blanc that first made Marlborough famous. And in the beginning, he worked exclusively with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

We started with The Ned Pinot Noir Rosé 2015, a tank sample which will be bottled in July. It’s apparently Marris’ first attempt at rosé at Marisco and it’s made with Pinot Noir grapes grown specifically for this wine. It’s a very dry style, and at times a little hot on the palate, with vanilla and red fruit notes. It offered nice structure though and was generally quite elegant.

The Ned Pinot Grigio 2014 (sold as Pinot Gris in New Zealand) had a sort of onion-skin blush to its hue, which was apparently achieved purely through viticulture. It was a light, crisp and delicate wine with lychee notes coming through. I also tried a tank sample of The Ned Pinot Grigio 2015, which, with its slightly pinker hue, was much fresher with a crisp apple nose and a citrusy profile.

The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2014 had a sharp peppery nose and hints of tomato vine on the palate. There was nice acidity but also a certain roundness to the wine. The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2015 had a slight foxiness about it before opening up to jalapeño peppers and a much more mineral-based palate.

The first red wine came in the form of The Ned Pinot Noir 2013, a cool-climate style Pinot Noir with a slightly spicy palate. There was a delicateness about it with notes of strawberry and vanilla over the gentle tannins. It’s a very likeable wine and I preferred it over the 2014 vintage. The Ned Pinot Noir 2014 was hotter on the palate with more tannins coming through. The fruit felt riper though and with great intensity, finishing with a slight hint of vanilla on the long finish.

Hartley’s Block

The Hartley’s Block Sauvignon Blanc 2014 came in the middle of the tasting and was the only wine from the brand. It was quite rounded for a Sauvignon Blanc (in contrast to the occasional sharp acidity) with a light, peppery palate and delicate nose.

The King’s Series

The King’s Series is a celebration of the Marris family name in the 12th and 13th century – De Marisco. Initially the family was in favour with the king but later, over the generations and as a result of piracy, they became a thorn in the king’s side. These were different kings obviously. Each of the wines in The King’s Series plays on this history of the Marris family – although it doesn’t literally translate into the style of the wine. Or does it?

The first wine we tried in The King’s Series was The King’s Thorn 2013, a lychee-rich wine with a short finish and perhaps in need of a little more acidity. The King’s Favour 2013 came next. It had distinct farmyardy notes with a very delicate palate, lots of minerality and notes of apple and lime. I’m not sure if it was because of the name but I really liked this one. The King’s Legacy Chardonnay 2012 (sold in the USA as The King’s Bastard) was a very light, citrusy Chardonnay, fermented and aged on the lees (with the yeast) in barrel.

On to the red wines we tried The King’s Wrath 2013. It was a herbaceous red wine with more prominent oak notes coming through and slight hint of development.

Craft Series

The Craft Series is the latest brand to join the Marisco portfolio, having launched last year, and is a more artisan selection. They were made on the principle that certain vines were showing exceptional characteristics which Marris wanted to capture. The result is a collection that’s intended to be for people who are really into their wines, know their stuff and isn’t afraid to try something new and interesting. I hope we’ll see these in the UK soon but they’re not widely available yet.

The wines came towards the end of the tasting starting with Brent’s favourite, The Craft Series Sauvignon Blanc Pride & Glory 2011. Like The King’s Favour 2013, this wine had the same farmyardy notes with apple, citrus, a hint of pepper but finished with a little lychee. It worked really well with the sea bream ceviche I ordered, which was surprisingly spicy, so I think it will comfortably work with other spicy dishes too.

The other white wine that I really liked was The Craft Series Viognier The Exemplar 2012. It was quite unusual for a Viognier in that it lacked the signature floral character of the grape variety. Instead, I got notes of sweetcorn and asparagus thanks to the barrel fermentation. It was quite a bold palate and maybe takes some getting used to – but I think that’s one of the reasons why I liked it.

The Craft Series Pinot Noir The Journey 2013 was restrained and elegant with a herbaceous character, black pepper and lots of tannin. It feels too young to drink right now but there’s potential. The 2014 vintage will apparently be divided into a feminine and a masculine wine as the parcels are so polarising.

The sweet wines

Marisco sweet wines with lemon tart and basil ice cream

Marisco sweet wines with lemon tart and basil ice cream

I’ve actually tried sweet wines from both The Ned and The King’s Series without ever realising that they’re from the same winemaker. Tasting them side by side, the difference is even more obvious.

The Ned Noble 2013 had a slight petrol note with highlights of citrus peel, tangerine and a floral quality. There was nice intensity and good acidity.

From The King’s Series, it was two vintages of A Sticky End. A Sticky End 2012 was more earthy while A Sticky End 2013 was much cleaner on the nose. Both, I felt, needed more acidity and, next to The Ned, didn’t show as well as they could have.

Ramos Pinto, Vila Nova de Gaia

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

Ramos Pinto was one of the last port houses to be established in Vila Nova de Gaia. The original owner, Adriano Ramos Pinto, was clearly a visionary from the beginning.

Entrance, Ramos Pinto, Oporto

While most of the port houses at the time shipped to England, Pinto targeted Brazil from the start. With this liberal market came the romanticised, almost cinematic, posters and, at times, slightly racy advertising campaigns, which did wonders to promote the Ramos Pinto brand. It became an instant success. These days, the port house’s colourful history can be garnered from the lively museum and cellars on Vila Nova de Gaia.

In terms of wines and ports, Ramos Pinto produces a sizeable selection. For ports, mixing into cocktails seem to be highly encouraged though we didn’t try any. Instead, we tasted a selection of their wines and ports unadultered.

Tasting bench, Ramos Pinto, Oporto

Duas Quintas Reserva Branco 2011, a foot-tread white wine, was very savoury with lots of citrus and a little smokiness. The Duas Quintas Reserva Especial Tinto 2007 had a truffled tinge to its leafy tannins and fruit.

Moving on to the port, we started with a white port, the Adriano White Reserva, which was fairly heavy though simple in its style. It would have been great on top a rum and raisin ice cream.

On the vintage front, the RP Late Bottled Vintage 2009, an unfiltered port, was woody with violet and prune notes. The Quinta de Ervamoira Porto Vintage 2007, a single Quinta port, was rich in its chocolate notes though still youthful.

We also tried three tawny ports. The 10 year old RP10 Quinta de Ervamoira had rich caramel and raisin notes but lacked a little acidity. The 20 year old RP20 Quinta do Bom Retiro is slightly more floral with a long, nutty finish. The 30 year old RP30, made with wines from a blend of estates, had an oloroso sherry character in its nuttiness alongside caramel and dried fruit notes.

Inside the Ramos Pinto museum at Vila Nova de Gaia

www.ramospinto.pt

Tricolour: wines from Côteaux du Giennois

I mentioned briefly in the post about wine and technology that there would be a vlog coming up… Well, you didn’t have to wait too long for that because here it is:

Côteaux du Giennois

For this first vlog, I tasted a trio of wines from the French wine region of Côteaux du Giennois.

Coteaux du Giennoise wines

Côteaux du Giennois is right in the middle of France, quite close to Sancerre, and lies between the towns of Gien and Cosne sur Loire by the Loire River. As an appellation, it’s relatively new, AOC since 1998, but grape pips have been found in archaeological digs in Cosne sur Loire which suggests that wine has been made there since the 2nd century.

As in other parts of the Loire Valley, the soil in the area is a mix of flint and limestone which suggests good potential for the white wines. These are made from Sauvignon Blanc. They also make rosé and red wines from Pinot Noir, Gamay or a blend of the two.

Anyway, here are the tasting notes for the three wines:

Domaine de Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc Coteaux du Giennois 2012 Domaine de Villargeau Sauvignon Blanc Côteaux du Giennois 2012. A medium bodied wine with intense nose of lychee, pear, apple and citrus. Some stony minerality. A little floral note too. Don’t serve this too cold as acidity will prevail. To have with a creamy seafood dish. RRP£9.99 available from Marks & Spencer.
 Les Aupières Coteaux du Giennois Rose 2013 Les Aupières Rosé Côteaux du Giennois 2013. Light red berry nose with a little hawthorne, perhaps even rose. Slight bitterness at the end. A delicate red-style rosé wine. Enjoy with a chicken and pomegranate salad or something similarly light from the Middle East. RRP£10.99 available from Laithwaites.
 Clement et Florian Berthier Rouge Coteaux du Giennois 2012 Clement et Florian Berthier Rouge Côteaux du Giennois 2012. A little vanilla coming through followed by strawberries. Overpowering farm-yardy aromas. Not one for me. RRP£12.99 available from Laithwaites.

Côtes du Rhône Google Hangout: When wine goes high tech

For a drink that’s been much the same for thousands of years, wine, or at least how it’s consumed, has become increasingly high tech in the last few years.

For instance, this website lives entirely in the digital age. As well as numerous images, the recently launched Heard on the Grape Vine podcast makes sure that there’s a good multimedia mix. Amateur Wine is plugged into social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. And then there’s apps like Vivino

All of this digital talk can feel a bit lonesome (and no one wants to drink on their own), until a couple of weeks ago when I took part in my first Google Hangout with Côtes du Rhône wines.

The Hangout was hosted by Dr Jamie Goode, wine blogger turned wine journalist and fellow IWC wine judge, and as well as Amateur Wine, there were also eight other wine enthusiasts. Over the course of an hour and half, we tasted six red wines from the Côtes du Rhône appellation.

It was intended to be a mix of educational and fun, although we were relying on all our internet connections so there were times when it cut out and times when it was slow (You can watch an edited version of the video here.), but as a way of bringing wines to an audience, it was a very innovative approach. We had some great wines of course.

More than anything though, it showed that wine, as a sensory object, can be shared from just about anywhere. Which, in a round about way, leads me to think about vlogs. In the world of beauty and fashion, vlogs are incredibly popular so why not for wine?

Well, watch this space.

The Côtes du Rhône wines

Here’s the wines we tasted, in order, for the Côtes du Rhône Google Hangout (the tasting notes are mine from the night):

 Gabriel Meffre La Châsse Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2013 Gabriel Meffre La Châsse Reserve Côtes du Rhône 2013. A grenache dominant blend. Light and fruity. Strawberry forward with gentle oak. Simple but effective. RRP£6 available from Sainsbury’s.
 Delas Frères Sainte-Esprit Côtes du Rhône 2012 Delas Frères Sainte-Esprit Côtes du Rhône 2012. A little hot on the palate. A touch of funkiness with a sourness on the finish. Possible fault. Not very attractivec. RRP£9.99 available from Majestic.
 Domaine Chaume Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2012 Domaine Chaume Arnaud Côtes du Rhône 2012. Biodynamic. Lots of fruit, very fruit forward and expressive. Wine to drink with after-dinner conversation. RRP£12.25 available from Berry Brothers & Rudd.
 Le Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône 2012 Le Clos du Caillou Côtes du Rhône 2012. Noticeably more alcoholic though balanced considering high ABV. Dark fruits much more prominent. RRP£16.75 available from H2Vin.
 Domaine Georges Vernay Sainte-Agathe Côtes du Rhône 2012 Domaine Georges Vernay Sainte-Agathe Côtes du Rhône 2012. From Northern Rhône, a cooler climate wine. Rubber and maybe thyme notes. Almost minty with a touch of black pepper. Light cherry. Elegant. RRP£19.95 available from Berry Brothers & Rudd.
 Château de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet Red 2012 Château de Beaucastel Côtes du Rhône Coudoulet Red 2012. A lot of sweetness and fruit coming through. A hint of development with gentle tannins. Needs time to open up. RRP£16.63 available from The Little Big Wine company.

Quinta do Tedo, Folgosa

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

Quinta do Tedo rests on the converging point of the river Tedo and the river Douro; a picturesque little winery owned by Vincent Bouchard. Bouchard, some might recognise, as in Bouchard Pere et Fils in Burgundy.

Quinta do Tedo, Douro Valley

While the owner might be French, the winemaking is very much traditional. The grapes produced on the 14 hectare estate, entirely red and harvested with the help of horses, are foot trodden and fermented in the lagare before resting and being fortified in concrete tanks.

Wines, Quinta do Tedo, Douro Valley

We tried a small selection of their dry wines and ports starting with the Reserva 2010, a reserved wine with violet overtones, dull fruit, of blackcurrant and sour cherry, and grainy tannins. The Grande Reserva Savedra 2009 was comparatively warmer in its fruits, of cherry and black plum, with considerably more spice.

We also tried a small selection of their ports.

The Fine Tawny, with its hint of sugary caramel and boiled sweets, was a smooth drinking tipple with nice acidity. The Late Bottled Vintage 2007 was floral with intense notes of blackcurrant, prunes and grainy tannins.

On the vintage front, the Vintage 2003 had a relatively closed nose but showed a nice balance of sweetness and acidity as well as lots of prune and fig and a slight hint of rose. The final wine, a Vintage 2007, had a much more fruity nose, showing the same floral quality as well as prunes and a touch of mint tea leaf herbaceousness.

www.quintadotedo.com

Chianti Classico and Gran Selezione tastings 2014, Florence

This time last year I was in Florence for the launch of the new Chianti Classico classification, the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. It was part of the Anteprima di Toscana where several other appellations were also celebrated. As the wines are becoming more widely available, and indeed starting to be ready to drink (albeit only a small handful), I thought I would put down a few thoughts.

Black rooster, Chianti Classico tastings 2014

A short note on Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico is a Tuscan appellation situated within the wider region of Chianti. It’s worth clarifying that all Chianti Classico wines can also be classified as Chianti (though the former generally commands a higher price) but not all Chianti wines are Chianti Classico. There are also other Chianti sub-regions, falling under Colli Aretini, Colli Fiorentini, Colline Pisane, Colli Senesi, Montalbano, Montespertoli, and Rùfina, which are separate and distinct from Chianti Classico.

 

Until last year, there were two Chianti Classico appellations – Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva, both requiring at least 80% Sangiovese grapes and a maximum of 20% Canaiolo grapes in the final blend. It’s only since 1995 that 100% Sangiovese-based wines could be classed as Chianti Classico. And in the interest of quality, and style, Chianti Classico wines cannot be released until the 1st of October of the year following the harvest, while Chianti Classico Riserva must be aged for at least 24 months, including at least three months in bottle, prior to release.

The (newish) Gran Selezione

On 17th of February 2014, a new tier in the Chianti Classico appellation was announced – the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione.

Gran Selezione press conference, Chianti Classico tastings 2014

This new appellation builds on the Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Riserva appellations but with additional quality requirements. In particular, the grapes used for the wines must come from the estate and ageing must be at least 30 months, with three of those in bottle. In 2014, 34 wines were unveiled in Florence, some with availability of just a few hundred bottles and others with hundreds of thousands.

An even better Chianti Classico?

Needless to say, the wines unveiled at the launch last year came from some of the region’s best wineries though whether they are better wines for it is another question.

Unveiling Gran Selezione, Chianti Classico tastings 2014

At the time, a few of the producers I spoke to weren’t overly enthusiastic about the new appellation. Applying for Gran Selezione and marketing it would cost more money but the potential gains were yet to be seen. That said, many did welcome the additional recognition for quality and some of the producers were already making wines under the requirements prior to its introduction. Of course, you can be sure that the Gran Selezione will come with a higher price tag.

For consumers, there’s always the worry that, while trying to achieve a defined terroir style, the wines are being funnelled down the same route to produce basically the same wines. The result might be very “correct” wines but, potentially, ultimately uninteresting. Meanwhile, the results remains to be seen.

Comestible interlude at Chianti Classico tasting:

Quinta do Portal, Celeirós

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

The winery at Quinta do Portal is impressively large (it’s capable of producing some 1.2 million bottles of wine a year) considering that the estate itself is only around 15 hectares. But that’s because the family owned estate is also part of the group that owns Quinta do Confradeiro, Quinta dos Muros and Quinta da Abelheira. Between all those Quintas, the area under vine is more like 105 hectares.

Winery, Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley

The man in charge of creating all those wines is Paulo Coutinho, who has been at Quinta do Portal for more than 20 years. You get the sense that he is very self-assured as he claims to be able to make any wine that he wants to.

The considerable creative flexibility that he’s been afforded has allowed him to experiment with wines that you probably won’t find on many other estates in the Douro Valley like a sparkling rosé. That rosé, incidentally, was the Super Reserva Rosé Espumante do Douro 2008, which, while a little too tart on the palate, had a nice strawberry nose with a slightly savoury finish. It’s a one-off, however.

Moscatel is the other grape that Coutinho liked to play with. We tried a Moscatel Galego Branco 2013, a slightly tart and savoury wine that’s otherwise classic in the moscatel category. Quinta do Portal also had a Colheita rosé, the Colheita Douro Rosé 2013, which was fresh, aromatic and crisp with plenty of strawberry notes and a very dry finish.

The aforementioned three “fun wines” were what Coutinho later introduced into cocktails. In fact, he was one of the strongest advocates for wine cocktails that we met on the trip.

Wines, Quinta do Portal, Douro Valley

To more serious wines, we started with a Douro Branco 2006, a well rounded wine with notes of honey, melon, lychee and a fresh, creamy finish.

Switching to one of the few sweet wines (that’s not port) in the Douro Valley, we tried the Late Harvest 2009 – honeyed nose, white fruits and a hint of Botrytis on the finish. A second sweet wine, which we tried later, was the Moscatel do Douro Reserva 2004, a floral but nutty and raisined wine that’s slightly oxidised.

With the reds, we started with a Grande Reserva 2007, a fresh, violet-forward wine that’s backed with blackcurrant and a little taste of iron. The still-evolving Touriga Nacional 2001 had a hint of mushroom and leathery overtones though there was still plenty of fruit.

Finally, finishing with a small round of port, we started with a 20 year old tawny. It felt a little one-dimensional but had good acidity to counter the sweetness. The 1999 vintage port, meanwhile, had developed with mushroom notes, a hint of chocolate and a smoky savouriness.

www.quintadoportal.com

Quinta de São José, Ervedosa do Douro

This is a post in the Spotlight on: Oporto and the Douro Valley series

Barrels, Quinta de Sao José, Douro Valley

Quinta de São José, a small, family run estate of just 10 hectares, lies in the heart of the Douro Valley, a short boat ride up from Pinhão. Although accessible by road, it’s much easier to get to the Quinta from the river.

Most of the wines produced at the estate are dry Douro wines but there’s also a small amount of port produced owing to the family heritage – João Brito e Cunha, owner and winemaker, is a direct descendant of Dona Antónia Ferreira, the doyenne of port.

While winemaking is the core business, they’re also beginning to develop a tourism aspect with vineyard tours and accommodation. At the top of the hill, where they do all the lab work, the view across the valley is truly spectacular.

We tasted through the small selection of wines (in a good year, they would make four reds, including reserves, two whites and one port) starting with the Flor de S José Branco 2013. It opened with a slight sulphur to the nose but had a light and refreshing palate of pear and citrus.

It’s relatively rare for a Quinta to produce a single varietal wine in the Douro Valley but S. José had a Touriga Nacional 2011. It’s the first vintage of this wine and is a vibrant red, tinged with purple, showing a smoky, cedar top note followed by cherry, blackberry, rose and a little vanilla on the finish. That vanilla was also obvious in their Reserva Douro Tinto 2011 which showed blackberry and herbaceousness of tomato vines, though it was also ripe with violet and rose.

We also tasted their vintage ports starting with the Single Quinta Vintage 2009, a fruity, approachable port, rich with cherry and obvious residual sweetness. The younger Single Quinta Vintage 2012, a tank sample, was fruity but still closed and a little woody with a much drier finish.

www.quintasjose.com

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