• Alexander Smith

Part 3: A top wine at below $15 - Douro

So I know you guys enjoyed the last suggestion of a Beaujolais-Villages, yet one of the questions asked was, well I am looking for a red wine with structure but don't want to go paying $$$.

Finding structure in a glass of wine around $15 is always challenging. We have to remember producing a wine of sub $15 means younger vines, of high yield, mechanical harvesting, little sorting in the winery and little use of oak. All of this makes a style which is quite easy-drinking that often lacks structure and depth. The Douro produces some outstanding Port, however they also produce a good amount of dry red wine. Their red wine is often overlooked yet is one of the best-kept secrets of Europe. So let's go for a deep dive into the Douro!

The Douro
The Douro

Part 2: Dry red wines from the Douro, Portugal

These wines can often be found around $15 yet offer an additional structure that is sometimes lacking from other red wines at this price point. These wines are a fantastic QPR(Quality-price-ratio)!

1) Region: Douro, Northern Portugal.

2) Grape: Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barocca, Tinta Cao and Souza

3) Climate: Continental with hot summers and cold winters

4) Flavours to look out for: Plums, Blueberries, blackberries, dried flowers, graphite, peppercorn

5) Textures: A full-bodied wine with good acidity and structured tannins. Douro reds are often a blend of up to 20 grapes and sometimes even more! Depending of the blends the flavours and textures can change. Touriga Nacional tends to be more elegant and floral, whereas Touriga Franca is a bit more austere and spicy.

6) Food pairings: Beef, steak, sausages, Cassoulet, pork, wild bird roasts and stews

7) How to serve? Around 65 F, a tad cooler than room temperature.

So I suppose most consumers struggle with Portuguese wines due to the different unknown varieties. Like who goes into a restaurant and orders a Touriga Nacional? So most consumers are put off by this, but they shouldn't be. In fact I often relate a dry red Douro wine to a Cabernet Sauvignon, now this might be slightly insulting for my Portuguese readers, however for those who are not use to dry Portuguese wines this helps to gauge the sort of style we are talking about. The best part, these wines sell for a song compared to other European red wine blends. These wines cannot be missed and come at all price points.

Like all regions you have to know your producers, I am a huge fan of Quinta Vale D. Maria, Quinta do Noval and Quinta do Vallado.

So today we will focus on Quinta Vale D. Maria Rufo 2017- My tasting notes are as follows:

Another great vintage and as always fantastic QPR. Deep color with aromas of dark black fruits, plums, licorice, dried florals along with black pepper. The palate was full-bodied and rich with spicy dark lush fruit, fresh earth, cayenne peppers, dried herbs with a slightly hot finish - 89 points

Other Portuguese wines which I have enjoyed in recent times include:

Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro Vinha da Francisca - 95 points - Wow! So much going on, the nose is full of ripe dark blackberries, black cherries, tobacco, smoke, violets, coffee, the palate was serious, full-bodied with elegant tannins, black fruit, dark chocolate, espresso, black pepper and a long elegant finish. If you like Cabernet you will fall in love with this wine. If you are blind-tasted with this wine you will think Californian High-quality Cabernet.

Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro C.V. ("Curriculum Vitae") - 95 points - The nose was full of strawberries, herbs, raspberries, the palate was full of fresh fruits with ripe tannins, spice box, fresh earth. It was rich and lush however with an elegance than ensured the finish was fresh and interesting. It is a wine that makes you keep coming back for more.

Quinta Vale D. Maria Douro Vinha de Martim - 95 points - Only 1200 bottles, An 8 year old vineyard planted with a variety of local varieties located in the village of the Martim located 50km to the north of the Douro. 80% new oak. This white is off the charts in terms of flavor profiles with a rich and elegant palate. I found notes of stone fruit, apple, peach a little spice with vanilla and a long elegant finish which seemed to never stop. Well balanced, with a great balance between the velvety textures of the wine and the acidity which bounces around in the palate. This is a benchmark in terms of Portuguese whites. This will probably increase by a point in the 7-10 years.

Quinta do Noval Touriga Nacional Douro - 92 points - Nose of violets, flowers, blackberry, on the palate I found leather, lavender, dark red fruits with a fresh finish. This is lush with a great complexity which shows off the Touriga Nacional grape.

Quinta do Vallado Touriga Nacional Douro 2016 - 92 points - made from 100% Touriga Nacional, this has been aged in oak barrels for 16 months with 40% in new oak. I found this quite floral and elegant, blackcurrant jam with a little black pepper and spice. The finish was nicely done, however, I would wait to allow this to mellow out a little more, tannins a little too present however this will mellow out over a couple of years

Hopefully, this has introduced you to a new variety that you might not know that much about, however, you will look out for in the future.

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