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What a party! Centenary celebrations at Quinta de la Rosa

Pre-dinner drinks on the terrace at La Rosa

A little belatedly, my thoughts on the recent bash I attended in the Douro, where we celebrated Quinta de la Rosaís centenary and Tim Bergqvistís 75th birthday (July 2006). What a party. Fiona and I were delighted to have been invited, because Sophia Bergqvist had managed to attract an amazing group of people for the celebrations, including an almost complete roll call of the Douroís best winemakers and proprietors, as well as importers, journalists and family friends.

Friday's boat trip on the Douor

The fun began on Friday morning, when we caught the train from Pinh„o to the end of the line, at Pochino, not far from the Spanish border in the Douro Superior. La Rosa have bought a wonderful patch of land on the opposite bank to Vale Meao, Bandeiras, which they are planting with Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca. After a quick tour, we joined our boat, which was to take us back, but not before a quick swim in the Douro.  

 Grahams' Malvedos viewed from the boat

The Douro was cool, a bit green, and smelt faintly of rivers. There was a bit of a current. But it was great to swim in it, and sad that we didnít have longer. Back on the boat we settled ourselves on the top deck to dry out, and the boat set out down river. The scenery was spectacular, there was a steady supply of wine, and some good food and company. The pace of the boat generated just enough breeze to keep us cool.  

Jasper Morris and Richard Mayson Quinta spotting

Richard points out another Quinta to Andrew Jefford
Mid-afternoon, we found ourselves back at Pinhao. Fiona and I accompanied Luis Antunes and his cronies back to Quinta do Bomfin for swimming in the pool, plus some ice-cold beer. It was hot, so we spent the rest of the afternoon mostly submerged.  After returning to La Rosa and having a sleep, it was time for an informal dinner, hosted by Jorge Moreira, with some smart wines, including a magnum of 2004 Batuta which Dirk Niepoort had generously donated (even though he was dining with the Douro boys at Vallado). We tried this alongside the Quinta de la Rosa 2004 Reserva and Poeira 2004: what a wonderful flight of wines. The dinner was complicated by the fact that it was baking hot (which made getting the wines at the right temperature rather difficult), and then half-way through we had a power cut which lasted until 10 am the following day.  
Andrew Jefford at work

Saturday morning was another highlight of the weekend: a large tasting of 2004 Douro wines at the Vintage House Hotel in Pinh„o. Fiona and I got there early, and it was straight to work trying to taste through as many wines as possible before it got horribly crowded, which it did. This was my second crack at the 2004s Ė itís always useful to repeat tastings where possible, because the data points then become firmer. It also helps you see how much natural variance there is in your scoring [aside: the most useful comparison is actually between tasting a wine and actually drinking it, something I try to do regularly].

Lunch at La Rosa

We got back to La Rosa in time for a swim and then a celebratory lunch. It was now extremely hot, perhaps touching 40, so we all relaxed and drank beer and ice cold rosť. There were various activities scheduled as part of La Rosaís open afternoon, including a tasting and vineyard tour. I did my own unscheduled vineyard tour which included a rather hairy wander through the Inferno vineyard, which would be terrifying for anyone suffering from vertigo.

Inferno vineyard

Olga and Jorge Moreira

Time for another sleep, and then we changed for the evening party. By the time people started arriving there was a really good atmosphere generating. It was a sit-down al fresco dinner, and Sophia had cleverly worked out the seating plan so that couples were on different tables. Letís face it, you get to speak to your partner all the time, so for this sort of event itís a good idea. Lots of beer, wine and Port later, the dancing began. When Fiona and I left for bed at 3.30 am, the party was still going. At one stage Fiona challenged some of the guys to an inflatable crocodile race in the pool. Jasper Morris, Richard Mayson, Dirk Niepoort and I all went in (in our undies), and Sophia and Tim also made entries (Tim didnít bother removing any clothing first).

The next morning we got up for breakfast at 10 am. It was deathly quiet at La Rosa, but Andrew Jefford and his wife Paula (who had retired sensibly early) were already up. After a swim with Jasper and two French sommeliers (who were all staying at Noval; they hadnít been to bed), Fiona and I wandered down to Pinh„o to grab some lunch. We had a nice honest meal at a rather rustic restaurant near the station, washed down with a carafe each of white and red. I had the red: it was bright purple, vividly fruity and with a spicy tangóit tasted like a cask sample, and I really enjoyed it. Not long after, it was time to catch the minibus for the long drive to Porto. A cracking weekend.  

Mr Niepoort

Sophia Bergqvist

Vito Olazabal and Luis Gutierrez

Susana Esteban and Luis Duarte

See also: the New Douro 

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