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

2017 Bordeaux Futures Prices + Analysis

Chateau Palmer released its prices on April 23, ahead of others — a rarity, as other Bordeaux’s top châteaus wait to see how the other wineries position themselves. In addition, the Margaux a third-growth released the first tranche at 20 percent below its 2016 release price.

A few thereafter, others followed Palmer’s example. Bordeaux watchers are left wondering what the top estates will do in a challenging year for sales. Will they release the wines quickly and cut prices significantly, in a bid to interest consumers in a vintage that is not as eagerly anticipated as the previous two? Or will they move slowly? And will they keep prices high, assuming that even if consumers decline to buy the wines now, they’ll buy them down the road on release?

The 2017 vintage should yield many excellent wines, but it is by no means in the league of 2015 and 2016. Conspiring against prices are the fact that volumes are low: Following a devastating April frost, Bordeaux’s 2017 crop is 40 percent smaller than 2016’s. To make things worse for American consumers, the current exchange rate ($1:€1.19, as of May 8) is less attractive than during last year’s campaign.

Overall, the reds are fresh and pure, built on bright acidity rather than tannins, providing charming wines that will drink well in the near to mid-term. On the other hand, the dry whites are superb, and the sweet wines of Sauternes and Barsac are outstanding. Consumers will need to pick carefully, as a gray and dry summer resulted in a heterogeneous collection of wines that lack the punch and drive of great years.

Below you’ll find regular updates and analysis on the campaign, with prices given both ex-négoce, which means before importers and retailers add markup, and average retail price, which is compiled from Wine Spectator’s tracking of leading U.S. retailers. It’s what you can expect to pay. Prices for the 2017s are are also listed as the current prevailing retail price for 2015s.

May 9: The Campaign’s Cautious Start
Châteaus Palmer and Valandraud were the first notable red wines to hit the Place de Bordeaux, and in the weeks since, a few other futures have trickled out. Last week saw Châteaus Pape Clément, Batailley and Langoa Barton join the campaign.

Both Pape Clément (91-94 points based on a blind tasting of its barrel sample) and Valandraud (93-96) showed restraint in their pricing, with Pape Clément at 61.20 euros ex-cellar, a 7 percent decrease from the 2016. Because of the weakening dollar, the wine is selling at leading retailers for about $90 a bottle, or $1,080 a case, identical to 2016 futures. It’s lower than the 2015, currently selling for $120.

Valandraud released at 100 euros, a 22 percent drop on 2016. It’s selling at leading retailers for $150 a bottle, $1,800 a case, less than the 2016s, which debuted at $172, and the current price of $204 for 2015.

Palmer’s early and eye-opening release of 192 euros a bottle was a 20 percent drop from 2016. It’s selling for $284 a bottle, $3,408 a case, at top U.S. retailers, 10 percent less than the 2016 futures did and a big drop from the 2015, selling for $353 now.

Other notable releases so far include Châteaus Batailley (89-92), Dauzac (90-93, and an up and comer worth your attention), Langoa Barton (90-93) and Ormes de Pez (88-91). Langoa released at 31 euros per bottle ex-négoce, which means U.S. retail offerings are showing up around $47 per bottle (en primeur sales are typically only offered by retailers in lots of 6 or 12 bottles). Dauzac released at 30 euros, resulting in an initial U.S. retail average of $45 per bottle.

The accompanying 2017 price chart for top châteaus is noted below.

2017 Futures Prices
These estates represent a selection of leading wineries. The ratings are potential scores based on barrel samples. Retail prices are an average of trusted retailers we follow. To provide a comparison, we’re showing prices for 2015 futures and current prices for the 2010 vintage, a classic year that is currently available.

Château 2017 Score 2017 initial futures offering at U.S. retail 2016 initial futures offering at U.S. retail 2016-2017 retail change Current 2015 price at U.S. retail
Angelus 93-96 $NA $380 $384
Beychevelle 90-93 $77 $NA $101
Calon-Segur 91-94 $NA $91 $85
Canon 93-96 $NA $100 $350
Canon-La Gaffelière 90-93 $NA $99 $99
Cheval-Blanc NYR $NA $690 $808
Clinet 92-95 $NA $102 $157
Clos Fourtet 93-96 $NA $115 $129
Cos-d’Estournel NYR $NA $163 $188
Ducru-Beaucaillou 93-96 $NA $189 $193
Figeac 92-95 $NA $202 $216
Giscours 89-92 $NA $62 $78
Gruaud-Larose 91-94 $NA $73 $78
Haut-Bailly NYR $NA $117 $142
Haut-Brion NYR $NA $551 $647
Hosana 91-94 $NA $160 $160
La Conseillante NYR $NA $201 $185
La Fleur-Pétrus 93-96 $NA $234 $239
La Mission Haut-Brion NYR $NA $433 $465
Lafite Rothschild NYR $NA $657 $628
Léoville Barton 93-96 $NA $87 $106
Léoville Las Cases 93-96 $NA $242 $224
Léoville Poyferré 92-95 $NA $91 $97
Lynch Bages 92-95 $NA $131 $142
Malescot-St.-Exupéry 90-93 $NA $58 $98
Margaux NYR $NA $559 $1,706
Montrose 91-94 $NA $149 $159
Mouton Rothschild NYR $NA $549 $600
Palmer 92-95 $284 $318 -10% $353
Pape Clément 91-94 $91 $90 +1% $121
Pavie 93-96 $NA $379 $394
Pavie-Macquin 92-95 $NA $80 $90
Pichon Baron 92-95 $NA $155 $167
Pichon Lalande 92-95 $NA $162 $159
Pontet-Canet 90-93 $NA $144 $129
Rauzan-Ségla 91-94 $NA $83 $151
Smith-Haut-Lafite 91-94 $NA $106 $115
Valandraud 93-96 $150 $172 -13% $204
Vieux Château Certan NYR $NA $262 $357 Continue reading “2017 Bordeaux Futures Prices + Analysis”

Enjoy International #SauvignonBlancDay with Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2017

located in Marlborough, Yealands Family Wines produces award-winning wines in harmony with nature. Yealands Family Wines lead the world in sustainable winegrowing.

The Sauvignon Blanc is from selected parcels in Yealands’ Seaview Vineyard in the Awatere Valley – with a consistent warm and dry climate, and cool nights it creates a long growing season.

Tasting notes
The bouquet shows some notes of blackcurrant and passionfruit with fresh aromas of herbs and lemon zest. The palate is brimming with juicy fruit – good balance with a long, crisp mineral finish.

This wine is suitable for vegetarians, vegans and gluten free diets. WINEMAKING NOTES Parcels were harvested individually over two weeks.

LCBO# 277731

Score: 90

Direct Train London to Bordeaux Planned for 2020

A direct high speed railway that would take passengers from London to Bordeaux in under five hours could be in operation by 2020, according to the chief executive of the HS1 rail network.

 

Currently travellers from London to Bordeaux have to change trains in Paris. The Paris route takes 5h 25m, including a 1 hour 5 minutes connection in Paris, travelling from London to Bordeaux.

The current return connection in Paris takes 6h 26m, with a longer 1h 55m connection in Paris, owing to the need to pass through border and security controls.

The new direct service would cut travel times to less than five hours in both directions, through a direct route and security controls located in Bordeaux, with trains reaching speeds of up to 200 mph between the two cities.

The proposed route bypasses Paris and takes advantage of a newly completed 302km French high-speed rail line linking the French town of Tours with Bordeaux.

“As we’ve seen with the recent introduction of the Eurostar London-Amsterdam service, there’s a real demand for international train services to provide a comfortable and better-connected service, especially for leisure journeys,” said Dyan Crowther, chief executive of HS1 Ltd.

“This is the first time that railway operators have collaborated in this way and saves the train operator having to do a lot of legwork. The route is almost ready for a train operator to turn up and turn the key as soon as the UK and French Governments agree on border controls.

“With the right commitment, we could be looking at new services in the next couple of years. The service will take passengers direct from city centre to city centre, taking the hassle out of travel to South West France.”

HS1 Ltd, the owner and operator of High Speed 1, is in advanced planning with three other international railway operators along the proposed route, and is working on pre-planned timetable slots and train routes, meaning that a new international train operator will be able to get the route up and running in “a couple of years”.

The four railway operators along the proposed route (HS1 Ltd, Lisea, Eurotunnel and SNCF Réseau) are meeting at the end of April, beginning of May, 2018 to discuss developing a Gare de Bordeaux-Saint-Jean station, to facilitate international departures.

Source Drinks Business, UK

SANDRO BOTTEGA AWARDED RIEDEL WINE MAKER OF THE YEAR IN TORONTO

Sandro Bottega, the owner and Managing Director of the Italian winery and distillery Bottega, will be honoured this evening with the 2018 Riedel® Winemaker of the Year Award. 

Sandro Bottega will receive the award from The Cambridge Food & Wine Society, on behalf of Riedel, the Austrian crystal glassmaker who is the world leader in functional wine decanter design.

The official ceremony is held this evening at the historical Biagio Ristorante, 155 King Street East in Toronto.  In attendance will be Canadian authorities and European consuls, the Riedel family, Mrs. Shauneen E. Bruder, Honorary Consul General of Luxembourg in Toronto and Leo Chan, President of the Cambridge Food & Wine Society.

The Riedel® Winemaker of the Year Award is granted to Sandro Bottega for “having enchanted wine and gastronomic art lovers since 1977, in over 120 countries worldwide, with his artistic skills, the entrepreneurial ability and energy, and the quality and genuineness of the products”.

Sandro Bottega comments: “I feel deeply honoured and grateful, and I dedicate this prestigious recognition to my parents and to the whole company who has worked with creativity, passion and humbleness to produce wines, grappa and liqueurs, always in compliance with the corporate values: Quality (Italian taste and authenticity), Design (expression of the excellent aesthetic character of being made in Italy) and Social Responsibility towards the environment and the community”.

This award has been presented to great names of the world of wine, such as Robert Mondavi, U.S.A. (2005), Karl Kaiser and Donald Ziraldo, Canada (2006), Lamberto Marchesi de Frescobaldi, Italy (2007), Léon Beyer, France (2008), João Nicolau de Almedia, Portugal (2009), Miguel Torres, Spain (2014).

The evening at Biagio Ristorante, whose theme is “Marco Polo Revisited”, will feature an array of international tastes including Italian food and wines, as well as grappa and single malt Scotch whisky. Funds raised from this event will go towards the charity, Grapes for Humanity Canada.