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The wines of Duorum, Douro, Portugal  

Website: www.duorum.pt 


Duorum is latin for ‘from two’. It’s a joint project between two of Portugal’s best known oenologists, João Portugal Ramos and Jose Maria Soares Franco. Ramos is the king of the Alentejo—a consultant winemaker turned winegrower whose own estate has grown to be one of the largest private companies in the region, and who has also started a sizeable operation, Falua, in the Ribatejo. Soares Franco was for 27 years the custodian of Barca Velha, the famous Douro wine that is now part of the Sogrape stable. 

Jose Maria Soares Franco

For a while, there has been an obvious gap in the Ramos portfolio of wines: the Douro. But now he has filled that by entering into this partnership with Soares Franco.  I visited in March to see how the new venture was progressing.

As well as two famous oenologists, the ‘from two’ also refers to the fact that the wine is a blend from two rather different parts of the Douro. On the one hand, Duorum is renting two old vineyards and buying from a further 15–18 growers in the Cima Corgo; on the other, the Douro Superior, further up river towards the Spanish border. Currently, the Douro Superior vineyards are rented, but Duorum have also purchased 150 hectares—from some 60 different owners—which is being converted into a spectacular Quinta, called Castelo Melhor. 

Castelo Melhor is an incredible project. It was extremely difficult to negotiate with so many land owners, but the results are worth it, because Duorum now have a wonderful property that extends all the way down to the river bank. While the Douro Superior is generally flatter than the Cima Corgo and Baixo Corgo, this section has very steep slopes.

Jose Luis, Joao and Jose Maria

I visited with the three people in charge of the project: José Maria Soares Franco, winemaker José Luís Moreira da Silva and viticulturalist João Perry Vidal. We made the perilous journey from the top of the new Quinta to the banks of the river, looking at the progress being made with the new vineyard development. Eventually, a new winery will be built on the site. This is no small undertaking: the cost of installing a pipeline to bring water from the river to the top of the property was a staggering €500 000.

We also looked at the abandoned railway track and station on the property. The journey from this station to anywhere would have been an arduous one. People were made of stern stuff in those days.

Currently it is not expensive for Duorum to buy grapes from the Cima Corgo, even though the cost of buying vineyards here is very high, and Port grapes (with the permit to make Port, called the beneficio) are quite expensive. Grapes from good vineyards can be had for 60–70 cents/kg (but are often sold for much less – 30–35 cents/kg). In future, these prices are likely to rise because it isn’t possible to take good care of the vineyards with revenues so low. Duorum is particularly interested in grapes from old vineyards at high altitudes (400 m).

They have rented a small winery, which they have kitted out with state of the art equipment. This is important, because it allows them to take care of each lot of grapes vat by vat. Current capacity is around 400 tons. 

Grapes are hand-picked into small cases, and everything is destemmed except for grapes destined for Port that have good maturity in the stems. The fermentations take place in stainless steel lagars; initially, temperatures are kept low for 1–3 days at 8–12 °C. Punch down takes place three times a day, and the grapes are naturally at pH 3.6–3.7, so little if any acid adjustment is needed.

The Duorum project is really impressive, and the early wines being made are spot on. They avoid two of the slightly worrying trends of the new wave Douro wine: over-ripeness, and greedy pricing. These wines show lovely definition, structure and personality.

Duorum Colhieta 2007
Lovely focused dark fruits nose with sweet dark cherry and blackberry characters, as well as a bit of spice and a hint of tarriness. The palate is fresh and structured with lovely fruit purity and some chocolatey notes. Very stylish: rich but structured, with sweet fruit but also some savouriness. This will be c. £12 in the UK; retail is €9 in Portugal. Production 150 000 bottles. 91/100

Cask samples of reserve wines:

Lote A 2007
Dark, intense spicy nose with taut black fruits and complex, subtle tarry notes. The palate is concentrated but fresh with intense structured fruit. Taut and quite savoury, with lots of tannic structure and good acidity. Not as rich as you’d expect: does the mid-palate need a bit of beefing up? A serious effort. 92–94/100

Lote B 2007
Very rich and chocolatey on the nose, with sweet, intense, brooding dark fruits. The palate has a strong oak imprint with lovely freshness and good acidity. Lovely freshness and purity, with great concentration. 92–94/100

Retasted from fresher samples at the Falua winery, 2 days later:

Lote A 2007
Fresh, perfumed, sweet and vibrant on the nose showing blackcurrant and blackberry as well as dark cherry fruit. The palate is fresh with good acidity and elegant focused fruit. Real precision here with good structure. 92–95/100

Lote B 2007
Deep coloured. Wonderful aromatic nose showing dark fruits, spice and complexity. The palate shows some tarry oak but also lovely taut, intense, structured savoury fruit. Very bold and intense with firm plum and dark cherry fruits, backed up by spicy tannins. 92–95/100

2008 vintage cask samples:

W – old vineyard mixed blend from the Cima Corgo. This has lovely expressive aromatics. It’s really fresh, with pure fruit: alluring and fruity.

TF – Touriga Franca from the Cima Corgo. Slightly reduced by lovely focused sweet fruit here. Good structure and beautiful purity.

TN – Touriga Nacional from the Cima Corgo and Douro Superior. Lovely floral aromatics showing rich dark fruits on the nose. The palate is fresh and expressive. Well defined with lovely focus and good acidity.

Sousão and Touriga Nacional – dense, chocolatey and rich with lovely acidity and tannic structure. This is an immense wine with incredible structure and intensity. Remarkable.

S2 + press wine – incredible density and structure with new oak showing. Very dense, structured and tannic with great presence.

It seems that while 2007 is a very good vintage, 2008 may turn out even better here than 2007. It seems to have delivered some great blending components with different personalities.


2007 LBV (called ‘Reserve’)
7000 litres made. Beautifully expressive and aromatic with lovely fruit quality. Bright, focused, dark cherry and spice characters dominate. Very pure. 89–92

Vintage Port 2007
Wonderfully expressive with dense structure under the concentrated dark fruits. Lively violetty dark cherry aromatics. Really lovely wine that’s beautifully expressive. 93–94/100

These are new style Ports, focusing on elegance and not too much aggressive tannin extraction from the grapes. They are Ports that should drink well in their relative youth. The fruit expression is beautiful. 

A short film of the visit:

Wines tasted 03/09 
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