It’s been three years since we were last able to visit the Douro, but finally this spring we caught up with many of our favourite producers. Like Tanners, winemakers were keen to re-engage and with an infectious enthusiasm, talk us through their latest release of reds and their increasingly exciting range of white wines. Offering wines of value and prestige in equal measure, the Douro continues to provide something for everyone!
The Big Picture
After such a hiatus, it’s worth us stepping back and reminding ourselves a little of what makes the Douro such a unique wine growing region. Ranging from the classic, steep, terraced, western vineyards of the Baixo Corgoand central Cima Corgo to the higher altitude, northern vineyards of the Douro Superior, this ancient wine region is recognised for its outstanding natural beauty and historic association with viticulture. The region is increasingly a ‘must see’ for wine tourists, keen to take in the wonderful scenery and sample the multitude of native grape varieties which go into the production of its still and fortified wines.
Whilst the landscape is spectacular to view, the same environment makes it a very challenging region in which to produce wine. Its scarily steep slopes, loose schist and slate soils make mechanized harvesting an impossibility. As a result, there is a huge reliance on labour to prune and hand-harvest vines whilst also maintaining the emblematic stone wall terraces. Given the region can experience summer temperatures of over 40°C, this can be back-breaking, punishing work. Add into the mix the unique complications brought on by social distancing restrictions during the relatively recent pandemic 2020 vintage, it’s a tribute to the perseverance and hard work of the producers and their teams that harvesting and bottling took place at all.
Spanning three vintages – 2019, 2020 and 2021 – this offer comprises a specially selected range of wines sourced from trusted producers, and a new find (Colinas do Douro), showcasing the Douro’s wealth of attractive wine styles.
The Douro has built up a reputation for providing sumptuous, fuller-bodied reds and producers did not disappoint. Serving up signature blue and black fruited, spice laden reds of impressive depth and ageing potential, these are quintessentially Douro. Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re all power and no finesse – the best offer up youthful acidity and charm which leave you returning for a top up! Colinas do Douro, are a stone’s throw away from the Spanish border, in the wild and rugged far southeast of the Douro demarcated region. The wines shone and so have made into our offer for the first time.
In addition to the reds, we are also offering a small number of whites. Vibrant, youthful and not short on complexity if you haven’t sampled a cool glass of Douro white yet, you’re missing out. Sourced from higher altitude vineyards, these are fresh and elegant, made from a heady blend of grapes, such as Rabigato, Viosinhoand Arinto.
2019 Little rain fell in the winter and spring, and as the temperature increased, the lack of rain persisted into the summer. However, the cooler than average summer and some late rains in August and September saved the day, allowing a sizeable yield and good levels of acidity and sugar.
2020 The wetter than average winter and spring turned out to be a blessing as the region experienced some of the highest ever recorded summer temperatures. Like 2019, some late August rainfall assisted bringing on the ripening whilst also saving the harvest from the worst effects of scorching. Despite the heat, Sandra Tavares of Wine & Soul felt, the ‘2020 has a fresh and vibrant quality of wild berries’. Overall, the resulting yield was small and the wines very concentrated, intense, and well-structured.
2021 Given the previous two vintages were notable for their extreme heat, the 2021 growing season was a little less intense. Despite some hail and thunderstorms, the harvest overall led Sandra to comment, ‘2021 is a beautiful vintage. The ripening season was soft giving us time to plan and wait’.