Great reds from Portugal’s Douro

In the world of wine, Portugal is best known for producing port. The best ports come from the north of the country, in the Douro region.

In recent years, Douro winemakers have started making table wine from the same grapes used to make port: touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinta roriz and sometimes tinta cao.

Quinta da Romaneira is one of the great historic vineyards (quinta is Portuguese for vineyard) of the Douro valley. It overlooks the majestic Douro river, in a natural amphitheatre, with magnificent terraced rows of vines.

Schistous rock is the basis of the unique terroir of the property and it imparts noticeable flavours to the wine.

Romaneira has experienced a renaissance since 2004. The partnership of Christian Seely and António Agrellos has been the main reason for the rebirth. Seely has been managing director since 2004, having been also managing director of Quinta do Noval since 1993. Noval is a neighbouring vineyard that also produces excellent wine.

Agrellos is the consultant winemaker at Romaneira. He has twice been named Portugal’s winemaker of the year and has been based at Noval since 1994, where he produced three wines that received the maximum 100 points out of 100 in wine awards.

Romaneira’s introductory wine is the Sino da Romaneira red. It is a blend of touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinta roriz and tinta cao. Sino is Portuguese for bell, and the wine is named after the bell that overlooks the entrance of the property.

The latest release is the 2009 vintage. All Romaneira reds I tried had soft tannins. This red appears meant for early consumption. It is easy to drink with pleasant blackberry aromas from ripe fruit.

The Quinta da Romaneira red is a major leap in quality from the Sino. The 2009 vintage, recently released, has gained a significant number of awards since Seely and Agrellos took over the property. The prestigious Wine Spectator magazine has given the wine at least 93 points out of 100 every year since 2004. In 2010 Decanter magazine gave the 2005 vintage a gold medal.

The 2009 vintage is a 50:50 blend of touriga nacional and touriga franca. It has intense colour, with an earthy nose and soft tannins. The black cherry colour is reflected in its flavours. The wine is well balanced with soft acidity that suggests it would repay a few years in the cellar.

The 2009 Quinta da Romaneira Reserva red is an even bigger leap in quality compared with the previously mentioned red. Quite simply, it is a superb wine. The previous vintage, the 2008, was named the best red wine in Portugal at the national wine show. It is one of the outstanding wines of the Douro valley.

The tasting notes on the vineyard’s web site describe the 2008 as the “supreme expression” of terroir. While the notes refer to the 2008 vintage they could also apply to the 2009. Again it is a blend of touriga nacional (50 per cent) and touriga franca (40 per cent) with a touch of tinto cao.

The wine comes from vines that are a quarter century old, which means those vines are at their peak. They produce excellent fruit with intense flavours of blackberry and cherry. The wine feels concentrated and harmonious, with superb balance and elegance – the mark of a great wine.

The tasting notes do not mention the type of oak but it would be safe to assume that only the best French has been used. This wine would be a joy to drink in two or three decades, as the flavours integrate. Yet it is also easy to drink now.

One small point to note: this wine needs to be served at about 16C. In a hot climate, even in air conditioning, this lovely wine loses its charm if it gets too warm in the glass.

Images of wines can be found at the web site:

Wines were tasted courtesy of Antonio Coelho, owner of Antonio’s restaurant in Macau. These wines are the highlights of an impressive wine list.

* Published in the China Post, 30 August 2012, page 10. Find a link here.

Categories: Not home, wine

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