Quinta da Romaneira is one of the great historic vineyards of the Douro valley in northern Portugal. The property is probably the third largest in the region, with more than two kilometres of frontage onto the Douro river.
The Douro’s greatest wines tend to be made from grapes grown in sight either of the Douro river or its tributaries. All of Romaneira’s red grapes overlook the Douro river.
Romaneira has traditionally made magnificent ports, but in recent years the region has discovered that local grape varieties can also make outstanding dry wines. This has become known as the “Douro revolution”.
Quinta da Romaneira cultivates more than 85 hectares of vines, mostly planted with the noble Douro varieties of touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinta roriz and tinto cao, plus small areas of the white grapes gouveio, malvasia fina and viosinho. Quinta is the Portuguese word for vineyard.
Touriga nacional represents the bulk of the plantings at about 40 per cent of the total. The quinta is also experimenting with French varieties such as syrah and petit verdot.
A group of investors and the business group IDI bought the property in 2004. Management was entrusted to Christian Seely and Antonio Agrellos. Over the previous two decades they resurrected another great property, Quinta do Noval.
Seely used his experience managing Chateau Pichon Baron and Chateau Petit Village in Bordeaux to bring innovations to Romaneira. Agrellos was the consultant winemaker at Quinta do Noval. Together they produced a series of great vintage ports there in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.
The pair have since overseen a program of restoring old vines at Romaneira, with new vines planted to prepare for the future.
I had the chance to try two of their best reds, the 2010 Sino da Romaneira and the flagship 2009 Quinta da Romaneira.
The Sino da Romaneira is named after the bell that hangs in the entrance of the quinta’s main house. “Sino” is Portuguese for bell. An image of the bell in some form adorns most of the quinta’s labels.
The summer of 2010 was very hot and dry with no rain in July and August. Vines shut down because of the high temperatures, which retarded maturation, but rain in September brought the vines back to life.
The 2010 Sino is a blend of touriga nacional and touriga franca (25 per cent each), with 30 per cent tinta roriz and the rest tinto cão. I suspect the grapes came from young vines. It is a fine wine and very drinkable, offering a delicate sense of Douro terroir with soft tannins and a range of floral and spicy flavours.
The twin tourigas and tinta roriz provide those floral hints of rose petal and spices like black pepper, while the tinto cão gives the intensely dark colour.
Wine & Spirits magazine in the United States rated this wine 92 out of 100.
While Sino is a good wine, the 2009 Quinta da Romaneira is a great wine. It sings superbly of a range of ripe black fruits, especially blackberries, with hints of red fruits like redcurrants, encased in an elegant structure of silky and soft tannins. This is an opulent wine with great finesse. It was no accident that at a tasting with a colleague this was the wine that was finished first. Something remained in most other bottles but this one was soon emptied.
It is a blend of 60 per cent touriga nacional and 30 per cent touriga franca, with 5 per cent each of tinta roriz and tinto cão.
During my first encounter with this majestic wine I noticed liquorice flavours. I subsequently discovered that anis plants grow wild in the quinta.
The 2009 has received a range of rave reviews from prestigious magazines, including 93 out of 100 from Wine Enthusiast and 90 out of 100 from Wine Spectator.
My colleague and I also tried an unfiltered 2007 late-bottled vintage port. It is a classic blend of touriga nacional (40 per cent), touriga francesa (30 per cent), tinta roriz (20 per cent) and tinto cão (10 per cent).
The word elegant best describes this delicate port. It exudes a lovely balance of acidity and fruit, with a sense of freshness plus flavours of blackberries and red fruits with spice and sweet raisins.
In the Asian region Romaneira’s wines are sold in China, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and East Timor.
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