Exciting wines from five new projects high up in Portugal’s Douro region
The Douro Valley is proving to be an exciting place for small winery projects, and one hotspot is in the Planalto area, an elevated sub region near the town of Alijo. While I was visiting Folias de Baco in May I also met with several winemaker friends of Tiago Sampaio who are also working with grapes from the area, and many of these wines are actually made in Tiago’s winery. Here are my notes on five exciting new projects.
João Soares Pires
João is the winemaker at Pedra Alta, and this is his personal project.
Melanina Branco 2019 Douro, Portugal
15% Arinto skin fermented in amphora, then old vine whites aged in old oak and concrete tank. The vineyards are in Alijo. Lively and intense, and stony and mineral with apricot, lime and spice. Lovely intensity here with a crystalline citrus edge with great intensity. So interesting. 94/100
Bardino 2019 Douro, Portugal
From 3 old vineyards between 550-650 m in Alijo. Mainly Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barocca and Touriga Franca, aged 18 months in old barrels. 30% whole bunch. Sweetly aromatic and vivid with a lovely creamy texture to the sweet cherry and berry fruits. Has freshness but also some richness, but it stays red-fruit focused with nice silkiness. This is lovely. 94/100
Bardino 2017 Douro, Portugal
Fresh, supple and elegant with lovely pure, juicy cherry and plum fruit. As well as good ripeness, this has nice structure and freshness and is made in an elegant style. Developing beautifully: very fine. 94/100
Família Silva Branco, with Pedro Branco
Pedro Branco’s family have 7 hectares of vineyards in different blocks in three villages near Alijo. Studied enology and started at Quinta da Foz, but now works at Quinta do Reguengo in Poçino. He’s a winemaker and his brother is a viticulturist, and they’ve decided to do their own project.
Família Silva Branco Branco 2019 Douro, Portugal
Five varieties: Gouveio, Rabigato, Dorzelinho, Arinto and Viosinho, wild yeast ferment in old barrels, aged 12 months. 13% alcohol, pH 3.1, TA 7 g/l so picked early. This is very lively with lovely stony-edge citrus fruit and nice precision. Lemony and taut with some pithy hints, and a fine herbal edge. Lovely focus to the fruit here. 93/100
Família Silva Branco Tinto 2017 Douro, Portugal
14% alcohol. Vineyards planted in the late 1980s when the Douro was thinking of the five best red grapes for making Port. Fermented in lagar, foot trodden, with some whole bunch. Aged 18 months in old barrels. This is fresh and well defined with lovely raspberry and cherry fruit, with some nutty hints and some leather, spice and iodine notes in the background. It’s fresh and focused but harmonious with great balance and well managed tannins. 92/100
Família Silva Branco Pedigree 2016 Douro, Portugal
The first brand bottled, and this is the third incarnation. Two old vine plots: one near the Douro at 250 m and the other in the Planalto. Aged in barrel for 18 months, 50% new. Fine, supple and expressive with great concentration and balance. There’s a brightness here and an elegance, even though there’s plenty of tannic structure. Shows freshness and depth, with some bright raspberry and cherry fruit but also some broader black fruit notes. Finishes very fine, and the wood has been swallowed comfortably. Lots of potential for development. 94/100
Pedro Guedes is the assistant winemaker at Douro sparkling wine specialist Vertice, and Fingerprint is his independent project. The grapes are from the plateau of Alijo, and he makes 2000 bottles a year. These wines are 100% destemmed and crushed. They are fermented at high temperature, which usually lasts for 5 days. Then the wine goes to barrel for 15 months. €25 retail in Portugal.
Fingerprint Grande Reserva 2017 Douro, Portugal
Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão and Alicante Bouschet. This is the third vintage. Stony and mineral with a lovely fruit focus, showing black cherries and plums with some fine spices. Floral and expressive with good acidity, and a bit of tannic grip. 93/100
Fingerprint Grande Reserva 2018 Douro, Portugal
Very fresh and floral with lots of Tinto Cao character (35% of this blend). Juicy and fine with sweet black fruits and some good acidity. Shows purity, freshness and drinkability with lovely supple black fruits. The Douro at its floral, fresh best. 94/100
Fingerprint Grande Reserva 2019 Douro, Portugal
Intense and vivid with some tannic grip and good acidity, as well as lively, bright cherry and blackberry fruit. So vivid, pure and intense, this is a superbly focused, fresh Douro red. 93/100
Fingerprint Grande Reserva 2020 Douro, Portugal
Juicy, pure, intense with fresh acidity and some nice tannin, with sweet raspberry and cherry fruit. There’s a nice intensity to this wine which shows lovely pure fruit and a finely tapering cherry and cranberry finish. Such freshness and poise here. 94/100
Jo & Co with João Magalhaes
The first vintage of Jo & Co was 2019. João Magalhaes began working as a viticulturist, and then did vintage in Australia with First Drop, and then came back the Douro, where his family has vineyards. So he started to make wine from some of them, although he still sells a lot of grapes.
Jo & Co Ati Tude Arinto 2019 Douro, Portigal
Granite soils at 600 m altitude, and fermented and aged in stainless steel. Structured, steely and mineral with lovely lime and lemon fruit. Has nice depth of flavour and intensity, with a lovely mineral twist. So fresh and expressive but with great depth. 94/100
Jo & Co Ati Tude Touriga Franca 2019 Douro, Portugal
Schist and granite soils at 600 m, 50% whole bunch, foot-trodden in lagar then 18 months in old barrels. This is quite beautiful: ripe and generous with plush cherry, plum and raspberry fruit with nice generous texture, but also some stony, mineral character and a bit of structure. The balance between the ripeness and the freshness is spot on. Very impressive. 93/100
Jo & Co Ati Tude Gouveio 2019 Douro, Portugal
Granite soils, barrel fermented. Full yellow colour. No added sulfites. Nice depth here with some appley notes as well as lime and spice. Layered and textural but with bright acidity on the finish. Lots of interest here: the subtle oxidative notes work really well. 92/100
Jo & Co Ati Tude Torquato 2019 Douro, Portugal
This is from Pinhão, and the vineyard is ungrafted and old. Whole bunch, foottrodden, two years in French used oak. Picked 28 August. Brooding, dark, tannic and intense, showing freshness as well as ripe berry and black fruits. Juicy, grippy and taut, this has a lot of personality, showing off the schist richness but within a very fine framing. Floral and expressive, but also grippy and dense. 94/100
Rebuscado is the project of Daniel Miranda and João Meireles who started making these wines in 2018 when they began working with Tiago in the winery. They made 1000 bottles in 2018 and are now up to just over 2000.
Rebuscado Branco de Maceração NV Portugal
This is a blend of 2019 (which spent 1.5 years in chestnut), 2020 (5 days on skins) and 2021 (direct pressed). It’s fresh and detailed with a slight saline twist to the lemony fruit on the palate. Very fine and expressive with lovely texture and excellent balance, with just a touch of tannin and some mineral, saline notes on the finish. 94/100
Rebuscado Maceração Carbonica 2021 Portugal
90% Touriga Franca. 10% alcohol. Really vivid and bright with fresh pure red cherry fruit with a touch of raspberry, lovely balance and a vivid peppery edge. This is fine and bright with good acidity. 93/100
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