Wine column for week of 3 March 2014

We return this week to Quinta da Romaneira in Portugal’s Douro region. The estate has traditionally made magnificent ports. But in recent years Romaneira has created outstanding dry wines from local grape varieties used for port, and this has become known as the “Douro revolution”.

Quinta is the Portuguese word for vineyard. Romaneira has about 85 hectares of vines, mostly planted with the noble Douro red varieties of touriga nacional, touriga franca, tinta roriz and tinto cão.

Those 85 hectares include about five hectares of the white grapes gouveio, malvasia fina and viosinho. These are grown at the top of the terraces to benefit from the cooling effects of altitude. Summer temperatures in the Douro can reach the mid 40sC.

The Quinta da Romaneira branco (white) has long been one of my favourite Portuguese whites. The 2012 vintage, a blend of 60 per cent malvasia fina with the balance gouveio, has fresh acidity and a range of citrus flavours at the grapefruit end of the spectrum. This wine has a fine mineral backbone with a great sense of proportion and roundness in the mouth. It is a perfect companion for dumplings or a spicy chicken dish.

Grapes were pressed as whole bunches. The malvasia fina was fermented entirely in old oak barrels while the gouveio was cold fermented in stainless steel to retain the fresh fruity aromas. The wine was bottled in March 2013.

This is a wine designed to drink soon, but it has the potential to age for several years. If you find this wine grab some because it sells out quickly. I had to work hard to locate some to taste. For me it is one of the best Portuguese whites.

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.

The 2009 Quinta da Romaneira reserve is intended as the estate’s flagship, to be the best of the best. It is a blend of 60 per cent touriga nacional with the balance touriga franca. The 2008, which won numerous awards, consisted of 50 per cent touriga nacional with 40 per cent touriga franca and the rest tinto cão.

The 2009, like the 2008, offers a sense of harmony and balance that characterises a great wine. The 2009 is almost black, such is the intense concentration of fruit. This is a profound wine, with a floral nose offering hints spice, yet it is both voluptuous and powerful.

This opulent wine has great finesse. It is drinking beautifully now but would be magnificent in at least a decade. The key is being patient enough to wait.

The reserva comes from vines a quarter century old, which means they are reaching their peak and producing excellent fruit.

Some people might be interested in reading my thoughts in a previous column about this wine, with its concentrated 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.” A tasting after some of the wine had been left in the bottle for three days was a revelation. The flavours were wonderful — ethereal and mouthwatering. A great wine.

Readers in Asia should serve this wine at about 16C. In a hot climate, even in air conditioning, any great wine loses its charm if it gets too warm in the glass.

The 2011 Romaneira vintage port completed a trilogy of delights. It is fascinating to think that the same grapes can produce an entirely different sensation in one’s mouth.

It will be interesting to see how 2011 evolves as a port, but this vintage has everything going for it. A seductive port with intense flavours of cherry and currants with a touch of mocha, delivered on a backbone of silky tannins. Wine Spectator magazine gave it 95 points out of 100.

Words: 671

Categories: Not home, wine

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