Wines on the Wing 2019 Results are in!

Just a few months ago, I was judging at the 2019 Wines on the Wing international airline wine competition, one of the world’s most respected wine award competitions for first class and business class on international flights throughout the world.

This year it was held at City Winery, New York back, along with twenty-three wine professionals.

The process:

To participate in Global Traveler’s competition, airlines throughout the world that operate long-haul international first-class service and/ or business-class service are invited to submit two white wines, two red wines and one Champagne or other sparkling wine currently on their wine lists, as well as the wine lists themselves. The same rules apply to our North America category, which includes airlines with first-class and/or business-class service beginning and ending in North America. All wines are coded and divided into flights, or categories, according to their type. For example, all New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc submitted would be judged together, as would all Rioja. Wines are presented to judges in code-marked glasses. Judges are told only the type of wine and, when appropriate (vintage Champagne, for example), the year. If judges feel a wine is flawed, a reserve bottle is poured.

Each wine is judged on a modified Davis 20-point scale. The judges’ individual scores for each wine are added and averaged, and the averaged scores of an airline’s submissions are totaled. Individual wines with the highest scores and the airlines with the highest total scores win Wines on the Wing awards.

The organization committee, which is chaired by my friend and colleague, Eunice Fried, tallies up the scores. American Airlines received the highest score among first-class international service for 2019.

“This award is a direct reflection of the investments we’ve made in the premium customer experience, and American is honored to be recognized by Global Traveler,” said Janelle Anderson, vice president, Global Marketing, American Airlines. “Together with our master sommelier, Bobby Stuckey, we focus on designing a wine list that will give our guests something new while also providing them with wines from their favorite regions.”

To achieve this honor, Bobby Stuckey and Intervine, the airline’s wine management partner, taste more than 1,600 wines from 16 countries each year. In total, the airline opens 1,320,000 bottles annually on its first- and business-class international flights.

Among American’s highest-scoring first-class wines were Champagne, Bollinger La Grande Année 2008; the whites Joseph Drouhin Chassagne-Montrachet 2015 and Simonnet Febvre Les Clos Chablis 2014; and the reds RoseRock Pinot Noir 2015 by Drouhin Oregon, and Masi Riserva Costasera Amarone Classico 2012.

The highest-scoring airline among international business-class service entries was Etihad Airways. Its Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut tied for top place among business-class Champagnes, while its Château Moulin Haut-Laroque 2012 was the highest-scoring red wine in business class, and its Grosset Springvale Riesling 2016 finished among the highest-scoring business-class white wines.

“These prestigious awards give us the opportunity to showcase our innovative beverage portfolio,” said Linda Celestino, vice president, Guest Services and Delivery, Etihad. “Our boutique inflight cellar focuses on Old- and New-World wines with a range of both subtle and intense flavors, ensuring we offer wines to delight all palates.”

Singapore Airlines did remarkably well, with high-scoring wines in nearly every category. It ranked among the five top-scoring first-class airlines, while its Champagne and a white wine finished among the best in their categories. It is also one of the highest-scoring business-class airlines, its wines among the top Champagnes and red wines.

Our commitment to the traveler is at the forefront of our in-flight wine program, and it gives us great pride to be named one of the top five scoring airlines in Global Traveler’s airline wine competition,” said Betty Wong, divisional vice president, Inflight Services and Design, Singapore Airlines. “We want to keep the palates of our frequent flyers excited with a new label delivered on board every few months. Our wine consultants source small-batch wines, many previously unavailable in flight. We are particularly pleased to see the fine showing of our Meursault and Château Tour Haut-Caussan wines.”

Judges included:

CESAR BAEZA is an oenologist and a consultant for the wine industry. A native of Chile, he studied winemaking there and in France, Spain and California and worked at several wineries. For 20 years he was wine master and co-owner of Brotherhood Winery in New York.

JOHN BRECHER is senior editor of Grape Collective. He and his wife, Dorothy Gaiter, were wine columnists at The Wall Street Journal from 1998 to 2010 and are also the authors of four books on wine.

J. SCOTT CARNEY, MS, is the dean of wine studies at the International Culinary Center. The center has schools in New York City and in Silicon Valley, California.

BETH COTENOFF, DWS, a senior vice president at R/West, has 20 years’ experience in wine and spirits. She worked in Paris and with Sopexa/Food & Wines from France. She earned the WSET diploma in Wine & Spirits and is a certified wine instructor.

JOHN FANNING is general manager of Hakkasan, New York. He has been wine director and/or general manager of other restaurants in New York including The Lambs Club, SD26, Accademia di Vino, Il Trulli, Beppe, Felidia, Coco Pazzo and Palio and in Rome, Bramante and San Michelle.

FRED FERRETTI is a wine and food writer whose articles have appeared in many national publications. Formerly a New York Times reporter, he was also a columnist for Gourmet magazine for many years.

XAVIER FLOURET is owner of Cognac One, LLC., a national wine importer and New York wine wholesaler. The company focuses on sustainable and organic privately owned wine estates throughout the world that specialize in the best expressions of terroir and wine appellations.

DAVID FRIESER, the fine wine purchaser at Park Avenue Liquor Shop in Manhattan, is a frequent wine lecturer and has been professionally involved with wine for more than 30 years.

DOROTHY J. GAITER is senior editor of Grape Collective. She and her husband, John Brecher, were wine columnists at The Wall Street Journal from 1998 to 2010 and are also the authors of four books on wine.

CURTIS GREEN is president and founder of TenFolk Enterprises, a wine education and marketing company created to broaden interest in wine among African Americans. He also publishes SlitelyChilled.com, the online magazine geared to the African- American wine drinker.

DAVID LECOMTE is chief winemaker at City Winery. A native of France’s Rhône Valley, he earned degrees in viticulture and winemaking in France and worked in French, American and Chinese wineries before making wine in the heart of Manhattan.

As president of the Wine and Spirits Program, HARRIET LEMBECK has taught consumers and wine trade personnel for 35 years. She is the author of the 6th and 7th editions of Grossman’s Guide to Wine, Beer and Spirits and is a contributor to Beverage Dynamics Magazine.

GILLES MARTIN serves as the winemaker and director of operations at Sparkling Pointe Winery on Long Island, New York, and as a consultant to many other Long Island wineries. French-born, he studied winemaking at Montpelier and has worked at Roederer Estate and Delas Frères.

DAVID MILLIGAN is president of David Milligan Selections, representing fine French producers. In the wine trade for more than 30 years, he began his training in England. He also served as president of Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines.

KATHERINE MOORE, FWS, is general manager of Union Square Wine & Spirits, a large retail shop in Manhattan.

President of her own company, Cornerstone Communications, MARSHA PALANCI has managed media relations emphasizing wine for 20 years. Previously she served as vice president for Schieffelin & Co., where she worked with Dom Pérignon, Moët & Chandon and Marqués de Riscal.

LIZ PALMER is the author of The Ultimate Guide to Champagne. She is also a wine journalist and global wine judge, founder of UPSocial Wine and Spirits Agency, President of Les Dames d’Escoffier Ontario, and on the board of FIJEV – Paris.

On the staff of Heights Chateau, a wine shop in Brooklyn Heights, for more than 20 years, JUDITH RUNDEL takes part in wine-buying decisions, coordinates the Wine of the Month Club and writes the shop’s website. She also conducts wine tastings and classes.

ARNO SCHMIDT has been the executive chef of New York’s Waldorf Astoria, The Plaza and other famous hotels. In that capacity, he has organized numerous wine and food events. Born in Austria, he has worked in hospitality since 1946.

BOB SHACK is owner and president of HB Wine Merchants/R. Shack Selections and of Clos Robert Winery in Sonoma, California. Formerly he served as vice president and manager of the Premiere Wine Merchants Division of Rémy Martin Amerique for 20 years.

WILLIAM SHORT is regional manager, New York, for Dreyfus Ashby & Co., a fine-wine importing company. At 36 years, he is the longest-tenured salesman in the company’s history. Before joining the wine field, he taught school for 10 years.

AYELE SOLOMON is the winemaker and a pioneer in honey wine at his company, Bee D’Vine, in California. As well as still honey wine, he recently released the world’s only sparkling honey wine.

PAMELA WITTMANN is the principal of Millisime, Ltd., her 17-year-old public relations and marketing firm specializing in helping foreign wineries enter the U.S. market. With degrees in oenology and in business, she has worked in wineries and wine sales.

Here is a list of the winning wines, which were recently announced:

TOP INTERNATIONAL FIRST-CLASS WINES ON THE WING
1. American Airlines
2. All Nippon Airways
3. Air France
4. Singapore Airlines
5. Etihad Airways

TOP INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS-CLASS WINES ON THE WING
1. Etihad Airways
2. United Airlines
3. Aeromexico
4. All Nippon Airways
5. Tie: Air Tahiti Nui
Singapore Airlines

TOP CHAMPAGNES INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS
1. Krug Grande Cuvée (Air France)
2. Bollinger La Grande Année 2008 (American Airlines)
3. Tie: Krug Brut 2004 (All Nippon Airways)
Krug Brut 2004 (Singapore Airlines)
4. Tie: Lanson Black Label Brut (Delta Air Lines)
Charles Heidsieck Brut 2006 (Etihad Airways)

TOP CHAMPAGNES INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS
1. Tie: Jacquart Brut Mosaïque (Aeromexico)
Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut (Etihad Airways)
2. Tie: Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve (Air Tahiti Nui)
Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve (Singapore Airlines)
3. Tie: Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut (Aeroflot)
Laurent-Perrier Brut (Air New Zealand)
4. Ayala 2009 (United Airlines)
5. Lanson Black Label Brut (Delta Air Lines)

TOP FIVE WHITE WINES INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS
1. Bouchard Père et Fils Meursault 2016 (Singapore Airlines)
2. Joseph Drouhin Chassagne- Montrachet 2015 (American Airlines)
3. Simonnet Febvre Les Clos Chablis 2014 (American Airlines)
4. Domaine Laroche Chablis 2014 (All Nippon Airways)
5. Domaine Verget Pouilly-Fuissé 2017 (All Nippon Airways)

TOP FIVE WHITE WINES INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS
1. Bouchard Père et Fils Mâcon 2016 (All Nippon Airways)
2. Grosset Springvale Riesling 2016, Australia (Etihad Airways)
3. Domaine Verget Mâcon-Villages 2016 (Air Tahiti-Nui)
4. Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 2017 (United Airlines)
5. Casa de Compostela Alvarinho 2017, Portugal (TAP Air Portugal)

TOP FIVE RED WINES INTERNATIONAL FIRST CLASS
1. Château Léoville-Barton 2012, Saint-Julien, Bordeaux (All Nippon Airways)
2. RoseRock Zéphirine Pinot Noir 2015, Drouhin Oregon, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon (American Airlines)
3. Château Giscours 2011, Margaux, Bordeaux (All Nippon Airways)
4. Château Lynch-Bages 2008, Pauillac, Bordeaux (Air France)
5. Masi Riserva Costasera Amarone Classico 2012 (American Airlines)

TOP FIVE RED WINES INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CLASS
1. Château Moulin Haut-Laroque 2012, Fronsac, Bordeaux (Etihad Airways)
2. Tie: Bramare Malbec 2013, Argentina (Etihad Airways)
Château Rauzan-Ségla 2006, Margaux, Bordeaux (Singapore Airlines)
3. Château Haut-Caussan 2015, Médoc, Bordeaux (Singapore Airlines)
4. Petit Castel 2017, Domaine du Castel, Israel (EL AL Israel Airlines)
5. Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Sonoma, California (Aeromexico)

BEST NORTH AMERICAN FIRST CLASS/ BUSINESS CLASS WINES ON THE WING
1. American Airlines
2. United Airlines
3. Aeromexico
4. Delta Air Lines

BEST NORTH AMERICAN CHAMPAGNE/SPARKLING WINE
1. Jacquart Brut Mosaïque (Aeromexico)
2. Ayala 2009 (United Airlines)
3. Mionetto Prosecco Brut (Delta Air Lines)
4. Lanson Black Label Brut (American Airlines)

BEST NORTH AMERICAN RED WINE
1. Battle Creek Cellars Pinot Noir Reserve 2017, Oregon (Alaska Airlines)
2. Château Villotte 2016, Bordeaux (United Airlines)
3. Antica Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Napa, California (Delta Air Lines)
4. Tie: Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Sonoma, California (Aeromexico)
Hall Merlot 2015, Napa, California (American Airlines)
5. RoseRock Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2015, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon (American Airlines)

BEST NORTH AMERICAN WHITE WINE
1. Joseph Drouhin Saint-Véran 2017, Mâcon, Burgundy (American Airlines)
2. Decoy Chardonnay 2017, Sonoma, California (Aeromexico)
3. Gravelly Ford Chardonnay 2017, California (United Airlines)
4. J. Hofstätter Pinot Bianco 2017, Alto Adige, Italy (American Airlines)
5. Rued Chardonnay 2018, Sonoma, California (Alaska Airlines)

BEST ALLIANCE WINES ON THE WING
1. oneworld
2. Star Alliance
3. SkyTeam

Chubut – Argentina’s New Emerging Wine Region

With just 65 hectares of vines, the emerging wine region of Chubut in Patagonia is Argentina’s most southerly region.

Patagonia encompasses over 50% of the total landmass of Argentina, which is 5% of its population. The area consists of four main wine-producing provinces: La Pampa, Neuquén, Río Negro and Chubut. Despite its size, the region only has 1.88% of the country’s vineyards. While the first winery opened, in Río Negro, in 1909, much of the rest of the GI is relatively new, particularly Chubut.

Just 65 hectares of vines are planted in Chubut, 50ha of which are controlled by Bodega Otronia in Sarmiento. These are among the southernmost vineyards in the world, occupying a latitude of 45°. With winds as high as 110kmph and rainfall as low as 200mm per year, Maximo Rocca, commercial director of Otronia, describes it as a totally “new way of winemaking in a new world of wine production”.

“Our winemakers decided not to talk about terroir but micro-terroir,” he says, noting how from the start, the producer’s vineyards have been divided into blocks. Achieving just half a kilo of grapes per plant, Otronia has invested in a series of different-sized untoasted foudres, as well as concrete tanks and eggs in which to age its wines.

With two traditional method sparklers made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in the pipeline, Otronia has released just two wines: a white blend made from Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay; and a single varietal Chardonnay, made from a blend of two blocks.

“It’s going to be a word-of-mouth project,” says Rocca. “It’s difficult to explain what we’re doing in just one sentence.

Praising the support of the local government, he says the winery aims to work with sommeliers to create “a team of ambassadors to communicate what Chubut is doing and tell the story”.

Moving northwest, around the towns of Trevelen and El Bolsón, rainfall is higher and conditions are less blustery, but frost is a near-constant threat.

With the majority of producers having just a couple of vintages under their belts, this is a region still finding its feet, both in terms of the grapes that can be grown and the style it should produce.

Sparkling experiments

Like Otronia, Casa Yagüe is also experimenting with sparkling, having also released a Sauvignon Blanc and two single-varietal Chardonnays, one with oak, the other without. “We want to do a lot of things, but we’re going step by step,” explains Juli Yagüe, head of PR and trainee winemaker, who recounts how the winery has an automatic sprinkler- and frost-prevention system, which is triggered when the temperature drops below 0ºC. The winery has just planted Pinot Noir and has the potential to produce a maximum of 20,000 liters.

Moving further north, red varieties are more prevalent, with Pinot Noir and Merlot particularly finding favor.

At Nant y Fall, based on the curiously named Valle 16 de Octubre outside of Trevelen, Pinot Noir is the most planted variety. Having released two wines – a still red Pinot Noir and a rosé Pinot Noir – the producer hopes to launch a Riesling and a Gewürztraminer in December.

Family member and winemaker Emmanuel Rodriguez says: “Summer temperatures here range from -2ºC to 35ºC, and all four seasons are extreme.”

With the aim of producing 17,000 bottles once all 2.5ha are in production, Rodriguez is experimenting with his first oak barrels, as well as using different yeasts in his Pinot Noir to enhance both the structure and the aromatic profile.

Two hours’ drive further north, fellow family-owned producer Chacra Adamow has had its fair share of hardships. Having been assured that its site was frost-free, the producer lost 60% of its first crop in its first year. Proving resilient, it replanted its damaged vines and is aiming to hit the 10,000 mark in order to be “commercial”.

Overcoming problems

Planted with Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc, Pedro Adamow, the owner of the estate, says: “We were excited by the result we achieved in 2015, but we know there are still many problems to overcome. The goal is to keep 10,000 vines alive then build our own winery. Our dream is to have an oenotourism business with a restaurant, hotel and tasting room.”

At such an early stage of proceedings, and without viticultural knowledge of the area, Adamow describes each vintage as “a silver bullet”.

“You only get one shot then you have to wait another year to correct any mistakes that you made,” he says. “It can be frustrating.”

Adamow’s wines are made by Camilo De Bernardi of Familia De Bernardi, just over the border into Río Negro by the town of El Bolsón.

Another producer that is overcoming challenging conditions and using them to its advantage is Familia Ayestarán, which produces wine under the Oriundo label. Winemaker Darío González Maldonado said that he’d made what he believes to be Argentina’s first ice wine. Made from 100% Gewürtztraminer, Maldonado explained that he harvested the grapes when temperatures hit -8 degrees Celsius and followed the regulations that govern ice wine production in Canada and Germany. Argentina has no guidelines for this type of wine.

The resulting 11% ABV wine contains 50g/l of residual sugar, with only 300 bottles made in total. Having taken control of an abandoned 17-year-old vineyard in El Hoyo back in 2014, Familia Ayestarán had its first proper vintage in 2017 and also produces a Merlot, white blend and sparkling wine.

Biodynamic hopes

With two hectares of vines, including Pinot Noir, Merlot, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc, De Bernardi hopes to one day become biodynamic.

“I’m focusing on getting the acid balance right at the moment,” he says, confessing that he is still not completely satisfied with the style of his wines.

However, despite struggling with frost, he noted that his reds were able to achieve almost 14% ABV – much higher than other wines in the area.

Plans are afoot to help local restaurants stock wines from Chubut, while the government is organizing a press trip to the region for journalists based in Buenos Aires.

As things stand, Otronia’s Rocca notes: “Chubut’s wines need to be consumed with knowledge. There’s a trend for wine production in cool and extreme areas, but we’re all still learning because it’s all so different from how they do things in Mendoza. You’ve got to bear in mind that we’re 2,000km further south,” he says.

That distance, however, is also a blessing. Argentina now has a new region capable of producing aromatic white varieties and fresher, light reds, while the acidity achieved in grapes provides an ideal base wine for sparkling. Chubut’s potential, therefore, is far-reaching.

Source: Drinks Business

Wine Review: 2016 Taliano Michele Blagheur Nebbiolo, Langhe DOC, Piedmont, Italy

2016 Taliano Michele Blagheur Nebbiolo, Langhe DOC, Piedmont, Italy

Beautiful ruby-red colour; it reveals perfumes of white flowers, raspberries, and cherries, which carry through to the palate; well-balanced tannins; Approachable now, this will also age well.
Best decanted.

VINE: Nebbiolo 100%
SOIL: calcareous
ALTITUDE: 300m above sea level
EXPOSURE: south
SYSTEM OF VINE GROWTH: Guyot
NR. OF VINESTOCKS PER HECTARE: 4000
RETURN IN WINE PER HECTARE: 63 hl
VINTAGE: first half of October
VINIFICATION: traditional with maceration
REFINEMENT: wood for 12 months
REFINEMENT IN BOTTLE: 2 months
ALCOHOLIC CONTENT: 13,5-14%

PAIRINGS:
Blagheur prefers mushroom dishes, ripe cheeses, second courses which include chicken, rabbit, and game.

93.5/100

Liz Palmer

Chateau Margaux Palmer 2001 Bordeaux Review

Red | laydown to 2025 | Chateau Palmer | 2001 Vintage | France > Bordeaux > Margaux | Medium-Full Bodied, Dry | 14.5 % alcohol | Third Growth. Troisieme Grand Cru Classe in 1855. Indicative blend: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot

Medium-garnet colour. The nose is youthful with notes of cassis, black cherries, cloves, some cedar with a touch of mint. Deep, sweet, and rich with a length and breadth that is captivating. I kept coming back to the glass for another sip – this Palmer is a classic Margaux!


93 points
Liz Palmer
December 25, 2018

Awards
International Wine Challenge, 2011: Gold
Le Guide Hachette des Vins, 2005: 2 Stars
San Francisco International Wine Competition, 2003: Bronze

Wine Spectator: 94 Points
Extremely pretty, with flowers, berries, chocolate and spices. Full-bodied, with a solid core of fruit and ripe, silky tannins; long and caressing. Beautiful. Palmer shows wonderful refinement. Best after 2009. –JS

Wine Advocate: 93 Points
“Fairly deep color. Another lovely, elegant Palmer nose. It offers richness, but stays pure and delicate. (There’s almost as much Merlot (44%) in the blend as Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), one reason it’s less powerful than other vintages.) The 2001 offers scents of red fruit, blackberry, sandalwood, spice, and mocha. Follows through in a similar fashion on the palate; same delicacy and precision. It’s subtle yet graceful, nicely balanced, still needing a few more years to reach peak, although it’s most of the way there. Overall, a very strong showing.”

Wine Enthusiast: 93 Points
As with so many other wines from the 2001 vintage, this Palmer is classic Margaux. It has delicacy and elegance, but it also packs power, concentration and dark, dry flavors. Intense and concentrated, the richness of the high proportion of Merlot in Palmer?s blend shows through, while the Cabernet Sauvignon gives a fresh lift at the end.


Stephen Tanzer: 90 Points

“Dark red. Expressive aromas of redcurrant, raspberry, dark plum, tobacco, graphite, minerals and flowers. Very suave and smooth on entry, then a bit closed in the middle palate. But this very young, firm Palmer boasts harmonious acidity, very good cut and excellent balance. Finishes with rather tight tannins that will need six or seven years to soften.”

Majestic Douro Valley produces some of the finest red and whites in the world

Majestic Douro Valley produces some of the finest red and whites in the world

Casa de Mateus on day trip in the Douro Valley on trip from Porto

Majestic Douro Valley produces some of the finest red and whites in the world

There is a dangerous beauty to Portugal’s Douro wine region.  With its treacherously steep slopes, extreme summer heart, perilous roads, and a wild river – why would wine growers consider growing grapes here?  Just take a sip of the red and white wines from this region and then you know why!

With three World Heritage Sites recognized by UNESCO, there is no reason not to visit Douro Valley. Home to the Douro River, the third largest river in the Iberian Peninsula, which runs 897 kilometers from Duruelo de la Sierra to Porto, Portugal.

I had the amazing opportunity to visit Douro wine region in March this year with other international wine journalists.  I found the scenery in the valley to be some of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen in a wine region. Not only because of the gravity of the steep slopes of the vineyards, but also the sheer beauty of the Douro River and the hills that fall to the water’s edge.

“The sole immeasurable evidence with which we can amaze the world.”

Miguel Torga (Portuguese poet)

I found the Alto Douro Wine Region to be a land of traditions where nature reigns in perfect harmony and farmers who shaped the valley into terraced vineyards supported with stone walls (socalos). Their persistent labors have transformed this vast slate-soiled region into a true agricultural and landscape monument. The vineyards are accessible by lots of winding roads and steep cliffs.

Wine grapes have been cultivated here for over 2,000. The Demarcated Douro Region was formed (by the Marquis of Pombal) in 1756, and at this time the region became more internationally recognized. It’s important to note that it was the first region in the world to be demarcated.  Even today the traditional harvest is done by hand and crushing the grapes by foot is still carried on, along with modern vinification methods that accompany these traditions.

Alto Douro Wine Region is stretched over 250,000 hectares in which 20% is used for wine production, with 9,000 wine-growers.

Quintas visited
(wine producing estates/winery or vineyard)

Adega Cooperativa de Vila Real
http://www.adegavilareal.com/pt/

The Adega is a cooperative with over 1,232 members and works with winemaker Rui Madera. It was named “up and coming wine producer” for Portugal by Wine Access magazine in 2010 and was awarded the best co-op winery of Portugal of 2013.“

We met with Nuno Ferreira Borges, Marketing and Export Manager, and his father Jaime Borges, retired director and grape grower.  They discussed what the co-op is currently doing and how they keep the quality high.

Their wines are made from grapes cultivated according to traditional techniques, with low mechanization levels and low yields/hectare, while maintaining Douro’s terroir.

Their commercial brands are: Adega de Vila Real, Cancellus, Cancelão and Terras De Alleu. 

Quinta de Nápoles – Niepoort
http://www.niepoort-vinhos.com/en/

Dirk Niepoort was the first to make high-quality unfortified wines in the Douro since1987.

Niepoort was founded in 1845 by Dutch merchants and at that time only produced Port wines.  This changed when 5th generation Dirk van der Niepoort took the realm.  He decided not only to make port but also wine.  Dirk is a true pioneer –  he insisted on making the region known for its wines first. He began with an experimental wine in 1991, and his first production white in 1996.

After a guided tasting with Dirk Niepoort we lunched on the terrace at Quinta de Nápoles winery, which hosted spectacular views.

My favorite wine was Redoma 2014

Tinta amarela 40 %; Touriga Franca 30%; Tinta roriz 20%; Rufete (Tinta Pinheira)10 %.

Tasting Notes:

Dark cherry, wild herbs, hints of raspberry and red currant; some mineral-salts; fine but gripping tannins –  deep, lengthy and layered.

Quinta da Casa Amarela
http://www.quinta-casa-amarela.com/en

Quinta da Casa Amarela is located on the left side of the Douro River, just opposite Régua. The Quinta has been owned by the same family since 1885 and today Laura Regueiro is sitting at the helm. The quinta is named after the main house yellow or ocher color (Amarela in Portuguese).

Quinta da Casa Amarela has 8 hectares with 45-50 year-old vineyards, mainly planted with Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca, with smaller parcels of Malvasia Fina, Viozinho and Codega. They also practice sustainability. I learned that they had traditionally delivered their grapes to other port companies, but since 1994 started marketing their own Port and wines.

Casa de Mateus
http://www.casademateus.com/

This palace is famously depicted on bottles of Mateus rosé. Casa de Mateus is one of the best surviving examples of 18th-century baroque architecture in Portugal.

Its granite wings shelter a lichen-encrusted forecourt, dominated by an ornate stairway and guarded by rooftop statues. Surrounding the palace is a fantasy garden, with boxwood hedges, prim statues, and a fragrant cypress tunnel.

Inside, the library contains one of the first illustrated editions of Luís Vaz de Camões’ Os Lusíadas, Portugal’s important epic poem, while another room houses a collection of religious artifacts, including 36 relics brought from the Vatican in the 18th century: a bit of holy fingernail, a saintly set of eyeballs, and the inevitable piece of the true cross – each with the Vatican’s proof of authenticity.

The wine shop offers tastings of three locally produced wines for €4. I found especially interesting is the Alvarelhão, which is the same rosé originally bottled by Mateus in the 1940s.

C.A.R.M.
http://www.carm.pt/

C.A.R.M. has over 200 hectares of vineyards spread over various farms and planted at different altitudes, up to 550 meters. C.A.R.M. overlooks the valley with the Douro river in full view. The temperatures in the summer reach 45C. Antonio Ribeiro gives us a tour and shows us the olive trees, vineyards and almond trees. The soil in their vineyards is schist, and granite in some areas which is good for white wines.

In the production facilities, they have modern alternatives to the traditional lagars for the foot-stomping of the grapes.

During the visit, we meet Celso Madeira – who is not only a pioneer in the organic viticulture in the region but is also the first to have had the idea to remodel the hillsides with bulldozers in 1965.

My favorite wine: Carm CM Douro 2013, a 94+ points/Robert Parker

The back label adds 4130 bottles total (this one was No 124). 14 % alcohol

Fresh nose of black fruit and berries; nice balance with nuances of licorice and complex aromas of wood; firm tannins and smooth texture.

The Douro wine region has truly maintained their rural character and traditional roots with culture and religious customs and truly worth a visit to some of the historic quintas and to taste their wines!

I want personally thank Rita and Pedro Figueiredo for putting together this extraordinary tour!  #TeamDouro