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The new Douro: part 9
Ramos Pinto

Adriano Ramos Pinto SA, Av Ramos Pinto 380, 4400-266 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Tel : +351 223 707 000 Fax: +351 223 793 121
Website: www.ramospinto.pt E-mail: ramospinto@ramospinto.pt

Ramos Pinto has been an important wine company in the recent history of the Douro. There are four estates at the heart of the operation: two in the Douro Superior and two in the Cima Corgo, near Pinhão. Of the former, Quinta de Ervamoira was planted in 1974 as a sort of experiment. José António Ramos Pinto (then the chairman) and his nephew João Nicolau de Almeida (pictured right) wanted to find out which grape varieties were the best suited to the Douro. Historically most Douro vineyards have been planted with mixed varieties and on terraces or patamares (wider bulldozed terraces with a couple of rows on each). They decided to plant varieties in separate plots and in vertical rows, which allowed for mechanization. For this they wanted a relatively flat site, and chose Quinta de Santa Maria, which upon purchasing they renamed Ervamoira. Because the Douro was dominated by the port companies located up river in Vila Nova de Gaia, knowledge of the vineyards was lacking, so this represented quite a pioneering project, especially considering that the suitability of the different varieties was also being considered for table wines. They tried 12 varieties in all, and from these selected five on the basis of microvinifications. This work was presented in a paper given at the University of Tràs-os-Montes in Vila Real in 1981. It was controversial, but when the World Bank financed new plantings in the Douro, these results were very influential.

Ervamoira is a big estate, almost 200 hectares in total, and with 150 hectares of vines. The altitude varies from 110–340 m. Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca are the key grapes. The other upper Douro property is Quinta dos Bons Ares, which has 20 hectares of vines at a much higher altitude of 600 m, which makes it much cooler. The white grape Viozhino dominates here, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, Merlot and Touriga Nacional are also grown.

In the Cima Corgo, Quinta do Bom Retiro has 62 hectares of 25 year old vines, and neighbouring Quinta da Urtiga has 3.5 hectares of 70 year old vines.

I’d planned to meet João Nicolau de Almeida for lunch, but due to a mix up we turned up at Bom Retiro to find he was in Vila Nova. João Costa and I were still served a nice, if rather surreal, lunch on our own at the Quinta, and rescheduled our visit for first thing the following day, before our first appointment at Gaivosa in the Baixo Corgo. Bright and early we met João, who explained about the philosophy of Ramos Pinto, and filled us in on the important history of this company, as well as opening a large number of wines and ports for us to try.

Table wine production began in earnest here in 1990 with the release of the Duas Quintas red. The first Reserva was made in 1991, and this has since been made every year with the exception of 1993, 1996 and 1998. A special reserve (Reserva Especial) has been made three times (1995, 1999, 2000): it’s described by João as an ‘archaeological wine’, made in the same way as wines were made before Port became a fortified sweet wine. I like these wines quite a bit. The tawnies are very good, and it was nice to have a vertical of the Vintage Ports, which promise a lot and if the 1983 is anything to go by they seem to come round well after 20 years or so.

Bons Ares 2003 Branco
From a higher vineyard in the Douro superior, this is an impressive modern white, with a grassy nose and a bright, fruity palate with good acidity. Tasty. Very good+ 87/100

Duas Quintas 2001
Very pure, distinctive savour raspberry and blackberry fruit nose, with fresh bright fruit. The palate shows nice savoury midweight fruit with good balance and ripeness. Nice savoury chalky finish to this satisfying wine. Very good+ 89/100 (this retails at about £7 in the UK)

Duas Quintas 2002
Fresh, bright juicy fruit dominates here, with good acidity. Very vibrant and savoury – this is quite firm but shows good bright fruit with tight drying tannins on the finish. Savoury style and a little bit firm. Very good+ 86/100

Duas Quinta Reserva 2000
Deep coloured, this has an inky, savoury, spicy nose. Quite fine with ripe, smooth red fruits. Very refined. The palate is smooth and ripe with lovely fine spicy structure and good acidity. It’s quite tannic, but  the tannins have a silky quality and the overall impression is one of elegance. Very good/excellent 92/100 (retails around £20 in the UK)

Duas Quintas Reserva 2002
Tight savour black fruits on the nose. Quite firm and extracted on the palate with a very dry finish. Very taut and a bit too firm for me, with a drying finish. Vivid fruit is good, though. Very good+ 88/100

Duas Quinta Reserva Especial 2000
Very ripe nose of complex black fruits with taut herbal influence and some subtle tarriness. The palate is concentrated and bold, with rich, firm fruit, good acidity and spicy tannins. Great concentration and supple structure. Very good/excellent 93/100

Ramos Pinto Dry White Port
This is a house that takes the much maligned white Port seriously. Great with nuts, by the way. Rich nutty nose with great intensity. The palate is rounded, rich, nutty and dry with lovely depth and intensity. Satisfying and complex, this finishes dry. Very good/excellent 90/100

Ramos Pinto White Port
Subtle, fresh herby nose. The palate is soft textured and rich with some sweetness. Very soft and lush with gently herby fruit. Very good+ 89/100

Ramos Pinto Porto Tawny Reserva ‘Adriano’
Red brown colour. Nice rich, soft fruity character with some nutty spicy richness. Satisfying and quite powerful: half way between tawny and LBV style. Sweet. Very good+ 87/100

Ramos Pinto Porto Tawny 10 Anos Quinta de Ervamoira
Quite dark brown with sweet raisined spicy nose. Soft, rich palate with a spicy edge. Quite rich with nice acidity. Tasty. Very good+ 88/100

Ramos Pinto Porto Tawny 20 Anos, Quinta do Bom Retiro
Bright orange brown colour. Lively spicy nose is very rounded and smooth with spicy toffee notes and appley fruit. Clean and intense on the palate with nice length. Burnt marmalade edge: broad but not too sweet. Very good/excellent 93/100

Ramos Pinto Tawny 30 Anos
Lively caramel, toffee and fudge nose. The palate is soft, nutty and herby; smooth and long. Nice acidity on the finish. Very good/excellent 90/100

Ramos Pinto LBV 1997
Distinctly herbal edge to the rich, sweet fruit. Good concentration and power with fine acidity. Herby-ish and open. Very good+ 86/100

Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 2000
Very deep colour. Fresh, fruity nose with well defined liquoricey edge. Rich with great concentration and balance on the palate. Some lovely savoury fruit here. Nice structure. Very good/excellent 93/100, possibly more in time

Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 1997
Deep colour. Tight nose is a little closed but shows some herb-edged pure fruit. Richly fruited palate which is still quite youthful. Quite a savoury style, this needs time to resolve. Very good/excellent 91/100, possibly more in time

Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 1995
Savoury, herbal nose with a balsamic edge to the fruit. Quite savoury and tight; not overly sweet with good structure. Nice concentration and spicy structure on the palate. Needs time. Very good/excellent 90/100

Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 1994
Deep colour. Sweet nose is beginning to open with some raisiny richness. The palate is taut with a herbal edge to the slightly savoury, dense fruit. Good structure. Very good/excellent 92/100

Ramos Pinto Vintage Port 1993
Lovely soft, rich and spicy with good evolution. Good concentration and drinking very nicely, with a smooth spicy depth to the fruit and complex earthy undertones. Very good/excellent 93/100

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