Reading what the international press has to say about our Douro DOC red wines, certain descriptors become repetitive: dense fruit, chocolate, black currant, dried orange peel, round, velvety, soft, vanilla, not too much oak…… Let me explain how the grape varieties and winemaking techniques are the backbone to these descriptors.
Our Douro DOC red wines, to include Douro DOC, Douro DOC Reserva and Douro DOC Grande Reserva Savedra, are made from 3 main grape varieties, traditionally found in the Douro. Thick skinned and full of deep and jam-like dense fruit, each variety imparts different aromas and flavors to the wine:
Touriga Nacional for orange flower and dried orange peel
Tinta Franca for red fruit to include black currant (cassis) and blackberry
Tinta Roriz (aka Tempranillo) for chocolate, black pepper and red fruit to include cherry and raspberry
As for our winemaking techniques: we still practice traditional foot treading FOR OUR WINES in open epoxy-lined cement vats called lagars, allowing for a soft working together of the juice, skin and pits. FOOT ACTION RULES! Afterwards fermentation takes place in rotating steel tanks and post-fermentation maceration lasts for about 14 days.
According to Vincent, the wine’s roundness and good acidity are influenced by where we are located, at the intersection of rivers Tedo and Douro. The cooling westerly or southerly night breeze helps to slowdown grape ripening, even with the very hot days that we have in the Douro! We pick the grapes when they are mature and not overripe, and have good acidity, key to making wines that are known for their lovely fruit.
Velvety as a descriptor is the opposite of astringent and we do our best to avoid making harsh wines. We destem before maceration (stems can lend an unpleasant astringency to the wine). We try to work as much as possible through gravity flow to bring the finished wine to the barrels, avoid pumping that tends to crush the astringent grape pits. To avoid potential astringency coming from barrel use, we fill the barrels directly for malolactic fermentation and respect the time the wine needs to remain in the barrel to integrate the tannins of the wine and the wood.
Also important is a good cooper selection for the barrels for each wine: the wood type, toasting level and time in the barrels. As you may know, Vincent consults internationally about wine aging in barrels, and he uses French oak from coopers Damy, Billon and Cadus, Hungarian oak from European Coopers and a small amount of American oak barrels crafted by a French cooper to give to the wine a touch of vanilla. A firm believer that wine should have not too much oak, Vincent’s philosophy about wine and oak will be discussed in November’s blog.
Vincent, with Burgundian roots, is a big believer in allowing the wine to show the maximum of fruit, Jorge is a big believer in terroir, and together the job is very decently done with great results.
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