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The wines of Quinta do Portal, Douro, Portugal  

Website: www.quintadoportal.com

‘Slowly, more and more people are getting into Portuguese wines,’ says Pedro Branco, export director of Quinta do Portal, and part of the family who own the winery.

Portal is a family owned, family run winery based in the Douro Valley. One property of theirs, Quinta dos Mouros, has been in the family since 1881. Traditionally, they used to make Port wines, and until 1974 all their wines were sold to Port shippers. ‘From 1974 on we started building our own stock,’ explains Branco. From 1991, the family started building the Quinta do Portal project, focusing on both table wines and Ports, and buying some new Quintas. ‘Our big bet was with Douro wines,’ says Branco.

Portal have five properties in the Pinhão Valley, with over 100 hectares in all. This makes them a reasonably serious player: this is in the best part of the Douro for table wines, the Cima Corgo.

‘In order to produce the wines we had to change a lot,’ reveals Branco. ‘It was a learning curve with lots of experimentation.’ The first bottling under the Portal brand was in 1994.

For Douro wines, Portal use just the Portuguese varieties. All the reds contain at least three: Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz and Touriga Franca. Currently, the split in the portfolio is 25% table wine, 65% Port, 10% Moscatel.

Pascal Chatonnet has been consulting at Portal since the beginning, in 1991. ‘We are good friends,’ says Branco. ‘He comes here four times a year, helps a bit in the vineyards and then blends and selects the wines.’ Winemaking is in the hands of Paolo Coutinho (since 1994). Branco says that there has been a big style in the Portal wines, with much better wines from 2000. Total production is 300 000 bottles from  1200 tons.

Pedro had some interesting thing to say about the beneficio system. The ‘beneficio’ is a bit of paper that gives a producer the right to add brandy to must, and therefore make Port. Every year you receive a letter telling you how much Port you can make, and this quantity will vary according to Port stocks, the market, the vintage forecast and so on. The beneficio is tied to vineyards, and therefore to grapes. Legally, you can sell someone your beneficio with the grapes that it relates to. But what sometimes happens is that people just buy or sell the piece of paper without the grapes. For table wines, you don’t need a beneficio, so if you had a great vineyard but didn’t want to make Port from it, there would be a beneficio going spare. Or if you had some fantastic grapes and you wanted to make more Port than your current beneficio permitted, you might buy someone’s beneficio but tell them to keep their grapes.

The wines

Quinta do Portal Rosé 2007
Deep pink colour with an orange edge. Sweet, creamy, rounded strawberry and red fruit nose. The palate is rich, fruity and creamy with a hint of spice. 87/100

Quinta do Portal Reserva 2005
Deep coloured. Bright, focused nose with a spicy edge to the dark fruits. Intense, spicy and a bit edgy. The palate has firm, dense, spicy structure with good acidity and lovely black fruit character. There’s a hint of chocolatey richness here. Structured and quite savoury. 92/100

Quinta do Portal Grande Reserva 2000
Matured in all new oak. Sweet, open nose is quite complex with notes of chocolate and coffee, as well as warm tarry, spicy fruit. The palate is nicely savoury with tarry, earthy notes and sweet ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruit. Tarry and mineral, this is evolving really nicely. 92/100

Quinta do Portal Grande Reserva 2003
Deep coloured. Tight, spicy, tarry nose with fresh red and black fruit character. The palate is dense and spicy with firm, tight, grippy tannins adding focus to the densely fruity palate. Currently tannic and tight but with lovely fruit expression. Italian style. 93/100

Quinta do Portal Grande Reserva 2006
Sweet, chocolatey, open nose with lovely pure sweet fruit. Veering towards tasting confected. Very perfumed at this early stage. The palate is sweetly fruited and open with an expressive, bright personality. Finishes with some firm tannins and a bit of minerality. 91/100

Quinta do Portal Vintage Port 2003
Very deep colour. Sweet fruity nose is vibrant and plumy with some raspberry fruit. The palate is concentrated and sweet with lovely spicy depth and tannic structure. Bright, pure fruit here combines with some grippy tannins. 92/100

Portal+ Vintage Port 2003
Warm, spicy, chocolatey nose shows sweet pure fruit. Lush but well defined. The palate shows lovely concentration with expressive fruit and nice bright, spicy tannic structure. Real depth and structure here with nice complexity. 94/100

Quinta do Portal Vintage Port 2004
Very pure and fruit focused with lovely vivid, expressive fruit. Really dense and intense with a vivid floral fruity character. Pure fruit is the focus here. 92/100

Wines tasted 09/08  
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